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Learning from Football Coaches

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At the risk of ruffling a few feathers I am going to go out on a limb and suggest what I think is fairly obvious in most parts of the country: high school basketball coaches and football coaches are generally not the best of friends. Sure, I know there are exceptions, especially at smaller schools where coaches often have to work on more than one staff, but at most schools there's at least a little animosity.

One program is often more successful than the other, coaches are protective of "their" players and don't want the other program "stealing" them, and everyone wants the same amount of support and resources as the other guys.

I don't know if this describes your situation or not but even if it does I want you to momentarily forget about your differences and realize there is much to learn from football coaches and the way they run their programs.

Here are several things for you to consider:

1. Staffing

When a football coach is looking to assemble a staff he will hire an offensive line coach, a quarterback back, a special teams coach, an offensive coordinator, a defensive coordinator, etc. For the most part each coach has a specific skill set or area of expertise that has been deemed necessary for the overall success of the program. On the other hand, basketball coaches have a tendency to hire some of their buddies and then ask "Okay, which one of you guys want to coach the freshmen? How about the posts, can anybody coach the posts?"

2. Special Teams

One of the things that make basketball unique is that not only do all five players play both offense and defense but they must constantly transition between the two quickly and efficiently. However, there are situations such as the ball being inbounded from out of bounds, needing to foul, press, stall, catch-up, etc. when wholesale substitutions can be made to give your team a big advantage. Instead of waiting until the very last second have each of these "teams" identified and trained beforehand. Taking this approach will give even your 12th man a specific role in helping the team. You can ever have a "special teams" captain.

3. Detailed Game Planning

Second down and three yards to go? Football coaches plan beforehand what they are going to run in that situation. Should they run more or pass more? Is there a specific defender or side of the field they should attack? It's all planned out before the game even starts.

Does your team have the capability and training to target a specific defender, regardless of position, who happens to be in foul trouble? Have you ever scripted your first several possessions to set the tone of the game and to determine how certain actions are going to be defended? Why not?

4. Extensive Film Study

I realize that basketball coaches at all levels watch a lot of game tape. However, football players watch more tape and watch it differently than basketball players. It's been my experience that basketball players focus on themselves while football players spend more time watching their opponents for specific tendencies and tell tale signs that they can take advantage of when it's game time. It's now easier than ever before to get video recordings of games into the hands of your players and it's a great way to increase your players' basketball IQ.

5. Teaching Progressions

Football coaches are masters of breaking down each position into a series of essential fundamental skills and techniques that are taught and reinforced on a daily basis. No detail is too small and those players who are sloppy in their execution of the fundamentals don't get much playing time.

How much positional skill work does your team do every day or is everything in your practice geared only around five on five?

6. Off-Season Improvement

Once football season is officially over, football players really ramp up their strength, agility, speed, and quickness training. Receivers will work on perfecting their pass routes while quarterbacks and defensive backs work on improving their footwork. On the other hand, basketball players often play up to 80 additional games with various teams and spend relatively little time improving their skill levels and overall athleticism.

I realize that both sports are inherently different and have much different coaching and teaching requirements. However, because of the sheer numbers of players involved football coaches are generally more organized and detailed in their approach from start to finish. Even minor improvements in these areas would help most basketball coaches.

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