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By Jeremy Conn This is a handout I give to our players and coaches. It will help them to learn exactly what we want from them. To often we focus on how they are moving and not enough on what they are thinking, seeing, and saying. If they do not understand all of the article, that is good, as long as they take the time to discuss it with you. This article can and should lead to further discussion to continue their education as football players. Communication is another key to team success. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. There are several reasons defensive players need to “talk it up.” 1) Communicate with own players. Be on the same page. Tell other players what you see. You may be in a better vantage point than them. For example, Defensive backs can see a lot more of the offensive lineup than Defensive lineman. Tell them what you see. Instill teamwork and confidence with your fellow players. If they hear you talking you are helping them gain confidence in you, your team, and themselves. 2) Intimidate the opponents. If you are talking it up it means you are really into the game. And into your opponents head. If you start calling out their possible plays, they will lose confidence if you call out the actual play they are running. Of course you are just guessing. But they may think you know what they are doing and lose confidence in the play they have called. Plus you are also reminding our players what to look for. And if you call out possible plays they like to run the coach might be reluctant to call that play. For example, if you yell, “watch for the reverse,” their coach may lose confidence in running the reverse later as he thinks you are really looking for it. There have been times when I should have called a play such as a reverse but the other team talked me out of it and I went conservative, or too radical. But the point is, by “talking it up,” you can help take the opposing offence out of their game plan. There are three phases of defensive communication; 1) Pre-snap 2) During play 3) Post play. 1) Pre-snap When the offence breaks the huddle quickly look for their strengths. Where do they have more players? Where are their best players? Quickly try to find the strength call. Game by game there will be adjustments we need to make based on these types of recognition. And the way we talk reflects our team. If only one player is recognizing the offence and talking it up then it seams that our defense is only made of one player. Of course this is not true. But we have to represent the type of team we have. We want a team that works together to succeed. Once we see strength we make a strength call. Right or Left calls usually have codewords or callwords. Most programs have their own distinctive calls. We may call “Ringo” -Right or “Lucky”-left. Now we call “Rip” and “Liz.” In the past it was “Randy” and “Larry.” Whatever the calls, just have them set and talk it up.
Of course strength is not always based on the offence. Sometimes you may choose to make a strength call based on the field. If you are on the hash marks you may choose to defend the field instead of the offensive formation. Next we must recognize Offensive Alignment. How are their running backs and receivers aligned? Call it out. Call out back formations; “I,” “Split,” “Ace,” etc. You also need to call out their receiver formation. Make calls such as; “Pro,” “Slot,” “Twins,” “Trips,” etc. There are numerous calls and formations to be recognized. We will teach you the proper words to identify and call out. By doing this players will usually also pick up plays by formation (as coaches should teach them to do). Of course they must always be alert for series plays and not overreact to tendencies. Their coach may be hoping you do so. But still “talk it up.” Guess at their plays. Yell, “Watch the sweep” or “Watch for Screen.” Whatever you think may be coming or vocally hope to take out of their game. If you guess right, their offence loses confidence. If you guess wrong they get over confident. Either way we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you look and act like football players you will play like football players. 2) During play When the ball is snapped move and dissect. Call out what you are seeing. Again think of vantage point. Defensive Backs have the best view of the whole picture. But they are not close up like Defensive Lineman and Linebackers who can see up close what is going on. All players need to “talk it up.” Help each other out. Even if it’s as simple as play flow. Yell “Right, Right.” Read offensive Lineman. It can be as simple as “run, run” when they come forward. How much you want to communicate often depends on your level and understanding of the game. Of course this factor often decides the best from the rest. Look for other keys. If they run and toss right quickly scan for their wide receiver and see if he is coming back for a reverse or coming inside to crack block. Whatever you see, “talk it up.” “Reverse, Reverse.” When the action reaches climax is when we really have to talk it up. Especially on the pass. Coaches never emphasize enough how important communication is. When the quarterback drops back yell “pass, pass.” When the balls in the air yell “pass, pass.” Keep yelling it. The Cornerback in man coverage against a go route will thank you later. If you don’t yell to him he may have no idea where the ball is. The receiver may catch it or the Corner might draw pass interference. All because he didn’t get or hear a “ball” call. Be loud, and keep on being loud. While we say “talk it up” of course we mean yell, and yell loudly. Losing your voice is a lot better than losing the game. Some coaches may say that players will never be able to hear each other. The stadium is packed, the fans are screaming. Well, this may be true. It may be too loud to hear each other. But players will learn selective hearing from practicing communication with each other. They will have to learn to block out the fans and pick out each other’s communication. This can be done. But like everything else in teaching football it will take practice and repetition. This is why defensive “buzz words” are important. Use distinctive defensive language so players know what to listen for. “Talking it up” is more than just helping your teammates. It also helps the individual player. It keeps his head in the game and helps him release his nerves and build up his confidence. It is also important to play head games with the opponent. We have to gain any advantage we can. Of course it is best to create your own advantages. And our leaders especially have to be active in
this role. 3)Post play When they play is over it doesn’t mean the talking is. We need to regroup. Celebrate with your teammates quickly about the play. Let them know they did a good job. Your teammates love recognition. Especially from each other. There’s nothing worse than a group of players who don’t play as a team. Good teammates cheer for each other and encourage each other. So even if things went wrong. Still pick up your teammate and reassure him. Or tell him what went wrong. In any case, do not ignore each other. I hate it when one guy makes tackle and the rest of the team turns and goes back to the huddle. I want players to be excited. Grab him, tell him what a great job he did. Go back to the huddle together. While we want a lot of talking to each other we do not tolerate any talking to the opponents or the referees. We will respect the referees no matter what calls they do or do not make. Only the coaches and captains may address the referees. If you have a problem communicate it with a coach or captain and they will bring it to the referees’ attention. Never trash talk the opponent. We intimidate by being loud, aggressive, and celebratory with our teammates. Never cost the team 15 yards by disrespecting the opponents or the referees. It is never worth it and is not sportsmanlike. Be under control. Be smart. But most of all, be loud. Summary 1) Pre-snap calls-strength, alignment 2) Guess- Take them out of their game plan. 3) Dissect action- Talk it up from you unique vantage point 4) Play climax- Is when we have to talk the most, especially on a pass 5) Wrap up- Play is over. Support your teammates. Get ready for the next one. Our objective is to have fun. We want to win by playing smart and aggressive at the same time. Players never win championships, teams do. Communication is another important aspect of a successful, championship defense. Use your eyes, your brain, and then your mouth. If the team “talks it up” it gains so many advantages and loses none.
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