By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor
Coming up with a game plan should be a collaborative effort for a coaching staff. The more time a head coach saves by delegating responsibility, the more time he’ll have to allow his players to practice the game plan to perfection.
Sadd Jackson left his alma mater, Manor High (Texas), in 2016, to fill the same position as head coach at Frisco Lebanon Trail. He started that program from scratch at the 5A level in Texas, and has rounded out a coaching staff with an eye toward fostering a collaborative effort for game-planning.
Jackson offered some tips for including coordinators and assistants in the game-planning process.
Send scouts to games. Jackson relies on HUDL film as much as the next coach, but he still deploys scouts to games of upcoming opponents.
“The film doesn’t get everything you need to know,” Jackson said. “In high school, you don’t get an injury report. If a kid gets hurt on a Friday night, you won’t get that until the pregame warmup unless you have a scout at the game.”
Assign a coach to self-scout after each game. “The first thing you need to do is figure out what you can do well,” Jackson said. “Then figure out what you don’t do well. That’s the biggest key of all. Take advantage of what you can do well against their personnel and scheme.”
Have the entire staff break down film. Every coach has different strengths when breaking down film. Some will focus on scheme and formations. Others will look for talent and ways to contain another team’s play-makers. “Try to get as much intel as you can on your opponents,” Jackson said. “Who’s the backup quarterback? Who’s the punter? How accurate is the deep snapper? You’re looking for players that jump out.”
Put together a big-picture game plan with the entire staff. Jackson holds a staff meeting on Saturday to break down game film together. The coaches then collaborate on game plan ideas on Sunday and Monday morning. “It’s always a collaborative effort,” Jackson said. “It’s everyone – the head coach, coordinators and assistants. Everyone on the team should have valuable input. As the head coach, you’re the one who makes the final decision.”
Let the coordinators present the game plan. The coordinators introduce the upcoming opponent’s offensive and defensive schemes, highlight the top players, and then introduce a game plan to combat the opponent’s strengths.
“The coordinators give them a general game plan – players we need to watch and control. Who do we have to make sure to block and be conscious of?”
Allow the assistant coaches to form a practice plan. Once the game plan is in place, the position coaches can gear their drills to that week’s specific opponent. If the opponent is a spread offense team, the defensive coaches will introduce the checks and keys for that week.
Coaches Can Help with Scout Reps
One of the most difficult parts of practice – once you have a game plan in place – is providing a scout look for your starters. Most high school rosters don’t have backups at each position to simulate the level of talent that the starters will see on game day.
“At the high school level, you don’t have the personnel to get a good look,” Jackson said. “Coaches might have to jump in to give a scout team look.”
For that reason, Jackson spends more practice time having his scout team show the upcoming opponent’s expected formations than simulating specific players.
“Often times, they won’t get a realistic look until game day,” Jackson said. “If you want to simulate the best players from the other team, you have to use starters from the opposite side of the ball in scout roles. But you can’t wear kids out.”