FNF Coaches Talk — Balancing Analytics and Old-School Values, Wilson, EvoShield, Xenith Partner Up, Taking Extended Breaks

Good afternoon, Coaches. We hope you’re in positive spirits despite all that goes on around you.

1. How Mike Leach balances football analytics with an old-school mentality (New York Post)

So many of us try to balance the new wave of analytics and technology with an old-school approach to coaching.

For coaches like Mississippi State’s Mike Leach, the advent of advanced analytics means striking a balance between new technologies and old-school intuition.

He spoke about this at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston.

One of the topics discussed was the league’s shift towards more pass-heavy offenses, a trend that has been fueled in part by the analytics community.

“The last several Super Bowls have been Air Raid principles and nobody likes to throw it much more than New England lately. They didn’t start out that way either,” Leach said. The Bulldogs’ coach has been a long-time proponent for the Air Raid offense, a system which relies heavily on the quarterback position.
“The way I’ve always looked at it, as a coach, you’re always looking for an efficient way to run an offense, an efficient way to score, and an efficient way to move the ball. If you have a quarterback that can throw strikes, you can make six positions better – the quarterback position and the other five skill positions better,” Leach said. “The NFL Hall of Fame is full of guys who are great at elevating their offensive unit, that were great at making the players around them better.”

Another hot topic in the analytics community is the decision to go for it on fourth down. Unlike many of his colleagues, Leach has maintained a bullish stance over the years, rooted more in gut-feeling than statistics.

“You guys are all gonna walk out of the room when you hear this. … I feel like half a failure if a kick a field goal. I feel like a total failure if I punt,” he said. “I believe in going for it on fourth down. Sometimes the karma, the momentum of your team is such that your chances are higher. The whole group chemistry, everyone thinking the same thing at the same time. You can almost feel a little bit it on the sideline. I know it sounds instinctual, I know it doesn’t do the number thing. As a coach, you do have the sense if your guys are playing well. The results may not be what you like but you have a sense if you’re playing well and everybody’s firing on all cylinders. That’s a good time to go for it on fourth down.
“I get a kick out these guys who say there’s no such thing as momentum. Baloney, these are people, they’re not spark plugs.”

How do you feel about incorporating analytics into you coaching decisions?

2. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., EvoShield And Xenith Join 2020 Rivals Football Camp Series (PR Newswire)

Here’s a partnership that likely affects a lot of coaches and players throughout the country.

Wilson Sporting Goods Co., EvoShield and Xenith have joined the 2020 Rivals Camp and Combine Series as official equipment partners.

Does this mean your players are going to come back from Rivals Camp and Combine Series events decked out in Wilson, EvoShield and Xenith gear? Not exactly.

Under the partnership, Wilson will serve as the Official Football Partner of the 2020 Rivals Series, supplying footballs for use exclusively at all Rivals events.
Additionally, quarterbacks attending Rivals Camp Series will have the opportunity to test their skills through the Wilson Connected Football System. The technology utilizes an undetectable sensor embedded in the football to capture specific data like velocity, spin rate, spiral efficiency, and release time to analyze QB performance. This data can provide deeper insight into a QB’s performance to enhance evaluations, skill development, arm health monitoring and play analysis.

Wilson-owned EvoShield will serve as Rivals’ Exclusive Protective Equipment Partner. EvoShield, which makes custom-molded protective and performance gear using a proprietary technology called Gel-To-Shell™, will supply all gloves to athletes participating in the Rivals Camp Series.

EvoShield’s Gel-To-Shell™ technology transforms from a soft gel-like material to a hard, protective shield in minutes, creating a custom mold that mirrors the shape of an athlete’s body. The result is professional-grade protection without getting in the way of performance.

Wilson and EvoShield will sponsor the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in New Orleans June 18-20. The Five-Star Challenge is the premier showcase for top high school football players, bringing together the best 104 players in the country.

Xenith, an industry leader in football helmet technology and performance products, has also partnered with Rivals as the Official Protective Headgear Partner.

Athletes competing in Rivals Camps will be equipped with Xenith LOOP, the first ever purpose-built protective headgear designed specifically for the non-tackle athlete. Top-rated Xenith LOOP provides the most breathable, comfortable, and precise fit available, accommodating all head shapes and hairstyles without the need for a cap or chinstrap.

What is the benefit of major gear manufacturers sponsoring summer camps and combines?

3. How extended breaks in training help elite athletes—and why you should take them too (Sports Illustrated)

This seemed like an appropriate article after most spring sports seasons have been cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

The following is excerpted from Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.

If we never take “easy” periods, we are never able to go full throttle and the “hard” periods end up being not that hard at all. We get stuck in a gray zone, never really stressing ourselves but never really resting either. This vicious cycle is often referred to by a much less vicious name—“going through the motions”—but it’s a huge problem nonetheless. That’s because few people grow when they are going through the motions. In order to give it our all, and do so over a long time horizon without burning out, we’ve got to be more like Bernard Lagat: Every now and then, we’ve got to take it really easy. In addition to his year-end break, Lagat also takes an off-day at the end of every hard training week. On his off-days, Lagat doesn’t even think about running. Instead, he engages only in activities that relax and restore both his body and mind such as massage, light stretching, watching his favorite TV shows, drinking wine, and playing with his kids.

How will you spend your time if you’re forced to take a break from your profession?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk