FNF Coaches Talk — Up-Tempo Defenses, the Advantages of Playing Team Sports, Rethink Dealing with Failure

FNF Coaches Talk

Happy Friday, Coaches. Let’s roll into the weekend with three great stories.

1. Up-Tempo Defenses Becoming the Norm (USA Football)

Chris Norwell has experience facing up-tempo offenses in his role as the Thomas More University (Ky.) defensive coordinator. His methods work, as evidenced by his contribution to coaching TMU to five NCAA Division III playoffs appearances.

He explains the best strategies for preparing a defense to play up-tempo.

Norwell wants to be clear about the offense’s intentions. “First, I want to know why the team is using up-tempo. Are they an offense which runs it as a ‘core’ belief? Or is it more of something used after certain situations?” As a veteran of the college coaching ranks, he’s been able to decipher through video to identify a team’s definitive reason for going fast. “Lots of teams like to go up-tempo after a big play for first downs. They just get up to the line and try to get the advantage over the defense.” Norwell says coaches also have to prepare for a quick count in short yardage or goal line situations.

To be successful against quick-tempo offenses Norwell lists these musts:

  • “Show your kids the type of tempo the opposition is using. The players must understand what and when to expect it. Obviously through the scouting report, video and position meetings, they have to be ready for the tempo change.”
  • “Coaches must recognize personnel groupings. When teams want to step it up, they go with those players they’re most comfortable with to do so. It’s up to us to get players to recognize opposition player numbers as a tip off.”
  • “When we go into a game and we know up-tempo is coming at any time, we have practiced for it by determining a ‘safety call.’ The call will be out of our base defense. So, if it’s NASCAR and I can’t get a play in, we have practiced the ‘safety call’ and the defense won’t be caught off-guard.”
  • “The coaching staff must do a complete job of looking for quirks by the players, which tip off the actual snap of the ball. You may have a quarterback with a ritual such as wiping his hands off on his pants, touching his jersey or clapping his hands right before the snap. This will help us in how our safeties will time rotation, or the linebackers timing a blitz.”
  • “Get your scout offense prepared to run a couple plays one after the other. We will also use our offensive ‘ones’ at certain practice times to give a faster look for us. However, you have to get the scout team to run continuous plays to get the defense ready.”
  • “All eleven guys on our defense are responsible for getting the sideline call. No relay or mix-up. In practice we try to make it as game-like as possible so there are no mistakes on Saturday.”
  • “Down and distance are important to your blitz calls. You can bet if a team likes up-tempo short yardage, we will be filling those ‘A’ gaps.”

What are the best drills to prepare for an up-tempo offense?

2. Want Your Kids to Make More Money When They Grow Up? Put Them in Team Sports, Science Says (Inc.)

For many of us, football provided an avenue in which priceless life lessons were taught, bonds were built and social skills developed.

A study by Cornell University found that teenagers who played sports developed stronger leadership skills, worked better in teams and demonstrated more confidence in work environments.

Here are just some of the reasons why this is the case, and how to get started.

Why put your kids in team sports?
1. Giving them the chance to lead.
No matter if your kid works their way to becoming a team captain or remains a role player, sports will allow them to hone in and create a leader’s mindset for themselves. Apart from sports, there aren’t many opportunities before your kids graduate college that help refine their leadership skills by putting them in positions to lead a team. This makes it difficult for individuals who are thrust into high-pressure, management positions in the workforce who haven’t experienced that same pressure elsewhere.
2. Learning how to lose.
Sports – unlike almost everything else in school and life – are black and white. You either won your game, lost, or it ended in a draw. This equips kids with the ability and mental stamina to sustain losses without taking it personal. Losing is all part of the game as an entrepreneur or top-performing professional. If you aren’t losing, you aren’t taking risks. Without the grit to get up the next morning with your head held high, even after a bad presentation or a missed deal, the cutthroat workplace is going to be a rough ride for your kids.
3. Developing respect for authority.
All team sports have a very clear hierarchy, much like a company does – from the coach down to the rookies. Unlike much of the media’s portrayal of entrepreneurship would like you to believe, immediate success in your youth is hard to come by. There’s a hell of a lot more VPs and middle-aged business owners than there are Mark Zuckerberg’s. The cold hard truth is, no matter who you are, you’ll almost always have people to answer to.
Even the top startup founders need to answer to their investors and customers. If your kids are too stubborn or entitled to not have a healthy respect for their higher-ups, or authority in general, sooner or later they’ll rub someone the wrong way and likely learn a lesson the hard way.
4. Team building.
Another indispensable skill sports will arm your child with is team building. Even the biggest companies are run by much smaller, fast-moving teams that work together on a close-knit basis. Without the ability needed to work well within a team environment, lift up the rest of your team and put your ego aside, it’ll be hard to stand out as an entrepreneur in any industry.

What do you think are the biggest benefits to playing team sports?

3. Why we think about failure the wrong way (The Ladders)

Think back on all of the failures you’ve experienced through football. Bad play calls, tough losses, losing seasons, etc.

If we engage in thinking only of the results, we reward bad decisions that lead to good outcomes. Conversely, we change good decisions merely because they produced a bad outcome.

We start shaking things up, reorganizing departments, or firing or demoting people. As one study shows, National Football League (NFL) coaches change their lineup after a 1-point loss, but don’t change it after a 1-point win—even though the difference between the two is negligible.

Most of us act like American football coaches, treating success and failure as binary outcomes. But we don’t live in a binary world. The same decision that produced a failure in one scenario can lead to triumph in others.

Over time, I learned to pivot from the outputs to the inputs (I’m still a work-in-progress). When I fail at something, I first ask myself, “What went wrong with this failure?” If the decisions I made need fixing, I fix them.
But I also ask: “What went right with this failure?” I retain the good-quality decisions, even if they produced a failure.
Failure has a way of distorting our vision. You often have to take the lenses off—by pivoting your focus from the seemingly awful outcome to the inputs—in order to see clearly.

How do you prevent yourself from overreacting to outcomes?