The Key to In-Game Adjustments: Always Have a Plan B

By Dan Guttenplan

Mike Tyson made famous the quote, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” While he was speaking about boxing, the same can be said for football. A perfect game plan is only perfect until you give up a first down. Then it’s time to adjust. A prepared coach always enters a game with a Plan B.

Mike Dumpert has been a coach at Paola High (Kan.) for 39 years, including the last 19 as a head coach. He has led the Panthers to two state championships and two runner-up finishes. The member of the Paola High Hall of Fame spent 20 years as a defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach. He has since turned over defensive play-calling duties to fellow Paola alumnus Todd Weaver.

Dumpert praised Weaver specifically for his ability to adjust in-game.

“His attention to detail is outstanding,” Dumpert said. “He always has a plan ‘B’ if the initial game plan falls short. That may sound easy, but is very difficult to do well.”

Dumpert and Weaver start the week by breaking down an opponent’s scheme and various formations. From Weaver’s perspective, the game-planning process is smooth because both men check their egos at the door.

“Our coaching staff is very close and we all have a personal connection to the program that drives us to work hard to maintain its success,” Weaver said.

Part of checking egos at the door for the coaches includes the recognition that their collaborative game plan is inevitably going to have some holes.

“We start with how we’re going to stop their scheme based on formation,” Dumpert said. “Then we look at the talent. Then we work on a plan ‘B’. What Coach Weaver does best is have a plan to fall back on in his back pocket.”

Dumpert listed the following keys to making in-game adjustments.

Determine how the opponent is using its star. “You have to see how it unfolds,” Dumpert said. “If they move a wide receiver to slot back or tailback so they can feature him, we’re going to change our read keys. Adjust to what you’re looking at rather than continuing to do what you’ve been practicing all week.”

Identify the scheme. “The key is to figure out their adjustments so we’re aware of it. Then, it’s a chess game. If they do this, this is how we’ll counter.”

Have a spotter. “We have a spotter in the booth who was a graduate assistant under Coach Mangino at KU,” Dumpert said. “He can call out formations and tendencies from the booth and get that to my defensive coordinator.”

Trust your assistants. “I won’t take over calling offensive or defensive plays in the middle of a game. I trust my guys completely. They make the adjustments.”

Use all of the information at your disposal. “I’m more of a gut guy,” Dumpert said. “I make adjustments based on the way I see it unfolding. My defensive coordinator is more of an analytics guy. We come to a consensus.”

The Mike Dumpert File

School: Paola High (Kan.)

Experience: 39 years as coach (19 as head coach)

Career record: 171-68

Team championships: 8 district titles, 3 bi-district titles, 7 regional championships, 5 sectional championships, 3 sub-state titles, 1 state runner-up

Individual honors: Inductee to Paola High Athletic Hall of Fame, two-time Kansas Shrine Bowl coach, two-time Kansas City Chiefs Coach of the Week