What’s your philosophy for watching film with your team?  Do you have a method that your staff subscribes to so that everyone is on the same page, and you get the most out of that time that you can?

Or is it just a shot in the dark?  Your staff doesn’t communicate much about what the kids need to see and hear, you just go in the film room and any coach talks any time, unprepared as they go?

I’ve always believed using film to prepare your players is of utmost importance.  I’ve always used it to both prepare and correct my players.  My frosh football coach, Scott Carpenter, used to always say “The eye in the sky don’t lie.”  And he is right!  I’m not sure who gets credit for saying that first, but whoever it was is a genius – the eye in the sky never lies.  There is nothing better for teaching your players than the use of real game and practice film.

Head Coach Justin Reber of Saddleback Valley Christian (San Juan Capistrano, CA) watches film with his team before practice last September. I was impressed with his film session because it was brief, he engaged the kids, and gave them confidence as they prepared for an upcoming opponent.


BRIEF        We must remember that for the most part, teenagers in 2012 have much shorter attention spans than we did.  Heck, some of our younger coaches have short attention spans!  Watching film for hours on end will do no good for most of the kids these days.  We live in an “instant society” where patience is a thing of the past.  Error on the side of having short film sessions rather than long ones.  This will keep your kids tuned in to what you are trying to convey.  I’ve seen or heard of teams watching film for an hour and a half at a time; that’s a full length feature film.  I don’t believe that you will be effective if using this method.

READY        Be prepared before you hit the film room.  Make sure your coaches are prepared before they hit the film room.  You ask your players to be prepared, make sure you are.  There is nothing worse for players than to sit in that film room and watching coaches try to figure out what to watch, how much of it to watch, etc.  You will spend unneeded time in the room if you fail to prepare.

What I did with my staff was when we broke down the offense for instance, the rookie coach in the room would have a piece of paper with him, and myself and the line coach would tell him “play 5, Phil needs to fix his stance here, Joey needs to cut his route much earlier than he did.”  That coach would then write out those words exactly, and we would go through the film with this paper with us.  This helped us get through the film in a timely manner.

INQUIRE          Ask your questions.  Get them thinking.  Don’t just talk and talk and talk and talk.  Remember, kids are only going to listen if they want to.  And they aren’t going to want to listen if they are just there for a lecture, and butt chewing.  You and I would sit through it, and we would listen.  For the most part, most kids today will tune you out.  Don’t just tell them they ran a poor route, ask why they didn’t do what they practiced all week.  Don’t just tell them they lined up in the wrong formation, ask how it was communicated in the huddle, and where the error was.  When I really started asking questions during film, one thing I learned was that our team communication had to improve.  And that was from the top down.  Asking your players questions, inquiring of them will create active listeners, which you want in your film sessions.

Using film to prepare your players for the opponent will help in your game time adjustments as you refer them back to what you saw during the week.

ENCOURAGE          You’ve got to make sure to point out the good in your film sessions too.  As coaches, usually we have the tendency to just teach, chew out, challenge and question the kids in film.  Remember that our job as coaches is more than just what happens between the lines.  Think back to your film sessions as a player.  Do you remember when one of your coaches pointed out a dynamite paly, a fantastic block, supreme effort?  How did that make you feel?  Find some plays to encourage your kids.  Remember, even the stars need a pat on the back and positive confirmation of what they are doing.  Make sure to notate some great things you see as you break things down with your coaches.  Take time to enjoy that success in the film room, and to encourage your players.  I believe it will come back ten fold to you.  Their desire to please you will improve, their effort will improve if you are encouraging them during film time.

FACTS         “Just the facts maam.”  Remember this old detective saying from Dragnet?  I don’t know about you, but I know I’ve had some Saturday mornings where I went in to the film session in a pissed off mood because of our loss, and I was going to “let the kids have it.”  How many of you or your coaches used a phrase like “wait until films” after your Friday night loss?  I’m sure the kids are just thrilled with the expectation of showing up to films with you!  Don’t use your film room time to get emotional with your kids.  Yes, it’s an emotional game, and those emotions will come roaring back after a loss when you press play.  However, remember that you are the mature adult professional.  Keep your cool  Coach!  It’s not easy.  Not by any means.  This is where the accountability with your coaches will help.  Stay to the facts of what you need to teach your kids through the film. The reason you are watching it is to get better as a football team, not to make yourself feel better by yelling at your kids, or letting your emotions get the best of you.  Stick to the xs and os, just the facts!