When I bring up the topic of scout teams, few coaches listen. This is a mistake.
A few years ago we’d had enough. Our scout teams were killing our efficiency in practice. And no, it wasn’t the players on scout team that were to blame, it was us, the coaches.
We were having problems with quality and quantity. We were having a hard time getting the scout team to execute what the other team did and we were getting few reps.
Here were the changes we made:
We started putting better players on scout teams in certain periods. If it was going to be a full speed session then we were going to get as close to good on good as we could.
As the head coach and offensive coordinator, I started coaching the scout teams for our defense and our defensive coordinator started doing more with the scout teams for our offense. I realize this can’t be done at all levels, but you must find a way to make the scout teams feel they matter. Human nature makes it very hard for players to go hard when they know they are scout guys, I don’t care how much we let them know how important this role is.
And the best thing we did, we started wrist coaching our scout team plays.
Not too long ago I was attending a Power 5 team’s practice. I started timing how long it took the offensive scout team to snap the ball between plays. They averaged right at 58 seconds between the previous play’s whistle and the snap.
We can average less than 15 seconds.
What we are doing is essentially “padding” the other team’s plays. (Read about padding here if you don’t know what it is.)
We breakdown the opponent’s plays and then we transcribe it into our terminology. We do this in a Google Sheet (or Excel file). We use formulas to pull out each player’s assignment for each play. So players only get what they need to know. Each assignment includes the formation and the technique. We print each positions assignments on a card that fits into a wrist coach. On the field we just have to call the play by describing which column and which row to look at. We never have to huddle to look at anything. For example, we’d say “Red, 26” and all the players would look at the Red column and the row 26.
Here’s a sample of what the “Library” looks like using very generic terminology (you can put whatever terminology you prefer):
And here’s a very basic version of what the QB’s and RB’s would look like:
Our scout team’s can now snap the ball just about as fast as any high tempo team we play AND execute what the other team does. No, it will never be executed to perfection, but it’s much better than drawing cards up.
We’ve done this with up-tempo passing teams, double-tight wishbone, triple option flexbone and even the unbalanced single wing.
We also do this with scout team defense, and it’s even easier. We can make one file for the entire season and run any defense you can think of. We can call a 3-4 zone pressure on one play, and then on the next play we can be in a bear front with cover 0.
I’ve described this process to many coaches, but few do it. They’re simply too set in their ways to give it a try.
This also encourages both sides of the ball to be on the same page with communication. Which is another reason why some teams won’t do it. This completely blows me away that offenses and defenses, at very high levels in our game, can’t get on the same page in their language. Coordinators are too stubborn to change their terminology, versus doing what’s best for the education of the players.
This is one of the best things we have ever done in our program. It’s not easy, and it takes some time up front. However, eventually you will have a database of formations and plays that you can just pull from. You won’t have to recreate everything. A lot of time will be spent just copying and pasting. The process is much better than drawing cards in any of the software programs out there. And a lot of this can be done in the off-season.
Give it a try, most coaches won’t.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on improving this system, or better ways altogether, please respond and share!