Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Evolution of a Call Sheet In-season...Reduce the Clutter

     As the 2016 Texas High School season began our offensive staff had a plan, just like every other team.  We had a good athlete at the QB position that could run and throw.  We had 2 tailbacks that we felt very good about, one of which was our best defensive player as a 2 year starter and post-season award winner at Free Safety.  We were going to be strategically balanced and throw when WE wanted to, not being dictated by the defense or down and distance.  It was a blueprint for a perfect season, but as we all know, the beauty of the game of football lies with the many opportunities to persevere through adversity and adjust to change. We had 2 different epiphanies with these young men early in our season that called for a change in the way we thought offensively, starting with our call sheet.

The first epiphany came after the performance of our tailback in the opener. Prior to the season, we were shooting for 12-15 touches per game with him.  We got in a shootout where we scored 61 points and lost.  The back ended with 300+ rushing on 40 touches.
Week 1 call sheet
    My call sheet for that week 1 ball game was pretty basic.  The top-left in white (labeled 1st half) was our first 7 plays in normal down/distance situations.  If we get 3rd/4th & short/long we would go  to the down/distance section in green.  We were opening with the POWER scheme.  It is the basis of our offense.  The other 6 were a mix of run/pass trying to show different formations with motion adjustments that we wanted to see.  The next white section was left blank to fill in at half time with our adjustments.  It was usually limited to a 3 play mini-script, along with a list of any other major ideas or adjustments our staff talked about at half.  The next white sections were our base run/pass schemes going in that week.  They are listed by scheme only, not by personnel groupings or formations. The bottom white section was our WILDCAT section that we were only planning on using on 3rd/4th & less than 3 yards to go situations.  As fate had it that night we had 11-3rd/4th short situations which aided in the 40 touch total of our back.  The rest of the sheet is pretty common stuff. There is a large section to draw between series if needed as well as halftime.  The yellow-red-orange are important sections that I don't ever want to overlook.  The yellow section is pre-game information to go over with the QB one more time.  If I ask the QB about this info and he stumbles even the slightest bit then there is a pretty good chance we do not need to be running it.  The orange section is just a script of plays to call during pregame team offense.  Its important to do what you do without showing all that you do.  Somebody is always watching!  The back of the call sheet was our 2 point chart and kill-the-clock charts.
     The second epiphany happened a couple of weeks later.  During the first drive of our first district ball game, or QB pulls a zone read, goes for 12 yards, and separates the AC joint in his throwing shoulder requiring surgery the next week.  We were prepared for the injury and had a plan.  Our #2 QB was one of our starting WR and was a 4 year letterman as a kicker.  He had a great understanding of our offense from being in 4 years of varsity meetings and practice.  The transition to him was smooth.  We did win that game and we were set up for a huge game with playoff seeding on the line the next week.  #2 QB was not the runner as our #1 QB and we had some heavy tendencies as far as running to our strength formationally and to the wide side of the field.  We are multi-personnel spread, no-huddle.  We were not necessarily a hurry-up-no-huddle team to this point but we made that switch this week with a bye and a QB change.  As fate would have it, #2 QB missed a Tuesday workout and did not play that week in the crucial district game.  Again, we had a plan that had been worked since the Spring and we did not, as a staff, make any irrational decisions based on emotions. We worked the plan that had been practiced and gave our team the best chance to win.  At this point tempo was no longer a "lets see what happens" part of our offense, it was the offense.  #3 QB stepped in and the wildcat took off. Practice changed, and so did our staff game planning meetings.  As well as a change in call sheets.
Week 10 front
Week 10 back
The big script.  We have the SEE EARLY section.  These are the things that we wanted to see, but honestly it took longer to look at the call sheet, get the play called and get it ran, than it did to roll with it and check between series where we were at on what we wanted to see.  It was more important for us to go fast, physically and mentally wearing down a defense, then to work down a script.  The advantages to the script had been replaced because we had reduced the clutter of our offense, limiting formations, motions, and schemes.  The HAVE WE? section was our go to section between series.  It kept us honest with who we knew we had to be, to be successful as a unit.
The formation pictures and plays that accompany them became a very useful tool for our players.  In any game, we had as many as 4 guys taking the snap from center, 2 QB/WR and 2 RB/wildcat guys. We could show them exactly where they needed to align, and through our weekly preparation, they understood the scheme and what needed to happen when the ball was snapped.
     As an individual, the back page of the call sheet had more meaning to me than the front.  We went from a standard size 8.5 x 11 sheet to a 8.5 x 14 legal size.  It gave us room on the back for our strategic charts plus the additional room for my personal messages that helped keep me focused throughout the game.  The messages changed from week to week, often saving the bottom row for some of my favorite old school rap lyrics.  This week I had a quote from Denison native Dwight Eisenhower.  The colored messages again where things just like the HAVE WE? section from the front page that kept me in line with our gameplan and overall philosophy that was made in the calm and coolness of our office when things are well thought out and calculated.  After we have met as a staff and with our athletes at halftime, I find a place to be by myself for a minute or two and re-focus all of my energy on what it will take to give our kids the best chance to succeed.  It may seem like a small thing or a minor detail but we were behind in this week 10 game at halftime. I was able to to find that minute alone and thought about the message of my picture.  I touched my heart with my terms.....calmed down and got myself ready to go.  That's all it took.  I was mentally locked in, and we kept feeding the beast, Tre Lyday!
We got beat in the first round of the playoffs.   In the first half of that game, we were not successful on 3 different 4th & 1 situations.  I called a bad game.  We followed the same plan at halftime, and during my minute of alone time I was interrupted by the #1 tee boy in the state of Texas, my 8 year-old Easton.

He was calm, calculated, and very intently looked in my eyes and saw I was struggling.  He got closer, stared me down, locked in on my eyes and he said, "Daddy, if we get another 4th down, call that touchdown play. Lets go play catch!" Things didn't work out that night, but I was ready for the second half.  Whatever it takes!

In the next few days I will get very specific about how we game planned and how we practiced. If you have any questions you can comment here or email me:

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Conversation on Sports, Adversity and the Value of Failure

Today I bring you Nick DiNardo. Nick is an entrepreneur, consultant, and public speaker focused on adversity, personal growth, and education. Throughout his career, he has interviewed hundreds of experts from multiple disciplines on overcoming adversity, dealing with trauma and stress, and the crucial role that it plays in our cognitive development and education.
Nick has dealt with adversity his entire life. At seven years old, Nick's family went from living the American Dream to a foreclosed home, divorce, and mental illness. He spent a year sleeping on the floor of a one room apartment and sharing a kitchen with 17 people.
He writes and podcasts about his journey, the story and science of adversity, and personal growth at Nick was a multi-sport athlete in high school football, baseball and track and played football at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

Download the Action Plan from This Episode Here

Welcome to the Wrestling with Success podcast with host Jim Harshaw Jr. In this show that uncovers the secrets of the most successful people on the planet who are also former athletes and reveals how they used skills learned in sports to overcome failure and achieve a level of success not otherwise possible. Former athletes are uniquely qualified for success if they learn how to translate lessons learned from sports into life. I help you do this by interviewing former athletes who are proven winners in the wrestling match of life and finding out how they used what they learned from sports to reach success.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

PowerPoint Playbooks

Coaches always want to know how to create a better playbook.  In this video we cover the basics of creating a football playbook with PowerPoint.

Feel free to download and use the 'diagram' template here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

IMG Academy's Head of Leadership Development: James Leath

Former Fresno State Football Player
Head of Leadership Development
IMG Academy
James Leath
James Leath joined IMG Academy in 2015. As Head of Leadership Development, James develops and delivers curriculum for IMG Academy student-athletes across 8 sports and presents to visiting teams, companies, and professional athletes.
Leadership lessons consist of communication skills, personal and group leadership, developing identity, and building team culture. James attended Fresno State University where he received his B.A. in Communication. During college, when he wasn't playing football, he was best known for being the beloved mascot of Fresno State, Time Out. After graduation, James went on to play quarterback for a semi-pro team in Fresno, CA. With over 15 years of coaching experience and a M.A. in Performance Psychology, James is passionate about teaching athletes the tools they need in order to be successful in life and in sport.
If you don’t have time to listen to the entire episode or if you hear something that you like but don’t have time to write it down, be sure to grab your free copy of the Action Plan from this episode-- as well as get access to action plans from EVERY episode-- at

Download the Action Plan from This Episode Here

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Setting Goals to Win Championships

As a coach, you have goals, both personal and professional. 

They're different from mine and everyone else's but there are certain habits that you must develop to get from where you are to where you want to be. Ever wondered exactly what they are? 
Jim Harshaw Jr Motivational Speaker Virginia Failure
Interviews with Successful Former Athletes
Have you ever wanted clarity on the exact habits that you need to get there? 

Sure, you're working hard but there's that seed of doubt. "Am I doing the right things?"  Yeah, I've been there too.
I have created a cheat sheet that reveals the secret habits of high achieving former athletes. 

I've interviewed dozens of them on my podcast-- Olympians, billionaires, astronauts, Navy Seals, professional athletes-- and identified eight habits that they all have in common.
And I've put them into a free PDF for you so that you can start working on the right things immediately.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

XO Wizard Coaching Perspectives

Michael Hoglund and his staff at XO Wizard have done a great job developing an extremely useful playbook application for any program. If you're building a playbook, I would highly recommend jumping into their 14-day trial and give it a run. It is a lot of fun to build within their applet.   

In addition to this tool, he has also regularly contributing insightful content from a variety of sources, so be sure to follow at @XOwizard 

In his latest blog offerings, he meets with several different coaches and explores their perspectives of the game, of program management and athlete training. This should be more 'smart football' to feed your off-season needs