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Learn from Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and Write it Down!

So I was catching up on some Hardknocks, which is the HBO series that documents NFL training camp with one team. In 2015, the series features the Houston Texans.

The second episode of the series opens with the Texans meeting in the locker room during half time of their first pre-season game. The first words spoken in that episode come from head coach Bill O’Brien. You hear him say:

“So these are some things I wrote down:
  • 1. We got missed tackles
  • 2. 10 men on the field on defense
  • 3. We had a holding call on punt return
  • 4. We had an offensive holding call, we’re not set on the clock play
  • 5. We had 7 shots from the goal line and don’t get it in, from inside the 2 yard line”
Bill O'Brien

Head coach Bill O’Brien is reading these bullet points off of what looks to be a piece of paper that is folded in half horizontally, and then vertically.

To most viewers this would be an inconsequential 10-second portion of the overall episode. However, Coach O’Brien reveals a great coaching technique.

I first saw this done by Coach Scott Payne. During every game and practice he is religious about writing down anything that is done incorrectly, or done extremely well. These notes serve as great teaching devices.

When players actually experience something happening in real time, and then have the chance to go over that with their coach, it has a much deeper impact than if the situation was simply addressed in a “chalk talk session.”

As coaches, we feel like we can remember exactly what the important moments in a game were that we must address. Very often we try to address the mistake or great play immediately after it happens, if all of the moving parts allow for this it should indeed be done. Yet, often the player we want to talk to is leading off the next inning, or another player could have learned from the situation but you only have a chance to speak with the involved party before you have to go coach third base. By the time the game is over it is very easy for that learning opportunity to have slipped your mind.

Point being, coaches should get in the habit of writing down all of the events that happen in a game that they have some sort of commentary on. Then they should address those issues immediately after the game. By doing so the coach gives the entire team a chance to learn and improve based upon the game experience they just had.

If you adopt this you are building up your teams baseball IQ and giving them a direct signpost to success. Additionally, you are supplying them with an experiential library of game situations that they can draw from for the rest of their playing career.

Additional Benefits:

Writing these things down will help you structure better practices.

On top of what a great benefit it can be to the players, this list of bullet points will have a way of showing you what elements need to be emphasized in practice.

It is so easy to get caught up in the game, but making a concerted effort to write down the things you as a coach see, then communicating that to your players will help them see the game from a coaches point of view. Pretty soon you will have baseball savvy players, doing the right thing on instinct.

Do yourself a favor and start carrying a note card, or even a folded up piece of paper…and jot down mistakes, great plays, situations, or other occurrences, then review those with your team immediately after the games. In practice, you have the ability to stop things and put the teaching in right away. Make an effort to do so in games also, but don’t let one players mistake be a learning opportunity for just him. Let it be a learning opportunity for the entire team.

It is not a matter of calling anyone out, it is simply a matter of teaching. Very calming and matter of factly recall the situation and then provide guidance as to how it can be done better next time. Or highlight great efforts and plays and emphasize the fact that that particular play or effort is how things should be done.

If an NFL coach is writing these types of things down I think it is a good suggestion to try it out for size. I have loved it ever since I have started doing it. Give it a try and you and your players will reap the benefits.

Committed to your success!

Please leave a comment and let us know if you have any questions.

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