Simply Multiple – The Coaching Paradox

In my post last Thursday (Do Things Right) I discussed one example of how simple is often better.  We all know of the pervasive acronym KISSKeep It Simple Stupid.

whiteboardSimple is good, without question.  But taken to the nth degree the idea of simplicity becomes ludicrous.  Can you imagine if you only ran one offensive play, out of the same formation, with a single set of blocking rules… and ran it every play the entire game?  What if you called the exact same defensive front and coverage with no stunt or change-up, every single play, in every single down and distance situation?

When we developed our defensive philosophy at the University of Central Missouri during the 90’s, we examined our situation, and ended up with this boiled down “elevator speech”

  • We had good athletes playing defense.  We wanted to be simple, so our players could use their athletic ability.  We wanted them to “play fast”
  • We had to have a degree of multiplicity.  We knew that if we lined up in the same front, and ran the same coverage every down, the excellent offensive coordinators in the MIAA would find a way to have success, regardless of how good our athletes were.

So there is the paradoxhow to be simple, yet multiple?

It was up to us as coaches to figure out where that “sweet spot” was… between being simple, and being multiple.  We never wanted to be so simple that we were predictable, and never wanted to be so multiple (or complex) that we were slowing down our athlete’s play because of over-analysis.

Every off-season, (see Becoming a “Stronger” Coach in the Off-Season) both winter and summer, we would analyze the data from the previous season or our spring practices and asked these questions:

  • How many times had we called the same front/ stunt coverage in the same situation?
  • How predictable were we?
  • Was there a particular front, stunt or coverage that we had continual alignment/ assignment mistakes?  If so, was there a better way of teaching the concept?  If not… do we throw it out?
  • Were the “effort” mistakes actually lack of effort, or were we slowing our athlete’s play down through over-analysis because some concept was too complex?
  • Was there a simpler naming/ numbering system that we could use?
  • Was there another changeup that we needed incorporate into our scheme… and if so, could we eliminate something?

Our philosophy did not change, but this process meant our defense, a 4-3, Cover 2 Concept, was constantly evolving.  Every year we would look at adding, tweaking, renaming, deleting things to our defensive package… always guided by the key concept…. we never wanted to be so simple that we were predictable, and never wanted to be so multiple that we were slowing down our athlete’s play because of complexity.

Because of this process, I truly believe our defensive package improved virtually every year.  We got closer and closer to that “sweet spot” between simple and multiple… closer to figuring out the paradox of simply multiple.

You can read more about developing a philosophy at the post – What is Your “Elevator Speech”.

Thanks again to for running the post in their Coach’s Corner.  If you get a chance, go to this Link (Coach’s Corner) and “Like” it on their site.

Jeff Floyd –

2 thoughts on “Simply Multiple – The Coaching Paradox

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