Teaching your “Language”

This past Monday, I (along with the rest of the faculty in our district) was sitting in a professional develop session listening to the presenter discuss ways to effectively teach Language Arts, specifically vocabulary.  Right before I completely tuned out and went into the Peanuts Teacher Listening Mode (“Waa wa, waa, wa wa”), I heard a few things that resonated with me as a teacher/ coach.

The presenter was explaining that in each discipline, there were a set of vocabulary words that students had to master to continue learning on the next level.  She said that just giving a list of vocabulary words with definitions, and asking the students to learn, was NOT an effective teaching method, but the following were:

  • Ask students to restate in their own words
  • Using pictures or video
  • Repetition

It struck me that, as coaches, most of us do this all the time!  In our discipline (football, basketball, softball, etc) we have a “vocabulary” that our athletes must master.  Most of us use ALL of the recommended effective ways to teach the “vocabulary” of our system… and the better and sooner we teach our “vocabulary” the sooner our athletes are ready to function in our program.

This vocabulary includes basic words that are important for athletes to understand early if they are to progress in our programs… words and terms such as, line of scrimmage, stance, hash marks, block, etc.  Can you imagine trying to teach more advanced words, terms and plays without your athletes having an understanding of this basic vocabulary?

All of our programs also have a set of more advanced, words, terms and phrases that our specific to our system.  We talk to our student-athletes all the time about “learning our language”.   The sooner they learn to speak the language of our system, the sooner they can play… they must know and understand our vocabulary…. Force, 3 technique, single high safety, lane of ball, etc

So how do we teach these concepts… this vocabulary?  Using the proven effective techniques the presenter described.

For example, when teaching our concept of “FORCE

  • A written definition of FORCE is given in the playbook:  “The defender responsible for FORCE will re-establish the sideline as close to the ball carrier as possible.”
  • We include a diagram of FORCE in our playbook.
  • Cover 2b

Cover 2

  • We orally explain the concept of FORCE using similar words and phrases – “You must FORCE the play to go inside of you”, “Set the Edge”, “Nothing gets outside of you”, “You need to squeeze down the play, eliminating a big inside pipeline”
  • We demonstrate on the field how a defender would FORCE a perimeter run play.
  • We show video examples of FORCE being executed correctly.
  • We quiz the players, asking them to explain the term FORCE.
  • We check for understanding daily using film at practice.

Quickly, most of our new athletes understand completely the concept of FORCE, and all of our veteran players are ready to incorporate their understanding into more advanced defensive concepts and coverages.

I have never seen a great coach that was not a great teacher…. teaching vocabulary, or teaching character, or teaching a specific skill

Great coaches are great teachers… period.

Thanks again to PrepsKC for running this column both online and in their weekly print magazine. If you get a chance to go and visit their site and “Like” this post, I would appreciate it!

You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you.. Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

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