Checking for Understanding

A point of emphasis for all teachers in our school this year has been  “checking for understanding” with our students.   As teachers, we are trying to move away from a strictly lecture format, with the instructor asking at the end of the period, “OK, did everyone get that?”; And with the students thinking to themselves, “No, I have no idea what you are talking about, but I am not about to let everyone know I am confused.”  By the time the final test rolls around, be it the MAP, EOC or any other standardized test, it is too late to check and see it they have “gotten it” or not.

As a coach, it is extremely important that we are doing a great job of teaching important concepts, and that we have ways to “check for understanding” with our players.  We do not want to wait until our final “test”, our contest Friday night, to see if our players have understood a particular concept, play, or defense.  If our players have not “gotten it” by that time, game time, then it is too late.

learning pyramid

Coach Keith Grabowski, Offensive Coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University, had an excellent post last week discussing the Retention of Learning and the “Learning Pyramid”.  In it, he details various ways to improve meetings, play insertion, practice and drill time.  I would like to share and piggyback off of a few of his ideas.  In preparation for Spring Practice, Coach Grabowski had these thoughts:

“With our coaches the message was to make meeting time as interactive as possible and to move away from lecturing and having their players read bullet points off a Power Point (lowest retention rate of learning). Instead, I wanted them to move towards using dynamic content whether that was Power Point diagrams with animations, still shot step-by-step illustrations with coaching points, film or preferably a combination of those things.   I encouraged our coaches to make the meetings as interactive as possible: Ask questions, have a player demonstrate, have them all stand up and show exactly the footwork or hand placement we expect. Don’t just allow the players to be passive learners.”

Yesterday, I used a play from Coach Grabowski’s playbook in my Advanced Strength and Conditioning Class.  We were evaluating video tape of their Power Clean technique. I used film from our previous class day, which I had exported to Hudl.  As each student’s clip came up, they were given the instruction to “Coach themselves and the rest of the class, focusing on 1) Power Position 2) Explosion Phase and 3) The Catch.”

We normally would do this in our Lecture Hall where it is a little more conducive to this type of teaching method, but it was being used.  We had to “monitor and adjust” and set up a film viewing station in our weight room.  Here is a clip showing one student-athlete going through this process.  The quality of the film is a little rough, but you can see and hear what is going on:

Coach Grabowski also discussed the benefits of making a screencast (or screen recording) of a presentation:

“I also encouraged them [coaches] to use our editing system to prepare video walk thru – essentially a screen cast of them talking through a play and giving coaching points. I like this method for an install because your comments as a coach are saved and accessible for player review later, whereas if you just talk through video in a meeting, once the meeting is over, there is nothing for the player to refer back to.”

My post yesterday , Making a Screen Recording, details how to make a screencast, or screen recording.

Coach Grabowski also took this philosophy out to the practice field:

“I also believe that our coaches do a great job organizing and preparing their practice drills and periods to be efficient and effective. As the learning pyramid shows, this has a 75% retention rate. The biggest area I encouraged both our players and coaches to improve on was having the players coach each other. I want every player not involved in the drill to be coaching and helping his teammates. I want the players to develop a coach’s eye for proper technique. I want them to understand and be able to see exactly right versus almost right.”

“To facilitate this I asked our coaches to follow a simple procedure:
1. Name the drill they are working and give the exact coaching points (being very efficient with language) that they are looking for.
2. The players should then be looking for those coaching points being executed by their teammates if they are waiting their turn.
3. They should also work to use the precise language that the coaches use. In all we do, we want to be able to communicate a coaching point in one to three words.”

You can see my thoughts on organizing practice drill work at this post: Running an Effective Drill

By implementing technology and insisting on interactive teaching and coaching methods from his coaches and players, Coach Grabowski is “checking for understanding” on a daily basis in the Baldwin Wallace football program.  Which instructional methods from the Learning Pyramid are you using to teach your student athletes in the classroom, in the weight room, or on the field?

Thanks to Coach Grabowski for providing a daily dose of great information via his blog: Coach and Coordinator.  You can follow Coach Grabowski on Twitter @CoachKGrabowski.

Questions and Comments are always welcome!

Jeff Floyd –


Confident vs Cocky

namathThere is a fine line between being confident and being “cocky” (overconfident).  I always want my players to play with great confidence, but I never want it to creep into the sector of “cockiness”.  So what’s the difference?  How can you get the positive aspect of confidence, without the threat of “cocky”?

I think there are a few things a coach can do to insure your athletes get the confidence without the cockiness.  True confidence comes from knowing you have fully prepared; that you have put the work and effort in; that you have literally done everything in your power to put yourself in a position to be successful (Do… or do not. There is no try!).   Without this level of work “in the tank“, any “confidence” you display is probably blustering …  overconfidencecockiness.

Seth Godin discussed this last Saturday in his post, “Swagger

The problem with swagger is that if you’re the swaggering marketer, you might run into a competitor with even more swagger than you. When that happens, it’s time to show your cards, the justification for your confidence. And if you don’t deliver, you’ve done nothing but disappoint the person who believed in you.

Substance without swagger slows you down. But swagger without substance can be fatal. Right now, we’re seeing more swagger than ever—but it’s rarely accompanied by an increase in substance…

The rule is simple: it’s essential to act the part. And it’s even more important for it to be real.

I think in athletics it is exactly the same.  Substance (preparation) without swagger (confidence) slows you down.  But swagger (confidence) without substance (preparation) can be fatal (cockiness).

The other piece to this “confident vs cocky” puzzle is humility. I do believe we can coach and teach humility with our student-athletes.  Confidence and Humility are not mutually exclusive traits.  Your athletes can, and should, have both.

In a recent post, (Servant Leadership from the QB Position) Coach Keith Grabowski (Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach at Baldwin Wallace University) discussed how and why he came to coach his QB’s in “Servant Leadership

What I left [Darin Slack’s camp] focusing on as much as technique was the idea of “servant leadership.”.

It’s something that is a huge part of my coaching now, and I wish I saw more of it being coached, especially in youth sports. I have a nine year old son, and I am constantly frustrated when I see the showboating and individualism that is allowed. Kids are being outwardly labeled as “stars” by their coaches to the other kids. I see those kids, “the stars,” pout when they don’t get the ball, don’t get a call by an official, or are taken out of the game. Those kids, who at this point may be superior, need to be taught that their talent needs to be used to serve their teammates rather than the reverse. It’s a disturbing trend.

The other concern I have is that development camps like Darin’s are threatened by combines and showcases that put the emphasis on showing off individual talent. There’s a place for those, but it seems that parents are spending their money on that and not taking advantage of great opportunities for their sons to learn the lessons that this game teaches from men like Darin Slack. I know he’s not the only one out there and that there are others who do it as well, but my point is that it seems to be getting tougher and tougher on those camps that have lasting value for a young man.

The entire theme of his QB manual at Baldwin Wallace University revolves around the theme of Servant Leadership.  Here is the first slide from his 200 slide QB manual.

 servant leadership

Hard Work + Confidence + Humility = Champions for Life

You can get more good stuff, including excellent ideas on the use of technology in coaching by following Coach Grabowski’s Twitter feed @CoachKGrabowski

You can get a daily dose of good stuff by reading Seth Godin’s blog.

Questions or Comments are always welcome!

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

Jeff Floyd –