How to improve as a football coach during a pandemic

The global coronavirus pandemic has shifted the way humans live around the world. It’s also probably shifted the way you’re able to coach the players on your team. Perhaps your country forced you off the field, limited the number of players you’re able to be around at one time, or prevented you from conducting practice as usual.

Although these realities might make it difficult to coach at a high level, there are many things you can do right now to improve. Here are three ways you can improve as a football coach during a pandemic:

Understand the rules. As a coach, it’s important to understand the rules of the game you teach. Whenever you have newer or younger players come up and ask you the difference between encroachment and a neutral zone infraction, you should be prepared with an answer. American football is a complex game and, as a coach of that game, it’s expected that you have a proper understanding of the rules.

The NCAA publishes its yearly rulebook where you can find not only the rules of the game, but also any new amendments or changes to previous rules. Knowing the rules will not only add credibility in the eyes of your players, but it can also help you take advantage of relatively unknown rules during games. A pandemic is a good time to better familiarize yourself with the rules.

Study the other side of the ball. Most coaches have a specialty. Whether it’s a head coach who doubles as the team’s offensive play-caller or a head coach with a defensive background, the majority of coaches are either offensive-minded or defensive-minded. That being said, a pandemic gives you adequate time to dedicate to learning the other side of the ball or improving your special teams knowledge.

For example, if you are the wide receivers coach for your team then it would benefit you to study the tactics and techniques of defensive backs. What is their alignment in certain coverages? What are they taught to do in third and long situations? What technique do they use in press coverage? Finding the answers to these questions will strengthen your ability to teach your wide receivers but it will also make you a better and more well-rounded coach.

Find a mentor. There are coaches out there who are much smarter than you. Sorry if this offends you, but it’s true. And if growth is actually important to you, you’ll seek out those smarter coaches and try to learn from them. Having a mentor is one of the most beneficial and healthy things you can do to become a better coach. And with technologies like Zoom and Skype, a pandemic is not a good excuse to avoid seeking out and learning from mentors.

A mentor can simply be a coach who has been in your position before, a coach who has coached at a higher level than you, or perhaps someone has never coached American football before but was successful in other areas. We can learn new things from a variety of sources, and a mentor is a source that is sure to benefit you as a coach.

A multitude of improvements can be discovered and attained during a pandemic. Watching lots of film, better grasping your own playbook, and attending various online clinics are some things that can make you a better coach. Find an area you want to improve and figure out a way to get it done. But understanding the rules, studying the other side of the ball, and finding a mentor are three bulletproof ways to improve as a coach during a pandemic.

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Spencer Ferrari-Wood is an American coach, speaker, writer and teacher living in Europe. He writes articles and reviews and has a collection of thoughts for your morning routine. He's spoken at different events ranging from leadership, to American