Football for Player and Spectator/Chapter 10
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|The Evening's Work|
How often do we see a team continually making the same mistakes in game after game! Mistakes in generalship, mistakes in the work of the individuals show themselves with a frequency that is almost inexplicable.
Often the apportionment of the work among the individuals has been poorly done and advantage has not been taken in the games of the opportunities given under the rules, such as carrying the ball out of bounds when being downed near the sideline, or touching the ball as it is about to roll out of bounds on a punt and making the opponents take it for scrimmage within a yard of the sideline, instead of being permitted to carry it in for 15 yards. Many other instances could be noted in which similar cases of poor teaching crop out in the work of an eleven.
To remedy such faults should be the earnest aim of the coach, and he should lose no opportunity.
All or nearly all the schools and colleges which support football teams have a training table where the players assemble at meal time. Every evening after dinner is finished at least 30 minutes should be spent in conversation that has a direct bearing on the preparation of the men for their duties in the field. This time is usually wasted if the players leave training quarters immediately after the meal is finished. It can be made of much benefit to the men, however, and at the same time will not interfere to any appreciable extent with their study hours.
It is well that the work of each evening be systematized. The great benefit to be derived from what is advised in this chapter is that the players themselves are required to do much of the thinking. In thinking over the game with the idea of criticising it, the men will be much impressed and better prepared for the future.
On Monday evening the coach should require each of the men at the training quarters to present two written criticisms of the game played the Saturday before, the statements to bring out the mistakes that were made and the remedies which should be applied in particular instances.
The field for review should consist of the mistakes made by the individuals, the mistakes in team play and the manner and spirit in which the game was played. Opportunities lost when particular conditions presented themselves in the game, and the failure of the team to properly benefit by the mistakes of the opponents and their weaknesses can thus be indelibly impressed on the minds of the football pupils.
The coach or trainer can read these suggestions and comment on their correctness or fallacy. Also he may add to the criticisms other good and helpful suggestions and urge all to avoid in the future the mistakes mentioned. It is one of the most practical lessons possible, outside of the actual game itself, that can be brought to the attention of the player.
The rules are generalizations which must be mastered, but queer conditions arise in every game, and no book has ever been written which covers these varied circumstances. Furthermore, no book can be written which will be able to state just what will come up through the progress of a game.
It is in correcting the mistakes of the past that hopes rest for a better future, and the Monday evening half-hour can be made one of great profit. It is, as well, a half-hour of actual pleasure to the earnest football player.
Every training quarters should be equipped with a blackboard. It is easy to have regular gridiron lines painted on the board, which can be used to advantage to illustrate plays and to discuss the problems that present themselves for solution in the different parts of the field.
Ideal situations may be presented or complicated conditions marked out, and the player can be tested in the facility with which he grasps the imaginary plays, as well as the accuracy with which he solves the problems thus presented. Football makes players think, and the blackboard affords a method more realistic than mere dreamy questionings. It lends interest to the general work, especially during the player's early experience.
The work having been arranged beforehand, only 15 or 20 minutes will be required for the actual blackboard illustrations and the balance of the time can be spent in singing, talking and joking.
The average football player is lacking in accurate knowledge of the football rules. It is very important that every man should know the rules and know them instantly. The opportunity to take advantage of them on the field of play will not last always. The player does not often have time to hesitate.
There is no better way for the men to gain a proper knowledge of the rules than by instituting a quiz on them at least once a week. The players themselves should each be required to present two questions on the rules every Wednesday evening. These questions should be signed and read at the Wednesday evening meeting.
Rules are nothing but football laws which must be obeyed. The practitioner in court who can quickly interpret a law bearing on the case that is being tried has an instant advantage over his slower opponent who is, for the moment, mystified. Correspondingly, no man can be a great football player unless he is an adept at the rules of the game.
Urge the men at the next "Rule Quiz" to bring out some new feature under the rules. The player, in looking up and preparing these questions, will become thoroughly conversant with all the rules. This, together with what each man brings out at the weekly conference, should leave nothing unnoticed, down to the obscurest section of the laws that govern the game.
On Thursday evening especial attention can be given to the work of the captain and quarter back of the team. This should consist of talks and questions on plays and generalship. Above all others, these men should know the rules correctly and perfectly.
Written questions and answers may be taken up early in the season, but later the work should be oral, as the men must learn to know the rules and just what commands to give instantly in the games.
The character of the questions should be such as will meet the needs of the men who are being developed. This can easily be done by watching the men in their work both in practice and in games. No two football players are exactly alike. Much less can two complete elevens be found with identical team characteristics. The captain and quarter back must study the individuality of every man on the team and must know just what he can do. A yard is a long distance when it stretches between the ball and the opponents' goal on the third down, and it requires generalship to direct the play so that those three feet of space can be negotiated. To know when and how to make the best possible use of the material at hand is to solve a big problem.
It is well to spend Friday evening in singing and amusements and thus keep up the spirits of the men by varying the monotony of the regular weekly routine. The coach should aim to make the evening as pleasant as he can. It is the night before the game. The minds of the men should be taken off the contest that is due for the morrow. Young players are anxious enough without the continual reminders of which they have been the recipients all the week, and the "Night Before" should be devoted to a good rest.
The spirits of the men have probably been brought to a high and intense pitch by the work of the week and they should be allowed to enter the contest with fresh, rather than fatigued minds.
It is well on the evening after the game that the men be given absolute freedom from any thought of the contest just ended. They have probably earned a rest and should be permitted to depart or remain as they choose. Monday evening is time enough to talk over the game which took place, and the men will then have had opportunity to absorb more thoroughly the situations which were presented during the Saturday afternoon.
On the whole, these evening hours cement the team man to man. The associations make them better acquainted. They become chums and jolly fellows who can and will play football of the best sort.