Charting Broken Plays – A Teaching Tool

A sneaky good way to further separate oneself from the pack is recognizing, understanding and appreciating the significant number of plays a game fall into the category of “broken plays” and then imparting this knowledge on to one’s players.

Defining a broken play isn’t exactly easy and will vary somewhat from coach to coach and system to system but maybe we can agree on the simple definition of “anything unplanned or generally unexpected”.

Many of us tend to practice our offenses and defenses as if they will occur in a “perfect world”.  But, we all know that “stuff happens”. We also inherently understand that certain coaches, players and teams have “good stuff happen” more than others.

Talent being equal, how does this happen?  A list of just some factors follows:

  • Some systems or styles are particularly susceptible to creating broken plays for both the opponent and themselves.  Teams that pressure at the defensive end and push the ball at the offensive end obviously create more possessions, and volatile ones at that.  Volatility creates a greater number of broken plays.
  • Some coaches don’t blow the whistle and stop play very much in practice.  This allows players to “play through” situations. Any time players play through until a dead ball in practice better allows them to play through until a dead ball in a game.
  • Complimenting players for successful broken plays at any time, practice or game, can motivate players to do more in that regard.  The adage, “It’s not what you teach but what you stress,” comes to mind.
  • Calling attention to broken plays in video sessions on a regular basis acts as “cement” to the notion for players.  This helps to allow players of all types to make these plays-not just the players naturally inclined to do so.
  • Charting these types of plays after each game can serve to inform and motivate players.  Players and coaches alike will be surprised at the infinite ways that stuff happens.

No matter the philosophy, system or style of play, broken plays happen on a regular basis.  Coaches who understand and stress that on a day to day basis have an advantage over those who don’t.  Taking the time this summer to chart this aspect in last season’s games will give one an analytical basis to the premise.  


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