2014 CFC Coaches Clinic: Using cost effective technology to enhance practice & games with Ben Coker

Being a football coach can be a full time job. Whether you are coaching at the university level, high school students or kids just getting into the game, every coach wants to be able to give the task all that they can. From teaching the love of the game to how to play the game with integrity and skill, coaches take pride in what they do and look for every opportunity to make their life easier and efficiently.

At the recently held CanadaFootballChat.com Burlington Coaches Clinic, Burlington Stampeders coach and former player Ben Coker spoke about easy and inexpensive ways coaches of any level can utilize tools on their computers in order to not only make their jobs easier but more productive as well.

As a former player and current coach, Coker knows the game of football well, but also wanted to find a way to bring his other strengths into the mix.

“When I first got into coaching rep football, I knew I wasn’t the educated person to coach,” Coker explained of his coaching beginnings. “How could I help out? One of the things I figured out is I’m pretty good with technology, I’m going to use that to help better the program.”

Coker then learned that he could use free computer software such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint among others to improve his abilities as a coach and coordinator. Using Word and PowerPoint and the features they contain, Coker taught himself how to create detailed play books, practice charts, game day charts and grading charts.

“Basic understanding of tables and auto shapes make it easy to create whatever you have envisioned in your play books and charts,” said Coker. “It’s very adaptable. Anything that comes into my head I can create.”

An example of a passing-play template that can be created in Microsoft Word.

An example of a passing-play template that can be created in Microsoft Word.

Not only did Coker find these programs easy to use and manipulate, they are free and accessible to anyone and make the sharing of information easy.

“Every coach probably has Microsoft Word, so it’s easy to share ideas o work together by sending documents and plays to work on,” Coker stated. “I taught a coach who is not tech savvy how to use this, now he emails me plays. I can put them in Word to configure them and send them back. Once I send it anyone can fiddle with it, fix it or move it around as they like.”

One important feature to remember that Coker made sure to point out was being able to save a play or chart as a template. Once you have created the basis for a run play for example, you can save it as a template so that you can reopen that blank template to create a wide variety of plays.

“You end up with multiple templates that you have created,” said Coker. “One I have created for inside run game, for outside run game. I have all m quarterback templates, all my assignments and all my players and play charts.”

Coker also talked about web sharing services such as Dropbox, a program that allows people to upload and download files from each other. Not only is it effective for sharing information with other coaches and members of staff, but can be used to share plays and charts with players who tend to be technology proficient as it is.

“You can tell your players we have a game on Friday and new plays will be posted on Saturday,” Coker said of using a web sharing service. “With that being said I want you to check Saturday night because on Monday be ready to run those new plays.”

Having new plays or the play book in general available to the players in advance of a practice or game gives them the opportunity to come onto the field with a stronger idea of what is expected of them, effectively increasing their confidence level and helping remove the chance of an excuse of why they did not execute a play properly.

“I can make anything possible as long as the kids know what I’m trying to show,” Coker stated. “In practice I have full right to yell at them when they are outside the numbers when I’ve shown them an inside the numbers run.”

An example run-play template, including player positions and movement, yardage markings and hash marks.

An example run-play template, including player positions and movement, yardage markings and hash marks.

Coker explained during the seminar that the most important thing when using these programs to create templates and play books is to just use it, and use it often. There is almost no limit to what can be created; it just takes the time and effort to learn to manipulate the features.

“You just practice at it and learn it… I’ve had to continuously evolve my templates,” he explained of learning to use the programs to their full potential. “My templates used to be big and blotchy things. So I played with learned how to do this and that and a made a better template.”

With a bit of time and some tinkering, any coach can learn to create full and detailed play books, using programs that are not only free of charge, but most likely have already.

“Once you get it you play with it, play with it and play with it and you can get there. You can create your entire play book like this.”


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