Studying Film: Teaching Players the Why and How

In Football Content by Ryan SwingleLeave a Comment

In football and life in general, preparation is everything. Contrary to popular belief, 90% of a professional football player’s preparation occurs in the classroom and film room rather than on the practice field. In this article, we will dive into how to teach players to invest in watching film and the benefits they can reap from it.

The Process of Watching Film

Before looking at how to properly watch film, it is important to get the athlete to invest in the process and understand the why behind it. As touched on above, preparation is key to every aspect of life.

In order to effectively perform against an opponent, it is important to understand what they are doing and how they do it before stepping on the football field. If we don’t understand what the opponent is running, tendencies they put on film, and the skill level of the opponent, we are at a disadvantage from the opening kick off. After the importance of film study is understood, the player must know how to go about it in an effective manner.

The strategy we will examine is a minimum three view process. First, examine the overall result, down and distance, and type of play. Next, dive into the formation, personnel, and field position. In the final view, we will look at how the play relates to your specific assignment.

The Why Behind Film Study

The why behind the how is a concept that can be applied to all areas of teaching and one that is especially important to film study. In order to fully engage an athlete, it is important for them to know its importance in the grand scheme of things and how all of these pieces fit together.

Film study is an extremely important aspect to the game of football, and that importance only grows as competition and level of play rises.

Learning the Opponent

The first reason to watch film is to learn the opponent. From an individual level, an athlete can gain a great deal from looking at the specific opponents they will be facing on game day.

For a center, what is the defensive tackle’s primary pass rush move, do they have a high motor, do they give up have good pursuit when the ball is outside of their run fit?

For a receiver, does the corner like to press, is he weaker opening his hips one way as opposed to the other, and does he bite on double moves out of breaks? These ideas can be applied to any position and can put the player at an advantage from the opening whistle through the fourth quarter.

Preparing for Opponent Schematics and Tendencies

The second reason is to see what the opponent does schematically and philosophically as a whole. If the player can understand the style of play, tendencies of the opposing play caller, and various cues learned from film, this will be another advantage come game day.

  • Does the team use 21 personnel as their base as opposed to 10 and 11?
  • Are they an under center team or do they use a spread philosophy?
  • What are their red zone tendencies as well as tendencies from field and boundary situations?
  • How does play calling differ in the open down as opposed to when they get into 3rd down?

If the players know all of this information before the game, it will allow for them to better combat what the opponent is throwing at them as well as understand the big picture as a whole.

Self Scout and Evaluation

Self evaluation is the final piece to film study for a player. It is important to examine both the positives and negatives from a game or practice to understand what you are doing properly and what needs to be corrected. If we don’t learn from our mistakes and expand upon what we are doing at a high level, we are stunting our own growth.

The How – Three View Process to Watching Film

Knowing why something is important is only half the battle. How to perform the task effectively and efficiently is the second part of the equation.

When it comes to film study, we will explore a minimum three view process of each play with different components to look for in each view. Of course, this is just the minimum to get necessary information out of the clip and repeated examination will allow for better comprehension of the ideas at hand.

View One

When first viewing a play, examine the play at the surface level.

These basic include:

  • Play result,
  • Down and Distance
  • Play Type
  • Gain (+/-) on the Play

This is going just a little deeper than what the average fan would generally look at and gives the player time to take it in at a quick glance. This should give the player a general overview of the situation and what is happening to better understand the details later on.

View Two

The second view of the play has the player focusing on the deeper details of the play. Aspects can include:

  • Formation
  • Personnel
  • Relation to the field or boundary.

This allows for the player to better understand what is happening in the play and how it relates to the bigger picture. By looking at it through this lens, one can better develop an understanding of opponent tendencies and self scouting these tendencies as well. There are benefits to understanding the situation for your own film, not just how it relates to preparing for an opponent.

View Three

The third view should focus on your individual opponent for game preparation and your individual assignment when reviewing your own film.

  • What is your job on this play?
  • Who are you reading or going up against in a one on one setting?
  • How is that opponent performing on this play?
  • What is their effort and technique?
  • How does their skill level compare to practice players and previous matchups?

This is where the player really puts all the pieces together and sees how this affects them on a given play. This lens might take a few views to comprehend what is happening on the play at hand.

An Example

Here is a look at a clip from the Super Bowl and how a player might go about analyzing a play with the three view process explained above.

Other Tips to Consider

Consider tracking the time spent by players watching film. Applications like Hudl allow for coaches to see who is actually watching film and how much time they are investing in the process

Encourage players to keep film notebooks to write down what they see and what they are getting out of it. This is another form of reinforcement and allows for them to reflect on what they’ve studied.

Emphasize the return on investment from watching film. Show the positive correlation between time spent watching film and on field performance. Most programs use grading systems and a coach can show how an increase in film study translated to higher grade outs.

Set scheduled times to watch film as a team and encourage scheduled personal time to watch film everyday. As a team, have consistent days and times where you watch film together, and position coaches can have players work into their daily schedules consistent times when they watch film on their own to establish positive habits.

Remember that three views are not always what it takes for total comprehension and this is the minimum to retain necessary information from the clip. Many times, there will be several viewings required to attain maximum retention.

Related Q & A

Why Should An Athlete Study Film?

Film is beneficial in many ways for any athlete at any level. Learning the opponent, preparing on a schematic level, and self evaluation are all benefits of film study.

What Process Is Effective For Watching Film?

The three view process is a great way to teach watching film. The first view focuses on the general play, the second examines the deeper details, and the third is geared toward individual assignment.

What Are Services Available For Viewing Football Film?

Hudl and XOS are two popular film viewing interfaces that many teams purchase. They also allow for coaches to track viewing to see who is investing in film study.

What Is A Good Amount Of Time Spent Watching Film?

Different people require different amounts of time spent studying to retain information. The main goal is to promote consistent study habits that allow the athlete to get the most out of their time studying.

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