American Football

Eye in the Sky: How to Coach Effectively from the Press Box

Taking in the game from above provides a completely different perspective. Anthony Stone explains how to take advantage of the view.

Imagine the ability to coach every game with an unobstructed view, looking down on everything like you were watching the game on TV. From the press box, you can see everything happening at once—hence the nickname “eye in the sky.”

The majority of offensive and defensive coordinators in the NCAA and NFL coach from the box. Due to varying staff sizes, only about half of high school coordinators can. Coaches in the box are responsible for spotting, assisting with play calling and helping the coordinator know what he’s actually up against. They must remain focused on the game and not let their emotions get the best of them. Their football knowledge and ability to read other teams is a vital part of the position—they must be able to predict what’s coming next. Just as in chess, strategy is a key component to a successful football game.

In order to predict what the future holds, you must have a record of what was done previously. That’s where my offensive call sheet comes in. If you don’t already use one, I recommend trying this one. You can take it a step further by combining it with your Hudl Reports from the opponent’s previous games while in the press box.

Employ a spotter who can record information on the sheet so you remain focused on the game. Before the offense snaps the football, I tell the spotter most of the information that needs to be written down on the sheet. The nine items I track might not seem important, but they help when your team is having problems on offense. If you don’t use Hudl Assist, you’ll need a sheet like this to fill in for yourself.

Here’s a brief overview on my offensive call sheet:

  1. Quarter/Series: Current quarter and how many offensive series you’ve had.
  2. Hash: Where the ball is marked before the play.
  3. Down & Distance: Current down and how far you are from a first down.
  4. Yard Line: Where the drive began.
  5. Defensive Front: What kind of “box” the defense lines up in.
  6. Coverage: Is there a pattern to their coverage? Is the defense lining up in certain coverages when the offense lines up in certain formations?
  7. Blitz: Identify if the defense is sending players on certain downs/distance or when your team is in a certain offensive formation.
  8. Offensive Play: Identify if a play is effective. When you run this play does it work or not? Is there something you need to do to fix it?
  9. Play Result: The outcome of the play.

Here are a few other things my spotter and I look for while in the box (in no specific order):

  • Make sure both teams have 11 players on the field.
  • Identify both teams’ field goal kickers, their range and what hash they’re better from.
  • How many timeouts both teams have.
  • Are injured players coming back in or are they out?
  • Are the players huddled around the coordinators or are they staying by themselves? This helps identify a “tell” if there are personnel issues during the game.
  • Did the opposing team’s special teams come straight onto the field or did their coach tell them something before they did? This can help identify potential trick plays.
  • Identify what line techniques the defensive linemen use.
  • How does the defense line up against certain offensive personnel groupings?
  • Are there defenders we need to attack or are there players we need to stay away from?

Back to the chess comparison—coaching from the box requires patience and complete focus to ensure your “moves” are placed strategically. I’m always thinking ahead and strategizing how to move “pieces” effectively so my team gets checkmate when the time is right.

Share your tips and what you jot down while in the press box by contacting me directly through my website coachstonefootball.com or via Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #HUDLPressBoxCoach.

Anthony Stone is a Physical Education teacher in Rockford, IL and Quarterbacks Coach at Boylan High School. He was also the Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach for the Women’s Australian National Outback 2017 Team and writes blogs for Firstdown Playbook.

In July 2016, he was named to the Hudl 100 list. He has presented at IAPHERD, the top physical education convention in Illinois, on how to get students moving with his Games Galore presentations. He has also presented at the Chicago Glazier Clinics on quarterbacks & special teams. He was the defensive coordinator for the 2010 U.S. Women’s National Tackle Football Team, winners of the IFAF Women’s World Championship in which Team USA won its three games by a combined score of 201-0. Stone has coached in the CIFL and the IWFL Leagues as well as Beloit College (linebackers/special teams coordinator) and Rockford University (quarterbacks/wide receivers).

Stone has also coached football at the youth, middle school and high school level. He will be putting on fundamental youth football camps around the world in 2017. Please contact him to bring his “Back to the Basics Football Camp” to a city near you.

Follow him on Twitter @Coach_Stone_MT.