Mistakes occur in every walk of life, from the professional to the academic to the recreational. The key (not to go all Zen here) is the way in which those mistakes are addressed.
In WVU’s football program, that process starts immediately following each game, and stretches out over several days as the team works from one contest to the next.
Of course, there’s in-game coaching, where feedback occurs as soon as a player comes to the sideline, in the hopes of correcting the error so it doesn’t happen again. When the game is over, though, the process hits another gear.
Several staff members, who have recorded the game from multiple angles, have already cut the game up into each play, then tagged those so that they can be viewed by the coaching staff and uploaded them to WVU’s video system and the coaches’ laptops or iPads. The coaches don’t have to just watch the game in a linear fashion; they can look at groups of plays by down and distance, for example, if they want to zero in on specific situations.
The first watch of the game comes just an hour or two after the conclusion of the contest.
“As a staff we watch the game, and if it’s an away game, we have time on the way home so we watch it then,” WVU head coach Neal Brown explained. “You may have a minute to give [the players] a pointer when you get off the plane. We put the comments in our computer system, and then they can see them on Sunday. We can’t meet with them, but they are able to see it.”
Players can access all of the video on their personal computers and mobile devices, so they get their own initial review of the game, and their play, before reconvening with the coaches.
“We watch the game with them on Monday mornngs, and go over the positives and the negatives,” Brown continued. Then it’s on to the practice field, where corrections are repped as part of preparations for the next week’s opponent.
“You have to coach them better and find a way to get what you are trying to do across to them,” defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said of the improvement process.
Fixing the actual errors, though, are just part of the teaching. Brown has some larger points to make when addressing a bad route or an error in coverage technique.
“The learning point for this team is why the details matter, how small the margin is between winning and losing,” he said. “The (OSU) game was winnable. There were winning plays that we could have made to change the outcome, but we didn’t make them. You have to learn from those things.”
The battle to improve, and minimize errors, is an ongoing one. While Brown detailed some of the issues from the OSU game, which included defenders “trying to do to much” at times and offensive technique miscues, Lesley included another important area that has to be executed seamlessly.
“Communication has to happen from the sideline to the field, and then from the guys on the field that communicate the signals and the formation to the rest of the players. It all works together, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure it’s executed.”
While that wasn’t a huge problem area against the Cowboys, it is something that requires constant work to hone, especially with different players on the field in different situations.
Finally, there’s the competition. Nobody wants to hear it, but in almost every game the other team is going to have better players at some spots. They can force mistakes, and coaches have to find ways to work around those advantages that tilt toward the opposition.
“That’s part of it,” Brown concluded. “We have to figure out a way to overcome some of those things. You own your mistakes, you hold each other accountable, and you get back to work to get it fixed.”