By: Chad Wilson
Technique may or may not be everything when playing defensive back but it’s damn close. Defensive backs care about their technique like a barber cares about his clippers and sometimes things can get emotional especially when a player and coach can’t agree on what technique to use to get the job done.
I played five years of college football and had five different defensive back coaches. Each one of them contributed to my development as a player and unknowingly at the time, my career as a coach. You know what else each one them brought to the table? They brought their own technique, for everything.
You can imagine some of the confusion that my have resulted in my head when the best way to win a press rep last year was not the same way the following year. Each coach believed 100% in their technique as being the best for me to achieve the objective. It was like attending a different religion’s church each Sunday.
As I progressed into my final two seasons, I had determined what worked best for me whether that was a T-step or a bicycle step to get out of my break or a hard press vs. soft press technique in press man. Whatever the case may be, the coach was the boss and if what he wanted something that was counter to what I believed, I had to roll with it. Now, I know what goes on in the players’ head. First of all, you’re competing for a spot on the team and then you’re competing against an opponent on game day. You can’t afford to go out there using a technique you don’t believe in and lose your spot or your reps in the game. I get it and I’ve been there.
From the coach’s point of view, he has to have control of his unit. He can’t allow his players to go out on the field doing whatever they feel like. You’d be surprised what guys will come up with when left to just use whatever technique they want. If a coach starts doing that he runs the risk of having a unit with very poor results. You have a coach for a reason.
With all that said, if you, the player, really want to use a technique that’s counter to your coach’s technique, here’s what I suggest you do. First you have to build some trust with your coach. The way to do that is by doing what he says. If your coach is introducing you to a new technique or even one that you may have tried before, give an honest effort to learn it. Our younger generation wants instant results so when they attempt something, like a football technique and it doesn’t produce immediate results they call it trash, put up a mental block and disrupt their ability to learn. What they also do is put themselves at odds with the person that determines your playing time.
Clear your mind of whatever hurdles that may exist. Have some time and patience with what you are being taught. Not every technique that doesn’t work right away is terrible. Conversely, not every technique that works at first is the gospel. I’ve learned techniques that had immediate results only to fall apart later on once the receivers adjusted to it.
Once you have given your coach’s technique an honest try, you may find yourself liking it. If not, at least you gave an honest effort which most good coaches will appreciate. Once you’ve made that effort, you can now talk to the coach about what has worked for you. Perhaps you even merge his technique with your technique and something even greater is created.
Once I got to my senior year, I had my set of tools I wanted to use. I respected the fact that my coach had other players in the unit that needed more guidance. Those players were going to be there with him after I was gone. He couldn’t just allow me to do whatever from the beginning and have the other guys following. My coach would lose control of his unit and that’s never good. I showed my coach respect by learning it and doing it for most of practice. What ended up happening was me learning some new things and adding them to my tool belt. There were other things that weren’t going to work best for me. On those, I spoke with my coach and since I had built up trust with him, he bent on some of his techniques allowing me to implement my own.
I will admit that accomplishing this does take a quality, mature coach. It also takes a player that has some self awareness as well. Know where you are in your development as a player. Understand what leverage you have and how much you have been able to achieve. When you have self awareness, you communicate better and can achieve better results with your coach. Keep this in mind as you begin preparing for your season.
Chad Wilson is the owner of All Eyes DB Camp and author of "101 DB Tips". He played college football at the University of Miami and briefly in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. Over his 15 year high school football coaching career, he tutored over a dozen Division I defensive backs and as a trainer has worked with NFL All Pros, first round draft picks, college football All Americans and Top 10 ranked high school football prospects.