Friday, February 13, 2015

Improve Defensive Game Plans with a Challenge Meeting

Challenge meetings helped improve our defensive preparation this season. We continued our weekly schedule of self-scout, opponent scout, and game plan brainstorm. Following the development of our initial game plan, we added a challenge meeting. The concept is to present each element of the game plan, followed by the coaching staff challenging the idea. Every possible stress or negative outcome of the call should be discussed.


Internal staff debate is nothing new. However, debate does not happen naturally in all staff situations. Some individuals shy away from arguing for fear of being labeled as negative. Anxiety also exists about appearing as “not a team player” or being interested only in getting their way. Others worry voicing opinions will be viewed as a personal attack. These reservations about challenging ideas often lead to silence and groupthink.

“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking” – General George S. Patton

By having a meeting dedicated to challenging ideas, everyone on the staff is required to be a contrarian. Members of the staff are expected to discuss concerns about a call, resulting in a healthy environment for debate.

The challenge meeting had a positive impact on every type of coach on our staff. Older coaches could speak from their experiences without feeling like they were lecturing. Younger coaches now had a forum to question more experienced guys. Each position coach gained insight from hearing the concerns of other position groups. Traditionalist coaches on staff who say “this is what we have done successfully” were forced to consider changes and adjustments to the scheme. They even argued for changes at times. Coaches who might have otherwise become “Yes” men instead began thinking more critically and joined the conversation. Innovative coaches had a platform to pitch their ideas. Those coaches who supported an idea were forced to consider the possible negative outcomes. Conversely, those who didn’t like a call had to consider the positives. As no call is perfect, I believe the challenge meeting process greatly improved our staff’s assessment of the risk and reward of each call. The process also helped remind us that just because we can call something does not mean that we should. Overall these meetings helped us fortify our defensive identity while helping build our toolbox.

When we are done with the challenge meeting everyone has had a say. We have weighed the positives and negatives allowing our staff to more thoroughly understand the rationale for every call. Increased coach’s input and understanding resulted in greater buy in and improved delivery to the team. These challenge meetings also helped inform our staff of trouble areas in the game plan that had to be addressed in practice. We became more proactive coaches and players built confidence knowing we had anticipated problems instead of reacted to them.

The challenge meetings also helped us develop our 2nd plan. By better understanding the stress areas of our game plan we were better able to plan for the adjustments we might have to make during the game.

Challenge meetings might not be right for every staff. If you are looking for a way to spur debate, discussion, and the flow of ideas a challenge meeting can help.

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