Monday, August 3, 2020

The Culture of HUA

I spent part of my coaching career at New Mexico Military Institute. NMMI is a JuCo. Every student on the campus is part of the Corps of Cadets. They wear uniforms, hold rank, follow a code of conduct, and are organized in a military fashion. The leadership on campus and many of the professors and staff are former active duty military. 

When I arrived on campus, I kept noticing cadets who would be given a directive and would respond to their commanding officer "HUA". Having never served in the military, I wasn't familiar with the meaning of the phrase. Our players quickly let me know it stands for Heard Understood Acknowledged. The military requires communication to be clear and understood. Often the discipline of the communication is the difference between life and death for active duty soldiers. 

Football and most other situations we face are not life or death. Communication is however a critical skill in nearly every part of our lives. Communication is a two way street: the talking and the listening.

How can the culture of HUA be adopted into a football program?

The simple answer is you can adopt the term. However, I think it should be much deeper.

When our safeties call a coverage they are behind the LB's and other low players, their voices project forward. The players in front of them tap their helmets in response. The Safety can be heard the low players acknowledge. HUA

When our LBs communicate with our DL, the also can project forward. The DL taps their hip. Hard to tap a helmet in a stance. HUA

If a LB needs to communicate something with the secondary they have trouble just saying it, unless they turn and face the DB's. Often the LB wants to keep is vision on the offense which means projecting a verbal command forward toward the LOS. The DB's often have trouble hearing the command. This means hand signals make more sense.The secondary can see the LB signal. DB's mirror the hand signals. HUA

When communicating on the field we often use hand signals. Stadiums can be loud and elements like wind and distance affect our ability to simply verbally communicate. We often have our players use signals to avoid being misheard in a load chaotic environment. Safety signaling a quarter tool to the Corner who signals it back. HUA

When putting communication on film we use hand signals. When our Corners make a smash/china call they point at it. When our LB's see a guard pull they point. Why? On film we cannot hear verbal communication on the field. We can see physical acts like pointing on video. We make an effort to coach that players to both verbalize and signal.  Why do we see a teammate react to communication of film? Because we know the communication happened. HUA

We do a communicate period in practice. A defensive routes on air type concept. Coaches signal the calls. Players signal coverages and adjustments to one another. When the route is run it isn't about the speed and there is no throw. The period is all about making the pre-snap calls and alerts and the post snaps talk of under, in, out, china, etc. It is all about clear directives and clear understanding. HUA

In the film room we do choir practice meeting. The players sit in front of the film screen. They turn to the side of the room to a signal coach for the call. They snap their eyes to the screen where a play starts from the playlist. Players make all their communications including hand signals. The meeting is scripted. HUA

The film room is great place to for coaches to build communication skills. Asking players why they did what they did on film. What were they thinking? Trying to understand what led to a mistake or a success. Asking players to coach themselves for the play. If you were coaching you what would you say here? Ask a player to explain a Tampa 1/2 drop, coach me like I'm a freshman? This type of communication helps coaches assess how the player has interpreted what has been taught. The player may have tried to understand the directive but may not have fully understood. This is likely a product of two sources: the player has pre-existing thoughts from his own previous playing experience and those preconceived ideas may not match the desired actions or the concept has not been communicated in a way that the player understands the concept in the desired manner. When a coach can listen to a player the teaching can be tailored to the player. HUA

When a player is having a bad day, ask why? He is a human there are many factors that affect his performance. The only way to understand and acknowledge those factors is to ask and listen. HUA

The culture of HUA can go a long way in all of our relationships and interactions both in football and outside. 

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.

We listen to reply.” - Stephen R. Covey

HUA isn't just a response. It is signifying understanding. If you don't understand HUA is not the appropriate response. You have to ask for clarification. Action without understanding leads to failure. Often that failure can be avoided by having better understanding of the desired actions in the first place. Directives must be clear and concise, listening is a process of heard understood and acknowledged. HUA

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