Monday, December 12, 2005

Know what you want – Progression of Reads

So you’ve spent hours going over the game film of your team, carefully noting every possible strength and weakness. You’ve come up with the perfectly tailored game plan that highlights each area of strength while hiding all potential weak spots. You are a titan of strategy; it’s just a matter of time before your true genius is recognized and you replace Parinella on ultimatetalk. So why in the hell does your team keep screwing it up?

It’s important for players to understand the real world implications of a certain strategy. It’s one thing for a player to sit in a class room and understand the ideal version of your evil plan when you draw it on the chalkboard. Being able to implement the plan on the field is another thing altogether. When drawn on the chalkboard, all the available options can be viewed pretty much simultaneously. In the real world, seeing the whole field in an instant is not a possibility (as an aside…I find the longer I play the more of the field I can “see” – it’s conceivable to me that some of the old-timers are able to see multiple options developing at the same time and are able to make choices based on that – in any event, I can pretty much guarantee that none of the players you coach can do this). As the designer of the offense, it’s your job to focus your player’s attention in the right place. A progression of reads is simply setting the order in which a player should look at a particular cut. For instance, in the Evil Plan Offense, upon receiving the disc a player should (1) look to hit the deep cutter, if that’s not there (2)look to hit the underneath continuation, if that’s not there (3) look to hit the break, if that’s not there (4) dump the frisbee. Of course, the progression of reads in your offense could look very different depending on what you’re trying to do.

The main point is this – you know what spaces your offense is best at attacking - prioritizing throw options leads to more shots into the spaces that you attack well and that is a good thing.


Gambler said...

I definitely agree that it's a good idea to prioritize looks in your offense. However, this shouldn't mean that only one option is available to the offense at any given moment in time. It makes the job of the defense a lot easier if it's obvious that there is only one offensive threat at a time, so an offense should be designed to have multiple options, even if the thrower has to look at them in one at a time.

aj said...

I agree. It’s important that multiple options developing at the same time…of course you can only throw to one of those options – so I think it’s important to let your team know which of the options you’d prefer them to throw to.

Martin said...

I haven't posted in a while, but knowing your progression is something I have been talking to players about for a while now, so I feel somewhat entitled.

Yes, having a progression of reads is a good thing, and yes it may look different for different teams. Aside from optimizing your percentage throws, what specific looks really give an offense is flexible order to a naturally chaotic part of the game. It gives inexperienced players the ability to slow the game down and have something to fall back on. It gives cutters something to think about when running around. It also allows a team to develop timing easily. If the dump knows they are the 4th look, then they know when they need to get in position by. If the upfield break is the 3rd look, then someone can time a cut for that area a few seconds after the catch.

Good offense in football is all about reading what a defense is doing and being on the same page to exploit it. Giving the thrower a series of reads allows the whole offense to be on the same page (at least more than currently). Players can then, through conversation, alter the structure of the patterns based on the defense, and become a dynamic offenese, which is what I think every coach wants. Without a framework to have those conversations in they don't happen as much as they should.

I think a better question about reads is how do you tailor them for your team/offense. I've put a lot of thought into it and still haven't come up with an answer I'm happy with.

_dusty_ said...

Coming from a football background, I found reading the defense and making the check down throw to be second nature. Teaching players who come from a background in other sports (like track or swimming) how to read a defense is much harder.

We've only had one "chalk talk" session so far this year, but I spent half of the time discussing how to make the cuts for each play and the other half on which defenders the thrower should concentrate on when deciding who to throw to. I've found that telling the guys exactly which defender we are looking to exploit on every play has really keyed them in to who is going to be open before the play is even run.

At this stage of the game, my guys (UGA's B team) aren't to the point of reading the defense before the disc is checked in, so I make all the play calls from the sidelines. They are definately picking up on which player will be open once I make the call, however. Hopefully, the guys will start to recognize things on their own once they get some more tournament experience.

I've also found that they are much better at reading the defense out of the H-stack rather than a standard vertical stack. I'm not sure if its having 4 players vs 5 or because everyone is spread out rather than close together. Maybe it is something else altogether. Has anyone else noticed this or have an alternate explanation?

Once the spring rolls around, I'm probably going to split them up into groups of big/medium/small throws and change the reads around depending on who is throwing and what their strengths are. After all, it doesn't do any good to recognize that the deep cut will be open if you can't get it to him.

On a slightly related note, playing the "2 Minute Drill" game extensively on Madden will vastly improve your passing game. Maybe I should have my guys play video games to work on reading a defense.

wood said...

Are you giving the same reads to every player on the team? What if a player doesn't have the ability to jack it, but that's your team's first read? Does it make more sense to give every player a seperate set of reads. Some may be, deep/break/open/dump while someone else is dump/open/dumpyouidiot.

I don't think this changes the overall idea that your team has a general goal/progression of reads, but unless the team is very even, you're usually going to want to get the disc into the hands of a few players who have the ability to execute the throws required of the progression.

I've done this with spsu this year to a certain extent. Some players have been encouraged to jack it, while others have been encouraged to break the mark whenever they get the chance. Others are told to look dump immediately. I haven't sat down with every player and told him the progression I expect (maybe I will), and it would probably be helpful if the rest of the team knew each player's progression so we don't get no break cuts for the breakmark thrower. Luckily (hah) the team is tiny and the logistics of knowing everyone's progressions is not too daunting.

aj said...

Martin – nice post good to have you back.

Dusty – a strong Madden game is imperative for a well rounded individual.

Wood – I go back and forth with the idea of giving some people a more limited progression. My current view is to give everyone the same read. Hopefully, a player won’t throw passes they can’t complete and as she plays more her throws will develop to the point that she can complete all the passes in the progression. Of course, the throwing ability on my team is fairly flat – we don’t have any great throwers, but we don’t really have any terrible throwers either. If you have a much greater difference between your good throwers and your bad throwers it might make more sense to change the progressions.

_dusty_ said...

Wood, I think we're using slightly different definitions for the terms read and progression. This is what I'm going by:
Reads=Defenders you watch to determine your play call and progression

These can be further divided into "pre-snap" and "post-snap", for lack of an ultimate term.

Pre-snap reads=made when the disc is dead and you are deciding which play to call and who you are going to throw to.

Read the first defender in the
stack, if he sets up more than 3-4 yards on the open side, call the breakmark play

Post-snap reads=made when your play is being executed and advance you through your progression.

Read the last back, if he follows 5 on the in-cut, look for 4 going deep.

Progression=Order in which you look at the receivers.

The progression for this play is:
A) 1 on the break side
B) 5 coming in, open side
C) 4 going deep

The reads are always the same for a specific play and determine the progression. The primary progression is 1,5,4 but if your pre-snap read is that 1 is being guarded heads-up and 5's man is 10 yards behind playing last back, the progression should change to 5,1,4 because the breakmark cut probably wont be open and the deep look will have help from 5s man. If, however, the post-snap read is that 1's defender leaves to poach on 5's in-cut, then you look off 5 and throw to 1.

"Are you giving the same reads to every player on the team? What if a player doesn't have the ability to jack it, but that's your team's first read? Does it make more sense to give every player a seperate set of reads. Some may be, deep/break/open/dump while someone else is dump/open/dumpyouidiot"

When I said I was going to change the reads, what I really meant was change the progressions. The progression for a good thrower is 1,5,4 but a weaker thrower should probably look 5,1,4 as their primary progression. The thrower still needs to read the same defenders, but in a different order. I think we were talking about the same concept but using opposite terms.

Like AJ said, I'm leaving it up to the players to make the right decision if they have the ability to throw to the open guy or not. All of our plays have an open side option, a break side option and a deep option. Everyone has the same reads on every play, but not having a certain throw is the same as the receiver being covered, so the throwers have to recognize and move on to the next option. I try to call the plays that go to the open side cutters as the primary option when the weaker throwers have the disc and call the plays that go breakside or deep as the primary option when the stronger throwers are in possession. That doesn't mean I wont call the breakmark play when our greenest rookie has the disc because he also has an open side option and a dump.

I was going to add a football analogy, but this post is too long already.

wood said...

Dusty, your original post popped up between when I started writing mine and when I posted it, so that's probably why it seemed like we were using opposite terms. Sorry.

If you want some football analogy, check out the latest post.