In-Season Advantage: Film Study

The season is now in full swing. You’ve grinded through off-season workouts, two-a-days, scrimmages and the first half of the season. Maybe your season is going well, but you know you have some tough games coming up with playoff implications. Or your season is not quite off to the start you wanted and you need something to jump start your season. Wherever you’re at right now, the number one way to gain an advantage during the season: film study.

The rise of the video editing company Hudl and others like it give a huge resource and opportunity for separation for today’s high school athletes. Advanced film study and analytics at the college and pro level are standard. The level of film study and preparation at the high school level is highly variable with incredible advantage to be gained.


Most people think of film study is exclusively watching your opponent.  Preparation for the next opponent actually starts with evaluation of yourself. The first item of business in any game week should be to dissect last week’s game. Many coaching staffs will sit down with their players and review areas of improvement. A common pitfall many players fall into is watching film for entertainment. Self-scout should not be watching to see the highlight plays or just watching the ball carrier. The great players I’ve been around become great because they not only pay attention to the details their coach’s point out but are their own worst critics. They identify self-tendencies their coaches don’t even notice.

Take this template for evaluating each play of your own film. Write down items you need to improve this coming week in practice.

  1. 1. Assignment: Did I correctly attempt to do what the coach assigned me to do?
  2. 2. Execution: Did I successfully fulfill the assignment?
  3. 3. Technique: Was I technically sound? (Think about the things you were taught at Trickey-Wright Camp.)
  4. 4. Tendency: Am I doing anything that my opponents will key in on to gain an advantage?

Opponent Scout

The advantage of opponent film study can be almost as drastic as stepping into the opponents meeting rooms during the week or their huddle every play. Watching opponent film is not like watching football on TV. When you watch football on TV you casually observe, spending most of your time with your eyes on where the ball is. Effective film study is purposeful and focused on the details that are most meaningful.

Every player is in a different stage of their career with varying experience watching opponent film. I’ve provided guidelines for those who are: beginner, intermediate, and advanced in film study. Find the level that is appropriate for you and take your game to the next level by advancing your film room preparation.

Beginner: (You may have watched some film with your coach but have never studied opponent film on your own)

  1. 1. Ask your coach how you can get access to opponent film. Most coaches, especially at the high school level, will have access to opponent film and have the ability to grant you access. It will likely be a password that your coach gives you for an online film software like Hudl. Ask your coach to show you how to login and the basics of how to watch.
  2. 2. Watch the opponent’s most recent game.
  3. 3. Take out a piece of paper and write down:
    • a. The positions and uniform numbers of the players you will going up against
    • b. Write down those players strengths and weaknesses
    • c. For each play write down the number of deep players and if you can, identify the coverage. Tally each coverage type.
  4. 4. If you have time, study additional games

Intermediate: (You’ve spent a little time watching film on your own but are looking for more guidance on exactly what to look for)

  1. 1. Watch 2-3 of your opponent’s recent games.
  2. 2. Take out a piece of paper and write down:
    • a. The positions and uniform numbers of the players you will going up against
    • b. Write down those players strengths and weaknesses
    • c. For each play identify the coverage the defense is playing and any blitzes you see. Tally each coverage type. Write out any tendencies you see.
  3. 3. Watch each game again.
    • a. For each play, identify the offenses formation. Think of the offensive plays your team has in that formation. Imagine those plays verses that defensive structure. QB’s: think through your progression. Wide receivers: Imagine your route verses that coverage. Take notes on anything you notice in that process.

Advanced: (You’ve spent substantial time watching film on your own and are wanting to prepare like a college or pro player)

Note: This section requires game data to be inserted into your video software. Some coaching staffs may input this information for you. If not, consider inputting manually this information yourself into the corresponding columns. (Columns needed: Down, Distance, and Offensive Formation)  This is a very advanced way to look at film but the ability to sort film by these factors will drastically improve your ability to find tendencies and give you an advantage over your opponents.

  1. 1. Follow step 2 of intermediate for 3-4 of your opponent’s games in which their defense played a similar offense to your own.
  2. 2. Open all 3-4 games in the same cutup. Sort the down and distance columns from low to high. Tally the defensive coverages in each situation.
    • a. Normal Down and Distance (1st-10, 2nd and 6 or less)
    • b. 2nd Long
    • c. 3rd and short
    • d. 3rd and long
    • e. 3rd and medium
    • f. 4th down
  3. 3. Sort and watch plays by formation of the offense.
    • a. Write down the coverages you see verses that formation. Tally the number of times you see each.
    • b. Look for any tendencies you see that give away specific coverages.
    • c. Look at that week’s game plan and imagine each offensive play you have in that formation against the opponents defensive set.
  4. 4. Go back and watch through each game from start to finish.
    • a. At the beginning of the play look at the down and distance. Quiz yourself on the coverages that team tends to run in each situation.
    • b. See the offensive formation. Go through your read or visualize how various routes will take shape for each play you have in that formation.

The separation is found in the preparation. Take your preparation to another level with effective film study.

Posted in Film study, Practice

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