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Make the football experience novel and change negative mind-sets

This is an excerpt from Playing Fair eBook by Joy I. Butler.

The two things I hear from students in my physical education classes when I say we’re going to be looking at football are usually I don’t like football and I’m not good at football. Although it can be a lot of fun, football can also be confusing, and many students are quick to discount their ability. When we dig down into their experiences, their negative associations usually come from past experiences in which they felt too small to play or couldn’t throw the ball. As a result, they don’t want to play it again. The challenge is making the football experience novel and changing negative mind-sets and associations.


Football has important outcomes for students: working together as a team, mutual support, leadership, and determination. Modifying the game to highlight these benefits can result in students understanding the essence of the game, wanting to get better at it, and ideally continuing playing when they leave school. Enjoyment and engagement have an enormous impact on learning and long-term involvement in activity. When students like what they do in class, they may pursue it on their own time. Teaching as much as possible through active game play and inserting short drills in context can help students understand the purpose of drills and be more willing to give them a try.


Football can be complex and confusing or really simple. The common principle in all forms of football is that players have a specified number of attempts to cover at least 10 yards in trying to achieve the offensive focus: getting the ball across the goal line. Football is in the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) invasion games category because it is based on territorial dominance as players attempt to score and restrict their opponents’ opportunities to score. Football is, however, much more static than other invasion games such as basketball, soccer, and rugby; these games are in constant motion with few stoppages. Football’s stop-and-start style of play is what most people unfamiliar with the sport find confusing and boring. Many people do not understand the need for so many stoppages, and neither do students, until they can create meaning for themselves. Sometimes students even ask for rules that require the game to stop more often to ensure that it is fair for both offense and defense and to allow for better competition.


Lesson 4: Offensive and Defensive Team Concepts


Focus: Offensive and defensive systems, running pass patterns, 1v1 defensive cover


Learner focus:

  • Understanding pass patterns and offensive strategy (psychomotor and cognitive)
  • Continuing to develop defensive cover (psychomotor and cognitive)


Sequence:

  1. Warm-up: Flickerball, using the rules from the last class
  2. Square minigames from lesson 3
  3. Skill enhancement: Running pass patterns
  4. Minigames


Learner Experiences

  1. Students do skill work focused on running pass patterns (see figure 14.1), as follows:
    • They are in groups of five or six.
    • One player is a quarterback; the others are receivers.
    • Receivers run the pass pattern, taking turns, and the quarterback throws the pass.
    • Once all students have run the pattern, a new quarterback is chosen.
    • The easiest patterns are: fly, in, out, and hook.In these patterns the receiver moves in all four directions: left, right, downfield, and back to the quarterback.


Figure 14.1 Running pass patterns.
Running pass patterns.

  1. The focus of the minigames is the communication between the quarterback and the receiver. Use two groups of three at the same square: one receiver, one defender, and one quarterback (change roles regularly). The receiver must get pass patterns from the quarterback. Quarterbacks call the plays because they are in charge in the huddle, so it is good practice to start now. Use the following point system:
    • Receiver: 1 point each for catching, making forward progress, and scoring (maximum of 3 points per play)
    • Defender: 1 point for knocking down the ball, tagging, or preventing a score, 2 points for intercepting
    • Quarterback: 1 point if the receiver touches the ball, 1 point for catching (maximum of 2 points per play)


Modifications

  • Have no defender, to assist the quarterback with throwing.
  • Require that the defender wait on the goal line until the ball is caught.
  • Use two receivers and one defender. The defender chooses one receiver to cover and leaves the other open. This helps the quarterback with decision making.
  • Have students play downs to score. Let them determine how many tries they get to score.
  • Allow defenders to start wherever they want.
  • Increase the field size or the number of receivers or defenders.


Democracy in Action

Group process, decision making, and free inquiry: Individual rights and responsibilities to the group; depending on good leadership; deciding when and when not to speak one’s mind

Sometimes there just isn’t time to process things to death! The huddle in football provides a good example. Members of a strong team have practiced cooperation, understand the capabilities and strengths of individual players, and have had input into the team’s strategies and directions. In the huddle, the quarterback draws on this history to make the best decision for the next play. The quarterback’s job is to make the best possible decision given the circumstances. The team’s job is to carry it out. This is an excellent opportunity for learners to consider when it is OK to argue and debate, and when it’s necessary to trust someone else.


Check for Learning

Q: Why is it important for both the quarterback and the receiver to know what pattern the receiver is running?

A: This gives the offense an advantage over the defense; the quarterback shouldn’t have to guess.

Q: As a receiver, how do you get open when running your pattern?

A: Head fakes, change of speed or direction, running the pass pattern at full speed.

Q: When playing quarterback, how do you know when to throw the ball?

A: When the receiver has made a break and shows me his hands.

Q: Why does the quarterback call the plays in a huddle?

A: There isn’t time for debate.

Q: What qualities does the quarterback need?

A: Knowledge of teammates’ individual strengths, decisiveness, clear communication.

Learn more about Playing Fair.