I suspect most coaches come up with their own way of having an offensive play caller during games, or had one handed down from a past mentor. I remember my older son’s 8th grade coach didn’t use a caller at all – he would call plays from memory, including formations and motion. Most of the time this lead to nice variety and tendency breaking; sometimes it lead to the QB looking back at him with a blank stare.
There are a few strategies you might use in building a call sheet:
- Situational – Down and distance, field position (both vertically and hash to hash), and game situation.
- Running Lane – This could be hole numbers, or simply something like inside / outside / boundary groupings.
- Series – In a series-based offense, grouping plays by series can make it easier to stay within a series as you try to put the defense in conflict.
You can also do some combinations of the above, but ultimately it will be about what the play caller most needs to be effective. Some play callers have the offense so well buttoned up in their memory that the situational approach might be better to reduce stress on the coach during times when a quick play call is critical.
The past two seasons, partly because of our move to a wrist-coach based no-huddle offense, we went to a play caller that mirrored our wrist coaches (see above). The plays are roughly organized by series, and the first three sets of plays (orange / blue / purple) would have been the plays we used for the first third of the season. Included next to each play is a summary of the formation and motion calls we would run.
Depending on the game and what our plan is, we might add some additional color coding. The yellow highlight you see is from the last third of the season where we would run our pistol Wing-T series. The yellow highlight showed all of the plays we would run from that series.
We would have at least four options for calling each play. Let’s look at 36 Down for an example:
- “Right Orange 1”
- “Right Beaver 1”
- “Right Longhorn 1”
- We had big laminated cards and numbers we could also hold up that would have one of our football symbols (like a Beaver or Texas Longhorn) on top and another (like a Blazer or 49er) on the bottom. For a given half either top or bottom would be hot.
In prior years we also used a hole-based caller like what you see above. Our offensive coordinator moved away from this the last two seasons partly because he knows the offense so well and we hadn’t changed much in years, and partly because he would still need to flip over to the wrist coach caller after looking up the play here. It just wasn’t as efficient. I suspect that if either (1) someone else were doing that translation for him or (2) we weren’t going no huddle, that he would stick to the hole based caller.
You’ll also see on the first caller above that we did have a short yardage situational reminder.
What has worked for you in the past? Leave a comment below and share.