EdjSports’ high school analytics platform EdjVarsity is helping coaches take calculated risks that signiﬁcantly enhance their chances to win more games.
The word “analytics” has come to describe so many diﬀerent aspects of the game of football, its original meaning has become somewhat lost to history. But that’s ok, because as coaches learn more and more about how analytics can help them, they keep coming back to their most important aspect. Coaches use “analytics” to help them make real-world decisions.
Some of those decisions are basic, and some are more complex — requiring an advanced understanding of how analytics inform decision-making — but they all eventually come back to understanding the information analytics can provide.
The diﬀerence between “basic” and “advanced” analytics is how a coach uses them. Too many coaches are stuck, mentally spinning their wheels around the idea that analytics only help choose whether to go for it on 4th down.
Certainly this is true, but one aspect of advanced analytics is how they inform a coach’s perception of the prior three downs leading to that 4th down.
Adam Clack, head coach for Milton (Ga.) High School, uses EdjVarsity, a high-school speciﬁc analytics platform developed by EdjSports. Since the platform launched in late 2018, Clack has become proﬁcient in its uses, allowing the platform to inform his decision-making throughout a series, rather than focus on 4th down.
“If I have the information on 1st down — that if we get to 4th and short, I’m going to have a great opportunity to improve my game-winning chance (GWC) — then I can call my series backwards a little bit” he says. “I can maybe be a little more aggressive early in the series knowing that I have that 3rd down to pick up yards, and 2nd and 10 really looks to me more like 1st and 10 because I still have two downs to ‘get it to manageable,’ if you know what I mean.
“It really makes us look at 3rd down completely diﬀerently. I don’t care who you are or what kind of team you have, 3rd and 8 is hard to get; it’s a low percentage down. But, defenses know that too. Maybe they’re going to give me inside zone for 5 or 6 yards, or they’re going to give me the quick, soft coverage for 5 or 6 yards. Well, now we’re at 4th and 3, and because I worked this series backwards, we’ve all communicated already and we have a play. We can play fast, get to the line and get the 1st before they know what hit them.”
Then, there’s the conﬁdence that analytics can give you as a coach. The reality is, coaches are always asking their players to forget about the last play and focus on the next. Coaches place a premium on short-term memory, especially when a receiver drops a ball, a quarterback makes a bad throw, or a lineman misses a block.
Analytics provide coaches with the backup they need to feel conﬁdent in a call, especially when that call doesn’t work out.
“I’ve always wanted to be more of a 4th down, aggressive kind of coach, but if you don’t have any data to back it up, you may second-guess yourself,” says Clack. “You may not get over a close decision that didn’t go your way, and that decision may make you a little more skittish down the road. How many times have you given up on a play too early? How many times have you come oﬀ your game plan because of some early adversity and that decision had consequences extend throughout the game? “If I know the analytics and the data are on my side and it doesn’t go my way, it really doesn’t shake my conﬁdence at all.”
That same mentality extends toward a coach’s credibility, too. It’s all well and good if a coach develops the reputation of a risk taker, if the play calls are going his way. But, hit a streak of missed opportunities, and that same coach’s credibility suﬀers. That’s not true for coaches who take calculated risks based on info derived from their analytics platform.
“It’s about credibility with your staﬀ and with your players,” says Clack. “If you’re going to make a decision and it doesn’t work out, you can stand up on the table and say, ‘No, look, this is why we made that decision. We had a potential 5 percent GWC in play.’ It’s not something that you need to regularly explain to people, but it does give you the information to make the explanation if necessary. Then, they have even more conﬁdence in my decision-making, and you have to remember that it stems from a call that didn’t work out.
“It has a ﬂywheel eﬀect on coaches and gives them the chance to be who they want to be in their play calling, because that play calling is supported by the facts, whether it works out or not.”
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