How to Watch Game Film: using your time wisely (3 of 4)

Pause & Rewind Often

You are spotting trends in your mistakes and developing your mental zoom lens. One day, you could become a great ultimate coach with that knowledge. A crucial missing piece is the secret to every great coach’s enduring success: enthusiastically watching tens of thousands of repetitions.

Tom Tellez coached Carl Lewis at his prime and nearly two dozen other track & field Olympians. I met Coach Tellez in 2016 when he was working with a Rio hopeful in the javelin and asked him how to become a better coach. He replied, “You have to enjoy watching things again and again. And you have to always spot the thing that needs improving.

Don’t expect to see everything the first time you watch a point… 

  • exactly what type of error you made and when you made it 
  • how your field position differed than the strategic expectation 
  • where your teammates should have been positioned relative to you on every possession

Expect to never see everything. If you played 11 points (oddly, that is the average number played by a handler in the mixed division of Nationals 2016), each of which lasted 45 seconds (average number from the same), you technically only have 8 minutes and 15 seconds of film to watch. You should actually leave about 45 minutes for that film session.

Some time will be lost to scrubbing and fast-forwarding through irrelevant time on the tape. The 45 minutes suggested does not even include that time. Every time a disc is caught by a teammate, you should pause the video. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What play are we running? 
  • How is the mark forcing the thrower? 
  • Is that thrower capable of breaking the mark or should we adjust? 
  • Where am I expected to be on the field? 
  • Where am I actually on the field? 
  • Who will be the next receiver?

After answering those questions, play the video, watching only to see if your predictions were correct. Then, rewind and pause the video again. New questions: 

  • How was my defender manipulating my space?
  • What would be the best cut?
  • What series of steps or moves could create separation?
  • What was the actual cut I made?
  • Did I complete that cut?
  • Did I make the catch?
  • Was it easy or was it a stretch?

After those questions, play the video, evaluating how you interacted with your defender. Then, rewind and pause the video one more time. Last set of questions for this play:

  • After this throw, how does the strategy change? 
  • When the disc is caught, where should I go next?
  • Where should my teammates be in relation to the new thrower?
  • Is it my job to clear, to come under, to go deep, or to wait?

Play the video and compare what you think should happen against what actually does.

Now do this for every possession of those 11 points. Over the four weeks which separate most major tournaments, watch two games per week (if you are fortunate enough to have that much film available). Game film is not a casual review of how you and your teammates played. Game film is an intense, focused mental exercise. Game film is practicing being a better player using your memory and your imagination.


Next up: wrapping up the techniques of watching game film so you can become a better player.

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