Merrimack Coach Monique LeBlanc gave me a simple and effective idea. She told me that the entire team is going to become familiar with a terms index. The idea was spurned out of watching University of Hartford Coach John Gallagher giving a talk at a clinic. It was not a direct idea he had, but Coach LeBlanc was impressed by the simplicity of the way he communicated ideas to players in such few words.
What to Put in a Terms Index
My first thought with implementing a terms index is to connect back to some of the brilliant ideas that Dick DiVenzio shares in Stuff Good Players Should Know. Terms like “P-Dribble” (do not dribble like you are peeing get somewhere) and “click” passes (pass after a teammate passed to you in 0.2 seconds). There are some obvious and more conventional applications too.
Obviously, the principles of your defensive system will be appropriate too. How to react to pick and rolls, post entries, and various screens against man to man. How to close out, how to rotate on reversals, and defending short corner entries in zones. The same can be done with whatever offensive system it is that you choose to implement.
Additionally, you can also provide concrete examples and stories of what type of culture you want to provide. If one of your values is servanthood, share the best example in the real world and the best example of a former player living out that value. Steve Boudreau likes to communicate in one-syllable phrases. An explanation of these in lengthier terms will help clarify to players that are too shy to speak up.
There is no limit to the amount of things you put in. It might be best to start with the terms that are most important rather than putting together 80 pages that will never be read.
How to Disseminate Your Terms Index
The Merrimack staff wanted to communicate to a variety of learners on the team. That is why the playbook was distributed as a PDF on to each player’s iPad (all Merrimack students receive an iPad as freshmen). Given the technology, the coaches could then use words, diagrams, and even videos to explain the meaning and purpose of every nugget they think players should be responsible for knowing.
At the high school level, I am going to disseminate the terms to the varsity and JV staff and players via Google Drive. The youth coaches are always open to new ideas, so I want to share it with them as well at the middle school level. We always call the inbounder the QB, which is quirky for players coming up to high school. The simplest details are important and with a terms index will be .
Holding Players Accountable to Utilizing a Terms Index
The idea on paper (or in this case on PDF) sounds great. Give the players a document and never have to worry about explaining an offensive, defensive, or situational concept again. Handing out the document is not enough. If you do not grade the homework, the players are not going to bother starting it. Coach LeBlanc and the staff is aware that they need to emphasize the importance of studying the term index. They intend to quiz players individually. They also insert it into practice (including the one I attended) at various points. Where appropriate they pause to see if players can fill in the blanks before they reveal the term.
When our team read DeVenzio’s book last season, we did so by reading one to two chapters per day. Chunking the amount that you cover each day might also be an effective strategy. Inevitably there will be some overlap between concepts you cover in practice, but covering them repeatedly is what will help them stick.