Football Coach's Halftime Talk to the Team - dummies

Football Coach’s Halftime Talk to the Team

By Martin Signore

While coaching your football team for the first half of a game, you see all sorts of things: players scoring touchdowns, dropping passes, making diving tackles, and fumbling the ball, among others. So, as your players trot off the field for halftime, you’ll have a lot of information in your head and not much time — probably 10 minutes tops — to relay it.

How can you make the most out of your halftime-talk time? Foremost, adjust your message to fit the needs and mood of the team. What you say during your halftime chat should be clear, concise, and uplifting.

You don’t have to verbally replay the entire half of the game for the team. After all, your players were out on the field, and they know what happened. But you do want this time with your team to be productive. The following are a few tips to keep in mind when gathering your troops at halftime:

  • Use some time for rest and rehydration. Allow players a chance to drink some fluids before you begin your halftime talk. Having a chance to catch their breath makes them more receptive to your comments.

  • Improvise. Every game your team plays requires a different halftime talk from you. You can’t rely on the same halftime speech all season long. On your way to the locker room or the big tree behind the end zone where teams gather for the break, think about what you want to get across.

  • Stick to key points. By limiting how much information you throw at your team, you make your words more likely to sink in. The last thing you want to do is send your team back on the field overwhelmed.

  • Keep a straight face. Even if you’re frustrated or upset, never let the team know it. Losing a grip on your emotions detracts from your ability to coach and interact effectively with your players. Regardless of whether your team is way ahead or way behind, maintain a positive attitude and demeanor.

Kids respond not only to what you’re saying but to your body language as well. If your shoulders are slumped and your head’s bowed, that negativity can smother your team’s energy. Approach halftime with the same positive energy you brought to your pre-game talk, and your team will respond accordingly.

  • Highlight the positives as team plays. Stick to highlighting the great play of specific units rather than individual players. For example, point out the great way the secondary played right before the half in knocking down passes while going against the opponent’s no-huddle offense. Or mention how your offensive line really did an outstanding job blocking on that fourth-and-goal touchdown run in the first quarter.

  • Make necessary adjustments. One of your biggest challenges is making halftime adjustments based on what went right — and not-so-right — during the opening two quarters. Keep the focus on finding solutions and fixing problems rather than making speeches.

    Focus on your team. Try to play to your team’s strengths. For example, if you’re a great running team but find yourself down by a couple touchdowns at halftime, start the third quarter running the ball. Sticking to your style of play maintains a certain comfort level among the players.

When coaching experienced teams, you can take advantage of the halftime break in a number of other ways, such as the following:

  • Get player feedback. Because of all your responsibilities during the game, you can’t possibly monitor everything that takes place on the field. That’s where your players can help. Asking your players whether they have any suggestions for the second half reinforces your respect for them and their knowledge of the game; furthermore, you may gain some valuable feedback that benefits the team.

  • Watch the wind and sun. Sometimes you have to tweak your strategy to fit the weather. For example, if strong winds will be at your team’s back for the upcoming quarter, you may want to take a more aggressive approach throwing the ball downfield; when the teams change ends at the end of the quarter, your passing opportunities will be more limited because of Mother Nature.

  • Adjust to the striped shirts. Different referees officiate games different ways, and your players have to adjust accordingly. Some refs throw lots of penalty flags, while others hardly ever reach for a flag. Make note of how the game is being called, and make any necessary adjustments in your team’s approach.