Many coaches feel as though they have a good understanding of how to apply clock management and when to apply it. However, there are many aspects of clock management that are regularly not dealt with by coaches. It’s an extremely important part of the game and it can win you as many one to three games a year, just by following some simple fundamentals that we’re going to talk about today.
Approaching Clock Management While Coaching Football
Your clock management strategy is something that is dynamic, meaning it will change through the game. The subject of clock management is something that should be practiced through the entire game.
Clock management begins before the first whistle has blown, before the kickoff starts. Make a habit of trying to determine where you think you fit relative to our opponent before every game. In every single game, try to fit yourself into one of six categories:
1. Blowout favorite – 28 points or greater
2. Favorite – between eight and 27 points over
3. Slight favorite – one to seven points over
4. Slight underdog – one to seven points under
5. Underdog – eight to 27 points under
6. Blowout underdog – 28 or more points under
It’s important that coaches try to look at that in an unbiased way to determine where you fit so that you can put your players in the best chance of winning.
We’ve been regaled through history of great upsets, and as the blowout favorite, we don’t ever want to be in that situation where we get upset by somebody that shouldn’t have beat us. Likewise, when we are the blowout underdog, we want to put ourselves in the best position to be able to win the game. So we have to use the clock as one of the many elements at our disposal to put ourselves in the best position to win the game.
One analogy you should think of when trying to determine how to should open the game is to think of a weighted coin flip analogy. If I gave you a quarter and I said that the heads side was 20 times more likely to come up than the tails side, the heads side would obviously be the blowout favorite; the tails side would be the blowout underdog. Coming into a game, sometimes this happens.
You don’t get to choose what side you’re on. What you can choose, however, is the number of coin flips that you will have in the game. And if I gave you the choice to choose two or 200, you should be able to make a good decision that is going to benefit your team based on whether or not you think you’re a blowout favorite or a blowout underdog.
So if I gave you the chance to choose, what should you choose? Two or 200? Which one is going to put your team in the best chance to win the game? If you’re smart, you would choose 200. Two hundred flips of the coin is going to allow your team more chances to assert its dominance over the blowout underdog.
If you’re the tails team, you should choose two. Two flips of the coin as the blowout underdog will mean that at half-time, the worst the score can be is 1-0. That’s an exciting proposition for somebody who is heavily favored to be beaten in that game. The blowout favorite in a two-flip game is going to feel pretty nervous with a score at 1-0 at half-time. If they had chosen to flip the coin as many times as possible, or 200 times, the score may be as high as 100-1.
We want to put ourselves in the position where we will not likely be beaten because we’ve chosen to flip the coin more times as the blowout favorite. As the blowout underdog, we put our team in the best chance for success because we’ve reduced the number of flips or the number of possessions in a game. We’re going to either try to increase it or decrease it based on whether or not we think we’re the favorite or the underdog.
This is just scratching the surface of the topic of clock management. While coaching football, do you spend a good amount of time thinking about clock management, or does it take a back seat to other topics?