Playing quarterback is without a doubt, one of the most challenging things to do in sports. The skill set necessary to play consistently at a high level, takes a tremendous amount of work and dedication to the craft. In addition to these physical demands there are equally, if not more, mental and emotional demands. So playing the position requires a delicate balance to navigate these challenges well.
With all of that said, we still struggle to meet the needs of young men pursuing this endeavor. So what does it take to reach your quarterback and provide them with necessary assistance to develop and play at a high level in your system? I believe that the most important aspects of coaching this position are patience, clarity, honesty, and support.
Your quarterbacks are no different than the rest of your team, coaching staff, or human beings in any walk of life…they will make mistakes. That’s a given. The question is how will you handle them when they make their mistakes. The high level of pressure that exists on the shoulders of a quarterback is inherent to the position. It’s there before we even start. So understand that. Work within the world where your quarterback already feels pressure that is self inflicted or imposed by their families, their teammates, the public and communities of a QB Driven game. Everyone wants to know who your quarterback is. They are the most recognizable kid on your team and for better or worse, your team will go as the quarterback goes in the eyes of most outsiders. They don’t need you as their coach piling onto that. So recognition of that fact is where it begins. Be patient. Teach. Instruct with humility. If there is a question or an uncertainty about what to do in a given situation or why, and you don’t have the answer as a coach, be honest. Work together to get the bottom of the situation. This will build rapport and trust between coach and quarterback.
The next thing that needs attention is the concept of clarity. That comes in the form of all communications between coach and quarterback. The player, the young man, needs to fully understand what is being asked, or expected, of them in order to do it at the highest level. Additionally, young people often lack the awareness and/or the confidence to admit when they don’t understand something. So create a space where they feel comfortable coming forward with questions. In addition be sure to create a structure where you can check understanding with your quarterback so that you can clarify any misunderstandings openly, honestly, and without judgement.
Perhaps the most important aspect here is honesty. This can be so much more difficult than we think. Do you possess the courage to be honest with your quarterback or his family about where they stand and what is expected of them to succeed on your team or in your system? Most of us understand what is necessary as coaches, but we struggle to communicate it because they are hard conversations and they require a level of tact or skill that we’d rather shy away from than lean into. So always, always, be honest. If you don’t know an answer to a question, say you don’t know, let’s figure it out together! When you need to break hard news to a player or their families, do it. Do it with tact, humility, and honesty. Do the work necessary to be able to communicate everything you do with clarity. No position in sports needs it more.
Finally the last quality necessary to coach your quarterback is support. As we said, mistakes will happen, and pressure is inherent. So with that said, support your quarterback. Figure out how you can help your individual athlete succeed or function at their highest level to achieve success for them and ultimately for your team or offense. Being the adult in the room can be difficult when there are pressures or things aren’t going well. We as coaches don’t always have the answers…that’s okay. That’s how you get better anyway. Dive deeper, ask the questions yourself! Work together as a staff and along with your players to find answers to questions regarding decision making, footwork, play structure, or progressions that make sense for everyone involved. Remember, the game is being played from the vantage point and perspective of your players, not you. So even if you understand it or see it, they may not or may see something different. Operate within the “perspective” of your QB and take it from there.
At the end of the day, patience, clarity, honesty, and support will provide your quarterback the opportunity to play with confidence. And that’s ultimately what it’s all about. They don’t have to be the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest, most mechanically sound QB out there..but if your player is confident then they have the green light to go out and make plays. Obviously, having some of those qualities will certainly enhance the experience and create more opportunities, but confidence is the KEY! So build confidence in your young athlete with your patience when things don’t go well, provide clarity in the way that you communicate details or desired actions, be honest in the way that you speak and what your expectations are, and finally support the young man in front of you on their journey to play for you with confidence and chase after the best possible version of themselves as quarterbacks and as young men. Because quarterbacks aren’t just a position in sports, they are a complete identity that stretches way beyond the field of play. Playing quarterback is a lifestyle. Cultivate that lifestyle by what you do and how you do it!
Ride the wave,
~ Coach Gov