Matt Waldman’s RSP: Thoughts On Teaching And Learning The Game

A short video about the benefits of a Shruti box got Matt Waldman thinking about player development. 

This contraption from India helps musicians develop their sound and play in tune. While listening to trumpeter Ingrid Jensen share why her ear training and sound development process evolved towards the Shruti box, I thought about football drills.

Many drills teach only teach the physical skill. Running back pass protection drills, quarterback pocket movement, and running back footwork drills come to mind. They help players simulate the desired timing and movement, but the visual cues to make a diagnosis are often flawed. There’s not enough realistic or dynamic movement associated with the drills.

This comes to mind whenever I’m at a football practice or watching a consultant putting players through exercises where they have to imagine the visual keys that would lead them to execute the maneuvers they’re learning.  These exercises are often helpful, but they’re still a few steps away from the realism of teammates and opponents moving in a variety of patterns around the player.

While one can tell a player during an exercise, “look at the hips or helmet of the defender to determine your path,” or “Here’s how these seven players are aligned in the box. Use this information and the line protection call to determine your primary and secondary assignment,” if the player doesn’t get to train by working with these dynamics, the learning process isn’t as good as it should be.

It’s a lot like Jensen’s description of the digital tuner with the adjusting bar that band directors use to help their players get in tune. The intent is good, but there’s a blowback.

The best learning experiences place the individual in scenarios that activate as many of the same physical and mental dynamics as the real thing. This is why there’s significant validity to rookie quarterbacks starting early and learning. However, that’s a method with a lot of potential flaws when the implementation of that process has so many variables that can derail it. Here’s to the idea of a Shruti box for football development.

I wish I knew about them when I was ear training.

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