Recalling plays & play-calling

Here’s a test:

  1. Hand-draw an offensive play by drawing 11 Xs with lines that show assignments.
  2. Now add 11 O’s on defense and lines that show defensive assignments.
  3. Now add a name to the play.
  4. Now add your favourite football language beneath it under the heading “coaching points.”
  5. Hide the hand-drawn piece of paper.
  6. Test #1 – In less than 60 seconds, recall what you wrote and hand-write it on a new piece of paper. This tests short-term memory recall
  7. Test #2. Read over the original as many times as possible for 60 minutes. Hand-draw the original diagram & written explanation on a new piece of paper. This tests the early stage long-term memory recall.
  8. Test #3. Do Test #1 and #2 with someone who has zero knowledge of football.


  • none of you will score 100%.
  • Most of you will fail the test.
  • If you’re complaining that it’s not realistic to know everyone’s assignment on offense and defense, then your admitting that its unrealistic for any player on offense and defense to memorize a playbook.


Someone hands you a XXXL-size binder full of Xs & Os diagrams with accompanying foreign language and they tell you to learn it. In reality, they are telling you to memorize it. Memorizing and learning are not the same. They are pedagogically worlds apart. Human memory is deeply flawed. It’s composed of the complexities of short-term memory and long-term memory that are adversely affected by a number of variables including life-and-death pressure, the type of pressure that threatens to kill you, threatens to scramble your mind-body-soul, threatens to cause you pain and suffering.

Memorizing a playbook will never facilitate self-actualization or team-actualization. System-absorption will. Learning a system inside-out – dual meaning – is completely different that memorizing a playbook. Here’s what I’ve taught players and assistant coaches for 4 decades:

  1. Recalling plays is not enough to actualize self or team potential. 
  2. Mechanically recalling plays makes you a robot who operates by #PressingPlay – dual meaning – instead of making big plays.

3. Recalling plays doesn’t make you a play-caller. It makes you a play-ReCaller controlled by the limits of human memory.

4. Play-ReCalling limits the #1 element of expert development – RDM – Rapid Decision-Making, governed by Reality IQ – the subconscious mind, Primal Instinct, and intuition built by the combined effect of #streetsmarts #fieldsmarts #booksmarts.

5. “You don’t know the playbook” is an admission of incompetent teaching & learning. 

6. The absence of context results in a playbook making no sense.

7. The solution is Contextual Teaching & Learning that absorbs a system, replacing memorization by application through translation.

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#MUCHLOVE #Soulofalifter

Blessings and all good things


Gino Arcaro

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