“You can almost learn more from watching than you can from doing.”
When I was growing up, my father would always tell my brother and me this as we sat down to watch the Sunday night football game or sat on the sidelines of the high school basketball game. He would point out mistakes, break down the offensive strategy, or analyze how the defense was successful. All of this was just for fun. It wasn’t until I got to high school and college sports that I realized the power of watching game film.
There are many different ways and reasons to watch a film, but one thing is true throughout. If you approach the film with a clear goal and an analytical mindset, you will learn more about your sport and become a better player.
So how do you get started?
First off, grab a piece of paper and a pencil. Have a place to take notes. That’s how you’ll remember everything you’ve learned during the session.
Next, set a clear goal for what you want to get out of this session. Are you focusing on personal skill development? Are you scouting an upcoming team? Are you breaking down plays? Once you know what to focus on, you can choose the best type of film to watch.
TYPES OF GAME FILM
Full Game Film
This involves watching a whole game all the way through. You can watch a professional or college game live or find old films on Youtube. What you’re trying to see is the general overview of your sport. You’ll be able to pick up on playing styles, offense and defense, and different strategies as the tide of the games shifts and flows.
Specific moments that you can watch for include:
- Play execution
- What causes shifts in momentum
- What is effective against a particular defense
- Key mistakes to avoid
Watching Opponent Team Film / Scouting
Scouting an upcoming opponent has a few different aspects. You can focus on general team performance, including the defenses, offenses, and any press they may run. You can prepare for specific plays they may run. Or you can even narrow it down to specific positions and players that you may be guarding.
If you’re watching for the opposing team’s plays, it is best to watch multiple clips of them running that play. Look for where the plays are successful and where they break down. What do you need to watch out for so you don’t get beat? How can you anticipate and disrupt their plays?
If you’re watching a specific player or position, break down the film session into offense and defense. While watching offense, analyze their dominant and weak hand, what special moves they use to beat the defense, and how they are utilized within the offense. When watching their defense, analyze where and how they typically get beat, weaknesses in size/speed/strength/agility that you can exploit, and tendencies for fouls.
All of this information can be used to prepare you for upcoming competitions. You know what to expect from the other team and what you need to do to succeed in the match.
Watching Your Team Film
This is a great option for watching as a whole team, or even in position groups. Watching your team play is great for noticing areas of improvement in execution, movement and position on the field, and teamwork.
Specific moments to analyze include:
- Why and how an offensive play breaks down
- Where and how the opponent is beating your defense
- Connections between positions (i.e. Guards feeding the ball into the post)
- Which plays are effective in specific scenarios
- What leads to offensive success
It can be very beneficial to discuss what you see with your teammates when watching your team film. They may have a different perspective to offer. You may not have been on the same page about how an offense was run. This discussion will heighten your cohesiveness and improve your overall teamwork.
Watching your game film is a great way to improve. While you can applaud your successes, this is also a great time for a critical analysis of areas of improvement. When you’re in a game, it isn’t always easy to tell what went wrong. This is why watching film is an excellent tool for figuring out how to fix the problem after the fact.
What to watch for:
- Plays where you made a positive contribution to the team
- Incorrect reads, and the action that should have been taken
- Positioning, including with-ball, off-ball, and defensive positioning
- Plays that broke down and what could have been done
- Skill specific analyzing (i.e. rebounding, tackles, corner kicks)
Remember to keep a healthy balance between praise and critique. And even when you make a mistake, don’t get too focused on the failure. The point of watching a film is to help you improve and avoid that mistake in the future.
Watching For Skill Development
If there is a new skill that you’re trying to develop, watching a film can be great for finding a person to emulate. You can analyze techniques and then take that knowledge onto the field. You can watch clips of pros or even other players in your league that has mastered the skill you are working on.
What to watch for:
- In what situations is the skill used
- What are the steps to executing the skill
- What makes this play so successful
Watching film is a great way to take your game to the next level. And whether you’re watching Sunday Night Football or in an intense team film session, there is always something to be learned just from watching.