Prep Football

How high school coaches are using video 'chalk talks' to learn from each other

'Chalk talks' keep area's football and basketball coaches sharp while home

North Linn head football coach Jared Collum shares a laugh with Maquoketa Valley Coach Trevor Arnold (top left), Anamosa
North Linn head football coach Jared Collum shares a laugh with Maquoketa Valley Coach Trevor Arnold (top left), Anamosa's Lucas Stanton (top middle) and Boonie Boocher of NorthWood High School in Indiana (top right) during a video chalk talk Sunday, March 22.
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — They went through roll call before proceding, just to make sure they knew exactly whose faces they were seeing on their respective computer screens.

There were between 15 and 20 different ones on this particular night. Most of them were head coaches, a couple assistants.

Even a college head coach took part as a “featured speaker.” Bemidji State’s Brent Bolte discussed his team’s use of the RPO, the intricacies of the run-pass offensive attack from a blocking and execution standpoint.

Coaches have to coach, even when they can’t physically. They physically can’t right now, sheltering at home during these COVID-19 times.

Thus, many of them have banded to create video “chalk talks” to pass time, stay sharp and bounce ideas off each other. Zoom is the preferred method to do it.

Jared Collum, head coach at North Linn, was roommates at Cornell College with Bolte, so he created a Sunday night chalk talk and invited several of his colleagues to “attend.” Guys like Tim Lovell (Marion), Trevor Arnold (Maquoketa Valley), Bob Lape (Oelwein), Rob Luther (Baxter), Lucas Stanton (Anamosa) and Duane Matthess (Clarke) did and seemed to enjoy the heck out of it.

“Just here tonight to learn some football and get rid of some of the other stuff going on right now for a little bit,” one of them said.

The chat lasted a couple of hours.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I thought it went really well,” Collum said. “I thought it would be too many guys talking at once and trying to share, but it ended up being me, Bolte, Arnold and a couple others (doing most of the talking). It drug a little at the end, 1 1/2 hours would probably be about the max. I guess the goal for the first one was to just get together and talk football. I plan on doing a defense one this weekend.”

Monday night saw Mount Vernon defensive coordinator Matt Haddy host a Zoom chalk talk of his own. Fourteen-year NFL veteran Brad Meester, also a Mount Vernon assistant coach, answered questions about offensive line play and how he coaches his guys up front.

There were other topics of conversation, a lot of Xs and Os stuff, as you’d imagine. It really was fascinating.

“With the situation we are in, being separated from the kids we coach, other guys on our coaching staff and all of our normal planning we would be doing, this is the next best thing,” Arnold said. “The interaction between other coaches from schools around Iowa and other states as well is what gets us reconnected to the game. It is a great opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, share plays, concepts, strategies and deciding whether it will work for my team/program, or if it is something to remember down the road, especially if we happen to play one another in the future.”

It was kind of amazing, in a good way, that these guys talked so freely about things they do in their respective programs. Football, in particular, is notorious for being ultra secretive.

Not so much here.

“Last night, I was able to reinforce some thoughts I had for concepts that would work for us based off reactions from other coaches,” Arnold said. “I was able to share a few things I picked up at the IFCA (Iowa Football Coaches Association) Clinic in Des Moines and afterward shared some tape with fellow coaches that hopefully helps them as well.”

You think Kirk Ferentz would do a Zoom chat with Matt Campbell, Jim Harbaugh, Scott Frost and James Franklin? Nah, probably not.

But the prep coaching fraternity in Iowa, at least around the eastern part of the state, is a tight one. A good bunch of dudes.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

And that extends to boys’ basketball. Haddy and Ames boys’ assistant Jeff Steines put together a basketball chalk talk Wednesday night that attracted close to 20 boys’ and girls’ coaches.

There were state championship coaches like Jacob Brindle of Cascade and Mike Hilmer of North Linn involved, as well as other coaches who have taken teams to state like Haddy and Larry Carlson of Benton Community. Up and comers like Pete Messerli of Marion, Jason Kern of West Branch and Nick Schauf of Oelwein joined in.

Topics included how to employ pressure defense effectively, handle pressure defense, the use of Hudl Focus as a scouting tool and how schools are implementing and using their youth programs. Another topic of discussion was on how deep teams go when it comes to scouting reports on opposing players.

Again, no holds were barred here. It was telling, for instance, that Hilmer was willing to extensively share his philosophies and specifics about North Linn’s notoriously successful trapping, pressing ‘D.’ It has helped the Lynx to three consecutive state championship game appearances, a Class 2A state title in 2019, a runner-up finish this season and a runner-up 1A season in 2018.

With so many former and future opponents of North Linn asking so many questions, Hilmer stepped up and answered each one he was given.

“Well, it’s easy to give away some of your secrets when you know you are going to be better than everyone else anyway,” Haddy kidded. “In all seriousness, that’s the great thing about coaching, there really aren’t secrets. The good coaches, the ones who believe in what they are doing, have no problem sharing what they do with others to build the game. In coaching, just about everything that everyone does was stolen from somebody else.”

“A big thing with these chats is simply sharing common successes and struggles, and having a judgment-free area to bounce ideas, get feedback, and ask questions,” said Brindle. “It’s good to go beyond our towns and programs and get some perspective after a long season. Several of us go way back to college and got started at the same time and have kind of grown up in coaching together through Snow Valley Camps and the IBCA (Iowa Basketball Coaches Association), and everyone is so willing to help each other out and share ideas, even amongst rival programs.”

As Collum mentioned, he’s got a defensive-oriented Zoom football chalk talk planned for this weekend. Haddy has more football and basketball ones in the hopper.

This is pretty darned cool.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s an opportunity for all of us to just get together during these weird times,” Haddy said. “Coaching is a fraternity like no other, the camaraderie between coaches around here is unbelievable. Those guys that you have been (listening to) in the two chats are some of my closest friends and guys I would turn to whenever I need something. So for us to spend time together right now and share our passion for coaching, and probably more importantly, a few laughs, has been awesome.

“Secondly, this is professional development for us as coaches and educators. People may not want to look at it that way, but look at some of the people that have been in these chats ... This is a great way of getting better. My hope is that this is just the beginning for these. We have more scheduled for next week. It’s been great, and it's been a great way to get better and spend time with guys who I have a ton of respect for and learn a ton from all the time.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.