Urban Meyer’s On-Edge Teaching Style

Urban Meyer is all about finding the most efficient ways to educate his players about the intricacies of his high-powered offense. He has a teaching approach that is increasingly popular in academic circles, but still mostly unheard of in the world of football coaching: flipping the classroom.

In this excerpt from the book: The Football Coach’s Game Plan for Leadership, get powerful insights on coaching philosophy from Meyer and dozens more football legends on preparing to win.

In academics, flipped learning turns the traditional classroom-teaching model on its head, delivering lessons online outside of class and moving homework into the classroom via individual tutoring or activities.

In an effort to speed up the installation of his spread-option playbook – Meyer decided to abandon old-school chalkboard sessions. Instead, he devoted team meetings to hands-on exercises, such as walking through plays and doing situational drills.

Meyer doesn’t use the flipped classroom term to describe his approach, but outlined his belief in “on-edge” teaching, in which players are kept on the edge of their seats during team meetings by a barrage of impromptu quizzes and individual interactions designed to keep them engaged.

This approach is fundamentally the same as in flipped learning, which has become something of a buzzword in recent years as online video has become more widely available.

The theory behind it is that introducing student-athletes to new material through short video lectures or online slideshows outside of class time allows for the lower levels of thought work—gaining knowledge and comprehension—to be performed outside the classroom on their own schedule and at their own pace. Class time can then be repurposed into workshops where students can inquire about the material and interact with hands-on activities. These help accomplish the harder task of assimilating knowledge.

The whole idea is that if you can get players thinking about it and doing the mental work prior to being in the football facility, your time in the classroom will be that much more productive.

For Urban Meyer, that has meant ditching the time-honored method of installing an offense, in which players listen passively while coaches draw up plays during team meetings before heading back to their dorm rooms to memorize the assignments with their playbooks.

Now, instead of lecturing players on X’s and O’s, Ohio State coaches send them schemes and game plans via videos and interactive graphics that can be accessed on phones and iPads. Time at the facility is then devoted to walk-throughs and other interactive exercises. Kirk Barton, a graduate assistant at Ohio State, says meetings are used for situation-specific drilling. He might ask an offensive lineman to diagram a particular play against a particular defensive front, for instance, or draw up their responsibilities against a blitz. Barton says he also texts players outside of meetings to ensure they have the assignments nailed down.

Former player Johnathan Hankins said it isn’t uncommon for Meyer to interrupt meetings and pepper inexperienced players with questions to ensure they understood the playbook.

“When he came in, he would usually ask a freshman: ‘What do you got?’ ” said Hankins, adding that Meyer’s “on-edge” techniques ensured no one put their feet up during meetings. “You never knew what you were going to get from coach Meyer. That’s just how he is. He’s always keeping people on their toes.”

Read over 100 more great ideas on best preparing your team to compete at the highest level in the new book: The Football Coach’s Game Plan for Leadership.