Football coaches wear headsets to talk to other coaches in a higher position, such as a booth or in the stands. These coaches relay information to the coaches on the field, as they have a better vantage point of the game.
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On Friday (for high school games), Saturday (for college games), and Sunday (for NFL games), coaches can be seen pacing up and down the sideline with a headset on their heads. These headsets are mandatory for coaches for one reason: information.
Football Coaching Communication
Coaches on the field will have headsets that connect to coaches that are at a higher elevation point, most often a “booth.” In high school football, coaches may find themselves above one to the press box or even tucked in the corner of the stands to give themselves a vantage point.
Coaches cannot get the proper angle to see the complete picture of the offense or defense from the sidelines. Like the view you see on TV, that’s the birds-eye view the coaches are looking to get.
This view helps coaches break down the scheme and identify (faster) which player is not doing their job.
With the most recent installment of sideline technology, coaches can take the information they get in the booth and immediately apply it to on-field visuals.
In the booth, there’s often anywhere from 2-6 coaches who also have headsets on. Their jobs are separated into offense, defense, special teams, and oftentimes, game management.
Famous head coach Bill Belichick is said to have a personal assistant, Ernie Adams, who is in the booth during games. He helps Bill with rules, challenges, and just general football help outside of the Xs & O’s.
Cancelling Out The Noise With The Headsets
Have you ever seen Happy Valley during a Penn State football game? Here’s a visual of 110,000 college kids screaming their lungs out:
Coaches also use these headsets to communicate to other coaches on the sideline without battling the noise factor. Coaches will often have a 2 earpiece headset which helps block the noise to communicate effectively.
Does Every Coach Wear A Headset?
Not necessarily. It typically depends on the coach. Most coaches will have a frequency channel for their offense and one for their defense. This way, the channel’s discussions are organized.
Even so, head coaches may or may not be wearing a headset. Some head coaches are offensive and defensive coordinators. In this case, they must have direct communication with the booth to make changes on the go.
Other times, head coaches will manage the game and not have a headset. This allows them to focus on time management, deal with the referees, and pump up their players.
How Many Coaches Can Be Connected At Once?
Depending on the system, 20+ coaches can be connected to the communication network. As mentioned above, most teams will have 2 channels, one for offense and one for defense.
However, too many coaches can mean a clogged channel. The best communication is short and direct communication. Especially if the quarterback is trying to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, the last thing you want is an offensive coordinator whose mind is bogged down.
Before purchasing headsets, we recommend you list out which coaches need headsets and which ones don’t. Too many coaches on the headsets, to listen to play calls is the easiest way to clog up the communication.
Also, as Nick Saban has been famously quoted, too much communication breaks down important communication. Coaches shouldn’t talk on the headset unless they absolutely need to. Coaches shouldn’t commentate on the game or provide useless information to other coaches who are calling plays.
What If One Teams Headset Breaks?
If a team cannot get their headsets working, the other team must shut down their communication. It’s a rule that we commonly see in the NFL.
During the middle of a game, headsets may get interfered with because of all the cell phones and information being passed around the stadium. Technology has since come a long way, but we still see interference with headsets.
The most notable headset fiasco was Bill Walsh’s 49ers team and Bill Parcels’ New York Giants. As Parcels is famously quoted:
Walsh liked to script plays at the beginning of the game. Against the Giants one year, the headsets on his sideline happened to go out. Not as big of a deal since he knew what the 49ers were going to do at the start of the game anyway. But that meant the Giants and Bill Parcells had to put their headsets down too.
“Getting ready to play them again next year in the playoffs, and I said to Bill, ‘These phones go out again to start the game, I’m gonna expose you,"” Parcells recalled. “He looked at me with a little wink and says, ‘Just a little gamesmanship.’ And I said, ‘I understand."”
Coaches wear headsets to effectively talk to other coaches on the sidelines and coaches in the booth. Due to the noise factor and the large crowds that football draws, having headsets is important for coaches.
It’s rare to see sidelines in high school, colleges, and professional leagues without heads. The louder the stadium, the harder it is to hear, and the more necessary headsets become among coaches.
Headsets play a major role in communication for coaches. Without headsets, adjustments wouldn’t be made at the rapid rate at which they are made. Offenses and defenses would get exposed more frequently.
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