Develop JOs as Good Coaches Develop Quarterbacks

By Lieutenant (junior grade) Joshua Asaro

Every wardroom across the fleet has the typical quarterback archetypes: the game-managers, the rookies of the year, the one-big-play wonders, the small-school stars, the dual threats, and the elite players. But what type of quarterbacks is your command developing? And is their success dependent upon their own talent, or is there a plan in place to groom them for success?

The similarities between Navy department heads and NFL offensive coordinators are, in many ways, uncanny. You report to the head coach on all matters, and his expectation is to win early and often. Your system is already in place and performing as it has been, but now you’ve got this rookie to develop on top of all else. How do you deal with them? How do you know what untested talent can turn into? And how do you get your rookie playing to their peak potential to take your offense to the next level? Watching teams develop their future franchise leaders enables Navy leadership to evaluate how we can train its future leaders.

Training Camp and Pre-Season (Pre-OOD Qualification)

They are the dog days of summer. Two-a-day practices and constant time at the facility. Between reps and workouts come film break-downs, position meetings, and installation walk-throughs. The playbook (instructions and expectations) is put out a little more each day, with concepts building on each other and being practiced in use. This is where most SWO first-tours spend their time learning from more senior leaders what the rules of the game are. As an OC (department head) this is where your expectations need to be put out. Developing bad habits and poor mechanics can be deadly for the season, and if a young leader is not sure that you’re tracking his or her progress, your player alread may be eyeing a trade or next season. Sit with them, break down film, and let them know what you see and how you perceive it. Then, with the introduction of stress (pre-season games, sea- and anchor-conning, inspections) see how your advice is applied. The end game of this period: clean mechanics, an understanding of the playbook, and knowledge of what it will take to be a successful starter in this league. 

First Half of the Season (Post-SWO Qualification, Now a Full-Time Division Officer)

Everything is faster now. Every play counts, and the talent on the field is greater. Clean execution is necessary for the team to move forward, and to not dig a hole in the standings from which it is impossible to recover. Your starter should be confident, still in the books and applying veteran savvy to navigate through early mistakes and self-critique. Interceptions will be thrown and fumbles lost, but each needs to be used as a teaching point and building block. At this stage, the team needs a run game (your top cover and involvement), and the defense needs to make some stops (the chiefs' mess needs to be involved). Asking your young leader to score 30 a game won’t work, and if he's throwing the ball north of 35 times you’re baiting failure. For this stage of DIVO, your command needs to fight to remain engaged. Though your developing officer has reached a basic level of qualification, that is the beginning of the profession. This is where quarterbacks either become turnover machines or warriors capable of making winning plays, and division officers turn into the commanders of the future or burnt-out officers biding their time. The coach's investment makes the difference. Are you mentoring your young SWOs? Are you pushing them and enabling them to push for great responsibility? If not, your program is content with simply naming a starter and having an average season.

Hunt for the Post-Season (Seeking Advanced Qualifications, Second Tour Transition)

Meaningful games are here at last. The lights are brighter, the hits harder, the scheme wrinkles are ironed out, and it is time to race for the title. Your quarterback is no longer a rookie and must deliver results. For quarterbacks, as for junior officers, honest coaching is required. The training wheels must come off, the playbook must be expanded, every play is scrutinized, and honest assessment must be the rule. Tell them what you want, and what they give you. Good coaching can develop a good player into an elite one, and poor feedback can waste your top pick and season.

Like young quarterbacks, junior officers afloat are asked to win early. But the option to red-shirt players does not exist in the fleet, so we’re forced to find ways to win with what we have. The good commands, like the good teams, win by having a plan to develop their talent. So, ask yourself: Am I developing my young leaders the way I want my favorite team to develop its young quarterback? If not, you are leading our Navy’s talent toward years of obscurity in a highly competitive environment.

See you on Sunday!

 

 

 
 

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