Flaws are found when you forget fundamentals

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 10/31/19

There is nothing new under the sun. Have you, too, been frustrated watching the Denver Broncos’ futility over the last four years? New coaches. New quarterbacks. New offensive coordinators. They …

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Flaws are found when you forget fundamentals

Posted

There is nothing new under the sun.

Have you, too, been frustrated watching the Denver Broncos’ futility over the last four years? New coaches. New quarterbacks. New offensive coordinators. They try and they try to do new things, and nothing seems to work.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that every time you change coaches and systems, you have to re-teach everything. It takes time and familiarity for players to get adept at systems, and each system requires a different type of player. But the simpler fact is that football, at its most basic, is warfare. Trench warfare, to be specific. To win, you have to control the line of scrimmage. The most brilliant route combination, which puts the defenders in an impossible situation, doesn’t make any difference if your quarterback is on his backside by time the play develops. The trickiest reverse motion won’t accomplish anything if, as my buddy Matt says, your guys can’t move the other guy from point A to point B against their will.

Sustained success is a matter of winning at the most basic part of the game.

Now, in case you were wondering, I’m not a part of the sports writing staff. There’s a point to all this, one that the Denver Broncos have been making most eloquently for the last several years: there is nothing new under the sun. Success comes from being good at the basics.

I was recently helping my son do his math homework, and I finally understand what they’re trying to teach with the new math. It’s not new, actually — it’s about 17 extra steps to get the kids to do smaller, easier calculations and add them all together. Instead of teaching actual calculations, we’re trying to teach students to use the distributive property to arrive at an answer. And, it (probably) works, if the kids follow all the steps right. AND, assuming they have the ability to do the smaller calculations right, also. Lots of different places to make a mistake. And, even doing everything right, a problem that should take 30 seconds takes four minutes. It is, in effect, teaching every single kid to use a process that the really smart do by instinct, or that the really slow have to do to get anywhere. And it still skips, or glosses over, a very basic thing: learning how to calculate.

The same can be said of one of the trends in teaching reading. The New York Times published an interesting article a year ago about the use of “Whole Language” to teach reading. This strategy uses, well, guesswork on the part of the students, trying to piece together clues based on pictures and context, and largely ignores a great deal of the actual science behind language acquisition. And, guess where this strategy took hold and gained traction — that’s right. Colleges. Teacher Prep programs. The article says it’s a strategy the worst readers use to learn how to fake it. And we’re teaching every student to use it.

Get back to the basics. I know they’re not sexy or flashy. Drilling phonics and doing math flashcards (there’s an app for that) isn’t going to get you a speaking gig or a book deal. But it works.

And, as you’re pondering why the Broncos couldn’t manage to hold on to yet another “game in hand” in Indianapolis, consider that the Colts have invested many draft picks in the last several years on their offensive line, so a first time starter has the opportunity to stab us in the heart once again.

It’s pretty basic.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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