Monday, March 20, 2017

The Power of Audible Play Calling

When a quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage it’s called “Audibling.” Yes, that’s a legitimate verb-ing of the word “audible.”

Other ways to say it: He called an audible. He made adjustments. He changed the play.

The QB sees something he doesn’t like (or something he does like, maybe a favorable match up or a weakness in the defense) and he changes the play. The ability to adjust on the fly is one of those skills veteran quarterbacks acquire after thousands of snaps, thousands of defensive reads, thousands of hours watching tape. The best quarterbacks make the right play-changes: they recognize something, make adjustments, and turn the play into a big gain.

It’s their experience that justifies their audibling.

So how do I get away with it? I have just one child. I did not raise my little siblings, have nieces or nephews on whom to practice, nor a close friend who showed me the ropes. I’ve always been a rookie at this. What gives me the confidence to repeatedly call audibles where Hollie is concerned?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a change junkie. I don’t want the same thing to happen every day. I don’t want the routine that is so ingrained that weeks or years pass and I don’t even notice they’ve slipped by. While Hollie has a schedule, I provide as much flexibility within that schedule as I can.

I like to call it Mickey Mouse Parenting, working off a checklist. As long as all of these things get done before we move forward, we’re okay; they don’t have to be done a specific order.

Maybe it comes from experience with software implementations which try to do as many things simultaneously as possible. Maybe it’s the milestone approach my PhD program took where things happened concurrently. I have a flexible approach because I know the best laid plans are only plans until you start to execute them. Then they’re life and life sometimes has rogue linebackers who sneak through the line and sack the quarterback. Life sometimes jumps up for the interception and turns your running backs into tacklers.

In every play, you have to be ready to shift from offense to defense. 

It helps if you call an audible. If you adjust to the defensive schema you see.

I have always called audibles in my relationship with Charlie. He’s used to it. Toward the end of the day I might call and let him know we’re doing happy hour this evening, so meet us at the bar. We used to make spontaneous road trips, extend weekends into Monday, and buy last-minute tickets for shows.

We once decided on a Friday night to go to the Daytona 500 on Sunday. We got in the car Saturday afternoon, met a buddy in Florence, drove through the night, and made it to the race three hours before green flag.

Admittedly, we’re less impulsive now. But our Friday driveway parties are part of my audible-calling nature, trivia night at the bar is an audible I keep in my back pocket, and I very rarely turn down an invitation to go anywhere unless it requires giving up my Sunday.

Where Hollie is concerned, audibles can mean instability. 

It can mean she comes home from school and I’m not here because I added an extra meeting downtown. Maybe after swim team we have to go to the grocery store or maybe we have to pick up a friend’s kid from school today. Audibles make teachers and administrators crazy because they have hundreds of children. But I have just one. And she can bend, flex, go-with-the-flow because I resisted that type-A parenting advice of scheduling your baby to keep your own sanity. A schedule for Hollie would have made me miserable.


Being able to audible means being able to adjust to current circumstances. Adjusting doesn’t mean accepting, it just means recognizing that your wide receiver is double-teamed which means your running back can get open. So change the play.

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