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For FSU’s Jimbo Fisher, players teaching means players learning

Sometimes, the football field doubles as a classroom.

South Florida v Florida State
Jimbo Fisher
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

During the recent Jimbo Fisher Football Camp, the ‘Noles loaded up on blue-chip recruits, securing five commitments in as many days. Of course, they’re called prospects for a reason: while their potential often seems limitless, and their high-school numbers are typically quite gaudy, they’ve proven precisely nothing at the college level.

It’s the job of college football coaching staffs to make sure that talent translates once it’s on campus. Beyond that, learning from one’s new teammates is incredibly helpful as well. And that can start even before a player actually gets to his college of choice. As we found out recently, learning and teaching are a symbiotic relationship, of which we got a glimpse at the latest Fisher Camp, where current Florida State players took to the practice fields to instruct hundreds of CFB hopefuls— some of whom will wear the garnet and gold in the future.

It’s a flipping of the script: present Seminoles, used to receiving instruction, and criticism, and advice, are suddenly put in the position of doling it out. As a former college instructor, it struck me as incredibly beneficial to FSU players whom Fisher himself has always said he’d like to understand football at the conceptual level. It’s rather simple: anyone can regurgitate internalized responses; it takes a true understanding of the concept behind the technique to really comprehend not just what one should do, but why. When players grasp the reason dictating what’s required of them, they’re much less likely to view it as an arbitrary preference of their position coaches, and much more apt to understand the cause behind the lesson imparted.

So, in the spirit of learning, I asked Fisher about if, and how, serving as camp counselors can help current ‘Noles to understand the concepts with which they’re consistently challenged themselves.

His response: “Exactly right. I’m seeing it. And let me tell you what, It’s great having them as instructors, cause now they see what it’s like to be a coach. I told them: telling them ain’t coaching; show them. . . . Now you know how we [coaches] feel.”

Fisher continued: “I think that’s one of the best things from this that they get. . . . And maybe, if I’ve coached, then maybe I can be coached better. And that’s one of the things with kids today: learning to be coached is a big part of it.”

He went on to insist:

“When you can explain something to teach it, it’s amazing how much better you can execute it. And that’s one of the things I like about this, and I challenge our guys: think about what you’re telling them— and then think about that when you’re playing. It’s amazing how sometimes, great players aren’t great coaches, they just do things naturally and instinctively, but they’ve never really thought [about] how to explain it to somebody. But when you make them do that, it changes their perspective.”

In short, for Fisher, the age-old maxim that teaching something is the best way to learn it seems to resonate. And the proof of that requires only a glimpse at the NFL. For while Fisher went on to mention that several current players may go on to coaching careers in the future, he refrained from singling out any current ‘Noles. He did, however, suggest two former FSU players presently in the NFL whose understanding of the game may be well suited for coaching down the road. And the names shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who follows Florida State football: Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith. It’s often said that those who can’t do, teach. But, evidently, some can pull off both.