Halftime adjustments: How do they work?

By Andrew Singer

Even in an age where coaches study game tape like scripture, no bench boss knows exactly what they’re going to see until game day.

Any number of things can change once the game clock starts ticking. An injury can occur, the weather can change or a team can simply be reading everything the other team is doing like a book. No matter the challenge, a coach has to be prepared to handle it.

Recently, the Northern Star sat down with four fall sport coaches at NIU to discuss their experiences with in-game adjustments.

In between the sets of a volleyball match, teams will get a short break to rest and make any necessary changes.

Volleyball head coach Ray Gooden was a setter when he played in college, and believes that playing a position that taught him how to make adjustments made him a better coach.

“I was able to learn how to transfer changes to my team,” Gooden said. “It was important to do it in a way that wouldn’t stress out my teammates, because you needed them to respond in a positive way to any changes made.”

For some sports it’s harder than others to make changes to a game plan.

During a soccer match, there aren’t any timeouts, meaning halftime represents the only opportunity for head coaches to implement any alterations to a game plan.

Eric Luzzi, head coach of the men’s soccer team, has always believed in the influence that adjustments implemented at the break can have.

“We do a lot of our homework ahead of time,” Luzzi said. “But with that said, you have to be able to adjust and make some kind of changes if things aren’t going your way.”

During the first half of a game, Luzzi will record any thoughts in a notebook.

Then at halftime, he’ll gather his coaching staff to discuss any potential changes. In one instance, Luzzi made a choice that completely changed the complexion of a game.

“It’s usually the changes that come in the last 20 minutes that make a difference,” Luzzi said. “I remember last year in a Governor Cup [preseason tournament] game, we were losing 1-0 with eight minutes left. I decided to put in a player that hadn’t played in the half yet. Low and behold that kid scored two goals in the final eight minutes and we won 2-1. So, it can happen.”

However, Tracy Claeys, defensive coordinator of the NIU football team believes that any chatter about great halftime adjustments should be taken with a grain of salt.

“I think most coaches will tell you that those big halftime adjustments are overrated,” Claeys said. “There is only so much new stuff that a team can put it in over the course of one week. So, a lot of times what you see on tape is what you get on game day.”

Carrie Barker, head coach of the women’s soccer team, doesn’t doubt the influence that in-game alterations can have, but maintains that it’s up to the players to adjust once the game starts.

“The players are playing the game,” Barker said. “There aren’t any set pieces like in other sports, so we train them to be ready to compete on their own in the games.”

There are no certainties in sports, which is something that Barker has always cherished about her profession as a head coach.

“It’s like a chess match,” Barker said. “If this piece moves, how are you going to react to it? It’s a challenge, but that’s why sports are great.”