Across the NFL, the coronavirus pandemic has reduced the league’s offseason programs to a boring binary: all work, no play. With access to team facilities limited, players can lift and study and prepare, but the execution stops there. There’s a playbook, but its pages remain almost an abstraction.
The Ravens are among the teams that have reckoned with the drudgery. They’ve turned to a learning platform so popular that even preschool teachers have adopted it. Thanks in part to coach John Harbaugh’s daughter, the team’s staff is not just teaching players the plays; they are quizzing them on it, too.
With the help of Kahoot, an online, game-based learning platform that allows users to build their own quizzes, the Ravens can evaluate players’ progress on tests that undrafted free agent John Daka likened to midterms. Daka, an outside linebacker from James Madison, had just taken one Thursday, his second this week.
“Rather than just sitting there and getting lectured on a playbook, Kahoot's a good changeup of different ways to learn and also to create competition, because we're doing it versus each other,” Daka, who also took Kahoot quizzes in college, said in a telephone interview. “So they do a great job of just making learning fun, but at the same time, you're getting everything done.”
Zoom video conferences have powered the NFL’s offseason programs, but some teams have added their own wrinkles. Harbaugh told The Washington Post that he became interested in Kahoot when he saw his teenage daughter, Alison, using it on her own computer. Teachers could build a lesson plan around the quizzes, and students could compete to see who was first to answer or correct most often.
Pretty soon thereafter, the Ravens were playing Kahoot in virtual team meetings, testing their knowledge of scheme installs in a multiple-choice quiz, careful to select the correct corresponding shape before the gong sounded and time ran out.
“It was new to me,” Harbaugh told the Post. “The guys all knew what it was.”
The Ravens aren’t the only team using Kahoot. The Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals have also integrated its colorful questions into their offseason program. But Daka said the team’s embrace of the platform speaks to the franchise’s organizational strengths.
And no, he’s not just saying that because he’s done well on the quizzes, either.
“I’ll say this about the Ravens: The way the Ravens ran their offseason and how they do things, how organized they are from the top all the way to the bottom, I see why they’re a first-class organization and why they’re always successful, year in and year out, honestly,” he said. “This is not even as a player in the organization doing it. Even if I was a fan, I could see why they’re successful, just because of how organized they are and how everybody’s on the same page.”