Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“17 Inches”

Posted by admin February - 20 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

17 inches. Do you know what “sports item” is 17 inches wide?

I came across a Facebook post by a friend who coaches baseball. The post was about a baseball coach who spoke at a major clinic in his area years ago. He was an elderly man — retired by then — who struggled to get out on stage after his name was announced because he had a regulation baseball home plate hanging from a chain around his neck. They’re not light!!!

He spoke for a while about his coaching experience and was visibly struggling to stay upright with this heavy piece of rubber hanging in front of him. Some in the audience apparently thought it was a bit humorous and began to snicker at the old coach’s plight. He finally posed the question to his audience: “I guess you folks are wondering why I’ve got this home plate hanging around my neck, huh?!” Wellllllll… duh!!!

The old coach started explaining that a home plate is 17 inches wide…. whether it’s Little League or MLB… it’s 17 inches wide! If a pitcher can’t muster up the control needed to get the ball over the plate to get a strike, the umpire does not help him out by calling it a strike if it’s an inch or two off the plate. They don’t “widen” the plate for another pitcher with control problems. They just find another player who CAN get it over the plate! The old coach pointed out, “So it is with life. OR… it used to be!”

His point was that as a culture we have lost our standards. In life, a strike is not a strike anymore. We keep cutting corners; giving kids too much freedom and then tell them it’s OK. We don’t widen the strike zone in baseball and we don’t widen the plate to accommodate those who have “control problems.” We find players who can get it over the plate and go with them.

I have never seen an organization, a team… (especially) a military unit that was successful that lacked discipline. We need to set boundaries on what is acceptable behavior and then… we need to ENFORCE them.

I am convinced that young people actually want boundaries. They may complain at first but when they see that there’s structure in the team, it actually promotes a sense of trust. There is comfort in having guard rails on each side of a high rise bridge. We have the “8th Engineering Wonder of the World” here in our backyard— the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. When you’re out in the middle of the bay on that lonely stretch of road, it’s nice to know that they “remembered” to put guard rails up! Our players feel the same way about the discipline that we promote in our program.

Don’t be afraid to have high expectations for yourself, your staff and/or your players. Most of the kids you have on your team are competitive in nature. They understand the importance of having structure. Demand it of yourself and demand it of your players. This doesn’t mean that you come off as a martinet. I have an ex-Marine Drill Sergeant in our Bible study group. He commented this morning about how even a Paris Island Drill Sergeant needs to have a mix of toughness with compassion. Yep! A Marine Drill Sgt. said that!!! And it’s true. As a coach, you need to find that right mix too… if you want your program to be successful.

“Sustainability” in Your Program

Posted by admin February - 13 - 2018 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

I’ve been invited to speak to a group of business leaders this week. The topic the CEO wants me to speak on is “sustainability of success.” He’s a huge football fan and was a strong supporter of our program while I was the head coach of our local high school. With his invitation, he asked that I discuss with his leadership team about “HOW to sustain success over a long period of time.”

He stated that it fascinated him that our team was able to post winning/championship-level records year after year. “Some schools can do it for a couple of years and then they fade away again. Coach J, you did it for 15 straight years! That’s phenomenal! What was your secret? That’s what I’d like you to share with my leaders.” OK. Those of you reading this will now get a preview of what I’m going to share. Here goes:

When Vince Lombardi first took over the Green Bay Packers in the early 60’s it was his first head coaching job. He was confident that he could turn them into instant winners. After one season of futility (I’m not sure that they even had a winning record!), he met with the team on the first day of practice for their second season and began his talk this way: Lombardi held up a ball in front of the assembled team and emphatically stated, “Men, this is a football!!!!”

What he was implying was that the Packers had to “get back to the fundamentals” if they ever wanted to compete for championships. That thought never left my mind the entire time I was a head coach. You may know that Lombardi and the Packers’ offense was famous for their Green Bay Sweep. Lombardi once spoke at a coaches clinic where he spent 8 hours just talking about that one play! His point? You’ve got to get good at 1 thing… and then, stay good at that one thing.

What is the ONE THING that your company (football team) is known for? Be sure to periodically go back and be sure that you are focusing on that fundamental. So the first key to sustaining success is the saying: “Be sure to remember that… The MAIN THING is to keep the MAIN THING, the main thing!!!”

So, the first leg on the “Stool of Sustained Success” is: FUNDAMENTALS

We struggled the first 4-5 years that I was the HC at our local high school. The program had not had a winning record in 7 or 8 years… so I was dealing with trying to change the culture. One major revelation that the Lord brought to my attention after a 4th year of frustration was: I was too nice!

In trying to incorporate an atmosphere of Christ’s love (I was a young Christian at that point… having only been walking with the Lord for a few years), I was failing to establish any discipline in our program. As I said, I was too nice. I found Scripture where it talks about the importance of discipline. It was essential that I create higher expectations of our players and coaches. I developed a Player Policy Sheet and laid out expectations for our coaching staff. I explained that I have high expectations for myself… it is important that I hold the players and coaches to that same high standard.

The second leg of the “Stool of Sustained Success” is: DISCIPLINE

I learned over the years that in order to grow, you have to (occasionally) change. In fact, that’s one of the core values of the church that my wife and I attend! But, if you try something new and it doesn’t work, you can’t be embarrassed to admit you were wrong and go back to “Plan A.” I did that twice during my career. Two times that I tried to change our Wing T offense proved to be a study in futility. I admitted that I was wrong and we went back to the basics. *There’s that fundamental thing again!” It’s important to stay focused and constantly be evaluating yourself, your staff, your players and your program in general. If you see something wrong, it’s your job to fix it— even if that means making a tough decision! The hardest thing I had to do as a head coach was to fire an assistant. It didn’t happen often (only 3-4 times in 32 years) cuz I took a lot of time in “vetting” coaches before I hired them.

Finally, I learned that “preparation comes before performance.” I don’t remember where I read it but the following statement has stuck with me throughout my career. It’s called “The 5 P’s of Success.” It says: “PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
Hard work is important; but, smart work is even more important. Smart work includes preparing your team to deal with any situation or circumstance that might come up during a season. It’s how I came to realize that “little things” can make a BIG difference. That is the mark of a well-coached team. We don’t make mistakes that “shoot ourselves in the foot.” The first coach I worked for was famous for saying “What you emphasize, you achieve!” Emphasize “little things.” I love eating at Chick Fil A. Have you ever noticed that when you thank one of their workers, their response is always, “My pleasure.” I like that! It’s just a little thing but it sets the CFA “culture” apart (and above) other fast food chains.

The third and final leg of the “Stool of Sustained Success” is: PROPER PREPARATION

I’ll close with this. A building/team/organization is only as strong as its foundation. Lay a strong foundation and you can build on it with confidence that the structure will stand— even if weight comes to bear on it. The foundation of our program was: UNITY PRIDE TOTAL EFFORT
We built everything we did on those traits. They served us well. After those first 5 years of creating a new (winning) culture, our regular-season record was 133- 27. An 83% winning percentage. We accomplished that because we had a strong foundation; we stuck to the fundamentals and we prepared properly. All of this was wrapped around an environment of discipline. It kept us unified… even through the tough times! It will work for you too.

3 Legs of the Stool

Posted by admin February - 5 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I’ll say with all the love in my heart that I can muster: I am unabashedly, undeniably a believer in Jesus Christ! I hope that doesn’t turn you off so much that you leave without reading the rest of this post… cuz I have something important to say. Please stick with me.

I once heard a coach who was part of FCA share a “picture story” about how important all 3 phases of our lives (and the lives of our players) are to being able to face the “storms of life” which we will undoubtedly face in our lives. He used a 3-legged stool and a cinder block to make his point!

He talked about how we in the “sports culture” of our country are really focused on our PHYSICAL fitness. We lift weights. We run. We eat healthy. All to build strong bodies so we can succeed in life. He took one of the legs of the stool and screwed it into the bottom of the stool. It had PHYSICAL lettered down it. He then tried to place the cinder block on top of the 1-legged stool. “When the pressures of life come to bear, you can’t ‘hold up’ with just a strong body— no matter how physically fit you are. You need more.”

There is a segment of our culture that thinks if we get everyone “smart” and highly educated, we’re going to be better off. They press for higher education and higher standards in school. They include MENTAL HEALTH in this category too. If we are healthy mentally, we can overcome anything. Really? Substitute out the PHYSICAL leg of the stool, screw in the one with MENTAL on it and see what happens when you place the “stress of life” on the stool. Heck, screw the PHYSICAL leg back in so you have 2 legs now and see if that stool will stand when the pressure/load comes to bear. Ain’t happenin’!!!

We need that 3rd leg. I submit that the “3rd leg” is our SPIRITUAL life. The part that, I’m afraid, too many people ignore. Religion, in particular Christianity, is being relegated to the “outfield bullpen.” Too many people are being sold the bill of goods that our spiritual health is just not that important. I disagree!

Those of you who’ve read or heard reports on the Eagles leading up to the Super Bowl last night know that a LOT of their players talked about their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ… and how important that has been to their team unity. They’ve learned to be unselfish and have bonded like a lot of teams never do. I think it showed last night during the game both on the field and on the sideline. Even Head Coach Doug Pederson professed his faith in Jesus in his first post-game interview. That got me real excited!

It showed me that when we have all 3 legs of the “stool of life” firmly attached, we can withstand an incredible amount of pressure and come through the storm with peace in our heart and joy in our soul.

Efficiency vs. Reps

Posted by admin January - 30 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Let me take you into a typical high school Algebra 1 class. The teacher calls 5 students to come to the front and asks them to put the first 5 homework questions (and answers) on the board while the rest of the class watches. Two of them finish quickly, the 3rd student struggles but finishes his problem… but it’s apparent that the 4th and 5th students have no clue! The teacher looks at their work and says, “You two are good… go sit down. You (the 3rd) messed up that 3rd step. You last 2 obviously have no idea what I’ve been teaching you the last few days. All of you go sit down and let me call 5 more people up to do the next 5 questions. We’ve got 30 equations we need to get through and we only have 20 minutes left to accomplish that objective. Let’s go!”

How would YOU rate that teacher’s instructional skills? I am not very impressed!

What did the students learn from this exercise? Not much! Why not? Because they got little or no feedback; little or no reinforcement. Oh yes, he told a couple of them that they got something wrong but you know as well as I do that most people are visual learners. Explaining something by “talking it through” just does not sink in for most people. They need to be shown their mistakes.

This is why I am such a strong advocate of focusing on getting plays executed correctly (some of my former players would say “near perfectly!”) before we move on to another play. I’ve seen several coaches recently who were more concerned about “getting through their play list/script” in the allotted time rather than making sure that the plays they DO run are run correctly.

I heard a coach bragging the other day that “we get through 80 plays in a 90 minute practice!” Wow… good for you. However, how many of those plays are run correctly? The colleges (and pro’s) have time for meetings and a chance to correct mistakes after practice is over. I don’t know many high school programs that have that luxury. Most kids are not going to look at Hudl unless you sit down with them.

Of course, those who disagree with me would say, “Lew, you don’t get to run enough plays in practice. It will hurt you in games.” My response is: We averaged over 80% wins in my 31 years as a head coach. We averaged almost 40 points a game and over 350 yards of offense per game over that period of time. I submit that focusing on efficiency rather than how many reps you can get in is a more effective way to practice your offense.

Like my granddaughter says to me, “Just sayin’!!!”

Roll Tide!

Posted by admin January - 9 - 2018 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

We got a “ton” of snow last week… 10 inches!! For the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Tidewater area of Virginia, that is a “ton!” I was so bored that by Saturday, I actually watched (some of it) a little NFL. I figured the play-off’s would be a good time to see what I’d been missing. Come on, man!!! Boring! Give me college football anytime! and… that anytime was last night! WOW!!! What a game!! I like both teams; both programs and both coaches… so I just wanted to see a good game. The Bulldogs and Tide did not disappoint. It was entertaining and educational. Studying the strategies employed by the coaches always intrigues me. Saban and Smart both managed great game plans.

Here are some things that I saw that any coach can file away to use with his own team some day:

1) The Alabama players (the front-line starters anyway… cuz #48 needs to spend some time running stadium steps at 6 in the morning for a few weeks! Awful display and an embarrassment to the Crimson Tide program) just kept hammering! I shared a couple of years back on this blog site The Legend of the Stonecutter. It was tagged to Stephon Curry of the GS Warriors. It stresses the importance of persistence. Never give up and never give in! That was how Bama played.

How do you teach this to your players? It’d be nice if high school athletes just came to us with perseverance as one of their chief character traits. Unfortunately, in this day and age of instant gratification, it’s hard to find. My suggestion would be that you just keep repeating (many times!) stories of people who’ve overcome adversity by sticking to their goal. There are some exercises/activities that I’ve done (which are too detailed to type up here… write me if you want the ideas!) that help but it is just too important to just ignore. How many times has your team fallen behind in a game and basically “cashed in their chips.” They just stop playing hard! We need to find a way to teach/coach our players to have a “never say die” attitude.

HINT: Think Facing the Giants movie scene!!! Have you seen it?

2) Coach Woody Hayes of Ohio State had a statement that is soooooooooo good. He said, “Don’t attack walled cities!” (Another plug for all of you to study military strategy and tactics!)

I said that I like both programs because both coaches build their offense around a power running game. That’s MY style of offensive football. However, Georgia realized it early (first 7 plays were all passes) and Saban realized it by the end of the first half. You’ve heard it said: “There are 3 things that can happen when you throw the ball… and ALL of them are bad!” Not true… you Negative Nelson’s out there. There are 4 things that can happen. The 4th is: you throw a long pass on 2nd and 23 and it not only goes for a 42 yard TD but, it wins the National Championship for you!!! Every team needs to be able to throw the ball efficiently.

You only need a limited package of pass plays but you need to work on them so when needed, you can be confident in your QB and receivers being able to complete them.

3) Don’t be afraid to make the “big change” when things aren’t going right. Alabama limped off the field dazed and frustrated at half time. I will give credit to God’s Holy Spirit for this one! but… I sensed in my spirit that, “If Bama is going to win, Nick knows he’s going to have to change QB’s.” And as the first series of the 3rd quarter began, here came Tua!!

Persistence is important. I already established that. However, the flip side of that is Woody’s point of “don’t beat your head against a brick wall.” The only thing that’s going to crack is your skull. Fortunately, Saban had a 5 star QB waiting in the wings. But no amount of physical ability could help a true freshman step onto that stage and perform like he did unless there was mental and spiritual strength involved too!!!

I loved Tua’s statement after the game: “ALL the praise goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
Tua’s spiritual maturity obviously spilled over into this young man’s mental maturity. Even taking that bad sack just before The Bomb didn’t seem to phase him. He got right back up and went to his 3rd read (on the other side of the field!) for the game-winner.

My point is: sometimes you just HAVE to change. This was a calculated risk taken by Saban and his staff. But, it was the “wake up call” that the Tide needed.
Do you need to shift around your coaching staff? Do you need to dismiss a coach? Do you need to take a look at a new player at QB in your program? Do you need to tweak your offense? Do you need to be more demanding of your players and their work habits? Are you afraid to change because some kids might quit? Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk and change some things about your program if you recognize that “change” is the only fix.

Reflections on the Bowl Games

Posted by admin January - 2 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I confess it: I am a COLLEGE football junkie!!! and… when bowl season hits, you can usually find me in my recliner in front of the tv watching (even) Podunk U. vs. Left Out State in the “You Couldn’t Find My Location” Bowl!!! I get to see teams with reasonably good seasons take on another team that they would never play during the regular season. It’s just plain fun!

Admittedly, I do watch most of them from the “eyes of a Coach.” I study alignments; watch for trick plays and just want to see how a run-only team, like Army, matches up against a fast-paced bunch like San Diego State was. One thing I found: those high-powered spread pass attacks didn’t fare as well against opponents who 1) ran the ball and controlled the clock and 2) had 2-3 weeks to prepare for them and 3) had just as many good athletes on defense as the Spread Guys had on offense!

Two teams in particular stood out to me and I want to share some bits of wisdom to coaches out there— things that might help shape (or RE-shape) your philosophy about your team as you prepare for 2018. Those 2 teams are: the aforementioned Army team and… U. of Georgia.

Army: I am proud to say that one of Army’s starting LB’s is one of my former players! #54 did a heck of a job for them all season. However, they had NO answer for that great RB from SDSU! Welllllllllllll…. their defense had no answer; but, Coach Monkin and his staff DID have an answer: keep him and SDSU’s offense on the sideline!!! Army’s offense (to borrow an old B-ball term) “took the air out of the ball.” Actually, what they did was play “Keep Away!” Their players are disciplined… mentally and physically. In a game like the bowl the other night, their mental discipline carried the day. What do I mean? A gain of 2-3 yards is a win!!! 4-6 yards is a bonus!!! They were determined to just grind it out; keep the ball and finish drives. THAT takes a lot of discipline! But… it worked! You should think about that if you are looking at your team for next year and saying to yourself, “We’re going to be the underdogs in 8-9 of our games!” Maybe developing a strong ground game where you can control the clock for big chunks of time is what you need to be looking at!!!

U. of Georgia: Things weren’t looking too good in the first half— particularly on defense! Mayfield was lighting it up! Everything you drool over with the Spread Air Raid offense was on display. Georgia’s run game was working but they just weren’t “keeping up” with OK’s high octane offense! Until……….. just before the half. OK made their first of TWO horrendous Special Teams errors. That poorly executed squib kick allowed UGa to get a field goal just before half. It had to have breathed a little life into the Bulldogs.

The 2nd half was a huge turn around. UGa’s ground game kept pounding the OK defense for big chunks, but UGa’s defense, all of a sudden, was starting to make plays. Mayfield got sacked a couple of times. Give credit to the guys up front for getting to the QB but… why didn’t he catch, set and fire (on time) like he’d been doing in the first half??? Cuz UGa’s secondary was getting much better coverage! Why? Cuz they started playing zone!

There were so many KEY plays but, in my mind, the ONE that lost it for OK was the (partially) blocked FG! Did you study it? I saw it… did YOU??!!! It got blocked because the right end for OK stepped OUTSIDE to block his gap instead of stepping down— right where #7 slipped through to get a hand up!!! Who in the world teaches their PAT/FG team to do anything but: “Block your INSIDE gap… and don’t allow any penetration!!!” What a horrible mistake! It cost OK a shot at the national championship!

Moral of the story: Work on the LITTLE things! One guy not doing his job on a specialty team can cost you everything!!!

Alabama or Georgia? It should be interesting! However… I’m looking forward even more to JMU and ND St. U on Saturday!!! It will be just as much fun as watching the Dawgs and the Tide!!!

A “4th Quarter” Team

Posted by admin December - 27 - 2017 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

You see a lot of college teams on TV raising the “4 fingers” when it’s time for the 4th quarter to begin. Obviously, their coaching staff has tried to assimilate in the players’ minds that you need to play a grrrrrrrrreat 4th quarter to win the game. I can’t argue with that rationale. One of the team goals I always included in our season goal chart was to: Win (at least) 1 game in the 4th quarter! There’s nothing like a come-from-behind win late in the game to give your team a tremendous confidence boost. However, I want to suggest that being a great 3rd Quarter team may be just as important! Let me explain.

When I began to realize (by analyzing our games) that we were winning at half time in a LOT of games… only to come up short on the final score, I started looking at our quarter by quarter scoring vs. our opponents’ scoring by quarter. I was amazed at how many games we were out-scored in the 3rd quarter. We’d come out “flat” to begin the 2nd half and immediately dig a hole for ourselves. Big Mo switched over and we were fighting an “uphill battle” the rest of the game. We needed a way to shake up our players to get them mentally and physically ready to “turn it on” as soon as the 3rd quarter began. Our solution was a bit radical but… it worked! Here’s what we did:

We’d come out and do our regular half-time warm up routine. We were very organized and everybody did the routine together in our end zone. When our 3 minutes of stretching was over I had all of the players turn toward me at the 5 yard line and I would yell, “Get ’em choppin’!!!” Everybody knew what that meant… it was time for some up/downs; grass drills; or wake-up’s… is what we called them— cuz we wanted to “wake them up!” Get the adrenaline flowing and get ready to go on the attack again the moment the 3rd quarter started! We didn’t do many wake-up’s— maybe 3 or 4 — and I let them chop for 5 seconds or more between dropping them. But, it gave us a tremendous psychological advantage. Let me explain…

One game as we were warming up in our end zone, our opponent came walking from their locker room across the field behind the end zone. I blew the whistle and got our guys hitting the ground and bouncing up as the other team watched us from 10 yards away. I could see their players pointing and gawking! It was pretty easy to read their minds: “Oh my gosh! Those guys are doing up/downs at halftime! They’re going to smash us in the 2nd half!!” And, yes! We usually did!!!

During my last season before I retired, we played a school that was much larger than us— and was a large-school state finalist the previous year — in an early season game. We didn’t play well. We got out-hit and we got out-HUSTLED!!! I can take a lot of things but, my teams are NEVER going to get out-hustled! I told the staff over the weekend that being out-hustled was totally unacceptable. Plus, I just didn’t think we were in good-enough shape yet either! Mulling things over, I came up with this idea which we started the following Monday at the conclusion of practice. I called it: “3 Minutes in Paradise!!!” Some of you may remember the hit song from the 70’s by Eddie Money entitled, “I’ve Got 2 Tickets to Paradise.” Our coaches would start singing, “We’ve Got 3 Minutes in Paradise” as the kids circled up.

We’d get the team in a big circle with 2-arm length width between them. I’d start the stop watch and they’d start choppin’ as I blew the whistle. At first, I just blew the whistle and they’d hit the ground and bounce up. We’d go for 60 seconds and then they had to run in place for 15 seconds. 1 minute of their 3 minutes was complete. Then (I’ll chalk it up to my diabolical mind!!!) it occurred to me: why should I be the “bad guy?”!!” I don’t have to be the one to make them work. I’ll call out one of the players and let him lead the team in their 60 seconds of wake ups! Let HIM be the “bad guy!!!” ha ha! So I yelled for “Cole” to come into the middle of the circle. He runs into the middle and on my whistle, “Cole” is now in charge for the next 60 seconds. He can put them on the ground as much as he wants in that 60 seconds. When the time is up, I blew the whistle and he returns to the circle while everyone else continues to run in place. 15 to 20 seconds of chopping and you call the next guy to come to the middle and away you go again.

Who you choose is important! One of the 3 (remember there are 3 60 second periods) leaders should be your team leader who is also the hardest worker and in the best shape! Let him put the team through their paces. He can go as fast as he wants and get as many reps as he wants! Then the other 2 you pick can be anyone you want… even the heavyweight who does about half of the wake ups when he’s “hiding” in the circle. Bring him into the middle and see what he does when he has to SET THE TONE! The last guy can be someone who works hard but doesn’t get much recognition. Let him get in the middle and lead the team.

It occurred to me that you could “massage” this activity in a number of different ways. If you’re emphasizing how important it is to come out ready to go in the 3rd quarter, let them take a “half-time break.” Stop running in place and let them take a knee for 30 seconds to a minute. You are simulating half time. Get them up; get ’em choppin’ and call your next leader out. You could incorporate 4 wake-up periods if you want to get them mentally focused on going hard for ALL 4 quarters. *THAT would be “4 Minutes in Paradise!” You could decrease the up/down period for each “minute in paradise” — say, 45 seconds the second period; 30 seconds the third and 15 seconds for the 4th. THAT would be when I’d call out your player who is going to get them going so fast that at the end of 15 seconds, they’re totally gassed!

Oh yes… when you blow the last whistle to end it and then blow the whistle again to call everyone to come up on you, they better RUN to you!!! If someone walks or even just jogs— back they go!! Circle up and do 10 seconds more of wake up’s. This time I would be the “bad guy” and make them do their “Hustle Period” because it wasn’t important enough for them to hustle over and get to your head coach so they could hear what he has to say! Build in that hustle mentality.

This drill builds physical and mental toughness. Try it! You’ll like it!!!

Happy New Year!!

“Give Them What They Want???!!!”

Posted by admin December - 19 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

An interesting trend has been occurring in high school football around here (Tidewater Virginia) for the last few years that I would say is one of the most troubling things to happen to high school football in… welllllllllllllll… forever! It’s the trend of players transferring schools because “the grass is greener on the other side!” How do you put a stop to this? I don’t know if you can totally shut it down… cuz there are always going to be parents who think they know more than coaches and “the best thing for Little Johnny” is to transfer to that “big name school” so he can get the recognition he deserves! and… that scholarship offer that he’d never get at your school!

How do you deal with this… without succumbing to my tongue-in-cheek title? Cuz… IF you “give them everything they WANT”… you’re just making it worse! The answer lies in something I heard Lou Holtz share in a speech years ago. I assimilated Coach Holtz’s strategy into my relationship with my players. It worked! Holtz says, “Show them that YOU are going to help them achieve what they want and you’ll have their loyalty.”

Notice it didn’t say anything about “giving them” anything. Coach Holtz merely pointed out an effective use of tapping into human nature to help you as the coach get what YOU want— your athletes staying with your program and NOT transferring somewhere else. Let’s explore this concept a little more.

If you are not having individual meetings with your veterans in the off-season, you need to start! You should talk about the previous season and do some goal-planning for the upcoming season. Note: This should include his OFF-season goals! Once you see what his goals are, you have the means of determining how you can show him that you are here to help him achieve those goals. It’s all about two things: clarifying what the individual steps are to achieving his goals and pointing out to him how YOU are going to be there every step of the way to help him achieve them! Once he knows that you are “in his corner” and will support and encourage him every step of the way, it’s a lot harder to be disloyal and thing about transferring.

“Little Things” Can Make a BIG Difference!

Posted by admin December - 12 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A devotion from Pastor Bob Gass reminded me how important “small things” are…

In the Bible in Judges: Chapter 7, God gave Gideon a huge victory over their enemy, the Midianites. The crazy thing about this victory is that God had Gideon command an army of only 300 that defeated an enemy that had hundreds of thousands soldiers! It wasn’t because there weren’t more soldiers available for Gideon’s army; it was because God wanted to demonstrate HIS power in (get this) “the day of small things.”

One day Jesus fed 5000+ people with just a few fish and loaves of bread! Small things (amounts) can go a long way if you have the right perspective on success.

The KEY here is… are you asking God to make you BIGGER or BETTER??? If you’re working hard to make yourself “bigger” instead of “better” then you may end up disappointed. If you’re a praying man, all the prayers you could possibly pray to God, in Jesus’ Name, won’t persuade God to give you what you are not ready to handle. I know! cuz… I thought I could “talk God into” blessing us with championship after championship when I first became a head coach in 1985. It took 12 years of “sanding off the rough spots” in my character and personality before God opened up the flood gates and said: “NOW, you’re ready, Lew!” From ’97 to 2015, we won 9 different championships. I had to mature, seeking Holy Spirit’s help and guidance, before God saw that I could handle all that success. I am forever grateful!

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.”

As Pastor Gass states, “Your drive to be bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night and stop you from enjoying the blessings that God has already given you. Better may be harder to measure and not as glamorous, but the inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting.”

Let that roll around in your head for awhile and see if it doesn’t give you a new perspective!

Are You a “Sheep Dog” or a “Blood Hound?”

Posted by admin December - 5 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Do you enjoy reading books on leadership? I hope so! If you want to improve any skill, you must educate yourself. The question came up the other day about what characteristics are found in a great leader. Volumes have been written and speakers have made millions passing along their ideas about this subject. When pondering it myself last night, I guess my mind was in “allegorical” mode… cuz this is what the Lord impressed upon me:

As a leader… are you a “Sheep Dog” or are you a “Blood Hound???!!!”

Have you ever watched a collie or Australian shepherd work a herd? It is amazing. Obviously, some of it is instinctive but a shepherd must train his dog to obey his commands and know when to step in and when to sit. A sheep dog is constantly on the alert for predators and some are even trained to attack. Their primary job, though, is to “herd.” Our son and daughter-in-law have an Australian shepherd. Even with no training, that dog will get in the back yard and “herd” their other two dogs around the yard! “Yipping and nipping” I call it! Particularly with the younger dog. He stays right on his heels barking and nipping at his hind feet to “herd” that dog around the yard.

It would be comical if you didn’t realize that what their shepherd is doing is just what a good leader must do for his team/organization: keeping the herd moving in the right direction! THAT’S what a strong leader does: keeps his crew focused… on task… and moving in the right direction. Sometimes he has to shout encouragement (“yipping”) and sometimes he must push and prod (“nipping”). Knowing how and when and who to do each with is part of the maturation process any good leader must go through.

In other words, a sheep dog is out front and alert to what’s going on within the group while also being aware of external circumstances (predators) which may adversely affect his “herd.” Sheep dogs possess boundless energy. A sheep dog is vigilant and protecting of his herd. All are qualities that a great leader needs to emulate.

A “Blood Hound”, on the other hand, waits until he is called into action before he starts on the trail of a missing person. He is well-trained and obedient but… he does not show much initiative. He has to be pointed in the right direction before he picks up the scent of whoever he is looking for. This is the problem with too many leaders— they wait instead of initiate! A blood hound is so focused on the task at hand that he does not “see” what’s going on around him. Chaos could be breaking out all around him but… he’s got his nose on the trail. Yes, a blood hound performs a valuable service but… he doesn’t possess the characteristics that would make him a good leader.

My advice: watch a sheep dog in action. See how many “sheep dog” traits you possess. You’ll find that your leadership skills will definitely improve!