Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Respect or Like?

Posted by admin October - 18 - 2018 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

I got into a discussion with another coach the other day. We were talking about how a coach motivates his players. My point was that it’s not a short-term thing. That, for instance, a pregame pep talk is not what I would call motivation cuz the effects are short-lived. Motivation is, I believe, creating a mind-set in one’s players’ minds where there is a long-term effect on their behavior. This is only accomplished when the HC creates a culture that focuses on discipline, accountability and respect.

Discipline: just another term for self control; i.e., the ability to regulate one’s own emotions, thoughts and behavior. This self control must be instilled by others; it doesn’t come naturally. A coach has to demand discipline from his players and coaches. And, he must demand it on a consistent basis. You set standards and then you have to uphold them. When I coached, we had a firm and fast rule that there would be no cursing on the part of coaches and/or players. If a player was overheard using a cuss word, a coach would tell him to “drop and give me 15.” 15 push ups for an Unsportsmanlike penalty. I’ve seen other coaches attempt to instill the same requirement on their team. However, if its ignored and no punishment (control over the bad behavior) is consistently handed out, the cursing continues!

Accountability: This is a “cousin” to discipline. Its relationship is exemplified in my No Cussing example above. Players (and coaches) have to be held accountable for their actions. Where it becomes really effective is when the players “buy in” and they too are now holding their teammates accountable. I heard of a local player who transferred to a different school this past summer. The reason he left the school (a successful program, by the way) was because this player refused to work hard in the off season weight program. The veterans wouldn’t stand for it and gave him a hard time about his laziness. This is accountability.

Respect: The discussion that I led off this post with morphed into HOW does a coach “change the culture.” My main point was that players must respect the coach and the coach must respect his players. And… there is a HUGE difference between respecting and liking!!! An insecure coach is going to try to win over his players by getting them to like him. It probably means that there’s little discipline and accountability in that program. What a coach needs to strive for is respect. That is attained by being trustworthy. What the coach says, he does. You can care about your players (and you should); but caring also entails holding players to a high standard — on and off the field!

I had a group of players approach me during a break between practices one year. I could tell that they had something on their minds and were a bit reluctant to say what they wanted to say. I smiled to get them to relax and jokingly said, “hummmmmm… I can tell by the looks on your faces that this must be serious!” That broke the tension. One of the veterans then said, “Coach J, the guys and I were talking and we have a question for you.” “OK,” I replied, “Fire away.” The player said, “We’re just wondering how you’re able to be so tough on us and be so focused during practice but when we’re off the field, you’re happy and joke around with us.” I was flattered. I knew right then that I was being transparent. Our players saw me for who I am. When it’s time to work, I’m all business. When work time is over, I enjoy relaxing and having fun.” I think that this is the attitude you need to present to kids.

We are role models as coaches. We’re going to have an impact on our players whether we want to or not. It should be a positive impact!

“I’ve Drunk the Koolaid!!!”

Posted by admin October - 10 - 2018 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

The more college football games that I watch, the more I see the influence that Gus Malzahn and his Delaware Wing T roots have on Offensive Coordinators. I watched my Hokies of Virginia Tech get their “backs broken” by Notre Dame the other night when ND broke a 97 yard run vs. the vaunted Bud Foster defense. Guess what the play was? Buck Sweep left!!! The TB took the ball, started left… stuck his foot in the ground and made that 90 degree cut behind the back-side pulling Guard and went 97 yards UN-touched! It was classic Malzahn “Spread Shotgun Wing T!”

Our offense was always built around a powerful running game. I learned this from my former HC, Lou Holtz. You can throw it around all you want but… when it comes to crunch time, you better have an effective ground game or your chances of winning decrease significantly! We also ran most of our Wing T offense out of the base under-center Delaware formations (100/900 and Red/Blue.) It was effective for us because we mixed in some of the Spread Shotgun Wing T. What I’m realizing is that: even in the 3 years since I retired from coaching, the game (even on the high school level) has evolved. All you see anymore is “spread” offenses. I was opposed to this until I visited practice at my local high school where I used to coach.

They’ve been struggling. The HC is a Double Wing/Wing T guy from way back. The offense was just not clicking. Two weeks ago, he turned over the reigns to one of his assistants and the guy installed the “Spread.” Watching practice yesterday, I saw an energy that was missing a month ago. The kids were running around and everyone was having fun playing up-tempo. Four and 5 wide-outs with motion and shifts. I said to myself, “THIS is what kids like to play these days.” It’s what they see on tv; it’s what they play on their football video games.

My title this week is indicative of the feeling I left the practice field with yesterday: “It’s time to convert! It’s time that I start promoting the Spread version of the Wing T.”

When you can still run multiple formations with lots of shifting and motion, you’re utilizing the principles of Delaware Wing T football. When you can still run buck sweep; trap and waggle/bootleg, you’re utilizing Wing T base plays. One of the beauties of Malzahn’s concepts is having both zone/reach blocking and power/down blocking as integral parts of his run game. Defensive linemen today are so well-coached in “beating the zone/reach” block that when O linemen block down, it looks like the D lineman needs to move with him. That plays right into the down blocking scheme!

Then you add play action passes and a “bombs away” attitude with your drop back game (4 verticals), you have an offense that creates all kinds of problems for DC’s!

I’ve been won over! Yes, I have drunk the koolaid. I’m still a Wing T guy but, I’m sold on the effectiveness of the Spread concepts!

Make-up Games

Posted by admin September - 17 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

As most of you know, the area south of us in North Carolina and South Carolina is under water from the rain of hurricane Florence. In Tidewater Virginia, though, we escaped the fury of the storm… THIS time! However, all of the games were canceled last Friday. Now everyone is scrambling to re-boot their schedules. It kinda reminds me of the time I was stuck in the Atlanta airport when a thunder storm swept through. Once the airlines started rescheduling flights, it was a mess! The same thing is happening here— not just this week, but for the next 2 weeks.

Some teams are making up Friday’s game tonight; others tomorrow; some on Wednesday. That will affect the regularly schedule games for this coming Friday. And when you reschedule that one, it affects the ones for next week too! We’ll leave all that to the AD’s; but, I might add… you, as the HC, should be allowed some say so in how your schedule is reset. Be proactive and go speak to your AD and/or principal and let them know what your feelings are before they make a final decision. You have a stake in this thing and your voice should be heard.

What I want to share with you is HOW you prepare for those “short” weeks… when you have multiple games to prepare for. The first rule is: take 1 game at a time! Stay focused on your current opponent as you practice with your players. However, there’s nothing wrong with getting a head start with scouting your next opponent. Request Hudl video now… and start breaking it down. You do all of this while you tell your players that: “YOU have one focus! Get ready to play the best game you can play THIS game.”

Setting up a practice schedule can become a problem too. You have to decide a couple of things: 1- which drill periods you’re going to reduce in time or… eliminate altogether. 2- Which “day” do you eliminate? That is, delete your “Fundies Day” (typically Monday for the teams that I coached) or not have your “Run Through/Pregame” practice. I think it is important to keep things as similar to a normal practice week as you can.

The normal weekly practice schedule for the teams that I led went like this: Monday: Fundies (both sides) and Introduce the Scouting Report. Tuesday: Big O Day. Focus on Offense with a 20-25 minute period for Team Defense. Wednesday: flip the script and make it Big D Day… with a 20-25 minute Team Offense period. *NOTE: We practiced Special Teams every day! Then Thursday was: “Play A Game” Day. This was our Dress Rehearsal. I talk about this at length in my book, 101 Little Things. Check it out!

So… let’s say your play on Monday and your next game is Friday! You have 3 days to get ready. The first thing I’m deleting is “Thursday.” I make sure that I point out to the players on Tuesday that we will a) keep to our normal schedule as much as possible then b) we will not have our regular “Dress Rehearsal” on Thursday this week. Remind them on Wednesday too.

The other issue is how much contact do you put your players through when there’s a short week. If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you know that I’m not an advocate for much body-on-body “full” contact during the week anyway. However, rarely did we ever go out in anything less that full gear. Why? For protection. All it takes is for one Scout Team player to slip and nail your star RB in the thigh with his shoulder pad… and your star is now injured going into the game! (Yes… it happened to me more than once! You’d think I would’ve learned.) The only time we didn’t go out in full pads were weeks where we had an extra day of practice— playing on a Saturday instead of Friday night. But, that’s a different topic!

My “5 P’s of Success” come into play sooooooooo often! You’ve got to get your team properly prepared. That means having a plan for the whole week before practice starts the first day! Organization is the bed rock of preparation.

“Learned Laziness”

Posted by admin September - 10 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I had an epiphany last week on the practice field at the local high school that I’ve been helping with this season. My role was supposed to have been as a “consultant” to the head coach. What this basically means is that I make recommendations and he makes decisions. It has been a very good relationship. However, because of this close relationship, the (paid) assistant coaches were being ignored. This became clear to me last week.

We were in the middle of offensive 7 on 7 while the O line was at the other end working on pass protection. The HC is also the O line coach so he was 50 yards away. I was the one running the 7 on 7 drills. (Remember… I’m only a consultant.) At one point during the drill, I sensed God’s Holy Spirit nudging me to “take a look around.” What I saw was very disturbing. The assistant coaches were basically gathered on the sideline talking among themselves. It was a real wake up call for me.

Later that evening I called the HC and told him what I had observed and… to let him know that I would not be attending practices anymore. At least for a couple of weeks. My desire to “get to work” and keep practice moving had caused me to over-step my level of responsibility. As my wife told me later that evening when I explained the situation, “It sounds to me like you’re a Coach— NOT a Consultant!” She was right. So, I explained to the HC that he was going to have to shake up his staff and get them out on the field and coaching. They do a great job during Individual period. They’re good, young coaches. By removing myself from the practice field, they are going to have to step up and step in and contribute a lot more during Group and Team periods. What I had taught them was what psychologists call learned laziness! They could step back and do nothing because “Ole Coach J” was going to run the show for them.

The HC has had to speak up several times during subsequent practices to get the assistants to get out of their comfort zone and continue to coach/teach/encourage/correct throughout the entire practice. Why does he have to do this more than once? Because a habit had been formed. One does not break a habit with one try. He will probably have to speak up numerous times throughout the next few weeks until it “clicks” in the minds of the assistants that… “Coach J is not around to step in and do my job. I need to get busy.”

It is imperative that a HC understand that he has to “coach the coaches” before he ever thinks about coaching the players. I learned this from one of my coaching mentors. Get your staff organized and make sure that they are clear about the expectations that you, as HC, have for them. If they are not meeting those expectations, you will need to remind them during practice. If a coach continues to fall below the level of your expectations, then a private meeting is in order. If that does not change things, it may be time to plan on letting that coach go and find someone else who wants to work!

This should occur during the off-season. Monthly staff meetings need to include a period where your expectations are stated, then discussed. But, unless the HC is disciplined enough to stay on his staff once practice begins… there are going to be people who will always look to take the easy way out. The HC is responsible for his assistants. He is the one who has to lead the team. And that “team” includes the coaching staff.

Meeting with Parents

Posted by admin September - 6 - 2018 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

One of the big issues that coaches have to deal with is parent conferences. It is important to have a policy in place as to how/where/when you will meet with parents and then… communicate it. I have recently seen some HC’s “jumped” by irate dads after a game— right on the field! This should not happen. There is a way to control this situation but you have to be proactive.
Most every coach has a preseason parent meeting these days. It is important to present your guidelines for how you’re going to conduct your program. If you need a format, check my book. My Player/Parent Policy Sheet is listed in there. Anything from how you will deal with injured players attending practice to how a player letters should be covered. But, let’s focus on parent meetings.

It is important to keep an open door policy when it comes to dealing with parents. You need to let them that you want to help them; that their son’s well-being is important to you. Once you establish this, you must also let them know that if they want to meet that there is a time and place to do it.

You will not meet after a game or practice. Your mind is on other things and you can’t focus on their concern. After a game is also an emotional time and it’s best not to discuss things of a personal nature then. This is all in the spirit of wanting to help. So ask for their cooperation. Then…. if you are “jumped” after a game, for example, you can say, “Mr. Jones. According to our team policies, which I know you are aware of, I will not hold conferences with parents after games. If you would like to talk with me about your son, please call the school on Monday morning. We can talk when I can get to a phone or you can make an appointment to come in. Thank you. I’ve got to get into the locker room now.” And… WALK AWAY! Don’t get drawn into a heated situation where you may say something that you will regret later.

If you don’t have a stated policy about parent meetings. then tell the parent that this is not a good time to talk. “Sir, please call and make an appointment on Monday.” And, again… walk away.

OK… so they make an appointment the right way and you’re there in your office. How do you conduct yourself? There are 2 guidelines that you need to enforce: 1- we will discuss this calmly and 2- you will not discuss another player with these parents.

1- Things can get out of hand quickly if you allow the parent to become emotional. A raised voice or cursing are warning signs that emotions are getting high. You MUST remember that you are in charge of this meeting and you set the ground rules! If things get out of hand, you can give ONE warning. After that, the meeting ends and you ask them to leave. Do NOT meet with parents when you are alone. Have an assistant coach sitting outside or if you’re in school, know that there’s someone available if you call for support.

2- Parents are usually upset with a) the amount of playing time/starting their son is getting (or not getting!) or b) why is Johnny Jones playing and my son isn’t?! That’s where you draw the line. Again, firmly but politely, you state, “Mr. Smith, I do not discuss other parent’s children with you. You would not want me to do that with another player’s parents… so I am will not discuss it here.”

What you can tell the parents is what their son can do to improve his chances of getting more playing time. Share with them specific things that he needs to work on. There’s nothing wrong with saying that. Try to keep it in a positive vein.

I always tried to be positive but honest. Most parents have an overblown view of their son’s talent level. I would tell them something like, “Yes, your son has the potential to play college football. In my opinion, though, I don’t think you can expect a Power 5 conference school to offer him a scholarship. If he wants to play Div. 2 or 3, I can contact coaches on his behalf and see where that goes.”

You’re going to occasionally get that dad who played a little high school ball and has coached Rec League… and he listens to sports talk radio, so he knows a LOT more than you do about coaching football. I would sit there and listen but would conclude by reminding them that “the principal hired ME to coach this football team. I appreciate your input but I need you to understand that I am the coach and you are the parents. Please encourage your son to work hard and have a great attitude. Those are important attributes that we can work on together.” I don’t agree nor do I disagree. I thank them for their time and tell them that I have another appointment. The meeting is concluded.

The KEY here is: you are in charge and you have to control things… including your own temper! Be cooperative; be understanding but… don’t be a push-over.

Story-telling

Posted by admin August - 29 - 2018 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I remember once hearing a pastor say that people love to hear stories. They relate to stories. We’ve had stories told to us since we were little kids. Jesus was the greatest story-teller who ever lived! If you’ve ever read any of the four Gospels in the New Testament, you know that they are full of stories that Jesus told…. to illustrate a key point. You as a coach should try to do the same thing!

This came up last week when one of my former assistants called to tell me that I need to write a new book… loaded with the stories I used to tell the team. He’s young and he wanted a resource to go to to find an appropriate story to share with his players when he needed to illustrate a point to them. This request made me realize what an impact my “stories” had— that a new head coach would want to tap into the same source to motivate and challenge his kids.

My best resource for stories has been “longevity.” I like to listen to podcasts and I like to read. So, I am exposed to a lot of different ideas. Listening to many different pastors’ sermons has helped me form a library of stories. A book on “Sermon Illustrations” has been one of the best resources I have found. Obviously, you can find anything on the internet today. Just search “story-telling!”

Why are stories so impactful? I think it’s because people can easily relate to them. We like to hear things that touch us emotionally. I like stories with a surprise ending. One of the best assistant coaches I ever had used to tell me that “you want to create a paradigm shift in peoples’ mind.” A twist at the end of a story causes people to think. That means that you have captured them intellectually as well as emotionally. For me, if it can include something from the Bible, then you have touched all 3 aspects of our being: emotions, intellect and spirit.

Finally, be an effective story teller if you’re going to use them. I understand that there are professional story-tellers out there today! You can hire them to read to the children at a birthday party. The best story-teller I’ve ever heard is my wife! She does such a great job with our grandkids. Her voice inflection; her change of modulation; her use of different voices for different characters in the book she’s reading to our 3-year-old granddaughter is literally captivating! This comes from 34 years as a 1st grade teacher, I suppose. She’s just really good at getting, and keeping, your attention. You need to do the same thing if you’re going to tell a story. Make your presentation full of enthusiasm. And… practice in front of a mirror before you present it to your team!

Head Coach: Active or Passive?

Posted by admin August - 24 - 2018 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

I have talked to several HS coaches this summer who’ve told me that they have adopted the “college model” for their staffs. They have hired an OC and a DC to run their respective sides of the ball and… call the plays on game night. In most instances, I think this is a mistake.

On most HS staffs, the HC is the most experienced and the most knowledgeable coach on the staff. Yet, he is turning over the responsibility of running his team to a less-experienced/less-knowledgeable coach. The most fun I had as a coach was 1- preparing my team for the game (developing that game plan) and then 2- going head to head with that DC on the other side of the field! I loved the competition; I loved the chess match that unfolded during a game.

I was always my own OC… for 30 seasons. There were times that I took a more active interest in our defense— even a couple of times that I had to step in and call the defense. But, hiring a qualified DC was always my first order of business. I wanted a coach whom I could count on to handle the defense for me. Honestly, I would’ve been bored if I’d have just stood around on Friday nights with nothing to do. The same went for practice.

One season, I tried not coaching a position. I would wander around the practice field observing, correcting and exhorting players and coaches while they worked and I watched. Can you spell BORING with me! I got into coaching because I like to coach!!! There are few things more gratifying than showing a player how to do something correctly and then he goes out the next play and does exactly what you showed him to do! I made changes at mid-season.

I have advised coaches even into the regular season to makes changes in their staff’s responsibilities if things weren’t going well. If you as a HC are dissatisfied with the job that a Coordinator is doing, call him in and have a 1 on 1 conference. Tell him a) what he’s doing wrong and b) what he needs to do to rectify the situation. If things still don’t change, perhaps it’s time to make a move. It might mean that YOU, as HC, take on a greater role but… that’s why you make the big money!!!

Mental Toughness

Posted by admin August - 13 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

If you have not seen (I think it’s called) Rollin’ With The Tide on ESPN, you need to check it out! It’s an inside look at the Alabama football program… particularly focusing on Nick Saban. I watched part of it (is there more than 1 episode?) the other night and was verrrrrrry impressed! It was the day that the ‘Bama players reported. I focused on the initial team meeting as Saban welcomed the 2018 players. What he shared was so good! I want to paraphrase what he said cuz I think it’s important for coaches to know.

I am pretty sure that no other coaches were in the room— I didn’t see any! Just Saban and the players. Welllllll… one guy over on the audio/visual machine. They were sitting up straight in their seats and nobody was wearing a hat. Of course, all of these “little things” have been established over the years of success they’ve had; but, it had to start somewhere. Most people don’t remember that Saban’s first year at ‘Bama was not too good. They even lost to a 1-AA team! Things turned around quickly, though.

He welcomed the players and let them know right off the bat that they have a “target on their backs.” Everyone is chasing them. It’s going to require that they continue to work hard to stay on top. Then the first KEY point.

Saban pointed out how opposing schools have hired away a number of the “leaders of his program” to try and figure out what ‘Bama does. However, Saban pointed out that it’s more important HOW they do things… not, what they do! That’s a point that you have to ask yourself when you look at your program, too! HOW do you do things? In the off-season weight program? In your preseason practices? On game night? It’s all part of what Saban calls The Process!

Then, he asks them a very powerful question! He said, “What does it take to break you?!” and added, “What does it take to make you give in?! Is it too hot? Are you too tired? Is it when you don’t feel like working hard? What does it take?!” What Saban then defined is one of those “unanswerable questions” that I’ve been trying to answer for years! Coach said, “What we are talking about here is MENTAL TOUGHNESS!!!”

“You’ve got to have a LOT of mental toughness to sustain what we do here at Alabama as such a high level.”

“It’s not our goal to try to break you! It’s just the way it IS in football.” THAT was the second key. I see some coaches today (not as many as in the past… thank goodness!) who have decided that Lombardi’s Way or Bear Bryant’s Junction Boys (if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you need to check it out!) is the way to treat players. Break them down… then build them back up. It seems that a couple of prominent college coaches thought that this is the way to “build up” their players! Look what that’s gotten them? Lots of trouble— legal type!

There’s that line between mental toughness and physical toughness that you have to realize that there IS a difference! If a young high school boy hasn’t shown that he likes (or at least doesn’t mind) contact/collisions on the football field, I think it’s too late to try to instill that physical toughness in him. That should’ve been determined when he was in Youth League or Middle School. I just don’t believe you’re going to get a HS kid to start “liking” contact by putting him through a lot of full contact drills; ie., Bull in the Ring; Oklahoma; etc!

I am a strong advocate for developing mental toughness. This comes about, not by physically abusing players, but by challenging them to develop DISCIPLINE! Saban said, “Mental toughness helps you maintain the level of discipline necessary to overcome obstacles.” Notice he said “maintain.” ‘Bama football players already have a high level of discipline. If they don’t, they don’t stay in the program very long.

I’ve written previously about creating (and maintaining) discipline in an earlier post. Scroll back till you find it if you want to discover how to create discipline in your program. Again, though, it is NOT being abusive (physically or mentally) to your players. It is really just having high expectations for them and then… making sure you require them to uphold those standards. Let me give 2 examples and I’ll close.

Hustle was instilled in me from the time I started playing sports back in the 60’s. Why walk when you can jog? Why jog when you can run? Hustle! So, I required our players to run everywhere they went. We crossed Beautiful Bruin Creek on the way to our practice field… which was still 50 yards away. Once you crossed the creek, you ran. If someone saw you walking, you went back! Everyone runs when they’re ON the field. Once you hit the sideline, then you can walk. But, on the field you run! I’d blow the whistle to call up the team at the end of practice. If someone was not running up to me, they ALL went back where they were. I blew the whistle again and watched to be sure that everyone ran this time. If it was the end of Conditioning period, they went back and ran another sprint! Then they got another chance to show their discipline/hustle by running this time! It, hustle, was a core value for me and it was something that I stood by and did not let slide. Our teams became known as hustling teams. It was very (mentally) intimidating to opponents over the years!

One more example. I was also very picky about how our players wore their uniforms. I felt it showed team and individual pride. Both socks up to the top of their calves. Everyone wore the same black game shoes. No sleeves taped up so they could show off their guns. Shirt tails tucked in (that one did NOT change!!!) My daughter came to me one day. She’d just started high school and it was the same school that I was the HC at. She gave me a lesson in “letting the guys show a little bit of individuality.” “Let them wear the cleats they want to wear, Dad. If they want the ‘no sock look’, let them.” Interestingly, I’d just read a book by Bobby Bowden, former HC at Florida State. He’d run into the same thing with his college players. I sat down and prayerfully considered what my daughter said. I decided that I was willing to “bend” a bit. When I announced that some changes were going to occur with how I let them wear their uniform… you’d have thought I’d just handed each of them a $100 bill! Now… the shirt tails did have to remain in. That, in my opinion, just looks sloppy. NO discipline; no pride! Socks could be white, navy or gold. They just had to match. Shoes could be black, white, navy or gold (our school colors)… they had to be the same and NO writing on them. My willingness to compromise showed the players that I was willing to be flexible without losing our discipline.

That’s what you have to decide. What are your standards? What are your core values? Once you determine what they are, then you have to continually uphold them until, as Saban said, you maintain/sustain your level of mental toughness.

Special Teams Reps

Posted by admin August - 7 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I was observing practice yesterday and it brought back a memory of how I “conserved” time when working on Special Teams.

It’s a shame but, Special Teams is still the most over-looked part of the game for too many coaches! You’ve heard the saying that “Special Teams is 1/3 of the game.” I believe that it’s true. Many games’ outcomes have been determined by the “hidden yardage” in the kicking game… and more directly a kicking game gaffe has spelled defeat for the coach who did not put in the practice time necessary to be successful. I still hold to the adage that I first heard Lou Holtz say when he was in his first head coaching position at William and Mary. It went, “In a close game between two evenly-matched teams, it’s probably going to come down to a play in the kicking game that determines the outcome!” If it’s so important, why don’t coaches spend more practice time preparing for the kicking game? It may be due to time constraints. I want to give you a couple of ideas that can help you maximize special teams practice time to get more bang for your buck!

Punt Team: I believe it is the single most important special team! Why? Cuz it’s used more often than any other…. so it has the most impact on a game. Punting has 3 phases… which makes it harder to perform.
1) obviously it is the punt itself. I found out years ago that it’s hard to find a quality high school punter. So, we found an athlete who could catch and kick… even if he only took 1 or 2 steps. I told them that “there are no style points” for punting! We wanted to get the ball off and… this is KEY!… I did not want him to kick it to the return man!!! Yep! Why risk a decent return by kicking it TO the returner? Line drive it; kick it to one side; sky-ball it… but don’t give him something he can return.
2) is the snap. Again… too often overlooked. If we lacked a quality snapper, I used a QB with a good arm. I told him just to take a passing grip; turn around and bend over and… throw a pass through his legs! It worked out fine! Our all-state QB was our snapper one year. I told him to “throw the pass” and don’t even worry about covering. I found as the year went along that he would jog on down. He even made a tackle one game!
3) protection and coverage. This could be split into two categories but since it pertains to the same people, I combined them. There are any number of alignments and blocking techniques. If you don’t know them, get some info on it. Coverage… the same thing. The main thing here, I think, is to have 6 guys with good speed and can tackle in open space. No need for size cuz they don’t really block… just punch and go!

Finally, let me talk about how to maximize your reps in practice. We could get off anywhere from 6-9 punts in a 7 minute period each day! How? The main thing is not to waste time. You set the ball on your own 35 for the first punt. Kick it. Sprint down and cover. Say, the ball landed on the opposite 35. Do NOT call the punt team back to you. Keep them right there. Turn things around (how many of your say “riverside??!!!”) and kick back to you. There are 20 of the 22 players involved 30- 40 yards away from you. Have 2 new return men waiting with you on the near end. They step on as you and your staff jog down. The other 20 get lined up and punt again…. back toward the original end of the field. This time put the ball on your own 10. Kick it out and set the ball at the 50 or opposing 45. Flip it and now you “pooch” punt and keep it in the field of play. Next, you set the ball on your own 1 yard line and punt from your end zone. You keep “flipping the field” instead of having the punt team and return team personnel jogging back to you each time. You’d be amazed at how much time you can save and how many more punts you can get off in a 10 minute period.

Oh.. since none of the “big dogs” are on the punt team, have them down at the other end working on pat/field goal blocking. If your punter is not your place-kicker, you can be even be kicking extra points at the same time as your punt practice is going on. Learn to conserve time and get more done!

If these ideas intrigue you, check out my dvd’s that I did for Championship Productions on Making Your Special Teams Special!

Nobody Leaves the Field!

Posted by admin July - 31 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Practice has begun in Tidewater Virginia and, guess what? It’s muggy!!! and raining… a LOT!!! The HC that I’m consulting for asked if we should go outside or go to the gym? I told him that “football practice doesn’t get rained out! It gets rained on!! I think that if you might have to play in rainy, muddy conditions that you should practice in it — as long as there’s NO thunder/lightning in the area! We went on out yesterday and it turned out to be a good practice.

There are times in the season when you simply have to go inside. We have used the gym over the years to get a lot of reps during Team period. Make sure everyone is wearing tennis shoes and nobody goes to the floor, but… you can accomplish a lot.

The thing that disturbed me— that I want to share with you today— happened the other day. As practice ended, the HC yelled, “Everyone help clean up the field.” There were bags, dummies, pennies and line spacers that needed to be put away in the shed. As most of the players headed to different spots on the field to help clean up, I saw a couple of “escapee’s” taking off for the locker room. Fortunately, I had my whistle! I blew it to get their attention and then waved them back. As I was corraling them, a group of 5-6 started wandering off toward the locker room too. It was then that I called the whole team up!

I explained that NOBODY leaves the field until ALL of the equipment is in the shed! It’s another example of the 80/20 Principle (80% of the work will be done by 20% of the organization!) I explained that if everyone would join in, the stuff would be put away quicker. Then… everybody will get in sooner. However… NOBODY leaves this area (where the shed it!) until the shed is locked!

There is nothing that is more UN-teammanlike (is that a word?!!) than for a slacker to get to do something while a few players stay and do all of the work! You’re always going to have those who don’t want to do their “fair share.” It doesn’t mean they should be rewarded for being selfish.

Assign a coach to monitor things. He positions himself so that he can observe that nobody leaves the area until the HC gives the thumbs up! It’s just one more little thing to promote unity and good will among the players.

About us