Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

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.

“I Resolve To …..”

Posted by admin July - 24 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

As the football season kicks off for most teams in the next few weeks, it made me remember how I used to feel as preseason practice approached. For a long time, its approach brought a mix of excitement and fear. In later years, it amounted to excitement and worry. But, as my faith in Jesus increased I was able to approach a new season with joy and anticipation! That’s what faith does! For those of you still in the “worry” stage, let me share a couple of thoughts that I read in my Pastor Bob Gass daily devotional, The Word For You Today.

Hopefully, you have set your goals for the upcoming season. Those should include team goal and personal/individual goals — for your players and you! Remember when you set a goal or, make a resolution… it will only happen when you’re resolute! This means having a “mind that’s made up.” Nothing is going to deter you.

Here are some things that you should consider resolving to do this season:

1- Make time for the important things in your life. Whether it’s God or family or work/teaching, resolve to set aside time each day to focus on the important things/people in your life. I’d even recommend that you have a “date night” with your spouse or girlfriend one night each week! Get enough rest. Find time to exercise. Make time to pray and read your Bible… even if it means getting up 20-30 minutes earlier. It’s worth it.

2- “Divide and conquer.” If you take on too many things at the same time, you are going to get overwhelmed. Then you’ll find yourself losing focus and giving up on certain goals/resolutions that you’ve deemed important. Prioritize. Eliminate. You build on success by mastering one thing at a time.

3- Record your successes and failures. It’s the only way to determine if you’re making progress. You have to even “look back” occasionally to see how far you’ve come. If your progress isn’t where it should be, you can see what you still need to work on. Once you reevaluate, reset your goals and… RE-start!!!

“Never give up… and never give in!!!” Winston Churchill

“All Aboard!”

Posted by admin July - 17 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Official pre-season practice begins next week in Virginia. It seems to be earlier and earlier every year! I can remember when starting the 2nd week in August was considered “early.” Please be cautious in planning out your season’s practice schedule. Most of you will be going hard for 4 months once your practices start. Kids today, too many of them anyway, don’t seem to “stick to” a commitment like they used to. While I am a proponent of keeping your practice schedule a) organized and b) basically the same… I do think there’s a place for “breaks” in the action. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that, for example, asking players to come in on Saturday morning after playing the night before may be asking too much. They need time over the weekend to unwind, rest and heal up.

Your weekly practice schedule doesn’t need to deviate much. People don’t like change. But, at the same time, you don’t want your schedule to become “routine.” That leads to lack of focus. I’ve talked before about scheduling an “off day” on a predetermined Monday during the season. I also learned from my players that going out in helmets only on a Monday can be a “spirit-lifter.” Those types of changes RE-energize your players and that is important.

It’s also important to curtail live contact during practice. The concussion issue is important. Players need to be protected. Unnecessary contact during practice can be detrimental. I’ll always remember what my high school head coach said when asked why we had little or no live contact in practice once the season started. He stated, “If they’re gonna get hurt (and I hope that’s never the case!), I don’t want them to get hurt during practice.” The NFL has shown that you can do live tackling without having to hit another person!

If you haven’t utilized a tackling machine or the tackling rings… or simply tackling a “blocking” sled, you are missing out on opportunities to have a player tackle full speed while using good/safe technique without contacting another player. We became big advocates of Pete Carroll’s “Hawk Rugby Tackling” technique. Not only did it prove to be safer but, in particular, our open-field tackling improved tremendously! Why? The kids told me why: “Coach, I feel so much more confident coming up to make a tackle knowing that I don’t have to put my head in front of the ball carrier.” Wow! How true! The old “cross the bow” tackling technique is actually quite dangerous. The “Hawk Rugby” tackle teaches the players to put their head behind the tackler; wrap up his legs and roll!!! Check out the video’s that Coach Carroll has posted if you haven’t seen this technique explained.

“Rudy!”

Posted by admin July - 3 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I ran into a former player over the weekend. We had a great time reminiscing about the “good old days!” He brought up something that I’d forgotten about till he mentioned it. I’m not sure if this idea is even in my book, 101 Little Things That Can Make a BIG Difference. It’s worth repeating even if it is!

Most of you reading this have probably watched the movie Rudy. The story of the walk-on to the Notre Dame football team who gets to go in for 1 play in the last game of his senior year… and proceeds to sack the QB on the game’s last play! The players carry him off the field on their shoulders. That picture inspired me to consider having our own “Rudy Moment” for our football team. What developed provided a lasting memory for one special person.

That next season at our last game, I selected one of our offensive linemen to move to running back for one play! He practiced it a couple of times each day. On Friday night, late in the 4th quarter, I sent him on the field at fullback to run his play. The team knew what was coming and the word had gotten out to our fans… so everyone got really excited as the offense broke the huddle. As it happened, there were a couple of years that we gave the ball to the “designated lineman/fullback” down on the goal line. He scored! Another time, I sent him in on the extra point. We went for 2 and he scored. That just added to that young man’s joy— knowing that an O lineman had a chance to score points!

The one that topped them all, though, was the year we had a real “Rudy Moment!” We had a Team Manager who had been with us for 4 years. He loved football but was too small to play. So, he chose to stay involved by being a manager. He was very smart and very responsible. He literally became my “right hand man.” I realized as we entered our last week that it would be pretty cool if we could “suit him up” and let him play one play. I put him at Defensive End (just like Rudy) and turned him loose! To top it off, when the team found out on Monday that our “Rudy” would be dressing out on Friday night, they went nuts!

Game night approached and I helped “Rudy” find some pads that fit. When the team burst onto the field before the game, “Rudy” was right up front. As the clock ticked down to end the game, I could sense the tension and excitement building. We went on defense with about a minute left and I sent “Rudy” onto the field with the 2nd defense. The stadium erupted! I was just praying that he wouldn’t get hurt.

They snapped the ball; “Rudy” rushed across the line. They faked a run and the QB bootlegged away… right into the waiting arms of our “Rudy.” He got the sack— just like in the movie! I couldn’t believe it! WOW!!! The team mobbed him. As the game ended, they hoisted our “Rudy” up on their shoulders and carried him to the sideline so we could line up to go shake hands.

THAT’S the story that this former player shared. It was one of the highlights of his high school career! Those are the kind of lasting memories I’d hoped to leave for my players. We won a lot of games and had some great times. But, what this former player wanted to talk about was our “Rudy Moment.”

“Honor the Sabbath!”

Posted by admin June - 29 - 2018 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

In the state of Virginia, ALL sports activity comes to a complete halt next week! No practice; no lifting; no conditioning… nothing! Zip! I’ve had a couple of coaches kinda freaking out on me over this rule. I’ve heard, “We can’t afford to take a week off!” Or… “Why right here just 3 weeks before preseason practice begins??!!!” I think there’s a very good reason for having a “Quiet Period” right now: everyone needs a break! Everyone needs to “honor the Sabbath.” Let me ‘splain:

I owe a LOT to a former assistant coach, Pastor Sam Warren, who taught me a very important life lesson when he joined our staff. He looked at my weekly in-season schedule and freaked out! We went hard 7 days a week. Players in for lifting, running and video viewing on Saturday. Staff meetings afterwards. Then the staff met again on Sunday afternoon. Plus 2 1/2- 3 hour practices from Monday to Thursday. To call it a grind was putting it mildly!

He sat me down and pulled out his Bible. He said, “Open it to Genesis, Chapter 2. Now read verse 2 to me.” It says, “… on the 7th day God rested from all his work.” Sam then stated one of the most significant things I’ve ever heard someone say to me. He said, “If GOD needed to take a break, don’t you think YOU should too, Lew??!!!” POW!!! Right between the eyes! That hit home— hard!

We immediately canceled all Saturday activities. The staff would only meet on Sunday evenings and it would only be for 2 hours… unless it was a big game and we needed more time to prepare. I spent more time with my family and enjoyed college football on Saturdays for a change. It not only made a difference for me but the players too.

What am I saying? Go hard. It can be a grind but… work hard not to make it a grind! Huh? You’ve got to find things to do that keep the players (and coaches) enthused. You can have some fun without being funny! Enjoy a little break without losing control of the players.

We always let the players have the week off just before preseason Camp started. They come back excited and rarin’ to go! Everybody needs a break. I even built in a day off during the season. I committed to it in July so that no matter what our record was at that point in the season, we were taking off Monday. Some years I let the players just go on home. But I found out they were either out playing B-ball or some other foolishness instead of relaxing and getting away from things. So, some years we had a “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition. Another time we played 7 on 7… including the linemen! Something that “broke the grind” and let kids get their focus off of football for one day.

Changing things up occasionally can be a good thing. For you as a head coach, you need the time away to recharge your battery. Set up your schedule so that you make the time to relax and revitalize. You’ll enjoy it a lot more!

Expectations of an Assistant Coach

Posted by admin June - 19 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Talking with coaches from 4-5 different states over the last 2 weeks, one of the most common concerns is finding quality assistant coaches. It seems fewer and fewer men are going into teaching careers; so finding a quality assistant coach who will be IN the school building is unlikely to occur.

I would caution you to do your due diligence before hiring someone today just because you have a position available. There are a lot of wannabe’s who think they know football AND how to coach kids. However, when it comes time to show up and perform the duties that the head coach wants done, “it’s too much trouble.” Or, “I don’t have time.” Or, “That’s beneath me.” When interviewing, I’d suggest finding out more about his work ethic and his character before I discussed how much football he knows.

There are things that a HC must expect his assistants to do as part of a staff. I used to break them down as “on-the-field” and “OFF-the-field” duties. For any operation/organization to run smoothly, everybody needs to pitch in and cooperate. I’d hire a guy who may have been lacking in football knowledge but wants to learn and, more importantly, wants to work.

Something else I’d establish early on when interviewing (and starting to work with) assistants were the expectations I had for them. I will mention a few key qualities here in a minute. If you would like the whole article, email me at coac...@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to send it to you.
I printed up an entire sheet of “expectations.” One thing that I emphasized right off the bat was, I expected a LOT from myself; therefore, I expected a lot from my assistant coaches. Some people get hung on on others having “expectations” of them; but, in this case, when the assistants know that the HC is holding himself to a standard of excellence, it’s easier to accept that the assistant must live up to those same expectations. If they don’t like it, then maybe you hired the wrong guy!

The first thing I talked about to the staff was a Code of Conduct. These are those qualities that show how hard a guy is willing to work and how his behavior and attitude impact the entire program. Such things as arriving on time (and staying late), proper attire for practice and games and being loyal… to the program and to the HC are extremely important.

The second part of the Expectation Sheet dealt with Staff Organization. This laid out in general the responsibilities that assistant coaches were expected to carry out. From being involved during the Special Teams portion of practice (when a lot of assistants think it’s time to take a break!) to helping line the field… all of the duties assigned to an assistant are important. A head coach MUST learn to delegate! Yes, you could live with the old adage that “if you want something done right, do it yourself” but… it’s a recipe for burnout if you don’t delegate responsibilities to assistants. Give an assistant a responsibility. Make sure you teach him HOW you want it done. Check behind him. Correct him if anything could be done better and then… follow up to be sure that he’s doing it in a timely fashion.

One final point that I want to share is that I let assistants know is this adage: “The harder you work, the more responsibility you get!” I had an assistant once who rarely showed up for spring and summer workouts prior to preseason practice officially starting. Once he was there, he was the one with all the good ideas on how to run the program. He got upset because I wouldn’t give him a coordinator’s position. We had to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting where I reminded him of my adage. I asked him, “why do you think you deserve more responsibility when you’re rarely here?” His response, “Cuz the kids like me and I’m the coach with the most experience.” THAT didn’t sit too well with me. He was gone a few weeks later!

You need to communicate your expectations and you need to get them in writing so there’s no question about what assistants are supposed to be doing. If a problem arises, you’ve covered your butt. Finally, be ready to hold an assistant accountable. If he’s not performing his responsibilities, you need to have a conference with him. If he continues to come up short, it may be time to get rid of him. Just remember that next time you are interviewing a new candidate. There’s more to it than how much football he knows!

Season’s “Theme”

Posted by admin June - 11 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

As school ends for everybody, a head football coach’s mind turns to preparation for the upcoming season. One of the things that I did as a head coach was to create a theme for the players to focus on for the season.

I first saw this around 1990. Our staff visited East Carolina University for their coaches clinic. I noticed their players walking around the football complex with their ECU Football team t shirts on. A big pirate in the middle with ECU Football surrounding it. Interestingly, when a player would walk by I saw something printed on the back of the shirt which made me scratch my head! Near the top were the letters in big, bold print: TEAM. Hard to see, but down at the bottom of the back of the shirt, were the little, tiny letters: Me. What the heck?!!

As another player passed me, I spoke up and asked him: “What is the significance of the two words on the back of everybody’s shirt?” He replied, “Coach, it’s to remind everybody of what our coach wants us to focus on this season.” “What’s that?” I asked. “BIG Team! Little me,” he stated. WOW!! It was the first time I’d ever heard it put that way and it stuck with me.

That summer when I ordered our Team T Shirts for the upcoming season, I had the company we bought the shirts from print the same thing on our shirts! That was the first time that I had our “Team Theme” printed on our shirts. It was an easy way to keep the theme out in the open in front (behind!) the guys all season long. What I realized when I first put on my shirt was that the “slogan” (or theme) was right there in front of me as I pulled the shirt over my head!

It became one of the most important items on my agenda from then on… to decide what our slogan or theme would be for that next season. I even asked the players a couple of times if they had any suggestions. Some of their ideas were very good.

Let me point out too that I used the purchase of the “season t shirt” as a fund raiser each year. I expected every player to purchase a t shirt for the upcoming season. The price was reasonable but still helped us raise some much-needed funds for our football program. I would print the year for that upcoming season in the middle of the front so they couldn’t “sneak in” a shirt from a previous season! The shirts became so popular that I let family members purchase them too. Everybody affiliated with our program was seen wearing our Team T Shirt in the community.

The slogan was important. It focused on a theme that I felt that the upcoming team would need to keep in their psyche. It often had to do with an “issue” that we had to address the previous season that I stressed to the team throughout the off-season. For example, one year we had a group of players who allowed mistakes from a previous play to rob them of their focus on the next play! THAT became the theme for the next year and the slogan on the back of the shirt: NEXT PLAY!

Another time, we’d had a great season the year before. I noticed that a lot of the players seemed pretty satisfied with themselves during the offseason and our success had kinda gone to their heads. I harped on: STAY HUMBLE; STAY HUNGRY! We talked a lot about excellence and what it entailed. STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE was a theme one season.

Is this helping to spawn some ideas in your head? I hope so. Our players liked the shirts and they found the theme/slogan on the back to be inspiring. Your players probably will too.

Planning Your Summer Workout/Practice Schedule

Posted by admin June - 5 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had a discussion with a coach the other day about how to organize his summer workouts. I know that each state has different rules regarding how much time you can practice (or workout— I will make a distinction there as we go along here!) before your first game. In Virginia, where I live, the rules allow you to lift, run and “practice” all summer… with the exception of one week in July when everyone has to shut down everything! Official preseason practice begins 3-4 weeks before your opening game. Time on the practice field and going full gear has a state mandate. What I’m talking about here, though, is what you do in the weeks leading up to the official start of preseason practice.

A lot is said about the Big MO (momentum) during a football game. It’s kinda looked at as some nebulous entity… like the Force in Star Wars! It’s “real” you say —- we just don’t have much control over it. I disagree!

Like anything else dealing with the mental side of football, momentum is something that you can regulate and you need to plan for it. Think: a little snowball starting to roll down the side of a steep (and loooooong) hill. What happens? It picks up speed as it increases its mass or density until… near the bottom, it’s a gigantic snow mountain ready to crush anything in its path!!!

But… suppose half way down that mountain, as the snowball is picking up speed, the mountain flattens out into a plateau. What’s going to happen to the snowball’s momentum? Obviously, the snowball is going to slow down from its thundering path down the mountain and may even come to rest. What caused the loss of momentum? Things “flattened” out. Our attitude; our work ethic; our commitment can “flatten out” too! Doing too much of the same thing is going to get tedious. Kids would say, “Boooooooooring.” As a coach organizing your summer workouts, you need to find ways to eliminate the possibility of hitting a “plateau.” You do that by 1- keeping things “short and sweet” and 2- changing things up while keeping them the same! What???!!!!

You continue to work on the same skills: lifting weights; conditioning/speed/agility training and on the field skills and drills (IF allowed in your district!)… but, you find different ways to accomplish the same goal!

I’m confident that you change up your weight room workouts already! I hope so!!! How about conditioning? Sprints and nothing else? Try to be creative. We used to play “sharks and minnows” in a limited area. (That’s “tag” if you don’t know what I mean!) Competitive relay races. Run “L’s” or “J’s” around the edge of the field instead of gassers across the field every day. Even if you can’t use a ball (use an “invisible” ball!) and run up and down the field just “faking” dive or zone or trap with your offense. Sprint 15 yards; set up and run it again… and again… till you get to the end zone. We even let the linemen play their own game of 7 on 7! But, they had to keep running. NO walking!

Your workouts don’t (and should not!!!) be as lengthy as your “official” practices which usually begin in August. Keep them short and crisp. Cover 1 side of the ball each day. An hour to 90 minutes is plenty of time to work on skills and drills. Try to play 7 on 7 once a week— either against another school (if allowable) or just divide up your players and go shirts and skins.

One KEY thing: When I was a head coach, I gave the players the week off just prior to official practice starting. I let parents know well in advance so if they wanted to take a family vacation… THAT was the week to go! While the players had the week off, this was when I met with my staff to finalize things for practice. This allows the players a chance to get away and “re-energize.” It gets them excited about official practice beginning the next week; i.e., something to look forward to! Just like those last few weeks before Christmas. (“The anticipation is killing me!!!”) It’s a chance to reboot the energy/enthusiasm level in your players’ minds and… yep! get that “momentum machine” geared up and ready to start rolling down that hill again!!!