Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Attitude Determines Altitude

Posted by admin February - 18 - 2019 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

This subject has been on my mind lately.

I did some checking and found that one of the most important instruments in an airplane cockpit is the gyroscope that tells the pilot what his attitude is! Don’t you wish we had an instrument that could tell us what our attitude is??!!

Attitude is critical for an airplane to stave off a potential crash. What this gyroscope shows the pilot is the relationship of the nose of his plane to the horizon. A pilot needs this so he can continue to stay on course and airborne.

I have read that (particularly in jet fighters that are flying very fast) a pilot can become disoriented and actually fly the plane upside down. Without an awareness of where the horizon is, the fighter pilot could think he is climbing in altitude when, in reality, he is driving his jet right into the ground. Thus, the saying in Pilot Training School: “Attitude is EVERYTHING!”

The same thing holds true when looking at our character. I’ve heard any number of motivational speakers/writers say the same thing, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”

Possessing a negative attitude generally means that when things go wrong, you’re probably going to crash and burn — just like that airplane! However, a person with a positive attitude keeps his “nose up!” He is more likely to overcome an obstacle or negative situation because he keeps a positive outlook. This person is going to keep looking for a way to get over, under, around or through the obstacle. Why? Because he believes he can do it!

My wife and I took a trip to the Canyon Lands of the SW US (Arizona and Utah) back in the fall. The Grand Canyon, in particular, is truly one of the great natural wonders of the world! I heard about a guy, John Wesley Powell, who took 10 men with him in 1869 to try to become the first men to travel down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I was so interested in Powell’s story that I bought a book on the expedition. What these men accomplished (they DID make it) was a phenomenal feat!

What stood out for me, though, was the fact that 2 of the men gave up late in the journey and climbed the steep walls of the Grand Canyon because they just couldn’t take it anymore! They were sure that Powell and the crew were never going to make it to the other end of the Grand Canyon along the river. So… they quit! They quit ONE DAY before the crew floated out of the canyon and onto easy-flowing river currents!!!! One day!!!

As so often happens, our negative attitude forces us to give up before we reach our goal. It’s amazing to me how close a person can be to accomplishing his goal — and he just quits!

Winston Churchill’s words resonate through my mind quite often. He told the people of England during the darkest hours of WW II to, “Never, never, never give up! and… NEVER give in!!!” I’m echoing those same words to you.

“I Love That Dirty Water….”

Posted by admin February - 12 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Some of you may be old enough to remember the song by the Standells, Dirty Water. It was about the Charles River in Boston. Wellllllll… I stayed in a hotel this past weekend right on the banks of the Charles River and it was beautiful! I attended (and spoke at) a Glazier Coaches Clinic in Boston. We had a great time!

Getting to meet coaches from all over the country is always a thrill for me. The chance to network is important. My purpose in doing these clinics is to help other coaches in their situations. If you have not been to a Glazier clinic, I encourage you to check one out. They do such a good job of educating coaches.

Two of the sessions that Glazier offers are particularly helpful. If/when you attend a Glazier clinic, be sure to attend them. One they call Chalk War and the other is a Panel Session.

In the Chalk War, they “pit” an Offensive coach against a Defensive coach and they go back and forth on the white board (not “chalk!”) in attacking and defending the plays that are diagrammed. I’ve participated in two and attended two others. They were very informative.

The Panel Session is perhaps my favorite. Three coaches take turns sharing ideas about a particular topic. The panel topic I sat on this past weekend was: Program Development Ideas. I had the pleasure of joining two outstanding head coaches in “shotgunning” our ideas about how to make our programs strong. One coach was from Washington state and the other was from Ohio.

An idea that the coach from Ohio shared really “rang a bell” with me! He shared about the importance of enlisting the support of your players’ parents in making your program strong. His example was eye-opening! Coach said to have a Mom’s Club… not Dad’s! It’s the moms who are watching to see if you are treating their son in the proper fashion. He recommended starting a Mom’s Club and give them opportunities to do fund-raisers and other events which —- here’s the key… benefit their sons! Not from a purely football sense but the over-all team experience.

He has a Mom’s Night. The first home game each year is dedicated to the Moms. They make a big deal out of it… rolling out the red carpet for the moms! It was even mentioned, “why do you stop having a Team Mom at the Youth League level??!!” The moms still want to be involved in their sons’ activities. Get them involved through a Mom’s Club. Give them a lot of leeway… just ask them to run everything by you first! I thought the whole concept was excellent. I passed it along to our head coach when I got home Sunday night!

“Root or Wings??!!”

Posted by admin February - 2 - 2019 - Saturday ADD COMMENTS

I just read this and felt like it was too good to wait till Tuesday to write about it! “Thanks (again!)” to Pastor Bob Gass for some powerful words.

William Carter is credited with saying that “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other is wings.”

When children (players!) know that they are loved unconditionally, roots are established in their character. Therefore, when life hits them in the face, they can stand up to the blows.

In the same way, when self-confidence and a desire to dream is instilled in your children, you are growing wings in their character. Once a child has that “will to overcome obstacles and have a winning attitude”… they are half-way to success! But if this “press on” attitude is not cultivated in their hearts, they are, unfortunately, half-way to failure.

As a coach/parent/teacher, it is imperative that you show those children in your charge that you have faith in them. They will, in turn, develop faith in themselves. But… when you constantly criticize or demean a child and his/her performance, it is likely that the child will grow up to be self-doubting, fearful of failure and present a negative attitude toward themselves and life in general.

When you encourage and show them that you believe in them, they’re going to go the extra mile to try and live up to your (positive) expectations! This is why when I hear coaches say that “I don’t care if my players (*and I need to add: they’re NOT your players, Coach! They’re not your property.) want to play for me or not!” — I cringe. Yes, I want kids to come out for the program I lead because they love football; but, my desire is that they also want to be part of a program that coaches are being positive, encouraging and… challenging. Most of the impact that motivation has on people stems from the fact that the person we are trying to inspire holds us in high regard.

What’s the old adage? “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”

“Student of the Game!”

Posted by admin January - 29 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had the good fortune to have been invited to speak this past weekend at the National Wing T Coaches Clinic in Pittsburgh. There were over 300 coaches in attendance from all over the country. They were all there to do one thing: learn more about this wonderful offense that we know and love. Interestingly, we wanted to know more! That is why we were there.

It is a pleasure to announce that I am returning to coaching full-time! Welllllllllll… flex time! I still need to be available to help out my wife with babysitting our granddaughter. And I promised her that we will still be traveling in the Fall (during the season!). When the head coach asked me to be his OC, I explained that there is a commitment to helping my wife. He was amenable to my situation.

There were a number of excellent speakers at the clinic. It was fun to sit in on their talks and glean information from them. Knowing that I would be gaining knowledge was exciting for me. I had a reason to take notes and ask questions… cuz I am in the midst of putting together the Wing T offense we’re going to run this year. It reminded me how much I enjoy learning and growing. I was applying what I have encouraged coaches to be (and do!) for a number of years: BE A “STUDENT OF THE GAME!”

What’s the old saying? “If you’re not growing, you’re rotting?!” Whatever your job; whatever your situation, there is still more to learn. When you think you’ve learned it all, there’s still more knowledge out there to gain. One of my Education professors challenged us to be “life-long learners.” As teachers, we were encouraged to continue to study our craft. The same thing goes for coaching.

Go to clinics. Read books. Watch video’s. Visit and talk to other coaches. Use the off-season in the same manner that you are challenging your players to do: Get Better!!!

“Put In the Work”

Posted by admin January - 22 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I’m reading Tim Tebow’s new book, This Is The Day. Some great life-lessons for anyone who desires to grow in Christ or simply improve as an individual.

The chapter I’m in right now is titled, “Put In the Work.” He’s talking about competitiveness and, one of my favorite concepts!, persistence. I think we learn competitiveness early in life. It’s instilled in us if we live in a competitive environment as we grow up. Persistence, too, has to be nurtured. We, as coaches, have to teach it, model it (never give up! never give in!) and encourage it. One thing Tim writes about his time at the U. of Florida really struck home. Remember… his coach was Urban Meyer.

Tim writes, “When I was at the University of Florida, our whole college program was centered on bringing out our mental toughness. Obviously, we focused on speed and strength, but it was secondary to the goal of developing grit.”

Wow!!! Are you spending as much time on the mental training as you are the physical? Particularly here in the off-season portion of the year, a coach needs to start training his players to be mentally tough. There are activities and exercises that you can use. I’d be glad to share a few with you if you’ll email me. I’m not talking about a meat grinder attitude. I’m definitely not encouraging you to replicate the Junction Boys that Bear Bryant put his Texas A & M team through! No. It’s a matter of simply helping kids to see/learn that they can do more than they think they can. Our job is to get them out of their comfort zone. As Tim says later, “It means getting inconvenienced. But if you don’t grow, you won’t change. And if you don’t change, you stay stuck.”

Like the commercial says, “Don’t stay stuck! Get GEICO.” or whatever product they’re trying to sell! *See…. that’s bad psychology in that ad. When you can remember the jingle but can’t remember the product— what good have you done?!! On the other hand, when the message is so powerful and it’s easily attached to the product, it will make your company a LOT of money! Don’t believe me? Then why do companies spend millions of dollars for 30 seconds of ad time during the Super Bowl?

We as coaches need to sell our product. In this case, it’s mental toughness and competitive spirit.

I’ll close with one more quote from the book. Tim says, “Striving for something and having a life of significance doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s outright painful. You have to do the hard things to get to where you need to go.”

Amen? Amen!


Posted by admin January - 18 - 2019 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

I had the good fortune to attend a local Sports Club meeting the other day where LaTasha Colander-Clark was the keynote speaker. She was a 2000 Olympian from our area. She won a gold medal in the 4 X 200 Relay and still holds the world record in the event. Verrrrrry impressive! and… a very impressive young woman.

It was admirable that she did not hide the fact that she is a born-again Christian from the audience when she first stood to talk. Making a “faith statement” lent credence to the powerful talk she subsequently presented over the next 15 minutes. This is a summary of the notes I took while she spoke. The theme is something that all of us should adopt. Her title was: “Have a Vision.”

A line from the movie Sister Act 2 has always remained a mantra for me. The character that Whoopie Goldberg played stated in front of her students one day that… “If you want to be somebody. If you want to go somewhere. You better wake up and pay attention!” Truth!!!

Ms. Colander-Clark was basically stating the same thing. If we want to be successful, we need to have a picture in our mind of where we want to go and what we want to do. Without that picture; i.e., vision, we are destined to fail. Why?

We are likely to fail because somewhere along the road to success there are going to be some speed bumps. There might even be a wreck. Do those obstacles slow us down? OR… do they cause us to give up; tuck our tail between our legs and… slink off to the Land of Quitters. That’s the place where people make all kinds of excuses for WHY they failed. The main reason they failed is because they lacked a vision. With that vision, you have a driving force that keeps you going. Without a vision, you’ll never “see” yourself succeeding. When the times get tough, the weak get going… right out the door!

One of my “life verses” from the Bible is Phil. 3:14. It paraphrases, “PRESS ON toward the goal!” Press… is short for pressure! Pressure will come to bear but I choose to remain strong and hopeful. I know that “God’s got this” and He will take care of me. For a Christian, surrender is just another word for VICTORY. We surrender means trusting the things/people/situations in our life to God. “I can’t do this on my own, Lord. I give (surrender) it to YOU!”

It took 10 years before my “vision” of what I wanted our football program to look like finally came to fruition. I had to “press on” through many trials and sorrows. But, I knew that God had given me a vision and He did NOT want me to give up.

Create a Vision Statement and live it out! Through thick and thin, God is with us!

Back In The “Grind!”

Posted by admin January - 9 - 2019 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I recently accepted an offer to become the Offensive Coordinator at a local high school! Yes… I have “UN-retired” for the 3rd time! There have been a lot (overwhelmingly) of positive posts from friends on my Facebook page— congratulating me on my return to coaching. However, there are a few who are questioning why would I want to get back in the grind! I have an answer. Let me let Dabo Swinney speak for me!

Dabo was asked why he’s already prepared to start the grind all over again so soon. His response was priceless! Dabo stated, “I’m looking forward to Friday. That’s the fun part about what I do. We get to start over every year and plug guys in and let them go play. I’m excited about it. It’s always a fun meeting for me to kind of reset the room, if you will, and kind of paint a picture of what this new journey is going to look like and what we’ve got to do. Every year is a new challenge and you don’t carry anything over.”

Does that sound like a grind??!! Dabo’s attitude is not only positive but infectious. No wonder he’s getting the country’s best recruits.

That is what I missed. I love the preparation phase of a new season. Evaluating, studying, planning and teaching the staff and players is FUN! It’s fun because I know what my life’s purpose is and how God wants me to fulfill that purpose. If you don’t know what your life purpose is, you need to discover it. I discovered mine when my sweet wife spoke a “Word” over me about 35 years ago. Other friends, who I love and respect, confirmed what God had shared with her… that He wanted her to share with me. It was one simple statement. “This (coaching) is your ministry.”

My priority as a high school football coach was (and now is) to: Share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with my players and fellow coaches. Simply put: “Love Jesus; love people.” When we seek God as the priority in our life, He will take care of the rest. (Check out Matthew 6:33 in the Bible!)

When you know your purpose in life and properly prepare yourself (and your coaches and players), it’s amazing what you can accomplish. We’re going to win a lot of football games in the next few years! Of that, I have no doubt. Why am I so confident? Because the young man who is our Head Coach has been “tutored” by me since he was a Freshman in high school! He played for me and coached with me. He wants to do things the right way. I am honored to join his staff.

Small Beginnings

Posted by admin January - 2 - 2019 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I’ve been having conversations with a young first-year head coach over the holidays. He related how he was disappointed in their first-season’s record. They went 7-3! Made the play-offs. Won their first play-off game and lost in the 2nd round to an undefeated team. I asked him, “which part of all that success are you most disappointed in??!!!”

This post, then, is not for any coaches in this young coach’s situation. This post is for those of you who weren’t very successful in your first (or second) season of being a HC. My encouragement to you is a verse from the Bible! It says, “Do not despise these small beginnings… for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

You need to remember what I read from Bob Gass recently. He wrote that “great endings usually start with humble beginnings.” Building a successful program is just that… a building process. Some call it a grind. I don’t like that cuz it brings up negative connotations in my head. Yes, it was frustrating to build a successful high school football program. The first few years were not easy. But, I also found it exhilarating when I saw that we were taking steps in the right direction.

I adopted the philosophy (and, thus, the title of my book) that Little Things CAN Make a BIG Difference! One of my closest friends in coaching always reminded me to “pay attention to details!” That was easy for me because I’m a bit OCD anyway! Staying focused is never a problem for me. You need to adopt the same point of view.

And don’t quit just because things don’t look like they’re ever going to get better! In my first 5 seasons as a HC, we were 22-25-3. The last 25 seasons we were 177-56… with 8 conference, 1 regional and 1 state championship. Those first 5 were tough. But, it was those small beginnings that were the bedrock of persistence and determination which carried us to so much success over the next 25 years.

Do not despise small beginnings!

How Do You See Yourself?

Posted by admin December - 20 - 2018 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

Kudo’s to Pastor Bob Gass and his writing staff for bringing such important messages each morning in their devotion book, The Word For You Today!  It inspired these thoughts I want to share with you today.

I love the fact that, you may not even believe in God, but… the wisdom of the Bible can still guide your life.  I find so much practical advise throughout the Word of God.  The devotional this morning focused on a story from the Old Testament book of Numbers.  It is a powerful testimony to the way that our self image (how we see ourselves!) can impact how we see  the world… and, ultimately, how much success we enjoy in our endeavors.  If you want to check out the full story, it’s found in Numbers, chapter 13.  The verse that I want to focus on is verse 33.  Let me give you some background.

Moses had sent out some men to scout the land (today it’s Israel) in preparing to cross the Jordan river and settle there.  Moses wanted to get the “lay of the land.”  The 12 scouts that he sends out returned after exploring the land and this was their report:  “We saw giants.  We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes…”  Welllllllllll… that was the report of 10 of the 12 scouts.  Two of them, by the names of Joshua and Caleb, were adamant that the Israelites should “go up and take the land that God has promised us.”  Joshua and Caleb saw the same giants (there really were giants in the land!) but believed that with God’s help they could defeat them.  Guess which report the people chose to believe???!!!  If you guesses the naysayers, you are right!

Stinkin’ thinking leads to a rotting away of our self confidence.  And a lack of self confidence is a major factor in explaining why so many of us fail at achieving important goals that we want to accomplish.  Joshua and Caleb had a winning attitude.  They spoke life.  They spoke the language of a winner.

The words that we speak are a result of the thoughts that we have.  Our words create our feelings and generate our actions.  If our action is that of “running away” in times of stress (giving up!), it’s root cause started with stinkin’ thinking.  

We can interrupt (and change) this process by speaking life to ourselves.  As a Believer, I constantly have to remind myself of how much the Lord loves me and wants to help me.  He believes in me so I need to believe Him.  Jesus is my source of strength.  What’s yours??!!!

Team Mom(s)

Posted by admin December - 11 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A local HC was lamenting to me the other day that with his seniors leaving the program, he is also going to lose his very valuable Team Mom!  Cuz her son is a Senior!  He said he even asked her if she would come back next year.  No such luck.  Her son is graduating and she is done.

Now he has to go out and “beg” someone else to take over the duties of being Team Mom.  I suggested that developing a Team Mom is just like developing players at the (very important) Quarterback position!  You need to have a younger one in the program that you bring along.  When he’s ready to step in to the starting role, he already has a good idea of what is expected of him and what he needs to do.  The same thing goes for the Team Mom position.

I was fortunate that when I coached at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, I had tremendous parental support.  I inherited a Team Mom who’d been trained by the previous Team Mom as to what was involved in doing her job.  The transition was seamless.  The moms taught me the right way to go about this.  They already had the transition process in place.  A designated “Team Mom In Training” was learning the ropes during the season prior to her taking over the head job.  Those ladies had even put together a “Book” (it looked like a scrapbook!) of information and tips to help guide the Team Mom throughout the year.  They even had a little ceremony where they “handed off” The Book to the next Team Mom!  It was pretty cool.

It was so nice to know that I didn’t have to go looking for a new Team Mom each year.  The moms were actually training to take over.  A couple of years they even worked at Co-Team Moms.  That was fine with me.  They got the job done and nobody was overwhelmed by all of the duties they had to perform.  They were always nice enough to get my final “seal of approval” before the new Team Mom was inaugurated; but, I’d already seen the “mom in training” in action so there was never a problem.  It was always nice to pick up the phone to ask the new Team Mom to accept her new role knowing that she was willing and able to take over.

It’s another of those little things that you need to take care of it or it can become a big deal if you don’t!  As a Head Coach, you need to be able to delegate.  Having a player’s mom who can handle things like pre-game meals, your team banquet and such is a tremendous burden off of you.  Meet with your moms and explain how you want to do this.  When they know that they are doing it for their boys as much (or more) than they’re doing it for you, I think you will find that you will get a LOT of cooperation and help!

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