Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for November, 2009

Videotaping Your Games

Posted by admin November - 25 - 2009 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

This will be short but important.
Several coaches have mailed me their game dvd’s and asked me to evaluate their offense for them. This is interesting and I learn a lot from watching other teams. One thing that I have noticed time and again that I want to point out as a “little thing” is instructing your videographer on how (s)he can help you the most as they film the game.
First and foremost is the proximity to the play. This will require you to spend some time with your videographer, critiquing the job they’ve done in the past. What you want to show them is how close or how far you want them to bring the lense in as a play unfolds. Make sure that they start the camera BEFORE the offense gets to the line! You need to have a wider angle as the offensive team is leaving the huddle so you can at least see what the defensive alignment looks like. Most teams do not have the benefit of the end zone camera angle… so the more you can see as the offense is setting up the better.
I would encourage you to tell your videographer to get the sticks every time between plays so you know Down and Distance before the play begins. As the offense sets on the ball, the camera angle needs to come in tighter— tight enough to see the O Line blocking but not so tight that you can’t see the play unfold. Again, this will take practice on the part of your filmer so work with them on this. Tape a couple of practices or use a pre season scrimmage to get it right.
Another key “little thing” when it comes to filming games. I mentioned down and distance but knowing the time and the score is also important in reviewing how the game flows. I want a shot of the scoreboard after every score. I also want a shot of the scoreboard at the end of each period and at the end of the game. This is important in knowing what is happening as the game unfolds.
Also, if your videographer has not been instructed, it is imporant for them to know that IF a fight breaks out on the field, they MUST keep the camera running. We have had ejections overturned after the commissioner and the principal met to view the game tape. With no visual evidence to support our contention, we may not have gotten the player back on the field for the next game. In that vein, also have the camera rolling while the referee gives his signal for whatever penalty just occurred and show the umpire walking off the penalty. Then go to the sideline again to show the sticks’ location.
All of this has to do with “self scouting.” When you break down your own game on Saturday, you need a running account of what is happening as the game progresses. It is very helpful to have all of these situations chronicled.

For: Assistant Coaches

Posted by admin November - 17 - 2009 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

The question has been posed to me from a young assistant coach: what do you recommend that I do to best prepare myself to become a head coach one day?
I would offer 4 key things that any assistant coach needs to be doing to achieve this goal:
1- be a LOYAL assistant! No HC wants to feel like he has assistants who are “after his job!” Nor do you want to labeled as someone who does not adhere to his philosophy. Your head coach needs to know that you “have” his back and will support him on the staff, around the school and in the community. You don’t want to develop a reputation as being an assistant who doesn’t exhibit loyalty to his head coach. Trust me… word gets around about what kind of character you possess. When it’s time for interviewing for that head job, you want your current head coach to give you a ringing endorsement! You may not agree with everything that he does, but your HC deserves your respect and support. If you can’t do that, you need to find another staff to work on.
2- Volunteer… for all of the “grunt work” around the locker room and coach’s office. There’s nothing like learning from the ground floor up. The more tasks you learn to perform, the better off you’ll be when you get the chance to run a program. Knowledge of these things (inventorying equipment, ordering new equipment, setting up and running the off-season strength and speed program, etc.) will be invaluable experience for you when the time comes that you are the head man. Be recognized as a “can do” kind of coach.
3- Be a “student of the game.” Learn as much football as you can from as many different sources as possible. One thing I challenge any coach to do is to be able to effectively coach ALL positions on the field! You limit yourself if you take the attitude of “I’m a line coach and always will be.” This will hurt your knowledge base when you are in charge. One of the key points that I point out in my book is that the HC needs to “coach the coaches.” If the HC lacks the knowledge of how to coach, for example, defensive backs, then how can he teach a new coach how he wants the secondary to be coached? Attend clinics, visit with other coaches, read books, buy coaching videos. Be prepared!
Finally 4- Interview… as much as possible. You don’t want to gain the reputation of being a guy who just interviews and then turns down the “bad job” when offered! But getting yourself in front of search/hiring committees is invaluable experience. Fielding questions, exhibiting the proper body language and just getting comfortable “selling” yourself to these people is helping you develop valuable knowledge about yourself and the hiring process.
Like coaching itself, the key is “proper preparation.” When your time comes to take over a program, you want to possess the tools to be off to a fast start.
Finally, be prepared for some disappointment. Many times you may feel like you are the best candidate for a job yet someone else with, say, less experience gets hired! There are many reasons why an individual gets hired… many of them beyond your control. All I can tell you is to be patient and continue to develop a strong resume. Your chance will come and you want to be ready. Good luck!

Preparing for the Play offs!

Posted by admin November - 10 - 2009 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A coach from TN just wrote to ask for some help in getting his team ready for the play-offs for the first time…. an interesting subject. He’s concerned that nobody, especially his players, seems very excited about getting the chance to continue their season through the play-offs. My response: they are tired; they lack motivation since they have (in their minds!) achieved all that you set out to accomplish this season and they may be thinking more about winter sports than making a run through the play offs. It’s a case of adult coaches being able to see the brass ring at the end of the tunnel and wanting to “go for it” while 16-17 year old adolescents are just mentally worn out.
So what do you do? I think first, you do not get upset with them and berate them for their lack of enthusiasm. Rather, you sit them down and talk to them about what is happening. There are 2 types of messages that can be sent: 1- the “explanation” (tell them what they are feeling and why they are acting like they are) and 2- the “exhortation” to motivate them into raising their level of activity.
We are very goal oriented… especially competitive people like athletes. Ask the team (or the team leaders) to set some NEW goals for the play offs. Not only what they want to achieve but HOW they plan to achieve them. For example: first goal: win our opening round game. Second goal: make it to the Regional championship. Third: play after Thanksgiving! Then… HOW do we accomplish these? Less turnovers on offense than we’ve had all season. Less third down conversions by our opponents than anyone’s had during the regular season. Play with more enthusiasm than we’ve shown. Better communication on defense.
One last thing: do something “unexpected” for the players! On Thursday, throw out a couple of footballs, choose up teams and play some touch football for 20 minutes. OR…. have the Moms and cheerleaders bring in pizza after practice. Have the coaches prepare and present a skit or a joke time where each coach gets up and tells his favorite (clean!) joke. Do something to create the paradymn shift to get them back in the game mentally.
Good luck and God bless you!

After the Season Ends

Posted by admin November - 4 - 2009 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Several coaches have written this week talking about what they are planning on doing now that their season has come to a close.  Some ended their season very dissatisfied with their poor record; others have been knocked out in the play-offs after a great regular season.  Regardless of how successful (or poorly!) your season went I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to TAKE SOME TIME OFF!  Get away from it all.  Get that equipment stored away and get away with your wife/girlfriend or buddy for a week-end.  That’s just the start.  This week-end get away is decompression time.  Focus on letting your wife back into your life.  This week-end should be more for her being pampered and shown appreciation for putting up with you for the last 3 months than anything else.

Get back home and get your team banquet over with then…. lock up the locker room; lock up the film room and lock up the weight room and take some time off!!!  Guys, we don’t get paid enough to make this a 12 month a year job!!!  I know that the “competitive spirit” drives you to get back at it as soon as possible but, I’m telling you:  YOU and your players need some time away!!!  There’s nothing wrong with “getting bored” to get motivated again.  Let your players start coming to you asking when the weight room is going to open.  Let them know that “it’ll be soon… I’ll let you know.”  Take some time, IF you must, to put together a seasoon highlight dvd/tape.  Make highlight dvd/tapes for your key juniors who will likely be recruited.  Do a season review and chart plays if you didn’t do it during the season.  But an extra 3 weeks in the weight room from Thanksgiving to Christmas is NOT going to win a state championship for you next year.

That time away can do wonders.  I would encourage you to wait until after Thanksgiving at the earliest to start back up on your weight program.  Later than that won’t hurt you.  I speak from experience Coaches.  From 1991 to 2006 when I retired, our winning percentage was 85%.  We never started lifting until after Christmas… and then it was just an “introductory” period for new lifters.  After we got back from Christmas/New Years break, we had 3 weeks till semester break.  That was when we let the veterans start back.  After semester break, around Feb. 1st, was when we began in earnest.  We lifted and did agility/plyometrics/speed training 3 days a week with the 4th day being “skills and drills”— position work.  We let the kids throw the ball around and play touch.  We went HARD from Feb. 1st till June 1st.  Took 2 weeks off and then worked out until one week before pre-season practice started.  We always had our kids strong, fast and tough. 

What you may be doing is burning yourself out AND your players.  You want them “fresh” when August practice starts.  It’s the next 12-14 weeks that you want them to peak.  If they’ve been working hard since the previous November, trust me, by April or so it’s going to get “old” for them.  Remember: they are only 15-16 years old.  They are not professionals nor scholarship athletes. 

The whole idea of this “Little Things” book and website is to pass along failures and successes that I experienced in coaching for 34 years (the last 22 as a head coach.)  My hope is to save you some heartburn and guide you in paths that will lead to all the success you want to achieve on and off the field.  God bless you, Lew

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