Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for September, 2010

Wet Weather Game Prep

Posted by admin September - 30 - 2010 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

It has been raining here for 4 straight days… about 5-6 inches so far! I know that some of you will have to play in rainy/wet weather at some point. There were some things that I had to learn the hard way about preparing for wet weather games. I want to pass along some of those to you so you don’t step in the same “potholes” that we did!

First… for you as coach. ALWAYS… pack a small athletic bag and bring it with you on away games. In it, I always carried my rain suit! Always! You never know when you’ll need it. Again, I learned the hard way as I stood in a November downpour one year… got soaked to the bone! A few years later, we were playing in a Regional Championship game (against Mr. Percy Harvin when he was in high school!) We were up 3-0 in the second quarter when a HUGE storm rolled through. In a matter of minutes, the temperature dropped 15-20 degrees and the rain was coming down in buckets. To make matters worse, the wind picked up and for about 5 minutes the rain was horizontal! I fortunately had packed my rain suit; sprinted to the back of the team bench and got it on just as the rain started to pour! The rest of my staff had “laughed me off” and stood there trying to coach while they got drenched! I might add… I was not too proud to wear my waterproof hunting boots either as part of my coaching attire! I looked a little silly with my camo boots on but my feet stayed dry and warm!

Bring as many new or “game quality” game balls as you can. (6 or 7 is the minimum. If you don’t end up using them, you have them for future weeks.) Pack them in a separate ball bag and tell your Ball Boy: “Do NOT get these out for any reason other than I tell you to pull one out to give to the officials.” QB’s like to throw them around in pre-game! You get them wet warming up… you’ve got no dry game balls when it’s time to kick off!

Also pack plenty of towels (a dozen or more!) Your QB and your Center can tuck one (it must be white) in their belt but your ball boy can wipe off the balls and keep a second ball wrapped up in towels that he’s holding on the sideline until the referee wants to exchange the wet one that’s been in play for a dry ball.

I might add… if the field is sloppy and the traction is not good, take a shot at a long pass or two EARLY in the game! First series even. A DB slips, you pull it in and score. It may be the only score of the game if the conditions continue to deteriorate.

If it is feasible, pack an extra pair of game pants for your starters. Those spandex pants get soaked and they end up weighing 20 lbs. by half time! IF… you can get them in a dry pair of pants, it helps. If nothing else, make sure they bring a new, dry t shirt and a dry pair of socks to change into at halftime. Having dry cloth against your skin is a good feeling coming out for the second half.

Finally… and I talk about this in my book, if it’s left up to you as far as whether you play or postpone due to bad weather or playing conditions—- my advice is to consider playing at the scheduled time. Teen-agers are funny birds! (you didn’t know that did you??!!!). You turn them loose on a Friday night with nothing to do, there is a good chance that a player might get in trouble. At the least, they stay up all night and are dragging when they come in on Saturday to get ready for the game. Your kids have been pointing toward the game all week. It is a HUGE psychological letdown to have to tell them Friday afternoon that their game has been postponed. You know your team better than anyone. You have to make that final decision. My experience was: play if you possibly can.

Good luck and God bless you!

Keep Practicing!

Posted by admin September - 27 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

In the Bible, King Saul was attacked by evil spirits that tormented him. So he sent for David to come and play his harp. As David played, “Relief would come to Saul; he would feel better…”

This story shows us 2 things: 1- the power of praise and 2- the power of practice. David didn’t suddenly discover his talent when he arrived at Saul’s palace. No… he developed it through years of practice on lonely hillsides while tending his father’s sheep.

When it comes to practice, the two most difficult challenges you face are a) having the desire to do it (especially if you’re on a losing streak during your season) and b) having the discipline to keep at it.

Guys…. there is no easy way to become a disciplined person. But, if you want to be a successful coach, it’s something that you MUST develop! Just remember, it has nothing to do with talent or ability. It is not a matter of conditions, but choice. But once the choice is made and practice becomes a habit, 2 things become obvious.

The first is a clear difference between the person who practices (hard) and the one who doesn’t. Cyclist Lance Armstrong said, “Success comes from training harder and digging deeper than others.” And he should know!

The second thing that emerges is a winning spirit. The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender to things like fatigue, complacency, discouragement, criticism and all the other stuff that tries to break your stride.

Keep practicing!

Bouncing Back

Posted by admin September - 19 - 2010 - Sunday 1 COMMENT

I was saddened to watch my former team/school lose a heart-breaker in the last minute Friday night. It meant they’ve lost the last 2 games by less than a TD and… both losses came late in the 4th quarter. It made me think of 2 things that I’d like to share: 1- the margin between winning and losing is very slim. One mistake can cost you a game… particularly late in the game when it’s close. 2- It’s your job, Head Coach, to come in on Monday with your head up, your attitude positive and your focus on correcting mistakes so you can win that next close one.

The kids and the asst. coaches will take their cue from you. Your attitude will carry a LOT of weight— and you might not even recognize it. If you are feeling sorry for yourself or if you are mad and frustrated with your players AND…. you “carry” that attitude into practice on Monday… the kids are going to “feel” it. If the Captain of the ship is thinking it’s going to sink, then the crew won’t do much to try and bail it out!

This is why I’ve always advocated focusing on execution rather than winning. Your team knows that it’s playing to win; but if that is what you emphasize, then the “journey” gets forgotten and the destination is the only goal. Then, everyone becomes easily frustrated and the attitude continues to sink.

Rather, if you talk about execution and the minimizing of mistakes (or elimination of them), you have a goal to focus on that involves their effort and their improving the mental part of the game.

It’s why I like to show the “Bloopers” video on Monday. We review the mistakes and move on. Kids don’t want to sit there and be embarrassed in front of their peers anymore than you would. Think of it this way: You are in your classroom. You are handing back a test that your students have just taken. Is it a good teaching practice to yell at those students who failed the test?! To single them out in class about how “stupid” they are? or… “how can you keep making the same mistake over and over, Son?!” I hope you wouldn’t do that! Then, why do it to your players?

Watching your game is supposed to be a learning situation. Your players can tell by the tone of your voice whether you’re disappointed or not. IF… they want to play for you, then they are going to try and improve… to seek your approval.

It’s all about the “Little Things.”

Play Calling

Posted by admin September - 13 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I have already received numerous requests for my “Ready List” that we use for play calling purposes during the game. Apparently after 2 games, some coaches are realizing that they aren’t as prepared to call an offensive attack as they may have hoped to have been.

This is another “chapter” from my book, 101 Little Things that you can read about if you consider purchasing it.

In essence, I found that we were doing a good job in scouting our next opponent and preparing during practice, but when it came to game time, I was lacking in the ability to make the calls that created the big plays. I self scouted myself and found out verrrrrrry quickly: I was NOT calling those plays that I had deemed to be the “key” plays that would hurt the opponent’s defense the most! I needed some kind of “script” to guide me. I looked at Bill Walsh’s ideas about scripting the first 25 plays, etc— but found it too constrictive. But, I liked his idea of having plays prepared for those “special” situations; i.e., 3rd and short or backed up inside your own 5, that you run into during the game. So I borrowed some of Coach Walsh’s concepts but came up with a way to have some flexibility with calling the plays I wanted but… limiting myself to those plays that we had decided as a staff were the (potentially) most effective plays.

Thus, the idea of the BIG 5. These are listed at the top of the Ready List in bold print. After having spent so much time preparing, I wanted to be sure that we were running these 5 plays the majority of the time when attacking the defense.

I would have our Pressbox Spotter checking off each time we ran a “Big 5” play and the result. At the end of each series, he would report to me which plays we ran and what worked. If I saw that we weren’t running the Big 5 enough, I knew that the next series we had to get back to those plays.

At halftime, we would evaluate what worked and what didn’t. It sometimes required adding a play or dropping one down the list. In most cases though… the plays that we had decided on during Wednesday’s post practice staff meeting were the ones that were working and we needed to stick with them.

It gives you an organized “system” for play-calling instead of being haphazard in what you call.

If you would like a copy of a Game Plan/Ready List, you can find one in the book (please buy a copy!!) or email me through the “comments” section of this website.

Good luck and God bless you as you progress through your season. If I can help, please contact me!

Hydration

Posted by admin September - 7 - 2010 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

These “little things” keep popping up… so I’ll make some comments and get them posted for you.
I watched my Hokies go down in a blaze of glory (gory!) last night!!! and thought it interesting when Bret and Kirk commented that 48% humidity was “high” for the Boise kids! For us on the East Coast, 48% humidity is late fall weather!!! and.. that there were: “numerous Boise players being treated for cramps.”

What do you do to prevent cramps? I’m not sure anyone has the “perfect” solution but I have some ideas. Now, let me preface by saying that we played a state semi-final game in Northern Virginia one year. It was 38 degrees at kickoff at 2 pm… with 14 inches of snow surrounding the field. It had been pushed off and piled up on the edge of the track. It was like playing in a freezer! But… we still had kids who cramped up!!! If kids can get cramps in THAT climate, I’m not sure there is a solution!!!

One theory I have is that kids haven’t really “gone hard” in preseason practice (not like they do in games anyway.) That type of stress on the leg muscles for an extended time could possibly contribute to cramping. Just a theory.

I think the pickle juice and the banannas have merit. But, the most success we had to good old H2O… and LOTS of it! But… the KEY is: the players must hydrate starting on Monday!!! Most kids, being kids, will start drinking lots of water around lunch of game day! This is waaaaay too late.

I asked our players to stop drinking all carbonated drinks; tea and coffee and stay away from Gatorade. Drink milk with supper (but drink water too!) but water… water… water… and more of it is the key. And continue to drink to “over” hydrate throughout the season. Some kids will stop drinking when the weather turns cool— thinking they don’t need to hydrate anymore. NO!!! (*note my comment above about our December game!)

How much is too much? I don’t think there is such a thing. Bigger kids need to drink more and kids who sweat a lot need to drink more. A rule of thumb is 64 to 128 oz’s. a day! Yep… that much! There is no such thing as being “water logged”!!!

Study the Rule Book!

Posted by admin September - 3 - 2010 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

Guys: Just a quick one today. I know that many of you are opening this week-end. But, when you read this… go find your Federation rule book and read it!!!!!

I remember Bill Walsh of the SF 49ers saying that he re-read the NFL rule book every year before the season started. I started doing the same thing and it helped “save” us from officials blunders more than once.

When you can call time out and ask the White Hat over to question a call, IF… you have a knowledge of the rule book and can quote it to him, you have a far better chance of winning your argument! In fact, I would encourage you to carry a copy of the rule book in your back pocket. Now you have the written word to back you up! Of course, you have to know WHERE to look up something in the rule book if you’re going to show it to the Referee so……. again, STUDY your rule book.

We had an instance once where they threw a flag cuz they said we roughed their punter. I showed the officials that the rule says that when the ball skips back to the punter and he begins to run parallel to the L.O.S. he loses his protection. The Ref paused… thought.. and said: “You’re right, Coach. Your ball right there where he was tackled!”
That led to us scoring and winning that game! Know your rule book!

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