Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for August, 2011

After the Storm!

Posted by admin August - 31 - 2011 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

Hurricane Irene rolled through our area last week-end! Though it was bad, the devastation could have been a LOT worse. My hat’s off to Virginia Power for getting crews out and getting our electricity back on after 36 hours of darkness.

We went to church Sunday morning only to find the lights out there too. But it was good to gather and celebrate God’s grace and mercy. My wife and I have just joined a new church and the pastor spoke briefly on “After the storm.” He reminded us that the Lord has everything under control.

In the midst of the storm, the birds just hunker down in their nests and wait for it to pass. We face those storms (both physical, like Irene, emotional and spiritual) in our lives, too. How do we respond? Where is our faith? It’s easy to trust in God when things are going right! But what about times like last week-end?

The Bible says that, “those who WAIT upon the Lord shall renew their strength…. they will mount up on wings like eagle’s.” Eagles soar above the storm. We need to do the same thing when storms roll into our lives.

I talked with our team last week about persistence. With persistence comes patience. Sometimes we must plow ahead while at other times, like that bird in the nest, we have to hunker down and… wait!

If you are battling one of life’s storms right now, realize that 1- God is in control (if you’ve put your trust in His Son). He will not leave you floating around in a leaky boat out on the lake in a raging storm. I love the story where Jesus told His disciples to “go across the lake and I will meet you on the other side.” Jesus went off to pray and the disciples set out in their boat. Halfway across they ran into a violent storm. They thought they were going to drown! In the midst of the storm, here come Jesus walking on the water… commanding the storm to calm and, in turn, calming the nerves of the disciples. I found it interesting that He told them that He would meet them on “the other side.” That He would get them through the storm. God’s promises are sure!

2- While we are in the storm, we have to exhibit patience and persistence. As Winston Churchill said in a famous WW II speech: “Never give up and… never give in!” As the Bible says, we must “press on toward the goal.”

1st Scrimmage

Posted by admin August - 23 - 2011 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

We had our first pre-season scrimmage (Virginia allows us 2 before we start the regular season schedule) Friday night. It was my first time coaching my new team where we competed against another team. What I observed made me proud and was very encouraging!

I had told the players earlier in the week when it was hot and they were tired and starting to drag a little that, “I can’t coach effort! That has to come from inside of each of you. We played with tremendous effort Friday night. For that, I am thankful and was sure to compliment them on that when we met Saturday morning. There were plenty of things that we need to correct; but, I was sure to let them know how happy I was with how hard they played.

Coaches- you always need to find something that you can praise your kids for… no matter how badly they played. Start with praise and then explain what you need to do to get better. Kids (people) take correction better when they know that there’s something positive coming with it. The only time I really chew out the kids is when I see a lack of hustle. I tell them, “I CANNOT coach effort! That has to come from you. Anyone can hustle.” Mental mistakes: we teach better and work to correct. There’s no need to fuss at a player for a mental error. It might be poor coaching that’s caused that player to miss an assignment. Be careful of the “I can do no wrong” attitude in a coach. We can improve just like our players.

Finally, if your offense didn’t “click” like you wanted it to, then KEEP WORKING! Don’t bail on an idea just because it doesn’t look like you want it to yet. Keep at it. Demand improved performance. There’s nothing I like better than to practice against a particular defensive front or offensive package and then the opponent comes out on Friday night and lines up in something different! He can’t get his team ready in 3 days to execute a new offense or defense! We’ve got ’em just where we want them! Don’t become a “grab bag” coach. Find a system and stick to it!

Don’t Jump to Conclusions!

Posted by admin August - 16 - 2011 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

We all fail in some way, shape or form from time to time. When John D. Rockefeller ran the Standard Oil Company one of his senior executives made a mistake that cost over two million dollars. The other excecutives thought that Rockerfeller would come down hard on him and probably fire him. But he didn’t.

Before he called the man in, he sat down, took a notepad and wrote across the top of it “points in favor of this man.” Then he listed the man’s strengths, including how he’d once helped the company make the right decision and earned them millions of dollars.

One of the senior executives who witnessed it later said, “Whenever I am tempted to rip into someone, I force myself to sit down and compile a list of the good qualities they have. By the time I have finished, I have the right perspective. And best of all, my anger is under control. I can’t tell you how many times this habit has prevented me from committing one of life’s costliest mistakes— losing my temper. I recommend it to anyone who must deal with people.”

So, before you jump to conclusions about someone (a coach or a player), stop and ask God for His wisdom. Then sit down and make a list of their best qualities. If you do, you’ll probably come to a different conclusion. One thing is for sure, you’ll approach them with the right attitude and you won’t say things you’ll later regret. I think the Psalmist had learned that lesson when he wrote, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with me tongue.” (Psm. 39:1)

Mental vs. Physical

Posted by admin August - 12 - 2011 - Friday 1 COMMENT

I touched on this a little one time before but I wanted to comment on “making kids tough.” In many ways, players come to us at the HS level with a developed toughness. A lot of it is cultural. Kids develop toughness early in life based on the over-all attitude towards the normal bumps and bruises a child experiences.
The next encounter is that first time playing football in the backyard. They hit or get hit and the initial reaction is either “this is fun” or “Ow… I don’t like that.” Finally, the first experience of organized team football when they put on pads and have coaches (hopefully) instructing them on the proper techniques of tackling. I think it all culminates there. That first one on one hit with pads on tells a boy a LOT about whether he is going to enjoy contact or it’s something to avoid! The classic “fight or flight” mechanism that God put in all of us.

We had our first live hitting drills on Wednesday. I did not know what to expect. We are perceived as a typical upper middle class, predominantly white, private academy football team. But, I had seen a lot of our players participating in lacrosse games last spring. I saw the aggressive nature in them. So, here is another way to build toughness: get them involved in another contact sport. I thought wrestling was a great cross-over for football (and it is); but now that I’ve observed, and become a fan of lacrosse, I think that it is even better. Why? The players are on their feet, running around and dealing with contact throughout the game.

So we did 1 on 1 hitting drills for 15 minutes and I was amazed at the aggressiveness of our players. They were fighting to get into the drill! Nobody “hid” in the back— everyone wanted a turn. There was sincere disappointment when we ended he period. I thought later: why did these kids have the “it” for enjoying contact when teams I’ve coached in the past… a number of the kids came out for football but did not seem interested at all in the contact involved? I think I answered my question earlier in this post. Most of our players grew up in a well-organized and well-coached Pop Warner league. Probably 90% of my varsity players are lacrosse players. They have been exposed to contact since they were young and have learned to enjoy it.

Soooo… the physical toughness is something I think you can only nurture in a teenage boy. It’s already instilled by high school age. Where you can improve his toughness is the mental aspect. If you can create a mind-set in your players that they have to overcome obstacles through self-discipline and “mind over matter” then you’ve got a chance to develop the physical toughness that comes with it.

I related in my book how you can start working on this mental toughness in the off-season in the weight room. Challenges and competitions to build mental toughness should be part of your weekly… even daily… work-outs. Once pre-season practice starts, you continue to feed their mind with positive thoughts. I ask them to run everywhere. We don’t walk. I ask them to stand up when they are resting between sprints. “Be able to look your opponent in the eye. Don’t show him you are tired.” Compliment your players when they show toughness. We are NOT talking about abuse here— just trying to change a mind set that many young people have today. Football is a violent, aggressive, full contact sport. Only the strong (mentally AND physically) will survive… and thrive!

Mike Leach

Posted by admin August - 6 - 2011 - Saturday 1 COMMENT

Wow… first week of practice is over! I’d forgotten how busy you get and… how tired I get. I’m writing this and heading for bed!
My Defensive Coordinator is reading Mike Leach’s book (I don’t even know the title) and shared something with me in an email that really resonated with me. Coach Leach says: “You’re either coaching it or allowing it.”

It’s sounds simple but it is very hard to find the line where you allow stuff and where you have to try to change behavior or attitudes. In essence, that’s what coaching is: kind of a combination of parenting and teaching. At any rate, you have to decide where you draw that line with many behaviors in your players. And it can have a tremendous impact on your coaching and the success of your team. Ultimately it means that you have decided on those things that you call unacceptable and those you will allow. I’ve read some parenting books that say, in essence: “choose your battles.” There are certain hills where you stick you flag in the dirt and say, “No more; no further… it stops here.”

Your values as a coach and as a person will express themselves in these areas where you decide you need to “coach” and not “allow.” We had a very successful coach in this area a few years ago who basically allowed his players to act out in any show-boaty, intimidating, trash talking way they wanted— before, during and after games. His attitude was, “let them do their own thing. I’m here to win football games, not teach them character.” As much success as he had on the field, his reputation was basically trashed by people who felt that the things he “allowed” went way over the line. He chose not to “coach” these things. I could never be associated with a program that allowed high school players to act the way they did. But, that’s my line in the sand!

How much freedom do you give a running back to find his hole and make a cut? Do you require your running backs or wide receivers to block? If so, are you coaching them up to be effective blockers? If they won’t or don’t block, do you still play them? If you have your most aggressive linemen (who also is your most penalized lineman) recognized as a great player and a college recruit, what message are you sending? I guess that’s the bottom line. We are so media-oriented in society today that I’m not sure coaches realize that they are sending out messages to players (and parents) as often as we do.

Finally, I think this is another of those seperators of the good coaches from the great ones. A great coach knows what he needs to have “coached up” and what he can let slide. You need to find where your “line” is.

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