Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for November, 2012

The Secret of Finding Satisfaction

Posted by admin November - 27 - 2012 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

For those of us from the 60’s Generation, the anthem blared loudly: “I can’t get no… du du du… satisfaction!” Kudo’s to Mick and the Stones. (Does it bother you (like it does me) to see 80 year old men on stage singing rock ‘n roll… like they’re still in their 20’s??!!!)

Most of my coaching friends who read this blog have finished their football season. For those few of you who are “still in the hunt!”— good luck and go all the way!!! For those who have finished their season, I want to give you something to ponder: If money or fame (or… in our case, a state championship or even a winning season!) guaranteed happiness, then why do rich and famous people commit suicide??? History proves that they are not necessarily happy… nor satisfied. Happy people don’t follow money or fame, they follow their God-given passion.

In What Happy People Know, Dan Baker writes: “The man in front of me seemed to have it all: money, freedom, friends and family. But he didn’t have the one thing he wanted most— happiness. His home life would horrify most people–alienated kids, a wife who resented his obsession with (coaching) work, no time to kick back.” What was this man’s biggest concern? Getting what he didn’t have.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, Lew, but that doesn’t apply to me. In his situation (a state championship or two!), I know I could be happy!” No, money… fame… success can’t buy happiness; regardless of how much you have. It’s simply never enough!!! Fear (that insidious little voice) will always whisper, “Unless you get more wins; more championships, you won’t be secure.”

So…. what’s the secret of happiness?

Paul writes in the Bible: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing (a 1 and 9 season!) or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it’s with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.” (Phil. 4:11-13). When you pursue God’s purpose for your life, money and fame are secondary. Your real status symbols are salvation, spiritual growth, a secure home, special friends and… the satisfaction of doing what God has called you to do. I have shared with many groups that my greatest thrill in coaching is that 7 of my former players are in full-time Christian ministry throughout the country. My desire for them to “see Jesus in me” was, I hope, a spark that propelled them toward living a life that is pleasing to God.

What’s your purpose in coaching?!

“The Thrill of Victory; the Agony of Defeat!”

Posted by admin November - 19 - 2012 - Monday 3 COMMENTS

We played in the state championship game on Saturday. We were playing for the Virginia Independent School Division II championship— at the home field of the other team. They are about 3 1/2 hours away so I decided to take our team up there the night before. We stayed in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. We had to pay a minimal fee (NCAA rules) but they let our kids practice on their practice field. Verrrrrrrrrry cool! We had a team meal, did our awards ceremony and let the guys “hang out” in the hotel till bed time. They were great! It is a special group of kids.

We had breakfast and then boarded our bus for the 40 minute ride up into the mountains to play this school. Our kids were understandably jittery and it showed in the first quarter. We turned the ball over twice— once on our own 6 yard line. UGH! We fought back and only trailed by 20-16 at halftime.

Unfortunately, we did not re-gain the momentum in the 3rd quarter. This was a big, fast, physical team that we faced and it showed. We just got worn down. It was frustrating that we couldn’t run the ball like we’ve done so successfully most all season. We averaged 285 yards rushing per game and 34 points a game! But not on Saturday. Final score was 41-16 in favor of the “bad guys!”

I measured my thoughts as I walked to the end zone to meet with our kids for the last time. I realized that it was not the time to point fingers or lament over missed opportunities. The kids felt bad enough as it was. The first thing out of my mouth was, “I am sooooooooooo proud of you!!!” That statement immediately lifted some heads. I explained that “we are not defined as men based on whether we won or lost. You played hard, you showed good sportsmanship….. we just met a foe today who played better than us. We have much to be thankful. We had a great run… all the way to the state championship game. It was a great season.”

We’ll be back… I think. We had 10 underclassmen starting on Offense (I have to find someone to step in and fill some big shoes for a great senior quarterback)… so I feel like our offense will continue to click. On Defense, we had 9 underclassmen starters. What I need to get into these kids’ heads is that championships are built from January to July. They need to get in the weight room for 7-8 months… not weeks!

Moral of the story: Be careful what you say right after a game. Whether it’s to the players, the parents or the media… be careful. You pour out too much praise on someone only to find out when you evaluate the video that he made one big play but the rest of the game, he did not perform well. You criticize someone in a post-game meeting— only to discover that he actually did a good job most of the night. I remember a situation years ago. We were in a close game against a better opponent and our punter (who was our wide receiver) got hurt. We came out late in the game to punt from our own 5 yard line. I had to send in our back-up punter to kick from his own end zone. Needless to say, he shanked the punt and it went out on our 20 yard line. The other team scored and won the game. Afterwards, a media guy tried to “bait” me into making a comment about the back-up punter “losing the game” for us. What I said was, “He came in the game in a critical situation. He did the best he could. That play was no more important than the fumble in the first quarter that led to their first score. I’m proud of our kids for making a great effort.”

I got a note in the mail the next week. It was from the back-up punter’s Mom. She informed me that they had just found out on Friday that the Dad was diagnosed with cancer. The boy was devastated. But, he wanted to dress out that night and be there with his team. Little did he know that he’d have to go into the game at such a critical time. He was very upset about messing up the punt until they read my quote in the paper the next morning. Mom said, “Dan was so relieved that you supported him… when it would’ve been easy to blame. We appreciate so much how you, Coach J., stand by and stand up for your players.”

Now, isn’t that how you’d like to be recognized by your players, parents and supporters? A coach who cares about his players and their feelings?

We lost a great coach

Posted by admin November - 13 - 2012 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I attended the funeral of a great coach this morning. His name was “Billy” O’Brien. He was my high school coach. I knew when I played for him back in the 60’s (Yes…. we wore face masks!!!) that he was making an impact in my life. I respected him and watched how he operated. I knew even back then that I wanted to coach one day. Coach O’Brien was a great role model. It didn’t hurt that in 2 1/2 seasons of Varsity ball that I played for him that I did not play in a losing game! I was promoted to the Varsity half way through my Soph. year. We went 5-0-1. Then my Junior year we were 9-0-1 and my senior year was a perfect 10-0 season! What a boost to my self image to be one of the “stars” on a great football team! It’s what any self-conscious 17 year old teenage boy needed.

It wasn’t until I became a head coach myself almost 20 years later that I truly realized what an impact Coach O’Brien’s philosophy and style of coaching had on me. I found myself doing a lot of the same things— the same way that he did them. They became the hallmarks of success for my coaching career. Those timeless “little things” that help you be successful and stay successful for a long time.

Some of these things you already know. The rest you can find in my book if you’d like to buy a copy. (Check the home page of this website.) But the main thing that I learned from Coach O’Brien was: be prepared! He and his staff were meticulous in their preparation. I now spend hours scouting our opponents and planning our practices so we are focusing on the things that are going to help us be successful on Friday night.

The second thing I learned was to be flexible but also be persistent. We ran the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Sweep my senior year for him. It was one of only 4 running plays that we had. In 1966, we were throwing the ball about 25-30 times a game! That was unheard of back in the mid 60’s. He was simply way ahead of his time. How did this happen? It was because Coach O’Brien was a “student of the game.” He studied it. He broke it down. He understood it better than most every coach we competed against. He fit his system to his players. For example, we had a lot of tough, country boys on our team. Most of them played defense. He knew the importance of “getting after it” on D.

Finally, I learned from him that you can correct a player if you want him to get better but… you better find something to praise him about before he leaves for home that evening. He made you want to play for him. Not because he was easy or made it fun. You knew that he knew what he was doing and he was going to make sure that he showed you how to maximize your talent. There was a mutual respect thing going on that made you want to please him just like you want to please your Dad.

His style has led my teams to a lot of wins. On the week-end that he died, our team won it’s state semi-final game and this week-end we play for the Virginia Independent School Div. II state championship! What a fitting tribute to my coaching mentor to win this game for him. “Thanks Coach O’Brien”— for all you did for me. As the 2nd verse of the team fight song that our players chant says: “Mama, Mama can’t you see. What Coach O’Brien has done for me. Put a football in my hand. Turned a boy into a man!” THAT says it all!

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