Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for July, 2013

Building Team Unity

Posted by admin July - 31 - 2013 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

With high school football practice starting in the next few days, those of you who read this and coach (or play) are starting to get focused on what’s going to take place over the next 3 weeks. “That” is: pre-season practice! Some of you will have some kind of Camp. Others will have their version of 2-a-days. In any case, a lot of thought has gone into planning out those practices to get the maximum benefit from them. I hope that the “little things” that can be learned during pre-season are not being ignored at your school. One of those “little things” is building team unity.

President Lincoln is quoted as saying it, but he was merely quoting the Bible! “A house divided against itself will not stand.” If there was ever a call to be unified, that pretty well nails it. I have always emphasized team unity as one of our foundation blocks for the teams I’ve coached. Building and maintaining unity throughout the season is the first goal that I present to the team each year. It should be yours too.

I learned from Coach Lou Holtz many years ago that you need to face adversity before it faces you! Cuz then it can be too late. I tell my players: “We are going to face some kind of adversity this season. We need to be aware of that fact and start preparing now to deal with it. I don’t know what that adversity is going to look like, but (and not to be negative!) something bad is going to happen to us before this season is over. Be prepared and let’s not get overwhelmed by it.”

This all sounds good but… what specifically has to be done in preparation? You can talk about a storm hitting your house but if you do not board up the windows, the winds can wreak havoc. We have the threat of a hurricane here in Tidewater Virginia almost every year. When the warning comes, people are told of the steps they need to take in preparation for the storm. It’s the same thing with your team. It’s important to have “built a shelter” before the adversity hits. This is accomplished through building trust. Trust is built through communication.

I am a big advocate of “team-building” exercises for your players. They don’t have to be complicated nor do they need to last very long. One of my favorites is what our kids call “Timmmmmber!” We put a guy up on a table or a bench and 6-7 players surround him. He goes rigid and then simply topples off the edge of the table backwards like a tree falling. It is the job of the surrounding players to catch him before he hits the floor. We talk about the seriousness of the exercise— there is NO joking around! It’s fun but… if you’re going to build unity, that player falling over must knowthat he is going to be caught. There’s that trust factor. You can have every player fall a couple of times in just 5 minutes.

Then you need to process the exercise. Observe what’s going on as the kids interact. It’s funny how for some players, just getting 3-4 feet off the ground makes them frightened. Others are nervous because they’ve never been put in a situation where they have to trust others to keep them from falling. You need to talk about this stuff afterwards. For example, we had a transfer to our team last year who did not really know many of his teammates yet. I noticed that he sat over in the corner and chose not to even participate. I asked him why he didn’t when we met afterwards to process the activity. He was bold enough to say, with everyone in the room, that “I don’t know you guys yet. I don’t know if I can trust you.” You could have heard a pin drop. Nothing more needed to be said. I closed with pointing out that if we don’t “hang out” together and talk, we can’t build trust. We don’t build trust… we don’t build unity. Then when the adversity strikes (for us last season, we lost our first 2 games by a point!) your team won’t be able to overcome it.

Stand strong… together!

Why is he playing?

Posted by admin July - 24 - 2013 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I had an interesting discussion with a young man in the weight room yesterday. He “started to” come out for football at our school for the last 2 years and then… at the last moment changed his mind. He made an off-hand comment that he was “thinking about” playing football this fall since it’s his last year in high school. I asked him, “Why didn’t you play before?” His answer? “Well, my Travel Team baseball coaches told me that I shouldn’t play. I needed to concentrate on baseball.” hummmm?

I decided to speak my mind. I said, “You are a rising senior, right? (“Yes sir.”) And how many baseball scholarship offers have you gotten so far? (“None.”) So you gave up 2 years of having fun playing football with us for a dream that some AAU baseball coach perpetuated in your mind and looks like it’s not going to happen?” (again, “Yes sir.”)

I asked, “Have you ever heard me (the football coach) tell you…. or any of our athletes… NOT to play another sport?!” (“No sir.”) So… I’ve got to wonder what the motivation was for that baseball coach to be so selfish as to discourage you from doing something that you’d enjoy and you’d be pretty good at?!”

Then I open the sports section in the paper this morning and they are going on about some summer baseball league here in the area that uses wooden bats for high school players— to prepare them for Major League Baseball! “Come on Man!!!” (I have to add… for us old timers who used nothing but wooden bats when we played as kids) that one player said, “They’re (wooden bats) not for everybody. You have to be strong and coordinated to handle a wooden bat!” again… “Come on Man!” I was 5’10 and 178 pounds in high school. I swung a 34 oz. bat… it looked like a club more than a baseball bat!!! Anyway… another story for another time.

My point: Parents— encourage your sons and daughters to play multiple sports. To specialize for the sole reason of, “I’ve got to get my kid a scholarship” perverts the whole concept of why we offer sports participation to children. Participate; be active; compete; learn different skills; learn teamwork and… have fun!!! My parents encouraged me to learn football, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, archery, ping pong! and a little karate. I was pretty good in all of them. This age of specialization drives me crazy.

This sums it up: we just had a student transfer to our independent school. When I met him (knowing that he was going to play football for us), I asked him what his favorite sport was. His response? (It’s a classic!!!) He said, “Whatever sport is in season!” I LOVE it!!!

Take Control of Your Life

Posted by admin July - 16 - 2013 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Much of this write-up will come from the morning devotional booklet, The Word For You Today, from the Bob Gass ministry. It is excellent. If you are looking for a short, encouraging word to start your day… I highly recommend you purchase a subscription.

One of my college coaches was Lou Holtz. It was his first head coaching job— William and Mary in 1969. We’ve remained in contact over the years and he’s still the great speaker and motivator that he’s always been. If you have not heard his “Do Right” talk, you need to find it. One of the things he brings out right at the beginning of the talk is “Choice is the greatest power God gave us.” Bob Gass writes, “Too many of us just accept our lives– we don’t become leaders of ourselves.” Say again: Leaders of ourselves!!! Thus, oftentimes we can’t get out of our own way.

Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, wrote in Souls on Firethat when we die and go to meet our Maker, we’re not going to be asked why we didn’t become President or invent a cure for the common cold. Wiesel says that what we’re going to be asked is, “Why didn’t you become you?! Why didn’t you become all that you are?” Fulfilling God’s purpose and plan for your life (and He does have one for each of us!) requires taking responsibility for yourself and your life. How do we do that?

First and foremost, it means saying “yes” to God. We simply lack the wisdom and strength to do it on our own. Turning over the car keys to Jesus and, as Carrie Underwood sang, letting “Jesus take the wheel” may be the biggest challenge any of you may ever encounter!!! Why is this so important? Because every time you say “yes” to God, you are opening yourself up to allow His power (His Holy Spirit) to build you up to your potential and, thus, your greatest possibilities. If you are used to saying “no” to God, you are going to find this difficult to do. I would encourage you to at least start with saying “maybe.” That’s a step in the right direction.

One of my favorite Bible stories is from the Gospel of Mark. A father comes to Jesus begging Him to heal his son. Jesus said to the man, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The man cried out, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”

If you are a self-doubter, then you can say that same prayer. God will answer it. You’re responsible to become all that God made you to be. But, here’s the good news: you don’t have to do it alone! God’s Helper, His Holy Spirit, is there to guide us along the way. It’s your choice!!!

Staying Aloft

Posted by admin July - 9 - 2013 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

I read something this week that realllllllly spoke to my heart. Dennis Kinlay writes in his book, The Mind of Christ, that he was in the cockpit of a small airplane piloted by a friend. He was bewildered by the array of instruments in front of them. The pilot said, “There are two instruments that you must have in any plane, no matter how big or small.” Kinlaw asked what they were. “One of them is the compass and the other is an artificial horizon,” said his pilot friend. Kinlaw asked, “Why do you need an artificial horizon?” “It tells you the difference between ‘up’ and ‘down,'” the pilot replied.

Kinlaw thought he was kidding until he explained that when you get up into the clouds and cannot see anything outside the plane, there is nothing in our bodies to tell us which way is ‘up’ and which way is ‘down.’ The pilot said, “When we rise into that cloud cover, I have just a few seconds to get adjusted to using that artificial horizon, because my body will tell me one thing, but reality will be something else.”

“We have no artificial horizon inside of us. We have no internal compass. Our bodies bear witness to the fact that we need guidance from outside of ourselves. Yet so often we think, It’s my life. I can control it. I don’t need God or anyone else. Then we make great mistakes, damaging our own lives and the lives of other people.”

The Bible is pretty emphatic that we need the guidance of the Lord if we want to be truly successful in life. God provides this guidance through His Word. The Bible will help us find out who we are supposed to be and how we are to live our life.

The prophet Jeremiah says that our “sense of direction” is not within us. We can never be as successful as we could possibly be without the assistance of God’s Holy Spirit. It’s why I’ve become so interested in really understanding what it means to be “in Christ.” I want to challenge and encourage you to seek an understanding of this concept that so you too might have the “Mind of Christ.”

On Vacation!

Posted by admin July - 2 - 2013 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

My wife, my granddaughter and I am enjoying a relaxing week on the Outer Banks of NC! More clouds than sun but that’s ok— I’ll get plenty of sun when practice starts in August!

Two things I want to share with my coaching friends out there who read this: 1) take some time off and spend some time away with your family! It’s a long haul from August to November… take some time now to relax and get away from football for a week. Your family needs your undivided attention and you need to re-charge your batteries.

2) Communicate with your players and their parents. With email, Facebook, texting and such, there is no excuse for not staying in touch with (in particular!) your players’ parents. It’s something I’ve worked hard to cultivate over the last 2 years. Parents are naturally interested in what’s going on in their son’s life. You, as the football coach, hold a lot of influence in that boy’s life. Keeping the parents informed as to what’s going on in your program just makes sense. I believe in building a “family” atmosphere in our football program. I want my parents to know that they are included, not excluded, in our football team.

I want to encourage you to post a monthly email during the off-season and then during the season, on Sunday’s, a weekly email to all of your players and parents. It builds trust and a sense of unity in your program.

Oops! The sun’s back out. We’re heading back up to the beach. We’ve spotted dolphins in the ocean 3 times now— that’s considered fun for old people at the beach!!!

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