Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for February, 2015

David Shaw on Stanford’s Offense

Posted by admin February - 24 - 2015 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I spent a shortened week-end in Northern Virginia this past Friday and Saturday… at the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in Washington, DC. I was honored to be invited to speak on our Uptempo Spread (“Malzahn”) Wing T Package on Saturday morning. My plan was to stay through Sunday and attend church with a friend of mine who’s a pastor in NoVa and hear him preach. Unfortunately, I walked out of the room at 10 am on Saturday morning, looked outside and basically saw a “white out!” It was just about blizzard conditions… at least for a Tidewater Virginia boy who’s not used to much snow! I threw my stuff in the car and got out of town as fast as I could! Not before, however, I had the opportunity to listen to Stanford’s Head Football Coach David Shaw speak on Friday night. He talked mainly about their offense but gave some glimpses into their overall philosophy on how they conduct their program… at a school that places such a high premium on academics. Since I’ve called my school, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, the “Stanford of Western Tidewater”, I thought it would be an important talk to listen to. I wasn’t disappointed.

Coach Shaw said that they ask “4 questions” when evaluating their offense at Stanford. The first question is, I think, pertinent to all of you reading this who are head coaches at your school. He stated that his staff first asks themselves: Who are we? Shaw said that every program needs an identity. The media love to blast the schools that have a “system” for an offense! Coach Shaw was saying that you’re making a mistake if you don’t have a system. You need to be known for something! Whether it’s spread and throw the ball; option or, like Stanford and NSA, power running… you need to have an identity that your coaches and players can rally around.

He went further… when he said that his staff then has to answer the question of: What are our base concepts? Run or pass? Shaw said that you must limit your concepts so you can teach technique. He is BIG on execution! That’s something that all of us need to pay more attention to. I mentioned in my talk on Saturday morning that I am not impressed when a coach shows me his playbook that is 11 or 12 inches thick. That guy probably needs to get rid of about 75% of his offensive plays and get back to basics!

Question #2 was: How many different way can we change the look? Stanford is big on changing the formation but still running the same play. He challenges his staff to “maximize the number of ways they can disguise their simplicity” by showing as many different formations and personnel groupings as possible. The key word in there is: simplicity!

Question #3 was: What base defense will we face? In other words, how will a defense attempt to stop a play? Will they play man coverage and blitz their linebackers? Will they play zone? He made a point that, for them… if an opponent drops their safeties down into the box, it’s time to throw play-action! A good rule of thumb. He also encouraged using several unbalanced formations to force a defense to “over” adjust. Keep them guessing!

Finally, question #4 was: How are you trying to stop our base plays? This is an extension of Question #3; in that, you want to find a weakness. It might be a DB that they’re trying to “hide.” It might be a D Lineman who penetrates or another who stands up instead of firing out. Coach Shaw then builds his game plan around attacking that weak link.

He closed with a general question and answer period. Several questions from the audience concerned how they deal with the high academic standards that Stanford has. I loved his point: “Welllllllllll… we could whine and complain and fight the Admissions Department, but that’s not how we do things at Stanford. We simply go out and find the best of the best and help them become the very best football player and young man that we can make them.” Classy words from a very classy guy!!!

Communication is KEY!

Posted by admin February - 16 - 2015 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I had lunch the other day with a young head coach in our area. He wanted to “pick my brain.” We talked about various subjects and he shared some of his experiences at the schools he coached at before moving to our area. In each case, he shared an incident where parents of players just about made it intolerable. He moved on from one school to the next hoping to find a situation where the parents were more cooperative and supportive. As Lee Corso says on ESPN Game Day, “not so fast, my friend!”

He shared how things were going better at this new school he’s now coaching at in our area but… he’d already had to meet with a mom who was convinced that her son was better than the young man the coaches were playing at her son’s position. From his description of things, it sounded like the coaches were right— as usual! But, that wasn’t going to stop that mom from complaining.

I asked him about the type of relationship that he tried to develop with the players and their families. He assured me that he and his staff had their players’ best interest at heart and worked very hard to build relationships on and off the field. I then asked him about the parents. The “eyes cast down” look on his face said it all. He shared how parents had just about driven him out of coaching. At each stop, it was parents who simply took the fun out of coaching their kids. I could tell that he was visibly upset about this.

“How well do you communicate with your parents, Coach?” I asked him. His reply, “I try to stay as far away from them as I can!” I then began to share with him 2 things from my experience (found in my book, by the way!) that have proven to be of immeasurable importance in forging a good working relationship (and in some cases, good personal relationships) with parents throughout my career. I could tell that this piqued his interest. Here they are:

1) I make it clear to my parents from the first time we meet that I am fully aware that they have given me the responsibility of taking care of their most precious possession— their son! I let them know that I, and my coaches, will never knowingly say or do anything to harm their son. I explain how I coached my own son years ago when he played for me in high school. The deep sense of commitment that I had to make that as positive an experience for him (and his teammates) as I could was of utmost importance to me. It carries over even today to all of my current players. This point is emphasized throughout the year. I also point out to the parents that I’m there to help them. If they have a concern or their son is not cooperating at home, for instance, that I am there to help them. What I am trying to establish is a sense of community and a shared sense of concern for the well-being of their sons. This carries over to #2:

2) The importance of establishing (and keeping!) lines of communication open between the head coach and the parents. I shared with this young head coach how since I’ve got back into coaching in 2011 (after being out since 2006) that the biggest difference I saw was the use of technology and social media on the internet. I explained how I communicated via emails with our parents once a week during the season and at least once a month during the off-season. He looked at me like I’d lost my mind! I went on to tell him how many parents had personally thanked me for keeping them in the loop. They told me how it was the first time that they felt like they really knew what was going on in their son’s football career. I compose a Weekly Newsletter every Sunday evening during the season. I send it out as a mass email to all players, parents and school administrators. I feel like the AD and Principal like to be informed too. I give a review of the game from the previous Friday. Anyone who performed well, I give them a “tip of the cap” for a job well done. I bring out things that we need to improve on and share a little about our upcoming opponent. If there is important logistical information, like what time we’ll be leaving school for an away game that week, it is brought out in this weekly newsletter. I will also share something of a motivational nature to inspire our players to keep working hard. Rarely do I add anything negative. I want to stay focused on the positive and how we’re going to improve.

This coach was intrigued. I shared how much my team’s parents appreciated it and that the emails are critical in building strong ties with our parents. I want everyone to feel like we are “all in this together.” I want our parents to feel part of our program— not create an adversarial relationship. He said he was going to try it! I encourage you head coaches reading this to adopt it too.

That heading up above there is the first line to an old Michael W. Smith Praise song from the late 80’s/early 90’s. I’ve always thought that the theme behind the words is sooooo true! When we are part of God’s family, no matter how long or how far apart we may be from friends… IF we are God’s adopted children (John 1:12) then there is always a connection! I’ve had that reaffirmed in recent weeks and then fully discovered it today!

I attended the Chesapeake Sports Club monthly luncheon today…. for the first time as a member and not just a guest! I visited last year when the Club was kind enough to induct me into their Legends of Honor Hall of Fame. I decided last month that it was time to “reconnect” with friends from my old Great Bridge High School days! I guess as I get older, I start looking back as much as I look ahead. I realized that those people who were my high school friends were very important to me. What a blessing to have lunch with a bunch of them today! We reminisced and laughed for an hour. Good times! Two guys who I played football with in high school were honored posthumously today. It was a reality check for me. I thank God every day for giving me a new day to spend with others… my family; my church family; my NSA family and friends (old and new!) like you!!!

Another old friend gave me a ride over and back. We led a Bible Study for athletes when both of us were at Western Branch High School back in the 80’s. We started sharing and talking about the “good old days” and it was like we hadn’t missed a beat. He is a real Brother-in-Christ and it just confirmed again that what Michael W. Smith sang about is soooooo true!

So I’m waxing nostalgic today. Between reconnecting through the Sports Club and “friending” a bunch of old friends on Facebook, it just reminds me how much God has blessed me throughout the years. Cherish your friends. They deserve all of the love and respect you can give them! OK?!!

Stay humble… Stay Hungry, too!

Posted by admin February - 2 - 2015 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

Between our pastor’s sermon yesterday and my Bob Gass ministries devotion this morning, I think God is trying to tell me something! Pastor Michael was making it clear that God calls us to take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on 1- Jesus and 2- others. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but rather how you think about yourself… particularly in relation to others around you. We all want to be satisfied. We don’t need to go to the extreme that the Rolling Stones did in their 60’s hit, “I Can’t Get NO Satisfaction!” but we do need to be careful where we go to find satisfaction. I submit that we need to find our satisfaction in God. I kinda heard God’s Voice speaking to my heart last night as I fell asleep. I “heard”: “Am I first in your life? Then show me by your thoughts and actions!”

This morning I’m reading my devotion and they talk about reaping and sowing. In 2 Corinthians 9, it says: “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly on under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (vs. 6-8 NIV.)

When we give what God tells us to, He’ll give us back more. When we know that, it’ll revolutionize our approach to giving. The Bible is saying that it’s not only safe to give, it’s the way to greater blessing! I think that’s especially good news for reluctant givers, because… when you give something away it can feel like you’ve lost something. But, contributing to God’s work (and that involves all facets of your life! “Don’t Leave Jesus in the Parking Lot!!!”) isn’t giving something away; it’s investing—- with a guaranteed return!

I love this: The farmer who sows doesn’t lose his seed, he gains a harvest! Can you imagine a farmer praying this prayer?! “God, give me a crop. I’m trusting You to get involved, but I’m holding on to my seed just in case.” Pow!!! Is that what you’re doing? If so, here’s some good news. When you sow generously, God gets involved in your finances. Is there a more secure position to be in??!!

When we give, it enables God to return to us even more, which in turn allows us to give even more— and round and round it goes!!

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