Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for October, 2016

Play TO the Whistle

Posted by admin October - 24 - 2016 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

We hear a lot about teaching our players to “play TO the whistle.” It’s important on defense so all 11 guys are running to the ball in their correct pursuit angles. I posted about this phenomenon 2 years ago. We were having problems with our defenders “easing up” when the 1st guy made contact. Too many times, the first tackler held on but the RB squirmed loose and made BIG gains on second effort while our kids let up and watched! Remember: This was all during games!

We started evaluating things and I quickly realized my error: I was blowing the whistle too soon in practice!!! I was conditioning our defenders to “gear down” when they saw the first hit!!!!!!!! Why? How? Cuz… in order to protect our Scout Offense RB’s and try to minimize the chance for injury… when I saw the first hit (in practice now… remember?!), I would blow a “quick whistle” on the play. I was inadvertently “teaching” our defenders to gear down and NOT continue to fly to the ball. My whistle (quick) whistle was teaching them a negative (for football) response.

How did I remedy it? (Again, I posted on this a while back but… I’ll be quick) When we did Pursuit Drill— which we did EVERY Wednesday— we would set up 4 of those big “Pass Rush” dummies (the kind with all of the weight in the base. We called them “Weebles” cuz they get knocked over but they don’t stay down!) Our DC would simulate a snap and all 11 would hit the ground, bounce up and… look to see which of the 4 “Weebles” the DC pointed to! (NOTE: they were spread all over the field!) The defense then took off on a sprint and had to get 9 of the 11 “Dog Piling” on the dummy before I counted to 4! THEN… I would blow the whistle!! If 9 (only 9 because the other 2 should be in cut back/cut off pursuit angle/position) did not “pile on” within 4 seconds, the rep didn’t count and they had to do it again.

When we went Team D vs. the Scout O, I explained that it was not live to the ground but we needed to “Drive For 5” like our Seahawk Tackling taught us while the other 7-10 sprinted to the ball or their correct pursuit angle. I was NOT going to give a quick whistle anymore!!! I wanted to see at least 7 guys “around” the ball carrier when I blew the (late!) whistle or they’d be doing some up/downs real quick. It was amazing how much better our gang tackling got after that!

I think the same thing holds true on Offense. I know a coach who does not ever blow a whistle in practice. I’m concerned about it cuz I’m not sure the players are being properly conditioned to “play TO the whistle.” Why? Cuz there never is a whistle!!! I think it creates laziness… particularly on the part of the offensive players who are the blockers on a play. It’s all about training. Without a whistle to “control” their effort, they will simply stop when they feel like it. Which, in most cases, is waaaaaaaay earlier than you want them to stop. This has a direct carry over to the game.

If you’re not using a whistle to “condition” or “train” your players to play TO the whistle, I would encourage you to start. It’s not too late!

Getting Out of the “Cellar”

Posted by admin October - 18 - 2016 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I’m helping a couple of coaches deal with the frustration of an unfulfilling season. They both came in with high hopes but through a series of circumstances (mostly beyond their control) their record is not what they’d hoped it would be. I read something impactful (again!) from my Bob Gass devotional, The Word For You Today, recently and I think I need to share this with my coaching friends out there.

We get ourselves into (what Gass calls) “emotional messes.” They are mostly caused by faulty thinking. Our feelings are generated by the way we think about things. When we feel depressed it’s because of the negative, overwhelming thoughts that we let run through our heads. Gass says, “Our emotions spring from how we interpret life and if you always see things from a negative viewpoint you’re going to get down.”

God doesn’t tell us to “get in touch with our feelings” like pop psychologists tell us. Rather, God tells us to get in touch with the truth of His Word. Ultimately, the Word is what’s going to set us free (check out John 8:32). To overcome depression, it’s important to study God’s Word and, as Gass says, “bring your feelings into alignment with what it (the Bible) says.”

Read a few Bible verses each morning. It’s good for your soul; it’s good for your mental health!

Consistency

Posted by admin October - 12 - 2016 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

For those of you reading this who are high school football coaches, your season is at/near the half-way point. Some of you are in the hunt for a playoff berth and/or championship and some of you are just trying to keep your players focused and motivated. It’s your job as the coach to lead, encourage and help your players to do just that— not quit! There’s still 4-5 games left.

The key is CONSISTENCY. When you as the coach panic… and start changing everything… what kind of message is that sending to the kids? My staff knew on Sunday evening what our chances were of winning against our next opponent just by watching their previous games. If they’d been in one offense one week… then another offense the next week… and so on!— wWe knew we had them. Same with their defense. It’s one of the reasons I love the Delaware Wing T offense so much. It is very difficult to prepare for in 3-4 days. An opponent who is changing his defense in an attempt to stop our Wing T is in deep trouble! Even if things aren’t going well right now for you and your team, it’s important to continue to do the things you’ve been working on since the summer. Stay consistent!!!

I knew a smart coach who once told me that he “strives for boredom!” Huh? Yep! He was a great O Line coach who ran the same drills over and over— week after week…. until his linemen became completely bored doing them. He said, “THAT’S when I had ’em right where I wanted them!” He wanted them to know the techniques and rules soooooooooooo well that there was no thinking involved. Psychologists call it “over-learning.” It’s like memorization on auto pilot. For instance, someone asks you what your address is… your response is automatic. (That is, unless you’ve just moved!) This coaching friend would then begin to “sell” the players on the benefits of being “bored!!!” It is a tremendous confidence booster.

It’s the same reason that I would rarely vary our practice routine during the season. We might do a different type of conditioning but our skills and drills and our practice schedule weren’t going to change. Once the kids become comfortable, i.e., “bored,” you stay on them about not becoming complacent. Encourage; challenge; fuss a little when you see them slacking off but… remind them that “everything we do in practice is designed to 1- make you better and 2- prepare you to be successful on Friday night. Soooooooo… stay focused; hustle and keep grindin’!!!

Playing “2 1st Halves!”

Posted by admin October - 4 - 2016 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I am helping a local team with the implementation of the Delaware Wing T offense. I’ve seen some good things. Execution improves each week. Unfortunately, it’s not showing up in the win-loss record. They lost their star running back in the first game and it’s been a little tougher to get that yardage when it’s crunch time.

More importantly, the team as a whole has not been able to “put it all together” for 4 quarters. Three times in the last four weeks, they’ve gone into halftime with a lead… only to fall in the second half. I think it’s become something of a “psych out” problem for the players.

I had the same problem the first year I returned to coaching at a local private academy. In fact, one of the returning seniors warned me how “last year, coach, we lost 5 games in the 4th quarter. We had the lead and couldn’t hold it.” The same thing held true through the first four games of the, then, current season. We were winning at halftime in ALL 4 games and succumbed to our opponents’ relentlessness late in each game. We were 0-4 and easily could’ve been 3-1 or 4-0. We just seemed to have this “psychological block” for playing 4 quarters!!!

We were on the road for our 5th game and once again went in at halftime with a 2 touchdown lead. You could almost “feel” the foreboding atmosphere in the locker room as we met as a team to recap the 1st half. I’ll chalk this one up to hearing God’s “still, small voice” in my head but… I looked at the players and said, “Guys, take off your shoulder pads!!!” The look on their faces was priceless! I repeated my command, “Take off your shoulder pads… NOW!!! We have played 5 great “1st halves” and folded in the 2nd half. Sooooooo… we’re going to play 2 1st halves today! Take off your shoulder pads just like it’s the beginning of the game. We’re going to go out in a minute and play ANOTHER 1st half!!” Something clicked! One by one they began to peel off their pads, laid them on the floor and began to move around the room. I could tell that it was a very “freeing” moment. After 5 minutes or so I told them to “get dressed. We’re going out to play this game!”

The “second” 1st half went even better than the “real” first half! We proceeded to win our last 6 games of the season. Yes! Every halftime, we went in and took off our pads! I did it a couple of times over the next 4 seasons just as a reminder for the players. I’m going to recommend that we do this “ritual” this Friday night for the team I’m helping.

Overcoming psychological barriers sometimes requires creating a paradigm shift. This means “turning things around” in our heads so we see something from an entirely different perspective. We created that paradigm shift in our players’ heads and once they saw things differently, it changed their behavior. Why? Because “perception is reality!”

What Are YOU Passionate About?

Posted by admin October - 3 - 2016 - Monday 2 COMMENTS

No post last week. My wife and I spent 7 days on a Viking River Cruise in France. I retired last fall to give my wife the “first fruits” of my time… after 42 years of coaching. Fall is a great time to vacation but we never could travel because I was always tied up with football. The cruise was fantastic. I highly recommend Viking if any of you have a desire to take a European river cruise!

We met folks from all over the USA… made some good friends. One guy I talked to a lot is a huge U. of Michigan football fan. We talked a lot of college football and even got to watch Michigan and Wisconsin on his computer at 10pm Saturday night! (Paris is 6 hours ahead of us here in USA!) He was/is also a very intelligent guy who is a Child Psychologist by trade so we had some good discussions about children/teens and high school football players. A topic that came up that made me “dig deep” was the idea about passion. What are you passionate about? What are your players passionate about? Where does football fit into that scenario?

You who follow this site know how important character-building by coaches is to me. We called it the “double victory” when I was a head coach. We want to be victorious ON the field but, we also want to be victorious OFF the field! That means developing those character traits that help us succeed in life. I’ve always felt that, if a coach wants to incorporate it into his program, that… FOOTBALL (and sports in general) can be a great platform to show players how what we’re trying to teach them as football players can be applied as students, boyfriend/husband and worker.

Sooooooo… I ask you what are YOU passionate about? 3 things and… in order of importance!

For me, it was 1) Faith (in Jesus Christ), 2) Family, and 3) Football. I, at times, got those a little skewed but it always came back to being sure I had my priorities in the right order. It was the only way I could find peace when things weren’t going right with our football season. This gentleman I mentioned that I met on the trip even said one time, “Lew, I’ve noticed how a LOT of athletes and coaches seem to make their “faith” a big deal.” My response? “It IS! It’s often the only rock I have to hold on to when things are rough!”

From these things that I’m passionate about grew the thought of: IF these 3 things are so important… and, I want to do more than just win football games with my players; i.e., I want to make a difference in their lives, then…….. what do I need to instill in their character before they graduate? Three (more!) things came to mind:

What I wanted to instill in my players was: 1- Responsibility (or Accountability)— which is lacking tremendously in our culture today! 2- Relationships… with God (in the Person of Jesus Christ for me) and others and 3- Respect. Respect for authority, respects for others in general and… SELF respect.

We as high school coaches need to step up and take the necessary time to help our players see that there are waaaaaaaaaay more important things than just walking around school on Monday feeling good about themselves because they won a football game last Friday! As the coach in the movie Facing The Giants told his team: “IF your goal is simply to WIN football games, then your goals are too small!”

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