Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for March, 2017

Developing An “Overcomer’s” Attitude

Posted by admin March - 30 - 2017 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

Life’s disappointments can cause you to see everything in life (including your future) from a negative perspective. You express hopelessness, belittle your own abilities and complain about life’s unfairness. As Pastor Bob Gass says: “Do you recognize any of these attitudes in yourself?!”

Dr. Paul Meier, a Christian therapist, wrote, “Attitudes are nothing more than habits of thought… and habits can be acquired. An action repeated becomes an attitude realized.” What can we gather from this? It means that with practice, you can develop an Overcomer’s Attitude! Bob Gass suggests some ways we can accomplish this:

1) “Be honest about your quest to conquer pessimism. Give someone you respect the permission to point out when you are being negative.
2) Limit your exposure to negative input. Since you become like the company you keep, look for people who fortify your faith and not feed your fears.”
3) Volunteer to serve others who are less fortunate. Serving creates positive feelings and gives you a sense of value.
4) Look for the good in every situation and always express faith that it’s there!”

President Harry Truman is quoted as saying that “A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” Which way you go is based on the choice you make.

Illegal Recruiting

Posted by admin March - 21 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I talked with a local coach recently who expressed a lot of anger and frustration over rival schools actively recruiting his players. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are regulated by the Virginia High School League. It is quite clear in their by-laws that proselyting players from another VHSL school is strictly against the rules. Yet, some schools seem to feel that they have to go “cherry-pick” players from rival programs.

What I found out from this conversation is that the school or schools in question are now skirting the rules by having someone not directly connected to their program (like the parent of one of their players or a Youth League coach) contact the player or his parents about a possible transfer. What do they call it in the federal security agencies? Plausible Deniability??!!! Now, if the coach whose school is brought up for questioning about recruiting rival players, he can deny it because he (nor any of his staff) is not actively engaged in the recruiting.

In talking with this coach, he seemed to be at the point of throwing in the towel and just “letting him go!” I shared an idea as to how he can combat this illegal and unethical practice. He needs to “recruit” his own players!

Think of this scenario: you’ve got a stud on your team. Both Ohio State and Michigan are after him to commit to them. You come in as the recruiter for Ohio State and meet with the player. Are you going to tell him, “welllllllllllll, if you really want to, you oughta go to Michigan.” NO!!! You’re going into that meeting selling nothing but Buckeye football and how great your program, your stadium, your coaches, your facilities and your school are. You’re going to point out how going to your school is the best thing for him. It may be necessary to compare your program to Michigan (or any school who’s also interested in his services) but… keep the focus on YOUR program!

That seemed to strike a cord with the coach with whom I was talking. He was being stirred emotionally as I spoke. I explained that this is exactly what any good recruiter is taught to do— the same sales techniques that an insurance company or car dealership is going to teach their sales staff to close the deal. You need to create a situation where the “client” is moved emotionally. How do you achieve this? You appeal to his ego!

We’ve not talking about “blowing smoke up his butt” with a bunch of lies. What we are talking about is letting that player know how valued he is to you and your program. That’s the truth! You (as ficticious Ohio State recruiter) wouldn’t be recruiting him if you didn’t think he is going to help your program. It’s the same scenario when you are “recruiting” one of your own players. You need to make him feel (there’s that emotional thing!) that he is verrrrrrrry important to you and how successful your team will be with him playing for you. Everyone likes to have his ego stroked! Letting this player who may be tempted to jump ship and join another school’s football program know how important he is to you is critical in keeping him in the fold.

The other main factor that I shared was something that I learned from Lou Holtz years ago. It’s kinda like the Law of Reciprocity that the Bible talks about: be willing to help others and they will likely reciprocate. Show a player that you are there to help him achieve his goals (play college football or make all-state) and he will reciprocate by giving you everything he’s got. It’s a matter of loyalty. When players know that you care about them as people and you want to help them succeed, a bond is formed that is hard to break. Don’t do it if you don’t mean it! But… if you don’t mean it; i.e., your players’ well-being really isn’t important to you then, in my mind, you’re in coaching for the wrong reason. If you’re not in it for the kids, you should consider getting out!!!

Getting 11 On The Field!

Posted by admin March - 14 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

It seemed like such a simple thing. We were in a tight ball game with our big rival and it was midway through the 4th quarter. Our defense held them in their own territory— 4th and 4. All we had to do was let them punt it and we should take over around the 50 yard line.

We yelled for the Punt Return team to hustle onto the field. We set up our normal strategy: rush from one side and set a wall to the other. Just as the punter was calling for the snap, I noticed one of our players rushing onto the field late— apparently having missed the call for the Punt Return team! He was on our side of the ball so no need to flag him for being off-side. The play continued, the ball was snapped, the punter fumbled the ball, grabbed it and our pressure forced a “Charlie Brown” punt— straight up! We scrambled out of the way and when the play was whistled dead, we had the ball on their 35 yard line!!! What a break. It was then that I saw the flag back behind our return men!!! What???
The officials conferred and marked off 5 yards against us— illegal participation; i.e., too many men on the field! What???!!! I immediately yelled for all of our players to freeze. I called the ref over and asked him to RE-count our players. We had 11. He and the Umpire counted, then conferred (again) and said, “Coach, sorry! One of your guys could’ve snuck off the field while we were conferring.” I said, “But, we started with 10 and the 11th was the one who ran on late!” “No, Coach… that was the 12th guy.” I was furious! At the officials… at the player… but mostly at myself. Why? Cuz I’d given the responsibility of getting our Kicking Teams on the field to an assistant coach who was (how can I put it nicely) “not into the game mentally!” I let him know that I would be doing Special Teams from now on.

By the way, they kept the ball and ran the clock down and we lost that very important game. It was at that point that I decided that I would need to be the one to “direct traffic” during games and be sure that the proper people are on the field.

The kicking game is a critical component for any team. You’ve probably heard me say: “In a close game between 2 evenly-matched teams… it usually comes down to a play in the kicking game that determines the outcome.” (Think Michigan/Michigan State 2 years ago with Michigan only needing to punt the ball away and lock up the win!!! Oops!!!) Sooooooooo… what was my remedy for this situation with being sure that the right people are on the field when it’s time to kick?

I like those sideline mats that have 11 bubbles on them. Each player stands on a bubble to be sure you have all 11 before you send them on the field. We couldn’t afford that luxury so I found other ways to be sure that we always have the right guys and the right number on the field for any particular special team.

First off, we practiced 1- being called up on the sideline. This happens on 3rd down when we’re punting and/or when the other team is likely to be punting. When it is time for our Punt or Punt Return or PAT (*NOTE: the teams that will go on the field during “live-ball” situations) to go on the field, I extend my arm straight up and wave it in a circle and start yelling: “Punt Team!!!” or whichever team we want to go on. Everybody sees my extended arm/signal and knows that they better “wake up and pay attention!” There are times when we will go for it on 4th down or we want to keep our defense on the field instead of sending out the Punt Return team. All the more important to have that signal so everyone is tuned in.

The other thing I would recommend that coaches do occurs on game day. Before the Specialists go on the field to begin pre-game warmups, we have a Special Team check. Each Special Team is called out and we count to be sure we have 11. We give them some quick instructions and call up the next team. We even call up all of our different personnel from the different packages on Offense and then, finally, call up our starting Defense. I give our Defensive Coordinator his chance for some final instructions and a moment to “fire up the guys” then… the Specialists head for the field and the linemen go back into the locker room.

Finally, during pregame warm ups… we team flex and then do Individual period for both Offense and Defense. Before we go to Team Offense and Defense, I place a ball at the 1 foot line and we call out the Punt Team. They line up in “Tight Punt” since we’ll be punting out of our own end zone. We kick it and cover. The Punt Team then “pooch punts” from the 38 yard line (coming in) and our “gunners” try to down the ball inside the 10. The next team we call out is PAT/FG and they get 3 kicks. At that point, we go to Team Defense for 5-7 minutes and finish up with 5-7 minutes of Team Offense.

I might also add that on Monday through Wednesday practice days, the first period we have after Team Flex is: Kicking Game. I want to put in our players’ heads how important special teams are. I think by doing kicking game first each day in practice, it sends the message.

“LESS Is Better!!!”

Posted by admin March - 6 - 2017 - Monday 1 COMMENT

I had another great weekend meeting coaches at the Glazier Clinic in Northern Virginia! Some dedicated young men in attendance. As always, I asked the Clinic Director for the “early Saturday morning” sessions. Most coaches don’t want to speak then cuz… “Nobody shows up!” Au contraire!!! The real coaches are there! I want to speak to the guys whose main purpose for attending a clinic is to learn. Some of them may have gone out on Friday night but… they made the commitment to get up and be at the first session on Saturday morning. Those are the guys that I want to talk to! And we had a roomful of interested coaches.

Trying to be cognizant of the time allotted so that I get through my talk is important to me. I also like to share some of the “Little Things” (see my home page for a summary of my book!) that I think would be helpful to coaches. One point that kept resonating through my head throughout the weekend was this idea that “LESS is better!” Some of us have the philosophy (and don’t even know it!) that… “if some is good; then more is better!” No! No!! NO!!! I’m here to tell you that in coaching, as well as life, keep things UNcomplicated! LESS is actually better!

Coaches will show me their 12 inch-think playbook— bragging about how many plays or formations or fronts that they have! Cool. “How many wins did you have??!” is what I want to know. I’ve rarely seen a direct correlation between the thickness of one’s playbook and the number of victories that team had. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite: skinnier playbook = more wins! Why?

As high school coaches, our greatest enemy is time! If we had the time on task with our kids that colleges do, it would make all the difference in the world! But we don’t. In fact, you should work very hard to get as much done in the limited time that you have with your players each day. With the advent of Hudl, I stopped showing the game video on Monday to our players. (We did NOT bring them in on Saturday. The players AND the coaches need a day off.) We needed that time on the field correcting mistakes from the previous game! Showing the game video became less of a priority.

When you have limited time, you have to limit how much you do. This goes back to the adage: LESS is better. You have less time; so do fewer things. I have shared on here before but… it’s worth saying again: Get reallllllllllllllly good at a few things! Don’t be mediocre at a bunch of things! Execution is still the name of the game!

This requires a paradigm shift in your thinking as a coach. You have to be able to overcome the negative “tag” that is attached to boredom! You have to create the attitude that “boredom is a good thing”— in your mind; in your staff’s minds and… in your players’ minds! The only way I know to get realllllllllllly good at something is to practice it over and over and over and over and… yep, over again!!! This requires perseverance. And thus, we’ve hit the slippery spot in the road! This is where most coaches/people in general go skidding off the road and into the ditch. We lack the self discipline to stay after something. It’s simply too easy to quit. “It’s boring!” “That doesn’t work!” “This is too hard.” Every statement has “quit” written all over it!

Why are successful people successful? Cuz they “form the habit of doing things that UNsuccessful people don’t like to do!” Do you want your program to be great? Find a system and stick with it! Work at getting better every day! Challenge your coaches and players to accept that challenge. “Once we learn something, we’re going to OVER-learn it!” Strive for excellence…. and, never give up and never give in!!!

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