Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for May, 2017

Ultimate Goal???

Posted by admin May - 30 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I was discussing “philosophy” with a coach the other night. He was explaining his helmet sticker-award system. “Of course, everyone on the team gets a sticker when we win. And… nobody gets any stickers when we lose,” he stated. OK, that sounds reasonable. Right? We want to reward good behavior and punish bad, right? There is one fatal flaw in this thinking, though. What about that time that you’re playing the best team in your area and you come out on the short end of a 10-7 loss? Your defense played “lights out!” They get NO recognition for a great performance??!!! And the converse… you beat a poor team 35-28! You won, but you played poorly and (probably) with little effort or enthusiasm. Hey.. you won! So everything’s ok and everybody gets a reward??!!! I don’t think so. The question becomes: What is your Ultimate Goal for your team for any particular season?

If your ultimate goal is: Win A State Championship! and, you come up short (lose in the finals in triple overtime!!!)… I guess that means that the season was a miserable failure, right??? NO!!!!!!!!! Not if you think more in terms of EFFORT and EXECUTION for your players as the measure of success and/or failure.

I have been a disciple of legendary college basketball coach John Wooden for years. Coach Wooden was talking about the process long before Nick Saban came on the scene. I’ve always liked Wooden’s definition of success. It’s: peace of mind! A settled, contented feeling that’s a result of “doing your best to become the best you are capable of being.” In other words, effort and execution.

Our ultimate team goal each year became: BECOME THE BEST TEAM WE ARE CAPABLE OF BEING.

Each week, our team was “graded” on how much effort they gave and how well they executed their assignments. Whether we won or lost had no affect on whether players earned awards or not. The criteria for being rewarded was based on effort and execution. You have probably guessed that there is a direct correlation between how well we play and how hard we hustle and… whether we win or lose a ball game! It’s not a 100% truth but… enough that you can count on those 2 factors strongly affecting the outcome.

Our emphasis became fixated on the “2 E’s of Success.” When we played poorly yet still won, it was not a time for great celebration. If, perchance, we played our butts off but came up short against a great team, we could hold our heads up knowing that we accomplished we wanted to achieve: great effort and execution. This perspective allowed us to stay focused on the process and not the outcome.

“We’ve Always Done It THAT Way!!!”

Posted by admin May - 23 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A coaching friend of mine just got hired as the new head coach at a school which has been mired in mediocrity for at least a decade. He’s a fire ball and highly motivated so I know he’s going to work hard to “change the culture” at his new school. Whether he gets it done depends on a lot of things. One thing that I KNOW is a factor in success or failure is attitude.

You may have heard the axiom that “attitude determines altitude.” But did you know that this is part of the Law of Aerodynamics? The “attitude” (tilt) of a plane’s wings controls whether that plane rises or falls. It is the same with us. If our attitude is positive, we are likely to climb. Likewise, if the attitude of our “mental wings” is tilted downward (negative attitude) then we are likely to crash and burn.

I hear a lot these days about “changing the culture” of a program. What that entails is getting people to change their attitudes— attitudes toward work; attitude toward their teammates and… attitude toward themselves. If a certain mind set (or pervading attitude) is entrenched in too many people’s minds, it’s going to be very hard for a head coach to change it. Thus, the title of this post. Someone who’s been in the program says, “We’ve ALWAYS done it that way!” “Wellllllll… if you look at your record over the last 10 years, it’s pretty obvious that THAT way is not working!” should be your reply. However, even with reality staring them in the face, some people are going to be unwilling to change! Why?

Check this out: Psychologists placed 12 bees in a glass jar in a dark room. A beam of light was shown onto the bottom of the jar… and then, the lid removed! Instinctively, the bees flew toward the light and spent their time and energy attempting to buzz through the bottom of the jar— till they died! The researchers then took 12 houseflies and did the same experiment. Within seconds the flies found their way out of the jar! Yes, bees are smarter than flies and their survival instincts are stronger; yet, it was those instincts (“we’ve always done it that way!”) that doomed them to failure.

Assumptions, rigid thinking (Zig Ziglar called it “stinkin’ thinkin’!”) and force of habit can cause us to… here we go!… keep doing things that DON’T work and make NO sense! Don’t let your fears and preconceived ideas about how something should be done keep you from growing and ultimately succeeding!

Make Your Special Teams “Special!”

Posted by admin May - 16 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I am happy to announce that Championship Productions will soon be releasing my newest teaching videos for coaches. This time I’m speaking on the Kicking Game. The title of the dvd’s is: Making Your Special Teams Special… by Being Unconventional.

If you are not “gaining the edge” in the kicking game, you are missing out on an opportunity to “steal” a victory here and there during your season. Most coaches, unfortunately, do not spend the time that is necessary to actually win the kicking game each week. I recall one of my college coaches saying: “In a close game between two evenly-matched teams, it usually comes down to a play in the kicking game that determines the outcome!” Think of Alabama/Auburn a couple of years ago… FG return of 109 yards for a TD! Michigan/Michigan State: bothced punt by Michigan in closing minutes led to MSU TD! How many “wide lefts” does Bobby Bowden still wake up from in a cold sweat??!!! The kicking game IS 1/3 of the game. Are you spending the practice time necessary to be successful? And when you do spend time, are you utilizing “unconventional” means to achieve that success? We did for over 20 years and it paid dividends! I’m not going to go into detail here about these unconventional things we did— I want you to buy the dvd’s!!!! I will say that they afford you 2 things: 1) you can use back-up’s as most of your kicking team personnel… which allows you to rest your starters. and 2) if your opponent doesn’t prepare properly for your “unconventional” approach to your kicking teams, you’re going to create “game-changers” from the opening kickoff to that last second field goal attempt.

OK… I’ll give you a teaser. Yes, I’m a nice guy!!! 🙂 But, my wife says: “Tell them to buy the dvd’s!!!”

How would you like to have a 50/50 chance of recovering your kickoffs? and… NOT necessarily on-side kicking every time! My mantra is: NEVER, NEVER kick deep down the middle!!! (unless you know your kicker will put it in the end zone every kick!!) Why? Kicking it to the 5- 10 yard line is a recipe for disaster! Most high school kids are not going to sell out for 50 yards to storm down the field to “bust the wedge” and make an open field tackle on a strong, speedy back! That’s just one more example of “don’t use college-level concepts for high school kids.” It just doesn’t work very often. We have 7 different “short to medium pop ups and worm burners kicks” to confuse and confound the return team. We rarely have a return of over 7 yards run back against us. Plus, as I said earlier, we are likely to get at least 1 turn over each game because of our uncoventional method of kicking off!

Check out the dvd’s. I think that you will find them to be of interest and value. And… even if you don’t buy my dvd’s, look into some “unconventional” ways to approach your special teams. Truly make them special!

Home Visits

Posted by admin May - 9 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

One of THE best things the current HC did at “my” school when he took over was to set up “home visits.” He would contact the parents of the players and set up a time to come by their house. They would meet and get a chance to know each other. I think it really paid dividends for him in developing relationships with parents and fostering good will on his team.

For some reason, he stopped doing it. My guess would be that it was very time-consuming. You’re going to spend a lot of nights away from home meeting with your players and their parents at their home. The pay back, though, is tremendous.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve committed to be a “Consultant” for this head coach. One of the first things I asked about was: “Are you still doing the home visits?” He said, “no. I’ve gotten away from that.” I told him that he needed to start doing it again. And he did! Some of the stories he’s shared with me have been gut-wrenching and heart-overflowing!!! It has really helped him see our players from a different perspective. It’s established a bond between him (the HC), his players and the parents that anyone would want when dealing with a team of high school kids.

So, how do you accomplish this without “burning yourself out” or never seeing your family for 3 months? I’d start with meeting with the parents of your rising seniors. If you don’t meet with anyone else the first time you enact this policy, meet with them first. If a family transfers in, go meet with them. They will have questions and you want to get off on the right foot with any new family.

From that point on, you can make that your policy; i.e., meet with each of the seniors before their senior season.

If you can meet with all of your veterans in one off-season, then set a policy to meet with those families who are “new” to your program. That would be players moving up from JV or transfer families. Take the time to meet these people. It is one of the most positive things you can do as a head coach.

“Less of me; more of You!”

Posted by admin May - 3 - 2017 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I’ve found that one of the most powerful verses in the entire Bible was uttered by John the Baptist. When asked by his disciples about losing his place of status because Jesus had come on the scene, John uttered, “I must diminish so He can increase.” John was talking about status, popularity and power. This is a situation that all of us as coaches need to address. My question to you is: WHY do you coach football?!” There are many good reasons but, unfortunately, one bad one! And the bad one can cause problems for you, the staff you work with and the entire football program.

Some of you know that I retired from coaching after the 2015 season. I spent last season helping a local school (on a limited basis) install the Delaware Wing T offense. I stayed on through the season attending 1 practice a week and spotting in the press box on game night. It was very rewarding and I met a lot of great guys. But, I told the HC at the end of the season that I would not be back. I have continued to mentor him and enjoy helping him build the culture of his program.

A month or so ago, I felt the Lord leading me to approach the current HC at our local high school about being a “Consultant” for him. This is the same school that I was the HC for 22 very successful seasons. When my decision went public, I had a lot of people (including some members of my family!) chide me for doing it. “How can you go back there and just be an assistant coach?!” “You were the head coach; now you’re going to just help out?!” “Doesn’t that make you uncomfortable that you’re going back where you had so much success as the head man and now you’re just a ‘Consultant?!” People just didn’t get it!

The same (main) reason I coached in the first place hasn’t changed! IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS!!!

Sure I love to win- won’t deny it. And I don’t like to lose- hate it. But, I’ve learned over the years that if you’re in coaching (or any other leadership position) to boost your own self-esteem, you’re in it for the wrong reason.

Trying to explain to folks that it doesn’t matter to me that I’m low man on the totem pole doesn’t seem to compute with them. They’re incredulous that I’m not getting my name in the paper as the “Big Cheese;” that I’m not getting the “atta boys” and slaps on the back for winning another game. It’s just not that important. My priority is: I want the kids to have a great experience. I want to help these younger coaches see the impact they have on their players. I want to show these coaches that there is tremendous gratification in helping a teenager see that his significance goes beyond how many TD’s he scores. Our lasting impact as coaches and mentors should be made in that young man’s life OFF the game field. Our interactions with our players must not be limited to just football. And it certainly can’t be to use them as a tool to make us feel better about ourselves.

There’s one more area I want to comment on. For those of you who are married. I had some people look at me kinda strangely when I announced at my retirement 2 years ago that the reason I was retiring after 42 years of coaching was that my wife deserved the first fruits of my time!!! I had put football first waaaaaaaay too often. She was always there to support me and rarely complained. I knew that the Lord was impressing upon me at the end of my career that it was time to put my focus on the things she wanted to do. What she wanted to do was to travel. So right in the middle of last football season, we took a fabulous trip to Europe– a Viking river cruise through France. She was soooooooooo pumped! I loved it too. Now she’s planning our trip for this fall. As much as I’ll hate missing a game, it’s OK! I promised her that she comes first. Don’t shortchange your wives, coaches. She needs you. If you have kids, get them involved with your team as youngsters. Bring them to practice. My son was my “wing man” anytime I went to scout another team. He grew up to play for me and was an All District player his senior year. He still loves sports and is the Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations at a major university.

I say all of this to say: where are your priorities? Make sure you have them in the right order. You’ll be happier and life will be much more fulfilling.

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