Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for December, 2017

A “4th Quarter” Team

Posted by admin December - 27 - 2017 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

You see a lot of college teams on TV raising the “4 fingers” when it’s time for the 4th quarter to begin. Obviously, their coaching staff has tried to assimilate in the players’ minds that you need to play a grrrrrrrrreat 4th quarter to win the game. I can’t argue with that rationale. One of the team goals I always included in our season goal chart was to: Win (at least) 1 game in the 4th quarter! There’s nothing like a come-from-behind win late in the game to give your team a tremendous confidence boost. However, I want to suggest that being a great 3rd Quarter team may be just as important! Let me explain.

When I began to realize (by analyzing our games) that we were winning at half time in a LOT of games… only to come up short on the final score, I started looking at our quarter by quarter scoring vs. our opponents’ scoring by quarter. I was amazed at how many games we were out-scored in the 3rd quarter. We’d come out “flat” to begin the 2nd half and immediately dig a hole for ourselves. Big Mo switched over and we were fighting an “uphill battle” the rest of the game. We needed a way to shake up our players to get them mentally and physically ready to “turn it on” as soon as the 3rd quarter began. Our solution was a bit radical but… it worked! Here’s what we did:

We’d come out and do our regular half-time warm up routine. We were very organized and everybody did the routine together in our end zone. When our 3 minutes of stretching was over I had all of the players turn toward me at the 5 yard line and I would yell, “Get ’em choppin’!!!” Everybody knew what that meant… it was time for some up/downs; grass drills; or wake-up’s… is what we called them— cuz we wanted to “wake them up!” Get the adrenaline flowing and get ready to go on the attack again the moment the 3rd quarter started! We didn’t do many wake-up’s— maybe 3 or 4 — and I let them chop for 5 seconds or more between dropping them. But, it gave us a tremendous psychological advantage. Let me explain…

One game as we were warming up in our end zone, our opponent came walking from their locker room across the field behind the end zone. I blew the whistle and got our guys hitting the ground and bouncing up as the other team watched us from 10 yards away. I could see their players pointing and gawking! It was pretty easy to read their minds: “Oh my gosh! Those guys are doing up/downs at halftime! They’re going to smash us in the 2nd half!!” And, yes! We usually did!!!

During my last season before I retired, we played a school that was much larger than us— and was a large-school state finalist the previous year — in an early season game. We didn’t play well. We got out-hit and we got out-HUSTLED!!! I can take a lot of things but, my teams are NEVER going to get out-hustled! I told the staff over the weekend that being out-hustled was totally unacceptable. Plus, I just didn’t think we were in good-enough shape yet either! Mulling things over, I came up with this idea which we started the following Monday at the conclusion of practice. I called it: “3 Minutes in Paradise!!!” Some of you may remember the hit song from the 70’s by Eddie Money entitled, “I’ve Got 2 Tickets to Paradise.” Our coaches would start singing, “We’ve Got 3 Minutes in Paradise” as the kids circled up.

We’d get the team in a big circle with 2-arm length width between them. I’d start the stop watch and they’d start choppin’ as I blew the whistle. At first, I just blew the whistle and they’d hit the ground and bounce up. We’d go for 60 seconds and then they had to run in place for 15 seconds. 1 minute of their 3 minutes was complete. Then (I’ll chalk it up to my diabolical mind!!!) it occurred to me: why should I be the “bad guy?”!!” I don’t have to be the one to make them work. I’ll call out one of the players and let him lead the team in their 60 seconds of wake ups! Let HIM be the “bad guy!!!” ha ha! So I yelled for “Cole” to come into the middle of the circle. He runs into the middle and on my whistle, “Cole” is now in charge for the next 60 seconds. He can put them on the ground as much as he wants in that 60 seconds. When the time is up, I blew the whistle and he returns to the circle while everyone else continues to run in place. 15 to 20 seconds of chopping and you call the next guy to come to the middle and away you go again.

Who you choose is important! One of the 3 (remember there are 3 60 second periods) leaders should be your team leader who is also the hardest worker and in the best shape! Let him put the team through their paces. He can go as fast as he wants and get as many reps as he wants! Then the other 2 you pick can be anyone you want… even the heavyweight who does about half of the wake ups when he’s “hiding” in the circle. Bring him into the middle and see what he does when he has to SET THE TONE! The last guy can be someone who works hard but doesn’t get much recognition. Let him get in the middle and lead the team.

It occurred to me that you could “massage” this activity in a number of different ways. If you’re emphasizing how important it is to come out ready to go in the 3rd quarter, let them take a “half-time break.” Stop running in place and let them take a knee for 30 seconds to a minute. You are simulating half time. Get them up; get ’em choppin’ and call your next leader out. You could incorporate 4 wake-up periods if you want to get them mentally focused on going hard for ALL 4 quarters. *THAT would be “4 Minutes in Paradise!” You could decrease the up/down period for each “minute in paradise” — say, 45 seconds the second period; 30 seconds the third and 15 seconds for the 4th. THAT would be when I’d call out your player who is going to get them going so fast that at the end of 15 seconds, they’re totally gassed!

Oh yes… when you blow the last whistle to end it and then blow the whistle again to call everyone to come up on you, they better RUN to you!!! If someone walks or even just jogs— back they go!! Circle up and do 10 seconds more of wake up’s. This time I would be the “bad guy” and make them do their “Hustle Period” because it wasn’t important enough for them to hustle over and get to your head coach so they could hear what he has to say! Build in that hustle mentality.

This drill builds physical and mental toughness. Try it! You’ll like it!!!

Happy New Year!!

“Give Them What They Want???!!!”

Posted by admin December - 19 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

An interesting trend has been occurring in high school football around here (Tidewater Virginia) for the last few years that I would say is one of the most troubling things to happen to high school football in… welllllllllllllll… forever! It’s the trend of players transferring schools because “the grass is greener on the other side!” How do you put a stop to this? I don’t know if you can totally shut it down… cuz there are always going to be parents who think they know more than coaches and “the best thing for Little Johnny” is to transfer to that “big name school” so he can get the recognition he deserves! and… that scholarship offer that he’d never get at your school!

How do you deal with this… without succumbing to my tongue-in-cheek title? Cuz… IF you “give them everything they WANT”… you’re just making it worse! The answer lies in something I heard Lou Holtz share in a speech years ago. I assimilated Coach Holtz’s strategy into my relationship with my players. It worked! Holtz says, “Show them that YOU are going to help them achieve what they want and you’ll have their loyalty.”

Notice it didn’t say anything about “giving them” anything. Coach Holtz merely pointed out an effective use of tapping into human nature to help you as the coach get what YOU want— your athletes staying with your program and NOT transferring somewhere else. Let’s explore this concept a little more.

If you are not having individual meetings with your veterans in the off-season, you need to start! You should talk about the previous season and do some goal-planning for the upcoming season. Note: This should include his OFF-season goals! Once you see what his goals are, you have the means of determining how you can show him that you are here to help him achieve those goals. It’s all about two things: clarifying what the individual steps are to achieving his goals and pointing out to him how YOU are going to be there every step of the way to help him achieve them! Once he knows that you are “in his corner” and will support and encourage him every step of the way, it’s a lot harder to be disloyal and thing about transferring.

“Little Things” Can Make a BIG Difference!

Posted by admin December - 12 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A devotion from Pastor Bob Gass reminded me how important “small things” are…

In the Bible in Judges: Chapter 7, God gave Gideon a huge victory over their enemy, the Midianites. The crazy thing about this victory is that God had Gideon command an army of only 300 that defeated an enemy that had hundreds of thousands soldiers! It wasn’t because there weren’t more soldiers available for Gideon’s army; it was because God wanted to demonstrate HIS power in (get this) “the day of small things.”

One day Jesus fed 5000+ people with just a few fish and loaves of bread! Small things (amounts) can go a long way if you have the right perspective on success.

The KEY here is… are you asking God to make you BIGGER or BETTER??? If you’re working hard to make yourself “bigger” instead of “better” then you may end up disappointed. If you’re a praying man, all the prayers you could possibly pray to God, in Jesus’ Name, won’t persuade God to give you what you are not ready to handle. I know! cuz… I thought I could “talk God into” blessing us with championship after championship when I first became a head coach in 1985. It took 12 years of “sanding off the rough spots” in my character and personality before God opened up the flood gates and said: “NOW, you’re ready, Lew!” From ’97 to 2015, we won 9 different championships. I had to mature, seeking Holy Spirit’s help and guidance, before God saw that I could handle all that success. I am forever grateful!

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.”

As Pastor Gass states, “Your drive to be bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night and stop you from enjoying the blessings that God has already given you. Better may be harder to measure and not as glamorous, but the inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting.”

Let that roll around in your head for awhile and see if it doesn’t give you a new perspective!

Are You a “Sheep Dog” or a “Blood Hound?”

Posted by admin December - 5 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Do you enjoy reading books on leadership? I hope so! If you want to improve any skill, you must educate yourself. The question came up the other day about what characteristics are found in a great leader. Volumes have been written and speakers have made millions passing along their ideas about this subject. When pondering it myself last night, I guess my mind was in “allegorical” mode… cuz this is what the Lord impressed upon me:

As a leader… are you a “Sheep Dog” or are you a “Blood Hound???!!!”

Have you ever watched a collie or Australian shepherd work a herd? It is amazing. Obviously, some of it is instinctive but a shepherd must train his dog to obey his commands and know when to step in and when to sit. A sheep dog is constantly on the alert for predators and some are even trained to attack. Their primary job, though, is to “herd.” Our son and daughter-in-law have an Australian shepherd. Even with no training, that dog will get in the back yard and “herd” their other two dogs around the yard! “Yipping and nipping” I call it! Particularly with the younger dog. He stays right on his heels barking and nipping at his hind feet to “herd” that dog around the yard.

It would be comical if you didn’t realize that what their shepherd is doing is just what a good leader must do for his team/organization: keeping the herd moving in the right direction! THAT’S what a strong leader does: keeps his crew focused… on task… and moving in the right direction. Sometimes he has to shout encouragement (“yipping”) and sometimes he must push and prod (“nipping”). Knowing how and when and who to do each with is part of the maturation process any good leader must go through.

In other words, a sheep dog is out front and alert to what’s going on within the group while also being aware of external circumstances (predators) which may adversely affect his “herd.” Sheep dogs possess boundless energy. A sheep dog is vigilant and protecting of his herd. All are qualities that a great leader needs to emulate.

A “Blood Hound”, on the other hand, waits until he is called into action before he starts on the trail of a missing person. He is well-trained and obedient but… he does not show much initiative. He has to be pointed in the right direction before he picks up the scent of whoever he is looking for. This is the problem with too many leaders— they wait instead of initiate! A blood hound is so focused on the task at hand that he does not “see” what’s going on around him. Chaos could be breaking out all around him but… he’s got his nose on the trail. Yes, a blood hound performs a valuable service but… he doesn’t possess the characteristics that would make him a good leader.

My advice: watch a sheep dog in action. See how many “sheep dog” traits you possess. You’ll find that your leadership skills will definitely improve!

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