Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for January, 2018

Efficiency vs. Reps

Posted by admin January - 30 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Let me take you into a typical high school Algebra 1 class. The teacher calls 5 students to come to the front and asks them to put the first 5 homework questions (and answers) on the board while the rest of the class watches. Two of them finish quickly, the 3rd student struggles but finishes his problem… but it’s apparent that the 4th and 5th students have no clue! The teacher looks at their work and says, “You two are good… go sit down. You (the 3rd) messed up that 3rd step. You last 2 obviously have no idea what I’ve been teaching you the last few days. All of you go sit down and let me call 5 more people up to do the next 5 questions. We’ve got 30 equations we need to get through and we only have 20 minutes left to accomplish that objective. Let’s go!”

How would YOU rate that teacher’s instructional skills? I am not very impressed!

What did the students learn from this exercise? Not much! Why not? Because they got little or no feedback; little or no reinforcement. Oh yes, he told a couple of them that they got something wrong but you know as well as I do that most people are visual learners. Explaining something by “talking it through” just does not sink in for most people. They need to be shown their mistakes.

This is why I am such a strong advocate of focusing on getting plays executed correctly (some of my former players would say “near perfectly!”) before we move on to another play. I’ve seen several coaches recently who were more concerned about “getting through their play list/script” in the allotted time rather than making sure that the plays they DO run are run correctly.

I heard a coach bragging the other day that “we get through 80 plays in a 90 minute practice!” Wow… good for you. However, how many of those plays are run correctly? The colleges (and pro’s) have time for meetings and a chance to correct mistakes after practice is over. I don’t know many high school programs that have that luxury. Most kids are not going to look at Hudl unless you sit down with them.

Of course, those who disagree with me would say, “Lew, you don’t get to run enough plays in practice. It will hurt you in games.” My response is: We averaged over 80% wins in my 31 years as a head coach. We averaged almost 40 points a game and over 350 yards of offense per game over that period of time. I submit that focusing on efficiency rather than how many reps you can get in is a more effective way to practice your offense.

Like my granddaughter says to me, “Just sayin’!!!”

Roll Tide!

Posted by admin January - 9 - 2018 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

We got a “ton” of snow last week… 10 inches!! For the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Tidewater area of Virginia, that is a “ton!” I was so bored that by Saturday, I actually watched (some of it) a little NFL. I figured the play-off’s would be a good time to see what I’d been missing. Come on, man!!! Boring! Give me college football anytime! and… that anytime was last night! WOW!!! What a game!! I like both teams; both programs and both coaches… so I just wanted to see a good game. The Bulldogs and Tide did not disappoint. It was entertaining and educational. Studying the strategies employed by the coaches always intrigues me. Saban and Smart both managed great game plans.

Here are some things that I saw that any coach can file away to use with his own team some day:

1) The Alabama players (the front-line starters anyway… cuz #48 needs to spend some time running stadium steps at 6 in the morning for a few weeks! Awful display and an embarrassment to the Crimson Tide program) just kept hammering! I shared a couple of years back on this blog site The Legend of the Stonecutter. It was tagged to Stephon Curry of the GS Warriors. It stresses the importance of persistence. Never give up and never give in! That was how Bama played.

How do you teach this to your players? It’d be nice if high school athletes just came to us with perseverance as one of their chief character traits. Unfortunately, in this day and age of instant gratification, it’s hard to find. My suggestion would be that you just keep repeating (many times!) stories of people who’ve overcome adversity by sticking to their goal. There are some exercises/activities that I’ve done (which are too detailed to type up here… write me if you want the ideas!) that help but it is just too important to just ignore. How many times has your team fallen behind in a game and basically “cashed in their chips.” They just stop playing hard! We need to find a way to teach/coach our players to have a “never say die” attitude.

HINT: Think Facing the Giants movie scene!!! Have you seen it?

2) Coach Woody Hayes of Ohio State had a statement that is soooooooooo good. He said, “Don’t attack walled cities!” (Another plug for all of you to study military strategy and tactics!)

I said that I like both programs because both coaches build their offense around a power running game. That’s MY style of offensive football. However, Georgia realized it early (first 7 plays were all passes) and Saban realized it by the end of the first half. You’ve heard it said: “There are 3 things that can happen when you throw the ball… and ALL of them are bad!” Not true… you Negative Nelson’s out there. There are 4 things that can happen. The 4th is: you throw a long pass on 2nd and 23 and it not only goes for a 42 yard TD but, it wins the National Championship for you!!! Every team needs to be able to throw the ball efficiently.

You only need a limited package of pass plays but you need to work on them so when needed, you can be confident in your QB and receivers being able to complete them.

3) Don’t be afraid to make the “big change” when things aren’t going right. Alabama limped off the field dazed and frustrated at half time. I will give credit to God’s Holy Spirit for this one! but… I sensed in my spirit that, “If Bama is going to win, Nick knows he’s going to have to change QB’s.” And as the first series of the 3rd quarter began, here came Tua!!

Persistence is important. I already established that. However, the flip side of that is Woody’s point of “don’t beat your head against a brick wall.” The only thing that’s going to crack is your skull. Fortunately, Saban had a 5 star QB waiting in the wings. But no amount of physical ability could help a true freshman step onto that stage and perform like he did unless there was mental and spiritual strength involved too!!!

I loved Tua’s statement after the game: “ALL the praise goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
Tua’s spiritual maturity obviously spilled over into this young man’s mental maturity. Even taking that bad sack just before The Bomb didn’t seem to phase him. He got right back up and went to his 3rd read (on the other side of the field!) for the game-winner.

My point is: sometimes you just HAVE to change. This was a calculated risk taken by Saban and his staff. But, it was the “wake up call” that the Tide needed.
Do you need to shift around your coaching staff? Do you need to dismiss a coach? Do you need to take a look at a new player at QB in your program? Do you need to tweak your offense? Do you need to be more demanding of your players and their work habits? Are you afraid to change because some kids might quit? Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk and change some things about your program if you recognize that “change” is the only fix.

Reflections on the Bowl Games

Posted by admin January - 2 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I confess it: I am a COLLEGE football junkie!!! and… when bowl season hits, you can usually find me in my recliner in front of the tv watching (even) Podunk U. vs. Left Out State in the “You Couldn’t Find My Location” Bowl!!! I get to see teams with reasonably good seasons take on another team that they would never play during the regular season. It’s just plain fun!

Admittedly, I do watch most of them from the “eyes of a Coach.” I study alignments; watch for trick plays and just want to see how a run-only team, like Army, matches up against a fast-paced bunch like San Diego State was. One thing I found: those high-powered spread pass attacks didn’t fare as well against opponents who 1) ran the ball and controlled the clock and 2) had 2-3 weeks to prepare for them and 3) had just as many good athletes on defense as the Spread Guys had on offense!

Two teams in particular stood out to me and I want to share some bits of wisdom to coaches out there— things that might help shape (or RE-shape) your philosophy about your team as you prepare for 2018. Those 2 teams are: the aforementioned Army team and… U. of Georgia.

Army: I am proud to say that one of Army’s starting LB’s is one of my former players! #54 did a heck of a job for them all season. However, they had NO answer for that great RB from SDSU! Welllllllllllll…. their defense had no answer; but, Coach Monkin and his staff DID have an answer: keep him and SDSU’s offense on the sideline!!! Army’s offense (to borrow an old B-ball term) “took the air out of the ball.” Actually, what they did was play “Keep Away!” Their players are disciplined… mentally and physically. In a game like the bowl the other night, their mental discipline carried the day. What do I mean? A gain of 2-3 yards is a win!!! 4-6 yards is a bonus!!! They were determined to just grind it out; keep the ball and finish drives. THAT takes a lot of discipline! But… it worked! You should think about that if you are looking at your team for next year and saying to yourself, “We’re going to be the underdogs in 8-9 of our games!” Maybe developing a strong ground game where you can control the clock for big chunks of time is what you need to be looking at!!!

U. of Georgia: Things weren’t looking too good in the first half— particularly on defense! Mayfield was lighting it up! Everything you drool over with the Spread Air Raid offense was on display. Georgia’s run game was working but they just weren’t “keeping up” with OK’s high octane offense! Until……….. just before the half. OK made their first of TWO horrendous Special Teams errors. That poorly executed squib kick allowed UGa to get a field goal just before half. It had to have breathed a little life into the Bulldogs.

The 2nd half was a huge turn around. UGa’s ground game kept pounding the OK defense for big chunks, but UGa’s defense, all of a sudden, was starting to make plays. Mayfield got sacked a couple of times. Give credit to the guys up front for getting to the QB but… why didn’t he catch, set and fire (on time) like he’d been doing in the first half??? Cuz UGa’s secondary was getting much better coverage! Why? Cuz they started playing zone!

There were so many KEY plays but, in my mind, the ONE that lost it for OK was the (partially) blocked FG! Did you study it? I saw it… did YOU??!!! It got blocked because the right end for OK stepped OUTSIDE to block his gap instead of stepping down— right where #7 slipped through to get a hand up!!! Who in the world teaches their PAT/FG team to do anything but: “Block your INSIDE gap… and don’t allow any penetration!!!” What a horrible mistake! It cost OK a shot at the national championship!

Moral of the story: Work on the LITTLE things! One guy not doing his job on a specialty team can cost you everything!!!

Alabama or Georgia? It should be interesting! However… I’m looking forward even more to JMU and ND St. U on Saturday!!! It will be just as much fun as watching the Dawgs and the Tide!!!

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