Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for March, 2018

Assistant Coaches

Posted by admin March - 27 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I spent about an hour on the phone this morning talking with my Defensive Coordinator when I played high school ball back in the 60’s. “That’s the 19— 60’s… not 18!!!!!!!!) Coach is 82 but still sharp as a tack. We kicked around some stuff and I asked him if he’d ever wanted to be the head coach at the high school I played at and he coached at for over 20 years. He went into administration and never looked back.

Our discussion did go into talking about being an assistant coach. He told me that “I never really had the desire to be the head man. I just wanted to be the best assistant coach I could be!” We talked about my “right-hand man” who coached with me for 15 wonderful years and, knowing him too, Coach Calhoun remarked about how organized Coach Burke was in the classroom. I told him that it was the same way on the practice field.

Coach went on to say that “it’s hard to find one good assistant coach. If you have 2 or 3, it’s a real blessing.” It made me think about what traits are we looking for in a great assistant coach??? I can state numerous things that I think are important but let me just list 3 here today. They are:

1- LOYALTY… to you as the head coach and to the program. You need assistants who you know are going to support you… especially off the field, in the community!!! What did President Lincoln say? “A house divided cannot stand!”

2- Work Ethic. Too many folks want “something for nothing.” I see a plethora of men who “just want to wear the shirt.” Just like we joke about those players who “just want to wear the jersey on Friday…” there are too many guys out there right now who want the recognition but don’t want to do the work that goes with it. I tell head coaches that they need to establish a policy of Responsibility and Accountability…. for their staff and players!

3- Purpose. Why are you coaching? It kinda ties in with #2 above. Too guys want to feed their own ego instead of being “in it” for the kids!!! It’s nice to get recognition— nothing wrong with that! but… if that’s the primary reason that you’re coaching, you are in it for the wrong reason.

A good assistant coach is worth his weight in gold. Make sure you, as the HC, let him know how much he is appreciated!

Effective Leadership

Posted by admin March - 21 - 2018 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Three times now this week I’ve been “confronted” with situations where people are discussing leadership with me. If you are a coach or teacher or businessperson, effective leadership is a key to making a team or organization successful. I’m going to present some “notes” on leadership that I’ve gleaned over the years.

The first thing I should say is… if you want to be an effective leader, you need to study effective leaders! For me, that means reading biographies. Whether it was famous Americans when I was in school or since I started coaching high school football, I read every biography I can find about successful coaches. I learned about the man and his ways of leading and motivating. It has been invaluable in my career. I strongly recommend that you do this. It’s part of being a “student of the game.”

I just heard this recently and I think it is good! For assistant coaches (particularly those who want to be or… think they’re ready to be head coaches!), you need to know that you are already a head coach! If your position coaching assignment is linebackers then you are the HEAD Coach of the linebackers! If your position is offensive centers and guards, then you are the Head Coach of the Centers and Guards! Take pride in the responsibilities given to you and be the best coach you can be for those kids you coach up day by day. Remember: how well they perform on Friday night is a direct reflection on how good a coach you are!

I heard Jenni Catron, a Leadership Coaching expert, speak at our church’s Leadership Summit last night. She asked the audience what our definition of leadership is. I’m not going to tell you what she said; but, rather, ask you to define (in your mind) what leadership is! She did make the point when she asked another question! She asked, “Do you have a passion about leading… about influencing others?!” (That should help you with defining what leadership is!)

A friend shared with me what he felt were the qualities of an effective leader. One of his points was basically the same thing that Ms. Catron presented. An effective leader has “searched and discovered his (or her) authentic self.” If you don’t know what your strengths and weaknesses are as a leader, you need to do some research and get them clearly defined.

Finally, I would ask you: Who leads you? You may not want to admit it but we are all under authority to someone. If fact, it’s been shown that we operate most effectively when someone puts some “boundaries” on us. A friend of mine who’s a nationally-known motivational speaker, Jerry Gaines, talks about having “guard rails” installed when we’re driving across (around here!) the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. If you haven’t had the pleasure of taking that drive, come visit us in Tidewater Virginia. It’s… wellllllllll, exciting!!! Without guard rails on the Chesapeake Bay bridge, you better be extra careful! Those guard rails; ie, being under authority to another actually gives us freedom! Most would say it confines us; but, think of those guard rails and how you’d feel driving 12 miles from either shoreline out in the middle of the Bay!!!

Yes, we all have an Athletics Director and a Principal who we answer to. For me, though, my ultimate authority is the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect example of what a great leader looks like. Check Him out when you’re doing your reading on great leaders!

Finding Quality Assistant Coaches

Posted by admin March - 13 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

It has become a bit of a problem in our area. I hope it isn’t the same where you are. But finding (and keeping) quality coaches is becoming difficult. There are too many guys who think because they watch the NFL Network “talking heads” or Mike and Mike in the morning (is that show still on??!!) that they are qualified to coach high school football! Or, in some cases, they are kinda like those guys who come out for the football team cuz all they want to do is “wear the jersey to school on Friday!” They simply have no idea of the time that is required to become a great coach and to make the program the success that everyone wants it to be. They want to be “seen” but don’t want to put in the work.

If you are a head coach and you’re looking for assistants, you might consider a couple of these points that I want to make for you.

First, see if you already have enough coaches… and can promote one of them. I see a lot of staffs on Friday nights that look like an “army” on the sideline. I wonder what all of them are doing during the game? What do they contribute during the week? You may want to consider cutting down on the number of assistants that you have. Look at one of those young guys as someone you can give more responsibility to.

If you do interview guys from outside the program, I think it’s important to get to know them as “people” before you start talking coaching knowledge and experience. What about his family life? Is he currently working full time? Knowing a man’s character before you hire him is vital. Let him meet some of your current staff. Watch how they interact. You want someone who will fit in with your existing coaches.

I recall a young man who I interviewed for an assistant position. He was (to put it mildly) “full of himself” during the interview! I purposely set up the interview time so we’d be done just in time to start one of our summer workouts. I invited him to hang around and watch us work with the kids. He interacted with some of the coaches and talked to a few of the players during the next hour. I was blown away by his comments as we walked in from the field! He began to tell me how many things HE would do differently! He didn’t like this and he’d improve that. Whaaaaat??? I’m no coaching genius but we’d done fairly well working within the system we’d been using. Now this young coach with one year of coaching experience was “schooling” me on how I should be conducting our program. Needless to say when I later asked the other coaches what they thought of this candidate… all I got was a bunch of “raised eyebrows” and shakes of the head! No! Heck NO!!!

If you find a coach with limited experience and knowledge but has a strong work ethic and a positive personality, you can “coach this coach.” It becomes the HC’s responsibility to educate his assistants. Private tutoring sessions are the best way to teach him. If this isn’t possible, make sure he’s attending all staff meetings and is on the field during spring and summer workouts.

Finally, the topic of loyalty must be discussed. It gets back to the reason that this candidate is in the coaching profession in the first place. If he’s in it for himself, you’re going to have problems. As a former assistant used to remind me… “check your ego at the door!” You need assistants who are going to support you…. especially if things aren’t going well. A coach who is going to cut your down behind your back is NOT who you want on your staff. If you get an inkling of this happening, it’s time to call that coach in for a private conversation. It always comes back to character.

Gaining Wisdom

Posted by admin March - 11 - 2018 - Sunday ADD COMMENTS

I am reading through the Book of Wisdom (Proverbs) in the Bible this month… seeking little “gold nuggets of wisdom” to help me along life’s way. The verse that the Lord led me to today was particularly appropriate for coaches! Since it is “Coaching Clinic Season” I think this verse is a strong reminder of how and where we should go to seek advice and instruction.

The verse is Proverbs 19:20. It says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

Two thoughts come to mind as I think on what this verse means to me.
First… we need to have a “teachable spirit.” Don’t be a “know-it-all!” I’ve encouraged coaches for years to be “students of the game.” Your quest for knowledge about coaching is critical to your success. Don’t ever stop studying, reading and listening to other coaches share their knowledge.

If you didn’t notice, this verse has a “promise” in it! It promises wisdom but… to be wise, we have to DO something first: have a “teachable spirit.” This is the beautiful thing about biblical principles. Not only do they impact our spiritual lives but these principles can be applied in our secular (coaching) world and they still work!

The second thing that caught my eye as I pondered this verse was something that my Dad reinforced in my mind while growing up. He’d say, “Consider the ‘source.'” He knew that listening to advice is good. However, he was pointing out to me that we need to be careful about who is distributing the advice!!! This is particularly true when it comes to negative comments. It’s also true when someone is spouting advice about your life. It’s interesting how many “know-it-all’s” there ARE out there in the world!!!

For instance, why has our culture promoted movie stars, celebrities and sports stars as being so wise? Like we should be following their example or their advice!!! Come on man! Most of them don’t even have a college education. Their world view is so skewed by their wealth and fame that most of them have no idea how to cope in the real world that you and I have to deal with each day.

As a Christian, the first person I’m going to turn to when I need advice is God’s Holy Spirit— through prayer. Then, if I need instruction, I’m looking in God’s Word. I have a few close friends/mentors who I call on when I need to “talk things out”… but I’m certainly not listening to any “source” until I first check out their character and background.

So… listen to advice. Seek instruction. But… choose wisely, my friend!!!

Paying Respect!

Posted by admin March - 6 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

My experience as a high school football player in the Tidewater region of Virginia back in the 60’s (and… Yes! We did wear face masks back then!!!) was extraordinary. During my 3 years of playing Varsity football at Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake, Va, I never played in a losing game! Tied 2 and won the others!!! My senior year we were a perfect 10-0!

This was due primarily to one major factor: my high school coaches! Yes, we had some good players but it was the skills that our coaching staff possessed that molded us into a championship caliber team year after year. They were simply years ahead of their time! For example, we had a full-time (BIG-time) organized weight lifting program in the mid 60’s when nobody else was lifting weights. We had a sophisticated passing game and threw the ball 25 times a game when everyone else was still playing “3 yards and a cloud of dust” on offense. We ran a multiple defense with multiple blitzes and coverages (sounds like 21st century stuff, doesn’t it??!!!) Why were we able to execute all of this? Cuz our coaches were “Students of the Game!” They traveled to clinics all over the country and weren’t embarrassed to ask questions of other coaches. Their knowledge and ability to be great teachers and motivators were the key factors to our success.

And now, two of the three are gone. We lost our head coach about 4 years ago and a second one died last week. The Lord kinda touched my heart the other night and impressed upon me that I needed to get up with our outstanding Defensive Coordinator— the last remaining coach of the three. I called him and invited him to lunch. We met yesterday and it was wonderful. I wanted to be sure to “pay my respects” before he died rather than after he’s gone.

We talked coaching… I always enjoy “pickin’ the brain” of successful coaches! It showed me that football coaching wisdom is timeless. Some of the things he shared are still practical today. We reminisced and laughed about the great times that we had as part of a great program. I was sorry that we finally had to leave the restaurant and head home.

Sooooooooo… here I am now, 50 years removed from playing high school football and this man (these men!) still have an impact on my life. Here was a 15 year old boy who they took under their wing and molded into a young man. I remember sharing at the football reunion we had for our head coach 15 years ago. I was invited to be one of the speakers to share a testimonial. I closed with these words — looking directly at those 3 men sitting at the head table, “My dad was a great man and I loved him dearly. But, you three were my heroes!”

Please be cognizant of the impact — positive and, unfortunately, negative! — that you as a coach have on your players. You are someone they will never forget. Make sure that the memories they have will be positive.

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