Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for June, 2018

Season’s “Theme”

Posted by admin June - 11 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

As school ends for everybody, a head football coach’s mind turns to preparation for the upcoming season. One of the things that I did as a head coach was to create a theme for the players to focus on for the season.

I first saw this around 1990. Our staff visited East Carolina University for their coaches clinic. I noticed their players walking around the football complex with their ECU Football team t shirts on. A big pirate in the middle with ECU Football surrounding it. Interestingly, when a player would walk by I saw something printed on the back of the shirt which made me scratch my head! Near the top were the letters in big, bold print: TEAM. Hard to see, but down at the bottom of the back of the shirt, were the little, tiny letters: Me. What the heck?!!

As another player passed me, I spoke up and asked him: “What is the significance of the two words on the back of everybody’s shirt?” He replied, “Coach, it’s to remind everybody of what our coach wants us to focus on this season.” “What’s that?” I asked. “BIG Team! Little me,” he stated. WOW!! It was the first time I’d ever heard it put that way and it stuck with me.

That summer when I ordered our Team T Shirts for the upcoming season, I had the company we bought the shirts from print the same thing on our shirts! That was the first time that I had our “Team Theme” printed on our shirts. It was an easy way to keep the theme out in the open in front (behind!) the guys all season long. What I realized when I first put on my shirt was that the “slogan” (or theme) was right there in front of me as I pulled the shirt over my head!

It became one of the most important items on my agenda from then on… to decide what our slogan or theme would be for that next season. I even asked the players a couple of times if they had any suggestions. Some of their ideas were very good.

Let me point out too that I used the purchase of the “season t shirt” as a fund raiser each year. I expected every player to purchase a t shirt for the upcoming season. The price was reasonable but still helped us raise some much-needed funds for our football program. I would print the year for that upcoming season in the middle of the front so they couldn’t “sneak in” a shirt from a previous season! The shirts became so popular that I let family members purchase them too. Everybody affiliated with our program was seen wearing our Team T Shirt in the community.

The slogan was important. It focused on a theme that I felt that the upcoming team would need to keep in their psyche. It often had to do with an “issue” that we had to address the previous season that I stressed to the team throughout the off-season. For example, one year we had a group of players who allowed mistakes from a previous play to rob them of their focus on the next play! THAT became the theme for the next year and the slogan on the back of the shirt: NEXT PLAY!

Another time, we’d had a great season the year before. I noticed that a lot of the players seemed pretty satisfied with themselves during the offseason and our success had kinda gone to their heads. I harped on: STAY HUMBLE; STAY HUNGRY! We talked a lot about excellence and what it entailed. STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE was a theme one season.

Is this helping to spawn some ideas in your head? I hope so. Our players liked the shirts and they found the theme/slogan on the back to be inspiring. Your players probably will too.

Planning Your Summer Workout/Practice Schedule

Posted by admin June - 5 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had a discussion with a coach the other day about how to organize his summer workouts. I know that each state has different rules regarding how much time you can practice (or workout— I will make a distinction there as we go along here!) before your first game. In Virginia, where I live, the rules allow you to lift, run and “practice” all summer… with the exception of one week in July when everyone has to shut down everything! Official preseason practice begins 3-4 weeks before your opening game. Time on the practice field and going full gear has a state mandate. What I’m talking about here, though, is what you do in the weeks leading up to the official start of preseason practice.

A lot is said about the Big MO (momentum) during a football game. It’s kinda looked at as some nebulous entity… like the Force in Star Wars! It’s “real” you say —- we just don’t have much control over it. I disagree!

Like anything else dealing with the mental side of football, momentum is something that you can regulate and you need to plan for it. Think: a little snowball starting to roll down the side of a steep (and loooooong) hill. What happens? It picks up speed as it increases its mass or density until… near the bottom, it’s a gigantic snow mountain ready to crush anything in its path!!!

But… suppose half way down that mountain, as the snowball is picking up speed, the mountain flattens out into a plateau. What’s going to happen to the snowball’s momentum? Obviously, the snowball is going to slow down from its thundering path down the mountain and may even come to rest. What caused the loss of momentum? Things “flattened” out. Our attitude; our work ethic; our commitment can “flatten out” too! Doing too much of the same thing is going to get tedious. Kids would say, “Boooooooooring.” As a coach organizing your summer workouts, you need to find ways to eliminate the possibility of hitting a “plateau.” You do that by 1- keeping things “short and sweet” and 2- changing things up while keeping them the same! What???!!!!

You continue to work on the same skills: lifting weights; conditioning/speed/agility training and on the field skills and drills (IF allowed in your district!)… but, you find different ways to accomplish the same goal!

I’m confident that you change up your weight room workouts already! I hope so!!! How about conditioning? Sprints and nothing else? Try to be creative. We used to play “sharks and minnows” in a limited area. (That’s “tag” if you don’t know what I mean!) Competitive relay races. Run “L’s” or “J’s” around the edge of the field instead of gassers across the field every day. Even if you can’t use a ball (use an “invisible” ball!) and run up and down the field just “faking” dive or zone or trap with your offense. Sprint 15 yards; set up and run it again… and again… till you get to the end zone. We even let the linemen play their own game of 7 on 7! But, they had to keep running. NO walking!

Your workouts don’t (and should not!!!) be as lengthy as your “official” practices which usually begin in August. Keep them short and crisp. Cover 1 side of the ball each day. An hour to 90 minutes is plenty of time to work on skills and drills. Try to play 7 on 7 once a week— either against another school (if allowable) or just divide up your players and go shirts and skins.

One KEY thing: When I was a head coach, I gave the players the week off just prior to official practice starting. I let parents know well in advance so if they wanted to take a family vacation… THAT was the week to go! While the players had the week off, this was when I met with my staff to finalize things for practice. This allows the players a chance to get away and “re-energize.” It gets them excited about official practice beginning the next week; i.e., something to look forward to! Just like those last few weeks before Christmas. (“The anticipation is killing me!!!”) It’s a chance to reboot the energy/enthusiasm level in your players’ minds and… yep! get that “momentum machine” geared up and ready to start rolling down that hill again!!!