Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for November, 2018

Be a “Student of the Game!”

Posted by admin November - 28 - 2018 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

It’s “Final 4 Weekend” in Virginia this coming Saturday. Four teams in each of the 6 divisions are the only teams left standing. That means that most people have turned in their equipment and, hopefully, are relaxing a bit. Guys: you NEED that time away. They don’t call it a grind for nothing! It will grind you up and spit you out if you don’t take some time to decompress. I know a couple of coaches who have already gotten their off-season weight program going. IMO, that is a mistake! Burn out is a real thing!

My focus on this post, however, is about “continuing education” for coaches. It is important that you seek out people who are going to help you get to that next level. It is also important that you include your entire staff in this effort! And… at some point, it is imperative that the Head Coach “coach the coaches.”

There are clinics galore— all over the country! I am honored to have been asked to speak at 3 different clinics this year: the National Wing T Coaches Clinic in Pittsburgh; the Glazier Clinic in Boston and the best clinic for HS coaches in the state of Virginia in Richmond. Wherever you choose to go, let me make a couple of key points:

1- Listen to high school coaches! The college game is soooooooo different from high school. You need to talk to successful coaches who coach at the same level as you. For instance, a coach at a Division 2 high school in Virginia is dealing with a student body of maybe 400 students — half of which are females. The scope of your football program is going to be verrrrrrrry different than what the coaches at, say, Allen HS in Dallas, Texas have to deal with. They are great coaches. But why not find another successful D2 coach in your state and go visit him and his staff? Or, if he’s speaking at a clinic, attend it and hear him speak.

2- Don’t be afraid to ask for some extra time after the coach has finished his talk at a clinic. I’m always honored to be asked to speak. It’s a double honor when a coach asks if he can “pick my brain” afterwards.

3- If you can learn “1 little thing” then it was worth the time and money to attend. That little thing can end up making a BIG difference. One little thing I took away from a speaker one time was: “Shoot your linemen’s hands down on the first snap count… sometimes! The rest of the time go on ‘1st sound.” I took this home and started toying with it and it ended up being one of THE best things we ever did. Our kids would get very upset if they didn’t draw the D line off-side at least once a game! It helped us with our Punt and Field Goal teams too.

4- Videotape the talk… IF it’s allowed. Whenever my staff used to visit another staff, we would tape the entire session. Most of the big-time clinics won’t let you tape; but, at least ask.

Hopefully these ideas will give you some food for thought. The key is: (continue to be) a Student of the Game!

Post-Season Checklist

Posted by admin November - 19 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I like to divide up the calendar year by “seasons.” For instance, there is post-season and then there’s off-season. I think there’s a difference. There are things a HC needs to “clean up” once the regular season (IN-season) is over. These need to occur as soon as the last game as possible. Once they’re completed, then… you can start focusing on the long haul of the OFF-season! I want to give you a list of things that you should consider doing in the post-season.

1- EQUIPMENT. Get it collected, cleaned and stored. Pull out the equipment that will be going to the Reconditioner and complete your inventory. Based on the inventory that you make (and probably submit to your AD), you can begin to make your “wish list” for items that you’d like to have purchased for next year. Let your staff know that they are expected to help in doing this. Once again, as I’ve discussed many times, don’t be a micromanager. Solicit the help of your assistant coaches. Include it in the job description for assistants so there’s no dispute over who has to help!

2- STAFF DINNER. On the day that our staff completed the clean-up and inventory, I took the staff out to dinner. It was an opportunity for me to say “Thanks!” to my staff for their hard work over the last 4-6 months. If there is money available to do it, take them to a steak house. If not, have them over to your house and prepare a meal for them there. It’s a small thing but it shows your appreciation to the assistants. It’s also a time to reflect back on the season; hopefully have a few laughs and give a toast — do something where you express your thanks to them.

3- STAFF EVALUATIONS. Call in each assistant individually and go over your evaluation of the job they did this season. There are checklists you can find online or simply write up a summary for each. Include things they did well and… things they need to work on. Phrasing it that way (“things you need to work or improve on”) presents a more positive picture than “things that you did that I didn’t like” or “things you did wrong.” There may have to be a “stipulation” attached to it. “If this doesn’t improve next year, we will probably have to let you go.” Let that coach know that you are there to help him improve. Don’t leave him flapping in the breeze. You hired him; so do your part as the leader of your staff to help him improve!

4- ADMIN EVALUATION. If your AD doesn’t do it, you need to ask him/her to do a written evaluation of the job that YOU did this season. Again, in writing. You need to know where you stand with your AD and the job that he/she thought you did. Keep it in your records file.
The same thing goes for your Principal. You should ask for a meeting at his/her earliest convenience and talk about the season. Ask him/her what you can do to improve.

5- GETAWAY WEEKEND… with your spouse/partner or just by yourself! Get away from football! I used to take my wife to the Outer Banks of NC for a weekend. It was a chance for me to decompress but also a chance to lavish a lot of attention on HER! I have an amazing “coaches wife!” Especially since she’s not a big football fan. But she was a “Lew J. Fan” and she was always there to support me. It was only right that I’d take a weekend to get away with her and get reacquainted!!!

6- BANQUET. I’ve talked about this activity before so I won’t go into detail. If your school/AD doesn’t have this, contact some Moms and ask for their help. They love doing things for their sons. “Sell” it to them in that manner. Yes, they’re helping you. But… they’re doing it for their son! You can hold a nice function right in the school cafeteria. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but it needs to be done. Your players deserve it.

I think of November/December as “post-season.” It’s a time to wrap things up and close things down for 4 weeks. Some coaches simply never stop. It becomes a chore and a burden. Kids today aren’t as sold on the grind as they might’ve been at one time. I wouldn’t even open the weight room till January— and then that month is for introducing lifts, getting preliminary maxes and emphasizing SAFETY in the weight room. February through July is plenty of time to conduct your OFF-season strength/speed/agility program. Don’t drive kids away from your program by being overly ambitious about getting them into the weight room right after the season ends. Everyone needs some time away.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Our Troubles Can Train Us!

Posted by admin November - 12 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I know that some of you are dealing with the disappointment of a season unfulfilled. For whatever reason, it just didn’t turn out like you’d hoped it would when you started back in the August. Too many injuries; bad breaks; bad attitudes…. whatever the cause, you’re looking back at your season with a lot of regrets. Let me, perhaps, cast a different light on things for you.

I love what Pastor Bob Gass said in his daily devotional a while back. “Contrary to what you may thing, the ideal environment for your ‘players’ is NOT one that’s devoid of problems and trials. Though it’s hard to accept at the time, your ‘players’ NEED the minor setbacks and disappointments that come their way. How can they learn to cope with problems and frustrations as adults, if their early experiences are totally without them?”

I hope that you are a coach who cares just as much as building character as you do about winning football games. If your main goal as a coach is to win games, then your focus is too small! Long after your players hang up their helmets for the last time, they will remember the atmosphere of your program. Nobody can have as much impact on a young man’s development as his coach. To pretend that your influence doesn’t matter… you’re just kidding yourself. You have a responsibility to teach your players to win with class but, also, to accept defeat with dignity. It’s those defeats that build strength of character.

Have you heard the tale of the 2 trees? A tree that’s planted in a rain forest is rarely forced to extend its roots downward in search of water. As a result, it remains poorly anchored. When even a moderate amount of wind comes, it can be easily toppled over. However, a mesquite tree (of which I saw hundreds recently when my wife and I toured the Canyon Lands of the SW) planted in a desert is under stress right from the earliest growing season. It survives by driving it’s roots 30-50 feet into the earth in search of water. Overcoming adverse conditions allows the mesquite to stand up to all types of situations.

I encourage you to take those losses this fall and use them to help your players learn to be, as the Bible says, “more than conquerors!”