Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for December, 2020

Wall “Flowers!”

Posted by admin December - 29 - 2020 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I hope everyone had a great Christmas holiday. We did!

A coaching friend posted something on Facebook the other day that realllllllllly struck me! I’ve always been a fan of axioms and slogans. When I find a good one, I make a poster and stick it on the wall. I used to do this a lot in our locker room when I was the HC. Somebody told me that, “Coach J… those posters are kinda like Wall Flowers. They brighten up my day!” Smart kid.

The slogan that this coaching friend posted was unique and creative. Plus, I’d never seen it before. If you are an advocate of promoting positive thinking…. which produces positive attitudes, then you are going to enjoy this one. If you are not a fan, then I want to strongly encourage you to think about becoming one. People ask me all the time: “How did you turn around your program, Coach?” My response? “It started (and ends) with the mind set of the people in our program.” Positive thinking produces positive results. It’s why I like this slogan so much. Check it out:

“If you FAIL, never give up! Why? Because “fail” stands for: “FIRST ATTEMPT AT LEARNING!!!”

The “end” is not the END. It means: “EFFORT NEVER DIES!!!

If you get “no” as an answer, remember that “NO” means: “NEXT OPPORTUNITY”…. to succeed!

Good stuff, huh???!!!

Happpppppppppy New Year!!!

My New Book!

Posted by admin December - 21 - 2020 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

I am very excited to announce that my new book is now available through Kindle eBooks. If you prefer a paperback, Amazon will be releasing it in paperback form in a few days. Here is the link to Kindle: http://coachlewj.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/The-Best-Is-Still-Yet-To-Come-eBook-small.jpg

The title of the book is The Best Is (STILL) Yet To Come. In it you will meet the players, coaches and support staff who helped me achieve such great success during my 22-year head coaching coach at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. It is full of stories that take you “behind the scenes” to learn what went into producing such an outstanding record. From the struggles that I experienced early in my career to the ride through a 32-straight regular season winning streak later in my career, I guide you through the highs and the lows. Most importantly, I share how perseverance propelled us to unprecedented heights of success. Heart-breaking and heart-warming in it scope, The Best Is (YET) To Come will leave you with an understanding of how God opens doors if you continue to trust in Him.

I hope you will consider purchasing a copy. The profits will go toward setting up a scholarship for a deserving Western Branch football player who wants to play college ball but his college does not offer any money.

Merrrrrrrrrrrrrrry Christmas!!!

No “Pay”… No Play!

Posted by admin December - 17 - 2020 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

I really can’t believe that I am writing about this subject today. However, if you are looking for answers as to how to “turn around” your program or… “get it over the hump” then this is something you need to look at. It will fall under the umbrella of DISCIPLINE. More specifically, who gets to play on Friday night?! This all came about because of a discussion I had recently with a guy close to a struggling football program who told me that the HC lets guys skip practice for various (“good”) reasons during the week but still let’s them play on game night! My reaction? “Whaaaaaaaat? Really??!!! You’ve got to be kidding??!!!”

Unfortunately, kids (people in general) will try to get away with as much as you let them— particularly adolescents. It’s why it’s said that “teenagers are always pushing the boundary limits.” Most people are not self-motivated. In fact, most people are LAZY!!! It’s why we have coaches and personal trainers! I bet you can count on one hand the players whom you have coached who did not need to be pushed. Those are special kids indeed! I also bet that they are extremely successful now that they are adults, too. My point being: if you let kids “skip” practice and still let them play/start on Friday night, you are doing that player a disservice and you are setting yourself up for a lot of problems in your program.

Team guidelines must be in place to deal with a subject such as this. Players, parents, (assistant) coaches, trainers and administrators need to be clear on what your policy is as far as missing practice and still being allowed to play. Once you establish your guideline, you need to publicize it so there are no questions. Finally (and here is where the rubber meets the road)… you must be committed to following through on that policy! Even if it’s your starting QB! If not, you are wasting your time.

Here was the policy that I used for 25 years and it worked out well. First off, we had a clear-cut understanding of what an excused vs. an UN-excused absence from practice “looked” like. If a starter had an unexcused absence, he did not start. In fact, he missed the entire first half. Then, if the backup was doing fine, the starter might not play in the 2nd half either! If a player had 2 unexcused absences, he was benched. In both instances, he would have to win his starting position back… along with some extra conditioning for what he missed during practice.

An excused absence came with a doctor’s note. Missing practice simply because he didn’t “feel well” was not excused. If the Trainer deemed a player was not eligible for practice, that injured player still dressed out (THAT is important!) and was at practice the entire time. If the Trainer gave him exercises to do, those had to be accomplished also. If a player could not practice (at least) by Thursday— one day of “active” practice after attending ALL practices— then he did not play on Friday. Again, all of this was subject to the Trainer and/or Team Doctor’s orders. It amazed me how many “miraculous Thursday healings!” we had over the years!!! But, I always told our Team Doctor that he made the medical-related decisions… not me!

Every Head Coach should have a “Player Policy Sheet” or Guidelines of some sort that are written out, distributed to players and parents… reviewed with those groups; signed, returned to the HC and kept in a safe place during the season. Due process is a big deal in this day and time. You need to be able to “CYA” if and when the time comes. Having clear-cut policies in place helps you avoid unpleasant discussions/confrontations that might come up.

Finally… a word of caution: BE CONSISTENT! If you’re going to make a “rule” or formulate a policy, you better be ready to back it up! Overlook an infraction just one time— particularly if it involves a starter or your “star” player— and it will come back to bite you in the butt! Be consistent! Stick to your guns! Create discipline by expecting players and coaches to adhere to your policies. It’s a KEY to success in any organization!

Memories??!!!

Posted by admin December - 11 - 2020 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

My book is with my publisher/editor now and I’m awaiting final clearance to be able to start marketing it. I hope it’s before Christmas!

As I composed my memoirs, two things kinda jumped out at me: 1- how good MY memory is and 2- how BAD most other peoples’ memory is! I talked with dozens of former players over the months I was compiling information and it became quite clear to me that most of them had NO idea what I was talking about when I brought up a game or an incident they were involved in during their high school career. For me…. these things were etched in my mind. It made me start to wonder. I think I have an answer.

My generation growing up… our parents took lots of photos AND they made photo albums to store those memories in. I looked back at them quite often. My parents would sit down with me and we would talk about those things that we did and places we went. I won’t say that I have a “photographic memory” but I do have very clear images of past experiences in my head.

The other thing that helped me recall stories I wanted to tell was that I kept a Journal— still do today! I recorded things that, at the moment, I felt were important. I was able to go back through those journals when I needed to clear up a detail about a game. Writing it down is a big aid to remembering things!

So, for you coaches out there. What am I saying? Take notes. Keep a journal. Write stuff down. A summary of the season, now that it’s over, is a great way to record your thoughts and feelings about what happened during the season. You never know when you might decide one day to write your memoirs! At any rate, being able to look back with clarity is important. Knowing where you came from will help propel you on to greater heights in the future.

What Now?

Posted by admin December - 2 - 2020 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Those of you who were able to play football this fall are more than likely done with your season. If you are still playing, then it means that you are in the playoffs. If so, good luck! I want to talk to those whose season has ended. Even more specifically, to those whose season did not go as well as you’d hoped it would. The question is: what do you do now? My answer? You get feedback! And you get it from a number of sources.

I was reading an article about my Virginia Tech Hokies’ defense this morning. They have the unpleasant task of taking on Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers’ offense this weekend. What I found interesting were the quotes from the Clemson Offensive Coordinator. They were not your typical coach speak— lauding the Hokies on how great they’ve been playing; what an outstanding job their new DC has been doing. Nope! He was honest and, wellllllllllll…. blunt! In a nutshell, he said that Tech’s defense has been “all over the place. That they still haven’t found their identity.” In my mind, that’s the kind of feedback that Coach Fuente and his staff needs… IF they are going to improve! Self-evaluation is fine. Unfortunately, self-evaluation often doesn’t give you an objective picture of how you’ve been doing. That has to come from someone else! Who? Anyone who has seen you play and has a level of expertise in knowing something about how football teams are supposed to perform.

One of the key groups that I sought feedback from at the end of each season was my graduating seniors. They had nothing to lose. Their career was over and they didn’t have to worry about any fallout if they spoke their minds about the program they’d just participated in for the last 2-3 years. Getting them to “open up” was the hard part. I always led with this question: What can I do as the Head Coach of this football program to be a better leader? In this way, you are asking for feedback but you’re asking your (former) players to help you… help you to improve. Take notes and don’t stop to defend yourself. Listen! Get clarification if you need it but let them talk.

Another group would be opposing coaches. Someone whom you respect and maybe won’t play again next year. Question him about what he saw in general. Then ask for specifics: how hard was it to prepare for us? What gave you concerns? Was there something you saw that was a weakness on our part? You want the good, the bad and… yes, even the ugly!

Media people. Or, recruiting service guru’s. They come to your games. They see you play. Question them about what they saw. Let them know that you want them to be forthright with you. You can’t improve if you don’t know what your weaknesses are.

There were former coaches who followed our teams when I coached. I liked to “pick their brain.” It might even be worth asking one of them if they would be a scout for you next year. Ask them to watch your team and get a report from the retired coach on what he’s been observing.

The important part is now the hardest part. I’m not saying that it’s going to necessarily be pleasant to have someone criticize things you’ve been doing. But, the listening is only the starting point. My challenge to you is: are you willing to make the changes that people have shared to improve your team’s performance? I have been in this role as a “scout” for a couple of coaches since I retired. They were all willing to listen. Very few of them had the fortitude to attack the weaknesses I observed and make things better. Several of them are not head coaches anymore.

Growing Means Changing. That’s one of my church’s Core Values. It’s true. If you want things to get better, you must be willing to change. Cuz what you’re doing now doesn’t seem to be working! I hope that things get better for you… I really do!!!

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