Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for April, 2021

Winning the Game. No!…Practice!!!

Posted by admin April - 29 - 2021 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

I had a great conversation with an old friend (he’s not old… the friendship is “old”; i.e., long-time!) this morning. We discussed LEADERSHIP! He is something of an expert on the subject… having been an outstanding U.S. Naval officer and… he wrote up a paper entitled The 10 Commandments of Leadership. It is excellent! We spent an hour or so discussing those commandments this morning.

There were several important take-aways from our talk but, the one I want to write about here speaks directly to coaches. The question came up as to how do you know you’ve had a winning performance (in a NON-combat situation) in the Navy? Note: My friend commanded a Supply Battalion in Kuwait. I talked about how easy it is in football— you just look at the scoreboard when the game is over. He agreed. But, then he queried, “how do you know that you had a winning performance in practice?” I realized that 4 days of preparation sets the stage for your performance on Friday night. If you can’t measure success for those 4 days, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure on game night!

The KEY is: you set goals and objectives that you want to achieve each day your team and staff take the field… not just Friday. What do you want to accomplish on Monday? Tuesday? etc… At the end of practice, I feel it is important to have a brief staff meeting (it IS high school. No need to stay for 2 hours! You can get done what needs to get done in 20 minutes IF you stay on task) after every practice to evaluate: did you achieve your objectives for that day’s practice? If you did, great. If not… then 1) why didn’t you? and 2) what do you need to do to make sure you achieve them next week?

Any of you who are classroom teachers have been shown a template for developing classroom lesson plans. One of the first things they teach you is to have an objective for that lesson. What holds true in the classroom holds true on the practice field. Effective principles of learning impact any setting where performance/achievement is being measured.

I encourage each of you to take a few of your daily practice schedules from this past season and look back at them. Ask yourself: did we achieve success on that particular Monday… or Tuesday? Why not? Then plan your practice schedules for next season with an objective in mind for each day. You will find that evaluating each day’s performance— not just Friday night!— will improve your team’s game performance. “Practice makes perfect???”””
NO!!! Perfect practice makes perfect!!! How do you know that you are achieving a perfect practice? By being able to measure your success! You do that be setting goals/objectives for each and every time you take the field— game AND practice!

Studies in Leadership: Dwight Eisenhower

Posted by admin April - 21 - 2021 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I just finished a trilogy on World War 11 by Jeff Shaara. If you like military history from the viewpoint of the soldiers themselves, you will enjoy Shaara’s approach to writing. Obviously, one of the main characters in any book on WW 11 would be the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. His leadership characteristics were not as apparent as some noted military or political leaders. In fact, one source that I sought out described Eisenhower’s style of leadership as being “hidden qualities.” Eisenhower was an exceptional adminstrator. He never commanded troops in battle. Instead, he organized and coordinated (managed, if you would) armies of 4 nations, their navies and their air forces. Plus, Ike had to deal with some very temperamental and egotistical commanders. If you’ve ever had an assistant coach who was, as my dad used to say, “too big for his britches!”, you need to read more about how Eisenhower dealt with that issue.

Perhaps, Ike’s strongest leadership characteristic was his ability to delegate. One source said that “Eisenhower perfected the art of delegation.” By delegating, the Supreme Commander was able to focus on the “big ticket items” that over-arched the entire Allied war effort. However, he expected all decisions by his subordinates to be run by him. Ike always had the “last word” and made the final decision.

Eisenhower exemplified the characteristic of perseverance. Here was an Army officer who, early in his career, was going nowhere fast. He was assigned office/administrative duties at whatever duty station he found himself. He longed for the opportunity to truly lead. When WW 11 broke out, the USA held back. When we finally entered the war, Ike had his chance. Yet, his selection as the Supreme Commander met with some “raised eyebrows.” But President Roosevelt and General of the Army, George Marshall knew that Ike had the makings of a great leader. Why? The main reason was: Ike wasn’t a quitter. Too often, I see young coaches who have not had to wait to get the chance to be a head coach, get easily frustrated when they don’t immediately succeed. After just a couple of years, they resign. Perseverance builds faith— in God and in yourself! It is a key component in any successful leader’s character.

Eisenhower was a “team player” and he looked for team players in his commanders. Patton and Montgomery were excellent battlefield commanders who had the respect of the troops under their command. But, their personalities drove Eisenhower crazy. It took up a lot of his time and energy keeping those two “reined in.” Ike detested showboats. When hiring assistant coaches, be sure to gauge how big their ego is before deciding that this is someone with whom you can work. The adage I lived by when I was a head coach was “BIG TEAM… little me!”

When Ike was President, some media pundits criticized him for “playing too much golf.” He even had a practice hole and green built on the White House grounds. Ike knew the importance of rest. No one can continue to function at peak efficiency unless he makes the time to rest and rejuvenate. God makes it pretty clear in the Bible that we need a day of rest. Heck… even God took the “7th day off!”

Finally, the characteristic that Eisenhower possessed that impressed me the most was that he was careful to give credit to others… while taking the blame on himself— even when underserved. If you don’t know the story, Ike had a press release already prepared if the D Day invasion of France failed. In the note, Ike took full responsibility for the failure! Fortunately, he did not have to release that message on June 6, 1944.

There are all kinds of successful leaders. Ike, in a sense, broke the mold. He did not possess the charisma that many great leaders possess. Ike did, however, possess a high level of organizational skills. He used these skills to administrate a huge fighting force. Be sure you are organized. Put others above yourself. Finally, be willing to delegate certain duties to your assistant coaches. You don’t have to do it all by yourself!

Know Your Priorities

Posted by admin April - 13 - 2021 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

It has amazed me over the last 6-8 weeks how one’s priorities can change so quickly. We found out the first week in February that my sweet wife has pancreatic cancer. Our whole world was turned upside down. Every moment I had during the day (and night) was devoted to her. The only other priority that remained the same was my relationship with Jesus. Otherwise, my focus was solely on caring for her.

Our local football team played 6 games during the same time. I was able to help our head coach with breaking down video on Sunday’s… from my computer at home! Otherwise, my attention was solely on her. Attending practice was out of the question. The bottom line was: coaching football was not a priority in my life at the time. I focused my energy on making sure my wife’s needs were being met.

I retired from being a head football coach in 2015 because I felt that the Lord was impressing upon me that it was time to give the “first fruits” of my time to my wife. She had always wanted to travel. THAT became my priority. We took 2 river cruises in Europe; a bus tour of the Canyonlands of the Southwest and 2 trips to New England to see the leaves change in the fall. We missed out on the beauty of the trees… but had two wonderful trips up north. There were smaller trips too; but, she enjoyed all of them. We’re kinda “grounded” right now from traveling. Hopefully the chemo will do its job and we can visit Scotland like we’d planned before the pandemic hit. Ya gotta have HOPE!

My point is this coaches: 1- KNOW what your priorities are. Why? Because they will show you what your PURPOSE in life is! then… 2- make a commitment to put your priorities in line with your daily planner. We can “say” that something is important. However, are you putting “it” at the top of your “To-Do List”??? You’ll find that your life will go much smoother when you get your priorities straight!