Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for June, 2021

Don’t Rush!!!

Posted by admin June - 17 - 2021 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

I just looked back on my posts from the last year or so and didn’t see anything on this subject. Sooooo…. here you go! If I have written about it previously, it’s important enough to talk about again!!! My focus will be on learning and the best way to coach during practice. It all gets back to one of my main coaching philosophies: do a FEW things realllllllllly well! The thickness of your playbook does not have a direct correlation to how many wins you’ll have during a season. In fact, it may be the exact opposite.

Perhaps this (bad) philosophy began with high school coaches listening to college coaches explaining how they organize and carry out practice. But, it concerns me that people cannot see that things that college coaches can expect their players to execute does not mean that high school players can do the same thing. The key point is: Don’t Rush!!! Don’t rush through practice!!! Several coaches whom I have talked with recently wanted to go over practice organization and HOW to conduct practice. The “kool aid that too many have drunk” is the philosophy that: race through practice and get as many reps as you can in the time allotted! WHAT? So…. what they are saying is: it doesn’t matter if a player is doing something WRONG…. just keep doing it and he’ll get better! “The more reps will bring about improvement.” Come on man!!! That is both naive and wellllllllll… (I can think of several words like, stupid or foolish or dumb but… I’ll stay civil!) WRONG! It’s kinda like thinking that if you drive your car with a flat tire long enough, the tire will fix itself and re-inflate on its own! Maybe that’s a bad analogy but it’s as wrong as thinking that a player is going to improve if he just keeps practicing the skill enough times!

Here it is in a nut shell: Don’t sacrifice correction for meeting your (time quota). If you have to stop practice to fix something… stop it. Don’t rush!!! Better to run less plays and get them right than to rush through your script and say “well, we got all 20 snaps in during the allotted 20 minute period.” NO!!!! Most high school players need to be shown their mistake; shown how to do it correctly; walk through it doing it correctly and then…. run the play again where they perform the technique correctly… THIS time! Yes, it’s time-consuming. But, unless you have an hour each day to review practice in the film room with each starter (like colleges do) OR… you have position meetings each day where coaches can make corrections (like colleges do) (***and by the way, don’t think that a HS player is going to watch Hudl cut ups on his own and get a thing out of it! Not gonna happen! Waste of time!) then you must STOP practice and make the correction on the practice field!

Remember the old adage: “Practice makes perfect!” Right??? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Practice does NOT make “perfect!” Only PERFECT practice makes perfect!!! “Perfection” in practice requires repetition. However, the reps must be done correctly or a player will never come even close to very good… let alone perfection!!! Slow down… don’t rush!

Keeping the “Main Thing” the main thing!

Posted by admin June - 12 - 2021 - Saturday ADD COMMENTS

I have been mentoring a young coach who just got a head coaching job. We’ve been kicking around ideas about Offense and Defense a lot. However, he brought up something the other day that I want to comment on in this post.

He was getting ready to lead his first (full) staff meeting this week. He’s a smart guy so he already had some ideas about what he wanted to cover. I appreciate him because he’s always got a “teachable spirit.” He wanted to know what I thought he should address. I told him that “what you emphasize, you will achieve! Sooooooo… make sure that the first subject you cover with your coaches is the one that you want to resonate with them. “Coach, make sure that you 1) know what your “Main Thing” is! and then 2) continue to KEEP the “Main Thing” the main thing! If it’s important enough to bring up first in your initial meeting… then you need to continue to bring it up.” In Behavioral Psychology terminology, it’s called REINFORCEMENT. I think we all know what “enforcement” means. Keep in mind that the prefix “re” means to repeat the enforcement…. over and over and over and over again…. !!!

I shared with him that MY “Main Thing” was LOYALTY. For the 30 years that I was a HC, the first item of business on my agenda for our initial staff meeting was to review my Staff Expectations. The first (and therefore, most important) expectation was LOYALTY. Loyalty to me as the head coach; loyalty to our team and loyalty to our school and community. Why is loyalty so important? First off, if everyone is not on the same page, an organization is not likely to achieve great results. As the U. of Minnesota coach would say, “Oars in the water and we all row together!” As a HC, you need to know that your staff “has your back.” Being loyal means “giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance…” I think it’s an off-shoot of UNITY. I had to dismiss an assistant coach once for disloyalty and another time had to dismiss a player (a starter) for spreading dis-unity. It was amazing how the team “came together” after each of these instances. As the leader, the people who work for you need to know that if you say it… then it will be enforced. (there’s that word again!) I think that the healthy response after I dismissed people was, in part, due to the fact that the team realized that “Coach J wasn’t just “blowing smoke.” I meant what I said.

Then… once you present it as a KEY element in your program’s philosophy, you’ve got to remind people of its importance. It’s why I made a BIG poster each year and posted our Team Goals on it. It hung right over the white board in our locker room. There were many team meetings that included a 1-2 minute rehash of what our goals were. Keep the “Main Thing” the main thing! Repeat… repeat… repeat!

What Are You KNOWN For?

Posted by admin June - 3 - 2021 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

A friend of mine who sells and installs home security systems recently did some work for one of my former assistant coaches… who also happened to be a former player. Of course, they got to talking about our high school’s football program and what it was like to work for “Coach J.” I found it very enlightening to hear what my friend gleaned from their conversation.

He said that “2 things stand out in my mind after having played for and coached with Lew.” First, he was very competitive. The guy just did not like to lose. I think that it was what drove him to have such a strong work ethic.” Never a truer statement! I have been competitive since I was a youth. I did not like to lose at anything… whether it was a “friendly” game of ping pong in a friend’s basement or a championship football game. It was a blessing and a curse; for I also possessed a tremendous fear of failure. That fear ate at me my whole life. But, it motivated me to work as hard as I could to achieve success. With the help of the Lord, I have been able to “build a fire wall” between who I am (a child of God) and what I do (coach football.) Now, I still don’t like to lose but… my reaction to it is much improved!

The other trait that my former colleague stated to my friend was, “Coach J was extremely organized.” That, I think, was one of the keys to our sustained success over the years. I was meticulous about preparing our staff and our players for a practice or game. A good friend once told me to pay attention to details. Little things CAN make a BIG difference. (What a great name for a book!!! ha ha!) I wanted our guys to be properly prepared for any situation that might arise during a game. I love the old adage: “Failing to prepare (properly) is preparing to fail!” How true.

The last thing I would add is a trait that kept me going when times got tough. Though our won-loss record my last 23 years as a head coach was very good, the first 5 years were, at best, average. Then once we started winning more games than we lost…. there were teams at the top that we still couldn’t compete against. It was only because of perseverance that I was able to “stick with it” and become an overcomer. I learned this from a Bible lesson that I heard at an Fellowship of Christian Athletes event. The coach talked about how often, in the New Testament, that we are encouraged to persevere. My life verse became Philippians 3:14. It says… “PRESS ON towards the goal of the higher calling. “Press on!” What’s the little word in: PRESSURE? See it? Yep… press. If something is worth achieving, there is going to be pressure brought to bear. If you want to achieve that goal, you will have to press on. Most people lack the self-discipline and fortitude to see something through to the end. Don’t let the “pressure” stop you! Press on towards your goal!