Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“3 Minutes in Paradise!”

Posted by admin November - 17 - 2015 - Tuesday

I’m not big into the so-called “punishment period” with our players. Throughout my career, I’ve attempted to stay positive. We, obviously, point out mistakes and correct them but… I tell my coaches to “conduct yourself as a class-room teacher while on the field.” For instance, a teacher would not hand back a test paper to a student who’d just failed it and proceed to scream and embarrass that student— in front of all of his classmates! So, don’t do it on the practice field either. I get frustrated at times and I DO raise my voice! But… it’s generally directed to everyone in common instead of berating one player.

However, there are two very effective reminders that we use to develop discipline. OK… so some folks would say that it’s punishment but it’s effective and it curbs the unwanted behavior quite quickly! One is “the shark is in the water!” I have one of our assistant coaches “lurking” near the entrance to our practice field while we are lining up to begin the first period of our practice schedule. IF… a player comes out late (after I’ve blown the whistle to start practice) and does NOT have a note from the Trainer or a teacher, “The Shark” gets him! 15-25 continual Up-Downs (remember: in front of the rest of the team!) is a very strong deterrent to being “unexcused” late to practice!

The other “reminder” is for our Running Backs/Receivers— whoever carries the ball and potentially could fumble. I’ve done this for years. I just started coaching the RB’s again after 4 years away and we had 2 fumbles in our first game; 1 in the second and 1 in the 6th. THAT’S IT! Our kids just know how to hold onto the football! Perhaps my patented “Fumble Drill” has reinforced this. The player at fault steps out in front of the rest of the backs during our Individual Offensive Period on Monday’s practice. I am in front of him, 5-6 feet away, with a ball in my hand. He begins to chop his feet and then I “roll” (pretty forceably) the ball to one side of the offender (about 6-10 feet away from him) and he has to go chase it. Then, he has to dive on the “loose ball” and cleanly recover it or… that rep doesn’t count. He jumps up and flips the ball back to me. I don’t even catch it most times— I simply bat it like a volleyball coming at me in the other direction of the player! Now, he has to run about 20 feet and chase, dive on and recover (cleanly) the “fumble.” He jumps up, tosses the ball to me and “bat”— I send it flying back in the original direction! He does this 6 times cuz that’s how many potential points (TD) he cost us by turning over the ball. It’s done right in front of the backs but the rest of the team can see what’s going on. Trust me… it’s no joke. The player is worn out when he’s done chasing and diving on that ball 6 straight times. Plus, if he missed a recovery, he gets to do an additional rep. We do “ball security” drills every week but I think that this UNpleasant Reminder does more than anything to put it in the kids’ heads: HOLD ONTO THE BALL!

Finally, “3 Minutes in Paradise!” We played 2 games in August this year. I’m sure it’s probably hot in August where you’re located too. But, we see mid 90’s and high humidity until late September in Tidewater Virginia. I did not feel like we were in good enough shape even with all of the conditioning we’d done all summer. So after our second game, I instituted a new tradition to our weekly practice schedule. At the end of the Monday practice, we circled the team up in the middle of the practice field. On the whistle, everyone began to chop their feet. I call out 1 player to get in the middle. Then… I start the clock! That player has the “fun” of leading the rest of the team in 60 seconds worth of up/downs!! He can go as fast as he wants. (Interestingly, even rookies and back-ups will work everyone reallllllllly hard when called upon to lead the team!) I blow the whistle at 60 seconds but everyone continues to chop their feet. I give them a 15 second “rest” and call out another player to the middle. He leads the team in Up/Downs for 45 seconds. At 120 seconds I blow the whistle… feet keep chopping for 30 seconds of “rest” and I call out a 3rd, and final, player. This is usually one of our leaders who is also in the best physical shape on the team. He begins to put ’em on the ground for the final 30 seconds. At 180 seconds I blow the whistle and call the team up to me. If everyone hustles over to me, we’re done. If I see someone dragging, I send them back! We do 15 seconds more of Up/Downs and I again call them over. Amazingly, everyone runs this time.

We have continued this tradition through the rest of the season. We did it for the last time last night at the end of our final Monday practice. We play for our State Championship this Friday so… there are no more Monday’s to do “3 Minutes in Paradise!” I won’t say that the guys were sorry that it was over. I do see now a sense of pride in the fact that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did in August. It builds them physically and psychologically.

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