Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

A “4th Quarter” Team

Posted by admin December - 27 - 2017 - Wednesday

You see a lot of college teams on TV raising the “4 fingers” when it’s time for the 4th quarter to begin. Obviously, their coaching staff has tried to assimilate in the players’ minds that you need to play a grrrrrrrrreat 4th quarter to win the game. I can’t argue with that rationale. One of the team goals I always included in our season goal chart was to: Win (at least) 1 game in the 4th quarter! There’s nothing like a come-from-behind win late in the game to give your team a tremendous confidence boost. However, I want to suggest that being a great 3rd Quarter team may be just as important! Let me explain.

When I began to realize (by analyzing our games) that we were winning at half time in a LOT of games… only to come up short on the final score, I started looking at our quarter by quarter scoring vs. our opponents’ scoring by quarter. I was amazed at how many games we were out-scored in the 3rd quarter. We’d come out “flat” to begin the 2nd half and immediately dig a hole for ourselves. Big Mo switched over and we were fighting an “uphill battle” the rest of the game. We needed a way to shake up our players to get them mentally and physically ready to “turn it on” as soon as the 3rd quarter began. Our solution was a bit radical but… it worked! Here’s what we did:

We’d come out and do our regular half-time warm up routine. We were very organized and everybody did the routine together in our end zone. When our 3 minutes of stretching was over I had all of the players turn toward me at the 5 yard line and I would yell, “Get ’em choppin’!!!” Everybody knew what that meant… it was time for some up/downs; grass drills; or wake-up’s… is what we called them— cuz we wanted to “wake them up!” Get the adrenaline flowing and get ready to go on the attack again the moment the 3rd quarter started! We didn’t do many wake-up’s— maybe 3 or 4 — and I let them chop for 5 seconds or more between dropping them. But, it gave us a tremendous psychological advantage. Let me explain…

One game as we were warming up in our end zone, our opponent came walking from their locker room across the field behind the end zone. I blew the whistle and got our guys hitting the ground and bouncing up as the other team watched us from 10 yards away. I could see their players pointing and gawking! It was pretty easy to read their minds: “Oh my gosh! Those guys are doing up/downs at halftime! They’re going to smash us in the 2nd half!!” And, yes! We usually did!!!

During my last season before I retired, we played a school that was much larger than us— and was a large-school state finalist the previous year — in an early season game. We didn’t play well. We got out-hit and we got out-HUSTLED!!! I can take a lot of things but, my teams are NEVER going to get out-hustled! I told the staff over the weekend that being out-hustled was totally unacceptable. Plus, I just didn’t think we were in good-enough shape yet either! Mulling things over, I came up with this idea which we started the following Monday at the conclusion of practice. I called it: “3 Minutes in Paradise!!!” Some of you may remember the hit song from the 70’s by Eddie Money entitled, “I’ve Got 2 Tickets to Paradise.” Our coaches would start singing, “We’ve Got 3 Minutes in Paradise” as the kids circled up.

We’d get the team in a big circle with 2-arm length width between them. I’d start the stop watch and they’d start choppin’ as I blew the whistle. At first, I just blew the whistle and they’d hit the ground and bounce up. We’d go for 60 seconds and then they had to run in place for 15 seconds. 1 minute of their 3 minutes was complete. Then (I’ll chalk it up to my diabolical mind!!!) it occurred to me: why should I be the “bad guy?”!!” I don’t have to be the one to make them work. I’ll call out one of the players and let him lead the team in their 60 seconds of wake ups! Let HIM be the “bad guy!!!” ha ha! So I yelled for “Cole” to come into the middle of the circle. He runs into the middle and on my whistle, “Cole” is now in charge for the next 60 seconds. He can put them on the ground as much as he wants in that 60 seconds. When the time is up, I blew the whistle and he returns to the circle while everyone else continues to run in place. 15 to 20 seconds of chopping and you call the next guy to come to the middle and away you go again.

Who you choose is important! One of the 3 (remember there are 3 60 second periods) leaders should be your team leader who is also the hardest worker and in the best shape! Let him put the team through their paces. He can go as fast as he wants and get as many reps as he wants! Then the other 2 you pick can be anyone you want… even the heavyweight who does about half of the wake ups when he’s “hiding” in the circle. Bring him into the middle and see what he does when he has to SET THE TONE! The last guy can be someone who works hard but doesn’t get much recognition. Let him get in the middle and lead the team.

It occurred to me that you could “massage” this activity in a number of different ways. If you’re emphasizing how important it is to come out ready to go in the 3rd quarter, let them take a “half-time break.” Stop running in place and let them take a knee for 30 seconds to a minute. You are simulating half time. Get them up; get ’em choppin’ and call your next leader out. You could incorporate 4 wake-up periods if you want to get them mentally focused on going hard for ALL 4 quarters. *THAT would be “4 Minutes in Paradise!” You could decrease the up/down period for each “minute in paradise” — say, 45 seconds the second period; 30 seconds the third and 15 seconds for the 4th. THAT would be when I’d call out your player who is going to get them going so fast that at the end of 15 seconds, they’re totally gassed!

Oh yes… when you blow the last whistle to end it and then blow the whistle again to call everyone to come up on you, they better RUN to you!!! If someone walks or even just jogs— back they go!! Circle up and do 10 seconds more of wake up’s. This time I would be the “bad guy” and make them do their “Hustle Period” because it wasn’t important enough for them to hustle over and get to your head coach so they could hear what he has to say! Build in that hustle mentality.

This drill builds physical and mental toughness. Try it! You’ll like it!!!

Happy New Year!!

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