Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Assistant Coaches

Posted by admin January - 22 - 2012 - Sunday

Just waiting for the first NFL Play-off game to start!
I had a very pleasant Friday afternoon at my school. My Offensive Line coach retired after the season. He was a long-time coach and KNEW the Wing T (which we run) line play really well. I was in a jam because my AD informed me that we could not hire someone to fill his position… I’d have to name someone on the staff to coach the O line! The rest of the staff had just gone through one season of Wing T— so they were all “rookies” as far as Wing T blocking was concerned. I met Friday at school because: the assistant coach whom I asked to take over the O line called to ask if we could meet for a couple of hours to start going over line play!!! WOW!!!

To you Head Coaches out there: how many times has THAT happened in your career?! The guy who’s going to do it was already our Defensive Coordinator and coached the OLB’s on defense and worked with the TE’s on offense. This is a huge undertaking for him… but one that obviously he is excited about.

It got me to thinkin’—- head coaches need to know that when you find an assistant coach who shows initiative and is willing to put in the extra hours to really become proficient at his job: take care of that guy! The old saying I heard my pastor use recently holds true in church, in business and… in coaching: 20% of the people do 80% of the work! If you have a staff of 6-7 coaches, you’re lucky if you find 2 who are going to go “above and beyond the call” to help you out. It’s simply human nature. Most of us like to stay in our comfort zone.

You need to work to motivate and create an atmosphere on your staff where assistant coaches’ input is valued. At the same time: I try to make it clear to my staff that… IF you want IN-put… then there must be some OUT-put! They can’t just show up in August at the first day of practice and expect me/us to listen to all of their great ideas about how things should be run. You have to earn the right to be listened to!

This means going that extra mile during the off-season. Being at the work-outs; going to clinics; watching game video and just taking part in the routine stuff that happens from January to July. Again… encourage ALL of your coaches to participate in off-season activities. By letting them know that this is the time of the year (off-season) when a lot of decisions will be made about the forthcoming season and… we/I need your in-put—- it’s letting the assistant coaches know that you value them and their ideas. But… if you don’t show up, there’s not much chance to share what you’re thinking!

For this one coach who is reallllllly fired up about learning, I just keep “feeding the beast!” He wants to learn so I am making the time and effort to teach him what he needs to know. I am also making it a point to 1- let him know that his efforts are appreciated and 2- thank him for going the extra mile. People need to know that their effort is important. I believe it was from the book, The One Minute Manager that I first heard of this: for leaders, executives, supervisors… get out from behind your desk and get out on the floor and see and be seen out there among your workers. Observe and be observed. It’ll keep people on their toes. Even more important… catch someone in the act of showing initiative (going the extra mile) and recognize them for it! Interestingly, it doesn’t even have to be something tangible. An announcement over the PA system. A hand shake and a thank you as you walk by their desk. A quick email letting them know you saw them working hard…. any of these can be motivating.

If you give tangible rewards, it doesn’t have to be something big. I’m not talking “end of business year” (big) bonuses like the Griswald’s expected in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!!!— For you coaches reading this: it always amazes me the power of a little piece of plastic that affixes to a player’s helmet. We believe in helmet awards. The kids LOVE earning them! I am convinced that if you want a behavior repeated, reward it! Again, it doesn’t have to be big! A t shirt; a pair of wrist bands, a pair of socks— for achieving some goal in the weight room. Gift certificates to the local ice cream shop or fast food restaurant are good, too. My players at 2 different high schools and a middle school collected helmet award stickers like they were gold coins!

We have one special award sticker that only goes to players who go “above and beyond” during a game. So, only 1 or maybe 2 are handed out each game. We had a situation this past fall where I had one sophomore who was a good player but just hadn’t “bought into” the concept of giving a total effort every day. He kidded around a lot and when the other players were running hard, he tended to coast at times. In our 9th game of the season, he was playing OLB when the RB broke around his flank. He got pinned by a WR’s block and the RB took off down the sideline. I figured “that’s it.. he’ll go the distance and they’ll get back in the game.” All of a suddent, like a shot— here come’s this sophomore flying down the sideline and he caught the kid on the 10 yard line. It had been about a 50 yard sprint to catch him! We held them and they did not score.

The following week at our Awards Ceremony, the last award I hand out is the Fleur de Lis sticker for going “above and beyond.” When I called this boy’s name out, he tried to play it cool as he came forward to receive it but I could tell he was pleased. The next day the boy’s dad told me how proud the player was to receive that sticker. He talked about it all the way home. The next week in practice this kid was all over the place! That following game, he picked off a pass and ran it back 40 yards for a TD. A new player had been born… all because he was recognized with a “little piece of plastic” in front of his teammates for giving the kind of effort we want from our players. By the way, he has not missed a weight room work-out all winter!

The power of showing appreciation to people. It never ceases to amaze me why coaches and/or administrators don’t realize this and put it into action. It can change the morale of your whole staff.

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