Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Bird Dog!”

Posted by admin April - 25 - 2016 - Monday

I had the best time this morning! I was up at 5:30am and hit the road about 6am to drive to a local high school that conducts a weekly skills session from 6:45- 8am every Monday. Their HC is a young guy whom I’ve “connected” with. He is committed to making things in his program better. They have struggled on offense recently and he asked me if I would work as a “consultant” for him, his staff and players… to help them install the Delaware Wing T offense for his program. How could I say no to someone who wants to get better and… wants to do it by running the best high school offense that’s ever been created!!!

Coach gave me an opportunity to talk with the staff and kids before we started. I knew that they had already begun introducing the offense to the players. It was important that they not go “too far” before I had a chance to do my “consulting” and see what they’d been teaching. I was pleasantly surprised at how “spot on” their teaching had been! (“Good job, Coach Wilson and staff!!!”)

What I want to share today is the “process” that I used to 1) introduce the play (we worked almost exclusively on Buck Sweep today!) and 2) the steps we took to be sure that every little detail was covered before we left the field. It meant a LOT of talking and “teaching on the run!” but… I LOVED it! It’s the part of the whole coaching experience that I came to enjoy the most in the latter part of my career. As Nick Saban calls it: “It’s all about the PROCESS!”

Every time a play was run it was started with a “Bird Dog” drill. If you are not familiar with the term, think of a huntin’ dawg (as we call them down South!) who is taught (though for a lot of them it’s inbred) to POINT whenever he spots a bird. The dog freezes and stays in that position until commanded by the hunter to retrieve, sit… whatever. We utilize the same concept when practicing a play for the first time or two or three or four or five! Yep! We bird dog everything for the first week or so. Why? Because the “first step is the most important step.” By having the center snap the ball and all 11 offensive players take their first step and FREEZE… the coaches can critique each player before anything else proceeds. I made several corrections the first time. The other 10 stayed in their “bird dog” position until, like the hunting dog, they were told to return to their original stance and position. We’d then take that first step again and freeze! and… Once more! Now phase two!

We step out with the proper step/angle/direction/distance and freeze. If everything looks good and every coach gives a “thumbs up” I command: “Ready… 2!” They then take their 2nd step and FREEZE! Check angle; check false steps… check all of the little things. (Remember: Pay attention to DETAILS!) If all 11 look good, I say: “Ready… 3!” step and freeze. By this point, if you have a defense lined up (with heavy bags and/or shields), your interior linemen will be poised to execute their block. We did NOT go to that today cuz THAT’S Phase 3! I just wanted to be sure that everyone had the correct steps and knew where they were going. So, we had NO defense today. Then, “Ready… 4!” At that point, I began to speed up the count: “Ready…5! 6! 7! 8-9-10.” and the play was over as the RB cut up into the “Tunnel.” Reset and let’s do it again… and again… and again. Then we brought out a second unit and went through the whole sequence with them.

We then flipped the formation and ran the buck sweep to the other side. Now what had been the “away side” was now the “play side.” New rules; new steps; new angles. So we “bird dogged” to that side 3 times with the 1st unit; then brought on the seconds again.

Finally, we ran Wing Buck Sweep to the SE side. More teaching; more coaching; more “bird dog” and (I just made this up! Ready??) more “Bird Walking!!” (sorry!!! But I kinda like it!)

We had a few minutes left so we got to introduce Fullback Trap. We got a few reps of bird dog and “bird walking” and we ran out of time. When I come back, we’ll review buck sweep and trap but spend the majority of our time on all of the aspects of Waggle.

I mentioned earlier that we will eventually get to blocking bags. There are a number of “Shoulder Skill” drills that can be performed in Individual period to teach them HOW to block. We do teach “shoulder” blocks on all INTERIOR blocks. We promote safety above all and the more we can keep the head and face out of initial contact the better. Right now, my objective is 1) make sure each player knows his rules for each play we install and 2) evaluate their steps and angles for each block.

We called the players up and I closed with something I heard an announcer say on my Contemporary Christian music station yesterday: “The only place that Success comes before Work is… in the dictionary! These kids showed me this morning that they are willing and eager to put in the work in the off-season that’s necessary to produce success on the field next fall. It’s exciting to see young men working hard and getting better.

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