Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Building MENTAL Toughness

Posted by admin December - 6 - 2016 - Tuesday

I have noticed that several coaches are already starting up their off-season programs. Wow! Not much of a break— for coaches or players! If you’re starting before Christmas, I recommend that you use the days before Christmas Break to “install” your program. Introduce the daily program; teach the basic lifts you’re going to use; get the young kids and rookies oriented to your routine and get some base line lifting max’s for each player. Then have your formal “start up” after you return at the new year.

If you are not doing speed training, you need to make it a part of your off-season program. Too many players just don’t know HOW to run. With your speed training, you need to be doing agility drills also. Do some research over the holidays if you’re not sure what to do. They’re just too important (speed and agility) not to be doing them at least twice a week.

If you can find anything on what the Strength and Conditioning coach is doing at North Dakota State, you need to study what they are doing to produce those athletes! I have seen them on TV in the National Championship FCS game for the last 5 years. They run better, cut quicker and hit harder than any other 1AA (yes! I’m still old school!!!) team in the nation! Thus, a 6-peat is not beyond the realm of possibility in a few weeks!!!

Many coaches have asked me: “How do you make your kids tougher?!” I always have to ask back… to explain what exactly they mean by “tougher?” Are you talking about physical toughness or MENTAL toughness? That always causes them to pause for a moment! My feelings are: it’s very hard to teach a teenager to “become” physically tough— or toughER. That aggressive nature is either built in or developed early in their life so that there is no fear of contact. In fact, many of them relish the contact that football provides! However, I think coaches can develop mental tougher. And, surprisingly, I believe that if you can instill greater mental toughness in a player, a byproduct of that will be greater physical toughness! It has to do with confidence that they can be an “overcomer.” We did a series of drills and activities over the years that promoted mental toughness. The self-confidence that was instilled in our players helped them to face obstacles on the field (and later in life) that they couldn’t have overcome if we had not challenged them to believe: “YOU CAN DO THIS!!!”

It really comes down to creating a competitive situation where any player will have an opportunity to succeed. I am NOT talking about the insideous concept rampant in our society today of: “everybody gets a trophy!” NO! In sports, you compete to win. That’s what we want to do in our off-season program— give everybody a chance to WIN! He accomplishes this by sometimes challenging himself. Set goals (reachable, yet challenging) for a “first level” accomplishment and then set high and lofty goals that only the few, the best are going to achieve. Pit linemen against linemen. It’s silly to expect a 295 tackle to beat a 175 running back in the 40! Let the big boys compete against each other to see who the fastest lineman in the group is.

Here are the drills and activities that we used at different times over the years:

One of my favorites (which I have talked about in this blog before) is something that one of my former coaches nicknamed: “Count Downs.” Check in my blog history to find out more about it. Or… contact me if you want more information on “Count Downs.”

Another is “Brace Up” after you have everybody do a set of push ups. Just hold them in the “up” position and see who can stay “locked out” the longest! As they drop out, they cheer on their teammates who are still braced up. During this, and ALL drills, you want to encourage them to “Push Through the Pain!” Don’t quit. Help them to see that they can go farther than they think they can.

Something similar is a contest to see who can “hang” the longest from the pull up bar.

A great one I got from the movie Facing The Giants is extremely challenging. It’s a bear crawl down the field with a teammate riding piggy back. If you haven’t seen the movie, you can see the coach challenge/encourage one of his players to perform it… and go further than he thought he could go! Great football scenes and great message in the movie!

Wall sit for time! Last man standing… or “squatting” I should say! Do some ab work every day at the end of your workout. Core work is very important. At the end, do leg lifts (6 inches off the floor) for time. Again, push them, challenge them, exhort them to “push through the pain.” I would have them yell back at me in the middle of the exercise: “I CAN DO THIS!!” Say it again guys… let me hear you!!! “I CAN DO THIS!!!”

Finally, if you can secure some big tractor or airplane tires, have races across your practice field with them. The players literally “flip” them over and over to see who can get his tire to the finish line first! This is grueling but very effective and very challenging!

Kids today don’t get challenged enough. You want to inspire them to achieve more than they even believe they’re capable of. A coach accomplishes that by being an “inspiring influence!” You never badger or belittle a player when he “gives up” too soon. You encourage; you exhort; you help him learn that he CAN do this!!! He can do it by pushing through the pain. He never gives up and never gives in. He keeps hammering that rock! Mental toughness on Friday night can be a key to victory.

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