Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Bury the Past!

Posted by admin June - 23 - 2010 - Wednesday

I had a coach email me about a little different “take” that he’s using based on my “Midnight Golddiggers” ceremony that is listed as a Little Thing in my book! I want to share it with you here.

He is just taking over a HS program that has been “down” for a number of years. Things have been going well in the off-season but it’s always a challenge to get attitudes totally changed and establish a new atmosphere of “winning.”

What they did at the close of their last off-season workout was, in my estimation, pure genius!

He had the Woodworking teacher construct a wooden cross and a small wooden “coffin.” He dug a hole near his practice field and set the little coffin down in it. At the conclusion of his last workout, he gathered the team around it. He talked about “burying the past.” “Burying negative attitudes and beliefs.” He talked about pride and respect and effort…. qualities that will be needed if the program is going to return to prominence.

He asked… no, he challenged!, each player to “get aboard” with this new perspective. If they wanted to accept the challenge, he asked each of them to grab handfuls of dirt and walk by the coffin and dump the dirt on the “coffin of past negativity” and go to the other side. He said that it was really amazing that it took all of the players (including the freshmen) to cover over the coffin. He felt that this was important because he had been noting some minor “hazing” of the 9th graders. He was able to point out at the conclusion of the ceremony that it took ALL of the players contributing to bury the coffin. The same is true on the practice field and in the locker room… everyone contributes! Treat everyone teammate with respect.

I mentioned to him in a subsequent email that if he was seeing some minor hazing in front of him, he could expect that there is more going on out in the community and that he better let his players know that there is a “0 Tolerance” on hazing. This led to something that I think every HC should consider. You need to assign one of your assistant coaches to lead the conditioning AND hand out “punishment period” after practice if someone needs to run extra for some infraction.

Then…. if it ever becomes necessary, the HC would stay out and do the punishment period for serious offenses. The kids will come to realize that if the HC stays out to do the punishment period, it means real trouble. Nobdy should want to have to face you. At one time, I would meet an offending player on Saturday morning at 6:30 am in the stadium. They got to run the “Bruin Mile” while I supervised. That is a full set of stadium steps then down and onto the track where they run the other 3/4’s of the 400 meters. Then up and down the steps a second time and around the track… for a total of 4 times. Closely monitor each athlete as far as hydration and fatigue but for a well-conditioned high school athlete, this is within reason of “suffering the consequences” for a rule infraction.

I found, over the years, that taking away playing time was a more effective punishment than extra running. You can check out our Player Policy sheet in my book for our discipline policies. But, there are times that extra conditioning makes a strong point too. But, I caution you: stay within reason! Lawsuits happen when parents view your punishment as abusive. If it is spelled out in your Player Policies and parents have heard it, read it and signed it… your policies are out there in the public for everyone to be aware of. You are less likely to have someone challenge your policies if you have stated them and then follow them.

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