Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“All Aboard!”

Posted by admin July - 17 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Official pre-season practice begins next week in Virginia. It seems to be earlier and earlier every year! I can remember when starting the 2nd week in August was considered “early.” Please be cautious in planning out your season’s practice schedule. Most of you will be going hard for 4 months once your practices start. Kids today, too many of them anyway, don’t seem to “stick to” a commitment like they used to. While I am a proponent of keeping your practice schedule a) organized and b) basically the same… I do think there’s a place for “breaks” in the action. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that, for example, asking players to come in on Saturday morning after playing the night before may be asking too much. They need time over the weekend to unwind, rest and heal up.

Your weekly practice schedule doesn’t need to deviate much. People don’t like change. But, at the same time, you don’t want your schedule to become “routine.” That leads to lack of focus. I’ve talked before about scheduling an “off day” on a predetermined Monday during the season. I also learned from my players that going out in helmets only on a Monday can be a “spirit-lifter.” Those types of changes RE-energize your players and that is important.

It’s also important to curtail live contact during practice. The concussion issue is important. Players need to be protected. Unnecessary contact during practice can be detrimental. I’ll always remember what my high school head coach said when asked why we had little or no live contact in practice once the season started. He stated, “If they’re gonna get hurt (and I hope that’s never the case!), I don’t want them to get hurt during practice.” The NFL has shown that you can do live tackling without having to hit another person!

If you haven’t utilized a tackling machine or the tackling rings… or simply tackling a “blocking” sled, you are missing out on opportunities to have a player tackle full speed while using good/safe technique without contacting another player. We became big advocates of Pete Carroll’s “Hawk Rugby Tackling” technique. Not only did it prove to be safer but, in particular, our open-field tackling improved tremendously! Why? The kids told me why: “Coach, I feel so much more confident coming up to make a tackle knowing that I don’t have to put my head in front of the ball carrier.” Wow! How true! The old “cross the bow” tackling technique is actually quite dangerous. The “Hawk Rugby” tackle teaches the players to put their head behind the tackler; wrap up his legs and roll!!! Check out the video’s that Coach Carroll has posted if you haven’t seen this technique explained.

“Rudy!”

Posted by admin July - 3 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I ran into a former player over the weekend. We had a great time reminiscing about the “good old days!” He brought up something that I’d forgotten about till he mentioned it. I’m not sure if this idea is even in my book, 101 Little Things That Can Make a BIG Difference. It’s worth repeating even if it is!

Most of you reading this have probably watched the movie Rudy. The story of the walk-on to the Notre Dame football team who gets to go in for 1 play in the last game of his senior year… and proceeds to sack the QB on the game’s last play! The players carry him off the field on their shoulders. That picture inspired me to consider having our own “Rudy Moment” for our football team. What developed provided a lasting memory for one special person.

That next season at our last game, I selected one of our offensive linemen to move to running back for one play! He practiced it a couple of times each day. On Friday night, late in the 4th quarter, I sent him on the field at fullback to run his play. The team knew what was coming and the word had gotten out to our fans… so everyone got really excited as the offense broke the huddle. As it happened, there were a couple of years that we gave the ball to the “designated lineman/fullback” down on the goal line. He scored! Another time, I sent him in on the extra point. We went for 2 and he scored. That just added to that young man’s joy— knowing that an O lineman had a chance to score points!

The one that topped them all, though, was the year we had a real “Rudy Moment!” We had a Team Manager who had been with us for 4 years. He loved football but was too small to play. So, he chose to stay involved by being a manager. He was very smart and very responsible. He literally became my “right hand man.” I realized as we entered our last week that it would be pretty cool if we could “suit him up” and let him play one play. I put him at Defensive End (just like Rudy) and turned him loose! To top it off, when the team found out on Monday that our “Rudy” would be dressing out on Friday night, they went nuts!

Game night approached and I helped “Rudy” find some pads that fit. When the team burst onto the field before the game, “Rudy” was right up front. As the clock ticked down to end the game, I could sense the tension and excitement building. We went on defense with about a minute left and I sent “Rudy” onto the field with the 2nd defense. The stadium erupted! I was just praying that he wouldn’t get hurt.

They snapped the ball; “Rudy” rushed across the line. They faked a run and the QB bootlegged away… right into the waiting arms of our “Rudy.” He got the sack— just like in the movie! I couldn’t believe it! WOW!!! The team mobbed him. As the game ended, they hoisted our “Rudy” up on their shoulders and carried him to the sideline so we could line up to go shake hands.

THAT’S the story that this former player shared. It was one of the highlights of his high school career! Those are the kind of lasting memories I’d hoped to leave for my players. We won a lot of games and had some great times. But, what this former player wanted to talk about was our “Rudy Moment.”

“Honor the Sabbath!”

Posted by admin June - 29 - 2018 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

In the state of Virginia, ALL sports activity comes to a complete halt next week! No practice; no lifting; no conditioning… nothing! Zip! I’ve had a couple of coaches kinda freaking out on me over this rule. I’ve heard, “We can’t afford to take a week off!” Or… “Why right here just 3 weeks before preseason practice begins??!!!” I think there’s a very good reason for having a “Quiet Period” right now: everyone needs a break! Everyone needs to “honor the Sabbath.” Let me ‘splain:

I owe a LOT to a former assistant coach, Pastor Sam Warren, who taught me a very important life lesson when he joined our staff. He looked at my weekly in-season schedule and freaked out! We went hard 7 days a week. Players in for lifting, running and video viewing on Saturday. Staff meetings afterwards. Then the staff met again on Sunday afternoon. Plus 2 1/2- 3 hour practices from Monday to Thursday. To call it a grind was putting it mildly!

He sat me down and pulled out his Bible. He said, “Open it to Genesis, Chapter 2. Now read verse 2 to me.” It says, “… on the 7th day God rested from all his work.” Sam then stated one of the most significant things I’ve ever heard someone say to me. He said, “If GOD needed to take a break, don’t you think YOU should too, Lew??!!!” POW!!! Right between the eyes! That hit home— hard!

We immediately canceled all Saturday activities. The staff would only meet on Sunday evenings and it would only be for 2 hours… unless it was a big game and we needed more time to prepare. I spent more time with my family and enjoyed college football on Saturdays for a change. It not only made a difference for me but the players too.

What am I saying? Go hard. It can be a grind but… work hard not to make it a grind! Huh? You’ve got to find things to do that keep the players (and coaches) enthused. You can have some fun without being funny! Enjoy a little break without losing control of the players.

We always let the players have the week off just before preseason Camp started. They come back excited and rarin’ to go! Everybody needs a break. I even built in a day off during the season. I committed to it in July so that no matter what our record was at that point in the season, we were taking off Monday. Some years I let the players just go on home. But I found out they were either out playing B-ball or some other foolishness instead of relaxing and getting away from things. So, some years we had a “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition. Another time we played 7 on 7… including the linemen! Something that “broke the grind” and let kids get their focus off of football for one day.

Changing things up occasionally can be a good thing. For you as a head coach, you need the time away to recharge your battery. Set up your schedule so that you make the time to relax and revitalize. You’ll enjoy it a lot more!

Expectations of an Assistant Coach

Posted by admin June - 19 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Talking with coaches from 4-5 different states over the last 2 weeks, one of the most common concerns is finding quality assistant coaches. It seems fewer and fewer men are going into teaching careers; so finding a quality assistant coach who will be IN the school building is unlikely to occur.

I would caution you to do your due diligence before hiring someone today just because you have a position available. There are a lot of wannabe’s who think they know football AND how to coach kids. However, when it comes time to show up and perform the duties that the head coach wants done, “it’s too much trouble.” Or, “I don’t have time.” Or, “That’s beneath me.” When interviewing, I’d suggest finding out more about his work ethic and his character before I discussed how much football he knows.

There are things that a HC must expect his assistants to do as part of a staff. I used to break them down as “on-the-field” and “OFF-the-field” duties. For any operation/organization to run smoothly, everybody needs to pitch in and cooperate. I’d hire a guy who may have been lacking in football knowledge but wants to learn and, more importantly, wants to work.

Something else I’d establish early on when interviewing (and starting to work with) assistants were the expectations I had for them. I will mention a few key qualities here in a minute. If you would like the whole article, email me at coac...@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to send it to you.
I printed up an entire sheet of “expectations.” One thing that I emphasized right off the bat was, I expected a LOT from myself; therefore, I expected a lot from my assistant coaches. Some people get hung on on others having “expectations” of them; but, in this case, when the assistants know that the HC is holding himself to a standard of excellence, it’s easier to accept that the assistant must live up to those same expectations. If they don’t like it, then maybe you hired the wrong guy!

The first thing I talked about to the staff was a Code of Conduct. These are those qualities that show how hard a guy is willing to work and how his behavior and attitude impact the entire program. Such things as arriving on time (and staying late), proper attire for practice and games and being loyal… to the program and to the HC are extremely important.

The second part of the Expectation Sheet dealt with Staff Organization. This laid out in general the responsibilities that assistant coaches were expected to carry out. From being involved during the Special Teams portion of practice (when a lot of assistants think it’s time to take a break!) to helping line the field… all of the duties assigned to an assistant are important. A head coach MUST learn to delegate! Yes, you could live with the old adage that “if you want something done right, do it yourself” but… it’s a recipe for burnout if you don’t delegate responsibilities to assistants. Give an assistant a responsibility. Make sure you teach him HOW you want it done. Check behind him. Correct him if anything could be done better and then… follow up to be sure that he’s doing it in a timely fashion.

One final point that I want to share is that I let assistants know is this adage: “The harder you work, the more responsibility you get!” I had an assistant once who rarely showed up for spring and summer workouts prior to preseason practice officially starting. Once he was there, he was the one with all the good ideas on how to run the program. He got upset because I wouldn’t give him a coordinator’s position. We had to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting where I reminded him of my adage. I asked him, “why do you think you deserve more responsibility when you’re rarely here?” His response, “Cuz the kids like me and I’m the coach with the most experience.” THAT didn’t sit too well with me. He was gone a few weeks later!

You need to communicate your expectations and you need to get them in writing so there’s no question about what assistants are supposed to be doing. If a problem arises, you’ve covered your butt. Finally, be ready to hold an assistant accountable. If he’s not performing his responsibilities, you need to have a conference with him. If he continues to come up short, it may be time to get rid of him. Just remember that next time you are interviewing a new candidate. There’s more to it than how much football he knows!

Season’s “Theme”

Posted by admin June - 11 - 2018 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

As school ends for everybody, a head football coach’s mind turns to preparation for the upcoming season. One of the things that I did as a head coach was to create a theme for the players to focus on for the season.

I first saw this around 1990. Our staff visited East Carolina University for their coaches clinic. I noticed their players walking around the football complex with their ECU Football team t shirts on. A big pirate in the middle with ECU Football surrounding it. Interestingly, when a player would walk by I saw something printed on the back of the shirt which made me scratch my head! Near the top were the letters in big, bold print: TEAM. Hard to see, but down at the bottom of the back of the shirt, were the little, tiny letters: Me. What the heck?!!

As another player passed me, I spoke up and asked him: “What is the significance of the two words on the back of everybody’s shirt?” He replied, “Coach, it’s to remind everybody of what our coach wants us to focus on this season.” “What’s that?” I asked. “BIG Team! Little me,” he stated. WOW!! It was the first time I’d ever heard it put that way and it stuck with me.

That summer when I ordered our Team T Shirts for the upcoming season, I had the company we bought the shirts from print the same thing on our shirts! That was the first time that I had our “Team Theme” printed on our shirts. It was an easy way to keep the theme out in the open in front (behind!) the guys all season long. What I realized when I first put on my shirt was that the “slogan” (or theme) was right there in front of me as I pulled the shirt over my head!

It became one of the most important items on my agenda from then on… to decide what our slogan or theme would be for that next season. I even asked the players a couple of times if they had any suggestions. Some of their ideas were very good.

Let me point out too that I used the purchase of the “season t shirt” as a fund raiser each year. I expected every player to purchase a t shirt for the upcoming season. The price was reasonable but still helped us raise some much-needed funds for our football program. I would print the year for that upcoming season in the middle of the front so they couldn’t “sneak in” a shirt from a previous season! The shirts became so popular that I let family members purchase them too. Everybody affiliated with our program was seen wearing our Team T Shirt in the community.

The slogan was important. It focused on a theme that I felt that the upcoming team would need to keep in their psyche. It often had to do with an “issue” that we had to address the previous season that I stressed to the team throughout the off-season. For example, one year we had a group of players who allowed mistakes from a previous play to rob them of their focus on the next play! THAT became the theme for the next year and the slogan on the back of the shirt: NEXT PLAY!

Another time, we’d had a great season the year before. I noticed that a lot of the players seemed pretty satisfied with themselves during the offseason and our success had kinda gone to their heads. I harped on: STAY HUMBLE; STAY HUNGRY! We talked a lot about excellence and what it entailed. STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE was a theme one season.

Is this helping to spawn some ideas in your head? I hope so. Our players liked the shirts and they found the theme/slogan on the back to be inspiring. Your players probably will too.

Planning Your Summer Workout/Practice Schedule

Posted by admin June - 5 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had a discussion with a coach the other day about how to organize his summer workouts. I know that each state has different rules regarding how much time you can practice (or workout— I will make a distinction there as we go along here!) before your first game. In Virginia, where I live, the rules allow you to lift, run and “practice” all summer… with the exception of one week in July when everyone has to shut down everything! Official preseason practice begins 3-4 weeks before your opening game. Time on the practice field and going full gear has a state mandate. What I’m talking about here, though, is what you do in the weeks leading up to the official start of preseason practice.

A lot is said about the Big MO (momentum) during a football game. It’s kinda looked at as some nebulous entity… like the Force in Star Wars! It’s “real” you say —- we just don’t have much control over it. I disagree!

Like anything else dealing with the mental side of football, momentum is something that you can regulate and you need to plan for it. Think: a little snowball starting to roll down the side of a steep (and loooooong) hill. What happens? It picks up speed as it increases its mass or density until… near the bottom, it’s a gigantic snow mountain ready to crush anything in its path!!!

But… suppose half way down that mountain, as the snowball is picking up speed, the mountain flattens out into a plateau. What’s going to happen to the snowball’s momentum? Obviously, the snowball is going to slow down from its thundering path down the mountain and may even come to rest. What caused the loss of momentum? Things “flattened” out. Our attitude; our work ethic; our commitment can “flatten out” too! Doing too much of the same thing is going to get tedious. Kids would say, “Boooooooooring.” As a coach organizing your summer workouts, you need to find ways to eliminate the possibility of hitting a “plateau.” You do that by 1- keeping things “short and sweet” and 2- changing things up while keeping them the same! What???!!!!

You continue to work on the same skills: lifting weights; conditioning/speed/agility training and on the field skills and drills (IF allowed in your district!)… but, you find different ways to accomplish the same goal!

I’m confident that you change up your weight room workouts already! I hope so!!! How about conditioning? Sprints and nothing else? Try to be creative. We used to play “sharks and minnows” in a limited area. (That’s “tag” if you don’t know what I mean!) Competitive relay races. Run “L’s” or “J’s” around the edge of the field instead of gassers across the field every day. Even if you can’t use a ball (use an “invisible” ball!) and run up and down the field just “faking” dive or zone or trap with your offense. Sprint 15 yards; set up and run it again… and again… till you get to the end zone. We even let the linemen play their own game of 7 on 7! But, they had to keep running. NO walking!

Your workouts don’t (and should not!!!) be as lengthy as your “official” practices which usually begin in August. Keep them short and crisp. Cover 1 side of the ball each day. An hour to 90 minutes is plenty of time to work on skills and drills. Try to play 7 on 7 once a week— either against another school (if allowable) or just divide up your players and go shirts and skins.

One KEY thing: When I was a head coach, I gave the players the week off just prior to official practice starting. I let parents know well in advance so if they wanted to take a family vacation… THAT was the week to go! While the players had the week off, this was when I met with my staff to finalize things for practice. This allows the players a chance to get away and “re-energize.” It gets them excited about official practice beginning the next week; i.e., something to look forward to! Just like those last few weeks before Christmas. (“The anticipation is killing me!!!”) It’s a chance to reboot the energy/enthusiasm level in your players’ minds and… yep! get that “momentum machine” geared up and ready to start rolling down that hill again!!!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!

Posted by admin May - 29 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Pastor Bob Gass writes that, “Two of our biggest fears are — failure and criticism. You can overcome them, but they’ll show up when you face your next challenge. It’s in accepting fear as part of life’s journey instead of running from it, that you learn to conquer it.” Wow! Wouldn’t that be nice… to conquer your fear of failure.

Our means of dealing with fearful situations is to avoid them. We learn to live in a “comfort zone”… both emotionally and spiritually. We believe that our comfort zone will protect us. Unfortunately, it is only going to suffocate us. Our comfort zone keeps us from seeking the goals and dreams that we secretly long for. We attempt to stay busy; but, meanwhile, we jealously watch others passing us by. It may be time for you to “break the chains” of fear and criticism and step out into freedom. Zach Williams, one of my favorite Contemporary Christian singers has a song on the radio called “Fear Is a Liar.” How true!

An unknown poet wrote, “If you are in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out, remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.” Those “winners” found a way to overcome their doubts and fears. In my case, it was learning to “let go and let God.” When I put my trust in the Lord, He began making changes from the inside>>> out! Realizing that I didn’t have to go it alone… that I had Jesus’ help… it created more self-confidence. It’s interesting. As my “Jesus-confidence” grew, my self-confidence grew! It can for you too!

“Square Peg In a Round Hole??!!!”

Posted by admin May - 22 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I was having a discussion with a young assistant coach the other day. He was being a bit critical of the system that his head coach was installing on defense. He didn’t like this. He didn’t like that. I’m thinking, “I sure am glad that you weren’t on MY staff when I coached. We’d have to have an “attitude adjustment” session if you were going to stay on with me!”

This could easily be a post about the importance of loyalty… but I won’t go there today. It was his next statement that gave me pause and helped me come up with a new topic to discuss here. He continued, “When I’m a head coach, I’m going to match the system with the personnel I have.” This sounds like a good philosophy to have. I’ve heard it before over the years. But, now that I’m on the backside of my coaching career, I can afford to step back and analyze things from a different perspective. I would have to say that if his philosophy is your philosophy, it it a recipe for mediocrity for your program. Why?

When we had things rolling at my high school during my head coaching days, people saw us as a “monster” program. We beat many teams on “Monday!” What? Yep…. our opponent would walk in the locker room on Monday; look and see who they’re playing that week; see that it was us; and… groan… “Oh no! We can’t beat those guys?!” Mentally, they’d already lost the game — on Monday!!!! From things that we saw on game night, I think some coaches felt the same way. Let me explain:

We’d always scout our opponents in detail. I’d get as many game videos as I could. We’d work up a great scouting report and game plan based on what we’d seen. We were ready to go! Then the game would start and our opponent had completely changed (or tried to change) what they’d been doing previously. I knew right then that we had them! This is why the philosophy of “changing to fit our personnel” is so problematic.

What I believe every head coach needs is a system of offense and defense. It needs to provide some flexibility so that, if you have an outstanding passing QB coming up in your program, you can adjust to that player’s talents. But, to wholesale scrap your offense or defense is going to hurt in the long run.

Not only do you have to teach your players a new offense or defense but, more significantly, you have to teach your assistant coaches a brand new package. That’s fine if you have veteran coaches who’ve coached in different systems. But, that is rare. You have young coaches, more than likely, who are still learning. If you keep changing the system every season or two, those young coaches are going to be as confused as your players.

What I’m suggesting is to find an offense and defense that you and your staff can study and grow together over the years. For example, you may decide that the double slot/double SE package is what you like to attack defenses with. This can be a Flexbone offense (run the option!) or it can be a Run ‘n Shoot package or it can be a Spread Air Raid offense. The formation is the base; what you emphasize is your flexibility factor.

On defense, do you run an even or an odd front? I think you need to decide if you’re going to play defense one way or the other… or have a really good staff that can switch from odd to even and still teach it effectively. Are you going to be a 3 deep or a 4 deep secondary? Are your linemen going to be 1 gap players or 2? Again, you need a system and then you can adjust if you have a really talented player or two.

What this does is help you not to “drink the koolaid!” You say, “Everyone’s running the Spread so I guess we need to run the Spread!” Why? If you and your staff don’t know the Spread, look at the pro’s and con’s before you jump into it… or any new concept. It gets back to my philosophy of: Do a FEW things reallllllllllly well. Do you know that Vince Lombardi used to lecture on his Green Bay Sweep for 8 hours???!!! Do you know your “bread ‘n butter” play well enough to be able to talk on it for even 1 hour??!!! Be a “student of the game!”

Press On!

Posted by admin May - 16 - 2018 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

Have you ever watched an Olympic swimmer? Stroke after powerful stroke propelling him through the water. He takes what’s in front of him and pushes it behind him. Each stroke moves him closer to his goal — touching that finish wall/line. That swimmer literally takes the obstacle (the water) that is keeping him from achieving his goal and actually uses it to get there.

You may be thinking: great point, Lew, but I’m just trying to keep my head above water. Getting to the finish line is the last thing I’m thinking about. Welllllllllll… if all you can do right now is keep your head above water, then just keep treading water! It’s times like these that I learned in my life that you really have to rely on God. Cuz… I was in no position to keep myself from sinking.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Philippians 3:14. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize…” The part of that verse that motivates me is where it says to “press on.” Press is short for “pressure.” That means that there is a force that is somehow blocking me from achieving my goal. Rather than giving up, I give in!!! I admit that I can’t do it on my own and submit to God and ask Him to help me to overcome this obstacle. He may not get me OUT of it (right away!–it’s called “God’s Timing!) but He will certainly get me THROUGH it.

When things get roughest, that’s when Jesus will carry you. IF… you let Him! My pride and stubbornness have too often gotten me where I am just “treading water” or I find myself backed into a corner with, seemingly, no way out. Maybe if I’d turned it over to God’s Holy Spirit earlier, I wouldn’t have found myself in the mess I was in! But… I’m learning. How about YOU??!!!

A “Command” Performance

Posted by admin May - 9 - 2018 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I’ve stated numerous times over the years about the importance of being a “student of the game”… of football… for those of you who are coaches who read this. It holds true for anyone in a leadership role. We need to be life-long learners — continuing to accumulate knowledge so that we stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on in our particular field. That’s why I like to read. Because one of my areas of interest is leadership, I especially enjoy reading books by and/or about great leaders. I especially like to study military leaders. They have been trained in effective leadership skills. However, until they have to put that training into action, you don’t know if they really possess the character to “step up” under pressure and be a great leader. Wartime forces military commanders to “step up” or “step away!”

My current reading list includes a book about the Mexican-American War of 1848. It is amazing how many of the commanders (on both sides) of the American Civil War fought in the Mexican-American War. Names like Lee, Meade, Grant, Jackson, Beauregard, Longstreet and Pickett. All of these Civil War generals where lieutenants or captains in the Mexican-American War. These were all U.S. Military Academy graduates who were thrust into the foray of battle shortly after their commission. They “cut their teeth” on battle tactics and strategy and… how to LEAD during this war. It certainly trained them to be the formidable commanders that they became a decade later in the War Between the States!

One other commander (who would be considered the lead character in the book and the Mexican-American War) was the Commanding General of the U.S. Army in Mexico. That man was Winfield Scott. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and was one of the few full-time officers in the U.S. Army at that time. President Polk sent him to Mexico to defeat Santa Anna and secure the Southwest Territory.

Scott took a liking to a young lieutenant by the name of Robert E. Lee. It was this relationship that the book I’m reading Gone To Soldiers by Jeff Schaara focuses on. Lee becomes Scott’s “right hand man” and helps lead the Americans to victory. The interesting part for me was how much wisdom and experience Lee gained while sitting under Scott’s veteran leadership. I see so much of the commander that Lee became in the Civil War being forged in the Mexican-American War.

One dialogue between Scott and Lee really jumped out at me. Scott had just met with his general staff after a victory. He’d asked Lee to sit in on the meeting. It became a bit contentious because of all of the huge ego’s in the room! Scott dealt with his staff, dismissed them but asked Lee to stay back. Scott speaks to Lee about leadership and states, “My friends consider me an outstanding commander. Hell, so do I. My enemies, and there’s a few, they think I’ma foolish old peacock. Davy Twiggs (one of Scott’s generals) thinks I’m soft. Gideon Pillow (another general) thinks I’m dangerous. Worth (still a third division commander for Scott)… God knows what Worth thinks. I’m his personal tormentor. Point is, Mr. Lee, command is all about the minds of the people around you, understanding how they think, how they see you, and how they see themselves. Am I making sense, Mr. Lee?”

Wow! The last part of that statement about “command” is sooooooooo important as a leader! It means that you have to know your assistant coaches. You have to study them. You have to see things that are not necessarily apparent to the naked eye. In a way, you have to become an amateur psychologist so that you can command most effectively. Everyone has to be treated uniquely; yet, we have to, as head coaches, treat everyone the same. NO!!!

I know some of you think you have to treat all of your coaches (and players) the same… but that goes against General Scott’s tenet of commanding/leading others.

Something I learned as a head coach years ago was: “you earn the right to be listened to.” A coaching staff is not a democracy. An assistant coach had to show me that he was motivated and educated before he earned the right to move up the ladder of responsibility. We had a coach who related well to the players but was neither motivated to do the “little things” nor did he have a lot of football knowledge. What he did have was personal ambition. He bugged me for months to be made a Varsity assistant. I told him on several occasions that he was serving our staff and program the best as our JV coach. He finally got so frustrated with me that he quit. He didn’t deserve being elevated to a Varsity assistant’s position so I wouldn’t give him the status that he wanted. Sometimes as a head coach, you have to make the tough decisions.

General Scott’s words to Lieutenant Robert E. Lee really resonated in my mind. Taking them to heart will help you become a more effective leader.