Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Transfers and Recruiting

Posted by admin March - 18 - 2019 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

This whole subject of students transferring schools to play for a better shot at a scholarship realllllllllly bothers me. I blame it on free agency. It started at the professional level when players were allowed to chase the money. Then, it began to effect the college game. Don’t like your situation? Transfer. Now, it seems, it plagues high school ball too. At least it does in our area. I know it does in other states too.

There is a friend of mine who coached (successfully) in Florida for a number of years who just recently opted out and moved to take over a program in Alabama! Why? Cuz Florida allows “open transfers.” Players can transfer from one school to another in the state and be immediately eligible! So, a disgruntled player can transfer on Monday from School A to School B and on Friday night he can suit up and play for School B… against School A!!! Wow!

If it’s an issue, then how do you deal with it? First off, if it’s still a rule in your state that recruiting is illegal then… you don’t do it! And you tell everyone on your staff that they don’t do it! As is often the case, it’s the adults who create the problems. My rule of thumb has always been: if I’m approached by a player about transferring to my school, I tell him 2 things: 1- your family must move into our zone and 2- have your parents call me to set up a meeting. Once they approach me, I will discuss what our school has to offer. Until then, the player is off limits.

How do you keep players from wanting to leave your program? That is more difficult to cope with. As I mentioned, the coach I know from Florida was very successful— a couple of state championships. And still, players wanted to leave. Why? They expected more playing time. They expected more scholarship offers. They wanted to play for a winning program. They wanted to play for a coach who they felt would treat them better. I don’t think you can deal with any of these things and still run a solid program. Unless you allow the players and their parents to run your program… and even then, someone is going to think they’re being treated unfairly… you’re never going to make everyone happy.

I think it’s important to treat players and their parents with respect. But, as my high school coach reminded me several times over the years: “Lew, you are the coach. They are the parent. Who’s in charge?!” The principal and AD hired you to lead the program. It’s your job to help your players both on and off the field. Accountability; respect for authority; and working together for a common goal are 3 objectives of any high school football program. Your job as HC is to see that these objectives are met.

It is often the case that if you take care of these little things, the wins will follow. Chase the wins and you’ve got your priorities out of order. When asked what his main purpose was as a football coach, the coach stated: “To win football games!” The other man responded, “Friend, winning football games is too small a thing to live for!” Amen!

“Mattering Matters!”

Posted by admin March - 5 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Unfortunately, I forgot where on the internet that I read this last week but it has reallllllllllllly stuck in my head! The person writing it was talking about Leadership and the components of effective leadership.

I’ve read a lot of books and listened to a lot of speakers discussing leadership. What this man wrote was, I thought, profound! The gist of his message was: Mattering matters!

There are people in our programs that we consider essential to making our organization successful. And they are essential! However, there are people in our programs who, at best, we’d call marginal. If you’re talking about a high school football team, it’s those guys who are on the team but aren’t likely to play much. You keep them around cuz they’re good kids and, maybe, you hate to cut players who have a good attitude and work hard. It’s these marginal players that we have a responsibility to make feel like they have a contribution to make. You never know! I recall a Freshman running back we had back in the 90’s whom our JV coach deemed too small and he wanted to cut him. The guy stuck around and — long story short — by his senior year, he had a dozen D1 offers!

From a business standpoint, one could ask the owner: “Do you know the name of your custodian?” Or, “do you speak to the Security Guard when you check in each morning?” These people need to feel like they matter. Because… here’s the KEY: when people feel like they matter to the boss/head coach, their performance improves! When someone is made to feel like they are essential to the success of a team, they are going to be motivated to perform at a level that produces success.

Take the time to get to know that back-up offensive lineman. Spend some time with the kid who you consider to be “last on the depth chart.” It’s all about making your weakest link as strong as you can.

This is why I’ve always advocated meeting individually with all Varsity veterans during the off-season. Give them a goal-planning sheet to fill out and bring back to you. Use what they wrote to promote discussion. And… don’t make all of the questions about football. Ask them about their life goals. Ask them where they see themselves 10 years from now. Ask about their family. All of this is showing your players that they matter to you. You’re very likely to see an increase in performance/motivation because you took to heart that mattering matters!

“17 Inches!”

Posted by admin February - 26 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I have always been pretty conservative. Political correctness drives me crazy! Most people would probably call me “old fashioned.” That would be a compliment!!! When I look at this crazy, mixed up world, I get a little sad… thinking about what we are leaving to my grandkids. Some of the viewpoints being expounded upon in today’s politically-charged climate make me shake my head.

But, I take solace that… for the most part, athletics has not been tainted. Oh yes, we went through the “everyone deserves a trophy” days… but most everybody recognized that we need to get back to setting goals and working to achieve them. A championship has to be earned. Competition is what drives us to succeed. We can still teach sportsmanship and respect while we are challenging our players to become the best they can be. When we start letting them get away with stuff, we are creating headaches that will ultimately lead to (as Head Coaches) being fired.

All of this brings to mind the story I read recently that I want to strongly encourage you to find on the internet and read— no! absorb it!!! I think the title is “17 Inches.”

The author is a young high school baseball coach who is attending his first big coaches clinic. He writes about how he ended up in a packed room during the second day of the clinic where a retired college baseball coach named John Solinos was going to be speaking to the crowd. What Coach Solinos shared over the next 30 minutes changed this young coach’s life. If you will read it, I think it will cause you to stop and reflect also. I will not give away the “punch line” of Solinos’ story. Needless to say, it really impacted me! I hope it will for you too.

I found the web address. It’s www.sperrybaseballlife.com/stay-at-17-inches/. Please check it out. You won’t regret it!

Attitude Determines Altitude

Posted by admin February - 18 - 2019 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

This subject has been on my mind lately.

I did some checking and found that one of the most important instruments in an airplane cockpit is the gyroscope that tells the pilot what his attitude is! Don’t you wish we had an instrument that could tell us what our attitude is??!!

Attitude is critical for an airplane to stave off a potential crash. What this gyroscope shows the pilot is the relationship of the nose of his plane to the horizon. A pilot needs this so he can continue to stay on course and airborne.

I have read that (particularly in jet fighters that are flying very fast) a pilot can become disoriented and actually fly the plane upside down. Without an awareness of where the horizon is, the fighter pilot could think he is climbing in altitude when, in reality, he is driving his jet right into the ground. Thus, the saying in Pilot Training School: “Attitude is EVERYTHING!”

The same thing holds true when looking at our character. I’ve heard any number of motivational speakers/writers say the same thing, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”

Possessing a negative attitude generally means that when things go wrong, you’re probably going to crash and burn — just like that airplane! However, a person with a positive attitude keeps his “nose up!” He is more likely to overcome an obstacle or negative situation because he keeps a positive outlook. This person is going to keep looking for a way to get over, under, around or through the obstacle. Why? Because he believes he can do it!

My wife and I took a trip to the Canyon Lands of the SW US (Arizona and Utah) back in the fall. The Grand Canyon, in particular, is truly one of the great natural wonders of the world! I heard about a guy, John Wesley Powell, who took 10 men with him in 1869 to try to become the first men to travel down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I was so interested in Powell’s story that I bought a book on the expedition. What these men accomplished (they DID make it) was a phenomenal feat!

What stood out for me, though, was the fact that 2 of the men gave up late in the journey and climbed the steep walls of the Grand Canyon because they just couldn’t take it anymore! They were sure that Powell and the crew were never going to make it to the other end of the Grand Canyon along the river. So… they quit! They quit ONE DAY before the crew floated out of the canyon and onto easy-flowing river currents!!!! One day!!!

As so often happens, our negative attitude forces us to give up before we reach our goal. It’s amazing to me how close a person can be to accomplishing his goal — and he just quits!

Winston Churchill’s words resonate through my mind quite often. He told the people of England during the darkest hours of WW II to, “Never, never, never give up! and… NEVER give in!!!” I’m echoing those same words to you.

“I Love That Dirty Water….”

Posted by admin February - 12 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Some of you may be old enough to remember the song by the Standells, Dirty Water. It was about the Charles River in Boston. Wellllllll… I stayed in a hotel this past weekend right on the banks of the Charles River and it was beautiful! I attended (and spoke at) a Glazier Coaches Clinic in Boston. We had a great time!

Getting to meet coaches from all over the country is always a thrill for me. The chance to network is important. My purpose in doing these clinics is to help other coaches in their situations. If you have not been to a Glazier clinic, I encourage you to check one out. They do such a good job of educating coaches.

Two of the sessions that Glazier offers are particularly helpful. If/when you attend a Glazier clinic, be sure to attend them. One they call Chalk War and the other is a Panel Session.

In the Chalk War, they “pit” an Offensive coach against a Defensive coach and they go back and forth on the white board (not “chalk!”) in attacking and defending the plays that are diagrammed. I’ve participated in two and attended two others. They were very informative.

The Panel Session is perhaps my favorite. Three coaches take turns sharing ideas about a particular topic. The panel topic I sat on this past weekend was: Program Development Ideas. I had the pleasure of joining two outstanding head coaches in “shotgunning” our ideas about how to make our programs strong. One coach was from Washington state and the other was from Ohio.

An idea that the coach from Ohio shared really “rang a bell” with me! He shared about the importance of enlisting the support of your players’ parents in making your program strong. His example was eye-opening! Coach said to have a Mom’s Club… not Dad’s! It’s the moms who are watching to see if you are treating their son in the proper fashion. He recommended starting a Mom’s Club and give them opportunities to do fund-raisers and other events which —- here’s the key… benefit their sons! Not from a purely football sense but the over-all team experience.

He has a Mom’s Night. The first home game each year is dedicated to the Moms. They make a big deal out of it… rolling out the red carpet for the moms! It was even mentioned, “why do you stop having a Team Mom at the Youth League level??!!” The moms still want to be involved in their sons’ activities. Get them involved through a Mom’s Club. Give them a lot of leeway… just ask them to run everything by you first! I thought the whole concept was excellent. I passed it along to our head coach when I got home Sunday night!

“Root or Wings??!!”

Posted by admin February - 2 - 2019 - Saturday ADD COMMENTS

I just read this and felt like it was too good to wait till Tuesday to write about it! “Thanks (again!)” to Pastor Bob Gass for some powerful words.

William Carter is credited with saying that “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One is roots; the other is wings.”

When children (players!) know that they are loved unconditionally, roots are established in their character. Therefore, when life hits them in the face, they can stand up to the blows.

In the same way, when self-confidence and a desire to dream is instilled in your children, you are growing wings in their character. Once a child has that “will to overcome obstacles and have a winning attitude”… they are half-way to success! But if this “press on” attitude is not cultivated in their hearts, they are, unfortunately, half-way to failure.

As a coach/parent/teacher, it is imperative that you show those children in your charge that you have faith in them. They will, in turn, develop faith in themselves. But… when you constantly criticize or demean a child and his/her performance, it is likely that the child will grow up to be self-doubting, fearful of failure and present a negative attitude toward themselves and life in general.

When you encourage and show them that you believe in them, they’re going to go the extra mile to try and live up to your (positive) expectations! This is why when I hear coaches say that “I don’t care if my players (*and I need to add: they’re NOT your players, Coach! They’re not your property.) want to play for me or not!” — I cringe. Yes, I want kids to come out for the program I lead because they love football; but, my desire is that they also want to be part of a program that coaches are being positive, encouraging and… challenging. Most of the impact that motivation has on people stems from the fact that the person we are trying to inspire holds us in high regard.

What’s the old adage? “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!”

“Student of the Game!”

Posted by admin January - 29 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had the good fortune to have been invited to speak this past weekend at the National Wing T Coaches Clinic in Pittsburgh. There were over 300 coaches in attendance from all over the country. They were all there to do one thing: learn more about this wonderful offense that we know and love. Interestingly, we wanted to know more! That is why we were there.

It is a pleasure to announce that I am returning to coaching full-time! Welllllllllll… flex time! I still need to be available to help out my wife with babysitting our granddaughter. And I promised her that we will still be traveling in the Fall (during the season!). When the head coach asked me to be his OC, I explained that there is a commitment to helping my wife. He was amenable to my situation.

There were a number of excellent speakers at the clinic. It was fun to sit in on their talks and glean information from them. Knowing that I would be gaining knowledge was exciting for me. I had a reason to take notes and ask questions… cuz I am in the midst of putting together the Wing T offense we’re going to run this year. It reminded me how much I enjoy learning and growing. I was applying what I have encouraged coaches to be (and do!) for a number of years: BE A “STUDENT OF THE GAME!”

What’s the old saying? “If you’re not growing, you’re rotting?!” Whatever your job; whatever your situation, there is still more to learn. When you think you’ve learned it all, there’s still more knowledge out there to gain. One of my Education professors challenged us to be “life-long learners.” As teachers, we were encouraged to continue to study our craft. The same thing goes for coaching.

Go to clinics. Read books. Watch video’s. Visit and talk to other coaches. Use the off-season in the same manner that you are challenging your players to do: Get Better!!!

“Put In the Work”

Posted by admin January - 22 - 2019 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I’m reading Tim Tebow’s new book, This Is The Day. Some great life-lessons for anyone who desires to grow in Christ or simply improve as an individual.

The chapter I’m in right now is titled, “Put In the Work.” He’s talking about competitiveness and, one of my favorite concepts!, persistence. I think we learn competitiveness early in life. It’s instilled in us if we live in a competitive environment as we grow up. Persistence, too, has to be nurtured. We, as coaches, have to teach it, model it (never give up! never give in!) and encourage it. One thing Tim writes about his time at the U. of Florida really struck home. Remember… his coach was Urban Meyer.

Tim writes, “When I was at the University of Florida, our whole college program was centered on bringing out our mental toughness. Obviously, we focused on speed and strength, but it was secondary to the goal of developing grit.”

Wow!!! Are you spending as much time on the mental training as you are the physical? Particularly here in the off-season portion of the year, a coach needs to start training his players to be mentally tough. There are activities and exercises that you can use. I’d be glad to share a few with you if you’ll email me. I’m not talking about a meat grinder attitude. I’m definitely not encouraging you to replicate the Junction Boys that Bear Bryant put his Texas A & M team through! No. It’s a matter of simply helping kids to see/learn that they can do more than they think they can. Our job is to get them out of their comfort zone. As Tim says later, “It means getting inconvenienced. But if you don’t grow, you won’t change. And if you don’t change, you stay stuck.”

Like the commercial says, “Don’t stay stuck! Get GEICO.” or whatever product they’re trying to sell! *See…. that’s bad psychology in that ad. When you can remember the jingle but can’t remember the product— what good have you done?!! On the other hand, when the message is so powerful and it’s easily attached to the product, it will make your company a LOT of money! Don’t believe me? Then why do companies spend millions of dollars for 30 seconds of ad time during the Super Bowl?

We as coaches need to sell our product. In this case, it’s mental toughness and competitive spirit.

I’ll close with one more quote from the book. Tim says, “Striving for something and having a life of significance doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s outright painful. You have to do the hard things to get to where you need to go.”

Amen? Amen!

Have A VISION

Posted by admin January - 18 - 2019 - Friday ADD COMMENTS

I had the good fortune to attend a local Sports Club meeting the other day where LaTasha Colander-Clark was the keynote speaker. She was a 2000 Olympian from our area. She won a gold medal in the 4 X 200 Relay and still holds the world record in the event. Verrrrrry impressive! and… a very impressive young woman.

It was admirable that she did not hide the fact that she is a born-again Christian from the audience when she first stood to talk. Making a “faith statement” lent credence to the powerful talk she subsequently presented over the next 15 minutes. This is a summary of the notes I took while she spoke. The theme is something that all of us should adopt. Her title was: “Have a Vision.”

A line from the movie Sister Act 2 has always remained a mantra for me. The character that Whoopie Goldberg played stated in front of her students one day that… “If you want to be somebody. If you want to go somewhere. You better wake up and pay attention!” Truth!!!

Ms. Colander-Clark was basically stating the same thing. If we want to be successful, we need to have a picture in our mind of where we want to go and what we want to do. Without that picture; i.e., vision, we are destined to fail. Why?

We are likely to fail because somewhere along the road to success there are going to be some speed bumps. There might even be a wreck. Do those obstacles slow us down? OR… do they cause us to give up; tuck our tail between our legs and… slink off to the Land of Quitters. That’s the place where people make all kinds of excuses for WHY they failed. The main reason they failed is because they lacked a vision. With that vision, you have a driving force that keeps you going. Without a vision, you’ll never “see” yourself succeeding. When the times get tough, the weak get going… right out the door!

One of my “life verses” from the Bible is Phil. 3:14. It paraphrases, “PRESS ON toward the goal!” Press… is short for pressure! Pressure will come to bear but I choose to remain strong and hopeful. I know that “God’s got this” and He will take care of me. For a Christian, surrender is just another word for VICTORY. We surrender means trusting the things/people/situations in our life to God. “I can’t do this on my own, Lord. I give (surrender) it to YOU!”

It took 10 years before my “vision” of what I wanted our football program to look like finally came to fruition. I had to “press on” through many trials and sorrows. But, I knew that God had given me a vision and He did NOT want me to give up.

Create a Vision Statement and live it out! Through thick and thin, God is with us!

Back In The “Grind!”

Posted by admin January - 9 - 2019 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

I recently accepted an offer to become the Offensive Coordinator at a local high school! Yes… I have “UN-retired” for the 3rd time! There have been a lot (overwhelmingly) of positive posts from friends on my Facebook page— congratulating me on my return to coaching. However, there are a few who are questioning why would I want to get back in the grind! I have an answer. Let me let Dabo Swinney speak for me!

Dabo was asked why he’s already prepared to start the grind all over again so soon. His response was priceless! Dabo stated, “I’m looking forward to Friday. That’s the fun part about what I do. We get to start over every year and plug guys in and let them go play. I’m excited about it. It’s always a fun meeting for me to kind of reset the room, if you will, and kind of paint a picture of what this new journey is going to look like and what we’ve got to do. Every year is a new challenge and you don’t carry anything over.”

Does that sound like a grind??!! Dabo’s attitude is not only positive but infectious. No wonder he’s getting the country’s best recruits.

That is what I missed. I love the preparation phase of a new season. Evaluating, studying, planning and teaching the staff and players is FUN! It’s fun because I know what my life’s purpose is and how God wants me to fulfill that purpose. If you don’t know what your life purpose is, you need to discover it. I discovered mine when my sweet wife spoke a “Word” over me about 35 years ago. Other friends, who I love and respect, confirmed what God had shared with her… that He wanted her to share with me. It was one simple statement. “This (coaching) is your ministry.”

My priority as a high school football coach was (and now is) to: Share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with my players and fellow coaches. Simply put: “Love Jesus; love people.” When we seek God as the priority in our life, He will take care of the rest. (Check out Matthew 6:33 in the Bible!)

When you know your purpose in life and properly prepare yourself (and your coaches and players), it’s amazing what you can accomplish. We’re going to win a lot of football games in the next few years! Of that, I have no doubt. Why am I so confident? Because the young man who is our Head Coach has been “tutored” by me since he was a Freshman in high school! He played for me and coached with me. He wants to do things the right way. I am honored to join his staff.