Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Roll Tide!

Posted by admin January - 9 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

We got a “ton” of snow last week… 10 inches!! For the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Tidewater area of Virginia, that is a “ton!” I was so bored that by Saturday, I actually watched (some of it) a little NFL. I figured the play-off’s would be a good time to see what I’d been missing. Come on, man!!! Boring! Give me college football anytime! and… that anytime was last night! WOW!!! What a game!! I like both teams; both programs and both coaches… so I just wanted to see a good game. The Bulldogs and Tide did not disappoint. It was entertaining and educational. Studying the strategies employed by the coaches always intrigues me. Saban and Smart both managed great game plans.

Here are some things that I saw that any coach can file away to use with his own team some day:

1) The Alabama players (the front-line starters anyway… cuz #48 needs to spend some time running stadium steps at 6 in the morning for a few weeks! Awful display and an embarrassment to the Crimson Tide program) just kept hammering! I shared a couple of years back on this blog site The Legend of the Stonecutter. It was tagged to Stephon Curry of the GS Warriors. It stresses the importance of persistence. Never give up and never give in! That was how Bama played.

How do you teach this to your players? It’d be nice if high school athletes just came to us with perseverance as one of their chief character traits. Unfortunately, in this day and age of instant gratification, it’s hard to find. My suggestion would be that you just keep repeating (many times!) stories of people who’ve overcome adversity by sticking to their goal. There are some exercises/activities that I’ve done (which are too detailed to type up here… write me if you want the ideas!) that help but it is just too important to just ignore. How many times has your team fallen behind in a game and basically “cashed in their chips.” They just stop playing hard! We need to find a way to teach/coach our players to have a “never say die” attitude.

HINT: Think Facing the Giants movie scene!!! Have you seen it?

2) Coach Woody Hayes of Ohio State had a statement that is soooooooooo good. He said, “Don’t attack walled cities!” (Another plug for all of you to study military strategy and tactics!)

I said that I like both programs because both coaches build their offense around a power running game. That’s MY style of offensive football. However, Georgia realized it early (first 7 plays were all passes) and Saban realized it by the end of the first half. You’ve heard it said: “There are 3 things that can happen when you throw the ball… and ALL of them are bad!” Not true… you Negative Nelson’s out there. There are 4 things that can happen. The 4th is: you throw a long pass on 2nd and 23 and it not only goes for a 42 yard TD but, it wins the National Championship for you!!! Every team needs to be able to throw the ball efficiently.

You only need a limited package of pass plays but you need to work on them so when needed, you can be confident in your QB and receivers being able to complete them.

3) Don’t be afraid to make the “big change” when things aren’t going right. Alabama limped off the field dazed and frustrated at half time. I will give credit to God’s Holy Spirit for this one! but… I sensed in my spirit that, “If Bama is going to win, Nick knows he’s going to have to change QB’s.” And as the first series of the 3rd quarter began, here came Tua!!

Persistence is important. I already established that. However, the flip side of that is Woody’s point of “don’t beat your head against a brick wall.” The only thing that’s going to crack is your skull. Fortunately, Saban had a 5 star QB waiting in the wings. But no amount of physical ability could help a true freshman step onto that stage and perform like he did unless there was mental and spiritual strength involved too!!!

I loved Tua’s statement after the game: “ALL the praise goes to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
Tua’s spiritual maturity obviously spilled over into this young man’s mental maturity. Even taking that bad sack just before The Bomb didn’t seem to phase him. He got right back up and went to his 3rd read (on the other side of the field!) for the game-winner.

My point is: sometimes you just HAVE to change. This was a calculated risk taken by Saban and his staff. But, it was the “wake up call” that the Tide needed.
Do you need to shift around your coaching staff? Do you need to dismiss a coach? Do you need to take a look at a new player at QB in your program? Do you need to tweak your offense? Do you need to be more demanding of your players and their work habits? Are you afraid to change because some kids might quit? Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk and change some things about your program if you recognize that “change” is the only fix.

Reflections on the Bowl Games

Posted by admin January - 2 - 2018 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I confess it: I am a COLLEGE football junkie!!! and… when bowl season hits, you can usually find me in my recliner in front of the tv watching (even) Podunk U. vs. Left Out State in the “You Couldn’t Find My Location” Bowl!!! I get to see teams with reasonably good seasons take on another team that they would never play during the regular season. It’s just plain fun!

Admittedly, I do watch most of them from the “eyes of a Coach.” I study alignments; watch for trick plays and just want to see how a run-only team, like Army, matches up against a fast-paced bunch like San Diego State was. One thing I found: those high-powered spread pass attacks didn’t fare as well against opponents who 1) ran the ball and controlled the clock and 2) had 2-3 weeks to prepare for them and 3) had just as many good athletes on defense as the Spread Guys had on offense!

Two teams in particular stood out to me and I want to share some bits of wisdom to coaches out there— things that might help shape (or RE-shape) your philosophy about your team as you prepare for 2018. Those 2 teams are: the aforementioned Army team and… U. of Georgia.

Army: I am proud to say that one of Army’s starting LB’s is one of my former players! #54 did a heck of a job for them all season. However, they had NO answer for that great RB from SDSU! Welllllllllllll…. their defense had no answer; but, Coach Monkin and his staff DID have an answer: keep him and SDSU’s offense on the sideline!!! Army’s offense (to borrow an old B-ball term) “took the air out of the ball.” Actually, what they did was play “Keep Away!” Their players are disciplined… mentally and physically. In a game like the bowl the other night, their mental discipline carried the day. What do I mean? A gain of 2-3 yards is a win!!! 4-6 yards is a bonus!!! They were determined to just grind it out; keep the ball and finish drives. THAT takes a lot of discipline! But… it worked! You should think about that if you are looking at your team for next year and saying to yourself, “We’re going to be the underdogs in 8-9 of our games!” Maybe developing a strong ground game where you can control the clock for big chunks of time is what you need to be looking at!!!

U. of Georgia: Things weren’t looking too good in the first half— particularly on defense! Mayfield was lighting it up! Everything you drool over with the Spread Air Raid offense was on display. Georgia’s run game was working but they just weren’t “keeping up” with OK’s high octane offense! Until……….. just before the half. OK made their first of TWO horrendous Special Teams errors. That poorly executed squib kick allowed UGa to get a field goal just before half. It had to have breathed a little life into the Bulldogs.

The 2nd half was a huge turn around. UGa’s ground game kept pounding the OK defense for big chunks, but UGa’s defense, all of a sudden, was starting to make plays. Mayfield got sacked a couple of times. Give credit to the guys up front for getting to the QB but… why didn’t he catch, set and fire (on time) like he’d been doing in the first half??? Cuz UGa’s secondary was getting much better coverage! Why? Cuz they started playing zone!

There were so many KEY plays but, in my mind, the ONE that lost it for OK was the (partially) blocked FG! Did you study it? I saw it… did YOU??!!! It got blocked because the right end for OK stepped OUTSIDE to block his gap instead of stepping down— right where #7 slipped through to get a hand up!!! Who in the world teaches their PAT/FG team to do anything but: “Block your INSIDE gap… and don’t allow any penetration!!!” What a horrible mistake! It cost OK a shot at the national championship!

Moral of the story: Work on the LITTLE things! One guy not doing his job on a specialty team can cost you everything!!!

Alabama or Georgia? It should be interesting! However… I’m looking forward even more to JMU and ND St. U on Saturday!!! It will be just as much fun as watching the Dawgs and the Tide!!!

A “4th Quarter” Team

Posted by admin December - 27 - 2017 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

You see a lot of college teams on TV raising the “4 fingers” when it’s time for the 4th quarter to begin. Obviously, their coaching staff has tried to assimilate in the players’ minds that you need to play a grrrrrrrrreat 4th quarter to win the game. I can’t argue with that rationale. One of the team goals I always included in our season goal chart was to: Win (at least) 1 game in the 4th quarter! There’s nothing like a come-from-behind win late in the game to give your team a tremendous confidence boost. However, I want to suggest that being a great 3rd Quarter team may be just as important! Let me explain.

When I began to realize (by analyzing our games) that we were winning at half time in a LOT of games… only to come up short on the final score, I started looking at our quarter by quarter scoring vs. our opponents’ scoring by quarter. I was amazed at how many games we were out-scored in the 3rd quarter. We’d come out “flat” to begin the 2nd half and immediately dig a hole for ourselves. Big Mo switched over and we were fighting an “uphill battle” the rest of the game. We needed a way to shake up our players to get them mentally and physically ready to “turn it on” as soon as the 3rd quarter began. Our solution was a bit radical but… it worked! Here’s what we did:

We’d come out and do our regular half-time warm up routine. We were very organized and everybody did the routine together in our end zone. When our 3 minutes of stretching was over I had all of the players turn toward me at the 5 yard line and I would yell, “Get ’em choppin’!!!” Everybody knew what that meant… it was time for some up/downs; grass drills; or wake-up’s… is what we called them— cuz we wanted to “wake them up!” Get the adrenaline flowing and get ready to go on the attack again the moment the 3rd quarter started! We didn’t do many wake-up’s— maybe 3 or 4 — and I let them chop for 5 seconds or more between dropping them. But, it gave us a tremendous psychological advantage. Let me explain…

One game as we were warming up in our end zone, our opponent came walking from their locker room across the field behind the end zone. I blew the whistle and got our guys hitting the ground and bouncing up as the other team watched us from 10 yards away. I could see their players pointing and gawking! It was pretty easy to read their minds: “Oh my gosh! Those guys are doing up/downs at halftime! They’re going to smash us in the 2nd half!!” And, yes! We usually did!!!

During my last season before I retired, we played a school that was much larger than us— and was a large-school state finalist the previous year — in an early season game. We didn’t play well. We got out-hit and we got out-HUSTLED!!! I can take a lot of things but, my teams are NEVER going to get out-hustled! I told the staff over the weekend that being out-hustled was totally unacceptable. Plus, I just didn’t think we were in good-enough shape yet either! Mulling things over, I came up with this idea which we started the following Monday at the conclusion of practice. I called it: “3 Minutes in Paradise!!!” Some of you may remember the hit song from the 70’s by Eddie Money entitled, “I’ve Got 2 Tickets to Paradise.” Our coaches would start singing, “We’ve Got 3 Minutes in Paradise” as the kids circled up.

We’d get the team in a big circle with 2-arm length width between them. I’d start the stop watch and they’d start choppin’ as I blew the whistle. At first, I just blew the whistle and they’d hit the ground and bounce up. We’d go for 60 seconds and then they had to run in place for 15 seconds. 1 minute of their 3 minutes was complete. Then (I’ll chalk it up to my diabolical mind!!!) it occurred to me: why should I be the “bad guy?”!!” I don’t have to be the one to make them work. I’ll call out one of the players and let him lead the team in their 60 seconds of wake ups! Let HIM be the “bad guy!!!” ha ha! So I yelled for “Cole” to come into the middle of the circle. He runs into the middle and on my whistle, “Cole” is now in charge for the next 60 seconds. He can put them on the ground as much as he wants in that 60 seconds. When the time is up, I blew the whistle and he returns to the circle while everyone else continues to run in place. 15 to 20 seconds of chopping and you call the next guy to come to the middle and away you go again.

Who you choose is important! One of the 3 (remember there are 3 60 second periods) leaders should be your team leader who is also the hardest worker and in the best shape! Let him put the team through their paces. He can go as fast as he wants and get as many reps as he wants! Then the other 2 you pick can be anyone you want… even the heavyweight who does about half of the wake ups when he’s “hiding” in the circle. Bring him into the middle and see what he does when he has to SET THE TONE! The last guy can be someone who works hard but doesn’t get much recognition. Let him get in the middle and lead the team.

It occurred to me that you could “massage” this activity in a number of different ways. If you’re emphasizing how important it is to come out ready to go in the 3rd quarter, let them take a “half-time break.” Stop running in place and let them take a knee for 30 seconds to a minute. You are simulating half time. Get them up; get ’em choppin’ and call your next leader out. You could incorporate 4 wake-up periods if you want to get them mentally focused on going hard for ALL 4 quarters. *THAT would be “4 Minutes in Paradise!” You could decrease the up/down period for each “minute in paradise” — say, 45 seconds the second period; 30 seconds the third and 15 seconds for the 4th. THAT would be when I’d call out your player who is going to get them going so fast that at the end of 15 seconds, they’re totally gassed!

Oh yes… when you blow the last whistle to end it and then blow the whistle again to call everyone to come up on you, they better RUN to you!!! If someone walks or even just jogs— back they go!! Circle up and do 10 seconds more of wake up’s. This time I would be the “bad guy” and make them do their “Hustle Period” because it wasn’t important enough for them to hustle over and get to your head coach so they could hear what he has to say! Build in that hustle mentality.

This drill builds physical and mental toughness. Try it! You’ll like it!!!

Happy New Year!!

“Give Them What They Want???!!!”

Posted by admin December - 19 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

An interesting trend has been occurring in high school football around here (Tidewater Virginia) for the last few years that I would say is one of the most troubling things to happen to high school football in… welllllllllllllll… forever! It’s the trend of players transferring schools because “the grass is greener on the other side!” How do you put a stop to this? I don’t know if you can totally shut it down… cuz there are always going to be parents who think they know more than coaches and “the best thing for Little Johnny” is to transfer to that “big name school” so he can get the recognition he deserves! and… that scholarship offer that he’d never get at your school!

How do you deal with this… without succumbing to my tongue-in-cheek title? Cuz… IF you “give them everything they WANT”… you’re just making it worse! The answer lies in something I heard Lou Holtz share in a speech years ago. I assimilated Coach Holtz’s strategy into my relationship with my players. It worked! Holtz says, “Show them that YOU are going to help them achieve what they want and you’ll have their loyalty.”

Notice it didn’t say anything about “giving them” anything. Coach Holtz merely pointed out an effective use of tapping into human nature to help you as the coach get what YOU want— your athletes staying with your program and NOT transferring somewhere else. Let’s explore this concept a little more.

If you are not having individual meetings with your veterans in the off-season, you need to start! You should talk about the previous season and do some goal-planning for the upcoming season. Note: This should include his OFF-season goals! Once you see what his goals are, you have the means of determining how you can show him that you are here to help him achieve those goals. It’s all about two things: clarifying what the individual steps are to achieving his goals and pointing out to him how YOU are going to be there every step of the way to help him achieve them! Once he knows that you are “in his corner” and will support and encourage him every step of the way, it’s a lot harder to be disloyal and thing about transferring.

“Little Things” Can Make a BIG Difference!

Posted by admin December - 12 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

A devotion from Pastor Bob Gass reminded me how important “small things” are…

In the Bible in Judges: Chapter 7, God gave Gideon a huge victory over their enemy, the Midianites. The crazy thing about this victory is that God had Gideon command an army of only 300 that defeated an enemy that had hundreds of thousands soldiers! It wasn’t because there weren’t more soldiers available for Gideon’s army; it was because God wanted to demonstrate HIS power in (get this) “the day of small things.”

One day Jesus fed 5000+ people with just a few fish and loaves of bread! Small things (amounts) can go a long way if you have the right perspective on success.

The KEY here is… are you asking God to make you BIGGER or BETTER??? If you’re working hard to make yourself “bigger” instead of “better” then you may end up disappointed. If you’re a praying man, all the prayers you could possibly pray to God, in Jesus’ Name, won’t persuade God to give you what you are not ready to handle. I know! cuz… I thought I could “talk God into” blessing us with championship after championship when I first became a head coach in 1985. It took 12 years of “sanding off the rough spots” in my character and personality before God opened up the flood gates and said: “NOW, you’re ready, Lew!” From ’97 to 2015, we won 9 different championships. I had to mature, seeking Holy Spirit’s help and guidance, before God saw that I could handle all that success. I am forever grateful!

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.”

As Pastor Gass states, “Your drive to be bigger can give you ulcers, keep you awake at night and stop you from enjoying the blessings that God has already given you. Better may be harder to measure and not as glamorous, but the inner stability that comes from gradual success is more valuable and lasting.”

Let that roll around in your head for awhile and see if it doesn’t give you a new perspective!

Are You a “Sheep Dog” or a “Blood Hound?”

Posted by admin December - 5 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Do you enjoy reading books on leadership? I hope so! If you want to improve any skill, you must educate yourself. The question came up the other day about what characteristics are found in a great leader. Volumes have been written and speakers have made millions passing along their ideas about this subject. When pondering it myself last night, I guess my mind was in “allegorical” mode… cuz this is what the Lord impressed upon me:

As a leader… are you a “Sheep Dog” or are you a “Blood Hound???!!!”

Have you ever watched a collie or Australian shepherd work a herd? It is amazing. Obviously, some of it is instinctive but a shepherd must train his dog to obey his commands and know when to step in and when to sit. A sheep dog is constantly on the alert for predators and some are even trained to attack. Their primary job, though, is to “herd.” Our son and daughter-in-law have an Australian shepherd. Even with no training, that dog will get in the back yard and “herd” their other two dogs around the yard! “Yipping and nipping” I call it! Particularly with the younger dog. He stays right on his heels barking and nipping at his hind feet to “herd” that dog around the yard.

It would be comical if you didn’t realize that what their shepherd is doing is just what a good leader must do for his team/organization: keeping the herd moving in the right direction! THAT’S what a strong leader does: keeps his crew focused… on task… and moving in the right direction. Sometimes he has to shout encouragement (“yipping”) and sometimes he must push and prod (“nipping”). Knowing how and when and who to do each with is part of the maturation process any good leader must go through.

In other words, a sheep dog is out front and alert to what’s going on within the group while also being aware of external circumstances (predators) which may adversely affect his “herd.” Sheep dogs possess boundless energy. A sheep dog is vigilant and protecting of his herd. All are qualities that a great leader needs to emulate.

A “Blood Hound”, on the other hand, waits until he is called into action before he starts on the trail of a missing person. He is well-trained and obedient but… he does not show much initiative. He has to be pointed in the right direction before he picks up the scent of whoever he is looking for. This is the problem with too many leaders— they wait instead of initiate! A blood hound is so focused on the task at hand that he does not “see” what’s going on around him. Chaos could be breaking out all around him but… he’s got his nose on the trail. Yes, a blood hound performs a valuable service but… he doesn’t possess the characteristics that would make him a good leader.

My advice: watch a sheep dog in action. See how many “sheep dog” traits you possess. You’ll find that your leadership skills will definitely improve!

Make Your Special Teams “Special”

Posted by admin November - 28 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I love watching college football games! My Saturday’s in the fall start around 10 am when I tune in to Game Day and that leads to the first game at noon. Sometimes my tv watching doesn’t end until around midnight… IF there’s a West Coast game that I want to watch. I always enjoy seeing what coaches and their teams are doing with their kicking teams. They always seem to be so well-prepared. High school games that I watch… NOT so much! Special Teams appears to be the “stepchild” of too many high school programs. Unfortunately, it usually ends up costing them the game. I observed this happen last Friday night.

Attending a Regional championship game here in Tidewater Virginia that a former player and coach was participating in, I saw a team lose the championship on something that never should’ve happened. Let me set the scene:

“My” team jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Their kicker had put every kickoff into the end zone… unheard of in high school ball around here, anyway! The other team scored just before half to make it 14-7. The second half kickoff was returned to the opposing 30 and in 3-4 plays, my friend’s team scored again. The other team came back in the 4th Q to tie it and take it into overtime. They got the ball first and scored in 3 plays! UGH! They lined up to kick the extra point and “broke out” into a muddle huddle formation! I thought, “Wow! They DO spend time on their special teams if they know how to do that!” They shifted back; lined up for an easy kick and… 2 guys came right up the middle and blocked the PAT!!! “Come on, Man!!!”

My friend’s team got the ball, scored in 3 plays… kicked the extra point and now they are going on to the state semi-finals and the team that probably should’ve won turned in their stuff after the game. All because they didn’t emphasize to their players the importance of “taking care of the details!” Like… securing your gap on the PAT!

Championship Productions has a dvd that I did in the spring talking about “Making Your Special Teams Special.” They did a great job putting it together and I’m proud to recommend it to you. My point of emphasis is: too many teams don’t spend the time that they should on preparing their kicking game. Sooooooo… take advantage of that! Spend the necessary time and gain an advantage. I’ll never forget something that Lou Holtz told us years ago (I was fortunate to have been playing at William and Mary when Lou got his first HC job). He said, “A close game between two evenly-matched teams is usually going to come down to a play in the kicking game to decide the victor!” It taught me to never take the kicking game lightly. I encourage you to do the same!

“5 P’s of Success!”

Posted by admin November - 21 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Our pastor spoke Sunday on the “Season of Preparation” in our lives. I went up to him after church to tell him that he had “stolen my thunder!!??!!?” I explained that I talk to groups and individuals all the time about the “5 P’s of Success.” Of course he asked, “what are the 5 P’s?” I replied:

My talk is entitled “Preparation ALWAYS Precedes Promotion.”

Pastor Michael agreed… since the focus of his message was on NOT skipping the “season of preparation.” He said that “when we try to skip the season of preparation, we actually skip the best moments of life!” and, too often people”want to BE ready— but we don’t want to GET ready! Shortcuts are not the answer.” In fact, the most impactful statement he made was “Making a shortcut in the prep season messes up the ‘harvest season.'” That’s where our 2 talks come together. If you want to be productive. If you want to be promoted. If you want to be successful, then you have to properly prepare! And it doesn’t matter if you’re a football coach, a teacher or a businessperson…. “failing to prepare is preparing to fail!”

You’ve heard the axiom “practice makes perfect.” Is that true? NO! Not exactly. Yes, practice is very important (thing Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 reps rule!”); however, the only thing that makes perfect is… perfect practice. The only thing that produces successful results is proper practice. What do I mean, then, by proper preparation?

1) Be organized! Another axiom (I’m full of them!!!) “Plan your work and work your plan!” But, you can’t “work your plan” if you don’t have a plan in the first place! This means organizing both short range (day to day activities) and long range (getting a general plan for the whole (next) year.
I’ve talked with coaches who go out on the practice field and don’t even have a practice schedule! No wonder there’s not experiencing any success!

2) Be disciplined. This means you’re going to have to not only plan for your success but you’re going to have to implement that plan. This is going to require that you become disciplined. That brings to mind the idea of perseverance or persistence! If things aren’t working out according to your plan, do you persist? OR… do you give up?
I left teaching and coaching 10 years into my career to “seek my fame and fortune” selling life insurance! UGH! The only good thing that came out of it was… I was such a miserable failure at selling that I humbled myself one day and surrendered my life to Jesus! and, nothing has been the same since. “It just keeps getting better!”
I heard a man speak at an insurance agent’s conference who shared one of the the most important statements I’ve ever heard. This guy was one of the top salesman in the entire industry. Very unassuming; quiet… almost shy— so he was not your typical “go-getter” high pressure salesman that we’ve all run across. Someone asked him what was his secret to his phenomenal success? What he said has never left me! Albert Gray said, “The common denominator of success — the secret of success of every person who has ever been successful— lies in the fact that he or she formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” So simple but sooooooo profound! Ask yourself: What is it that I don’t like to do? Find the answer to that question and you are probably uncovering the basis for why you haven’t achieved the goals that you’ve set.

3) Do your homework! In coaching that means scouting and developing a game plan. Here is where a coach can find a lot of help by looking at how the military trains its officers to lead and conduct operations. I’ve stated in a blog here before… you need to purchase a copy of Warfighting by General A.N. Gray, USMC. It is one of the most concise and clear-cut treatises on how to plan, organize and implement your strategy for success that I’ve ever read. Get a copy and read it!

The definition of preparation is “make something ready for use.” That’s the whole purpose of leading, isn’t it? Whether it’s getting your players ready for Friday night’s game or preparing them for adulthood… your job is to properly prepare them.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that God is preparing YOU too! He has a purpose and a plan for each of us. We need to look to Him to discover it.

Belichick on Navy Football

Posted by admin November - 16 - 2017 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

This was just too good to pass up!
My local newspaper (yes, I’m old school!!! Still read the paper version delivered to my house every day!) had an article in the Sports section by Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post on Bill Belichick. He was visiting the Naval Academy football team recently and Steinberg had a chance to interview Belichick. The quote he got from Belichick spoke volumes about Belichick’s coaching philosophy and, in my mind, explains why the NE Patriots are so successful year in and year out.

Belichick said, “When I look back on it, one of the things I learned at Annapolis, when I grew up around the Navy football teams (his dad was an assistant coach there in the ’60’s)— I didn’t know any differently. I just assumed that’s what football was. Guys were very disciplined. They worked very hard. They did extra things. They were always on time, alert, ready to go, team-oriented, unselfish. I thought that’s the way it all was. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I can see how that molded me.”

Note the last sentence… the impact that this environment had on Belichick influenced… no, molded… him into the coach that he is today! What he saw growing up is the bedrock foundation of the Patriot’s football program. It needs to be yours too!

“But, not all (not many!) are like those Midshipmen of the Naval Academy,” you say. That’s true! That doesn’t mean that you can’t “motivate” your players to strive to be more like those Navy football players that Belichick grew up around. How do you accomplish this? I believe it’s through accountability and responsibility.

You don’t have to be a dictator or a tyrant. Kids will respond to discipline if that’s what you expect of them. You make them accountable by enforcing basic rules that are necessary for any organization to function properly. (Look at those qualities again that Belichick said that he observed in the Navy football players.) If your players fail to live up to the standards that you set, there are consequences. Just be sure that “the punishment fits the crime!”

The responsibility part of this falls on you as the coach. You teach responsibility by being responsible. You, as the coach, have a responsibility to hold your coaches and your players accountable. If you fail to fulfill that responsibility, you are falling down on what a head coach is supposed to do.

One final note: 1- it won’t be easy. Changing a culture of laziness or irresponsibility takes time. It’s like turning a huge aircraft carrier. But, if you start in the off-season in the weight room establishing a sense of accountability, it will be easier when practice starts. 2- You’re going to have to be PERSISTENT. Too many times, I see coaches/leaders who start out all “fired up” but lose that fire over a period of weeks or months. It takes hard work to stick to something. It requires discipline and self-control— not the easiest character traits to maintain over a period of time. *Think: “New Year’s resolutions!” But, if you really care about making a difference in your program and ultimately in your coaches and player’s lives, you will persevere!

Starting Afresh

Posted by admin November - 15 - 2017 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

The other day, I had a coach ask about starting “fresh” with his offense. He wanted to know what he should install? My advice to him would hold true for any coach who’s looking to start afresh!

1- Stick with what you KNOW! There is no magic bullet out there as far as an offense you can install that’s going to immediately have you averaging 40 points a game. In my experience, offensive production has more to do with execution than “tricking” opponents. You can’t execute if you don’t know what you’re doing!
So… if you’re installing a “new” offense, maybe it’s better to install an “old” offense that you already know and just work harder on execution. That means paying attention to details— at every position.
If, however, you want to go in a different/new direction with your offense, it is critically important that you research it in depth. Clinics, visits to staffs that already run it, videos— all are important in gaining the depth of knowledge you need to be successful from the get-go! If you don’t, you’re going to be “swimming upstream” all season; probably get frustrated and bag the offense halfway into your season next fall.
I have been helping a coach from another area in our state of Virginia install the Delaware Wing T system of offense this year. We started conversing in January; sent him to Pittsburgh for the National Wing T Coaches Clinic and met several times during the spring and summer. The guy did his research and was ready to install the offense in the spring. By August when preseason practice began, he had it “up and running” very smoothly.
He called me midseason and said that some coaches weren’t happy with the offense. They were 5-1 at the time and putting up impressive numbers??!!!?? Some of the coaches, however, weren’t comfortable with the new offense. I encouraged him to “stick to his guns!” He did and they are 10-1 and playing the 2nd round of the state playoffs this weekend. He had confidence in the offense and confidence in himself— so he stuck it out! Good for him!

2- Coach Your Coaches: This is usually a major mess up on the part of coaches who are changing systems. You know the system but you fail to get your assistants up to speed. Thus, they can’t teach their positions effectively and your execution is sub-par. Just giving material to coaches and telling them to study and learn it is NOT enough! Do you do that with your students in your classroom? NO! You go over the material and then test them!!! You need to do the same with assistant coaches. Most coaches are not enough of a “self-starter” to get the work done that needs to be done. It’s the “80-20 principle” in play: 20% of the people are going to do 80% of the work!” The other 80% of the people you have to “motivate” to get things done. You have to “make” your coaches learn the system.
Off-season staff and individual meetings are important. Either have the coach submit answers to a test you make up OR… have them get up in front of your staff and present their drills; techniques and alignments to the rest of the coaches.

3- Stick with It! This follows what I said in point #1 above… but a little different. I mentioned the coach from Richmond who faced some opposition and stood his ground. I can relate 5-6 other stories of the same type of thing; i.e., coaches who made changes… it didn’t go well… they panicked… and “bailed” on the offense! If you’ve made a commitment, stick with it!!! Keep working hard. Take care of details. Grow as you learn. I’ve said it before on here: if things aren’t going well, don’t ADD… SUBTRACT! You may be trying to do too much! Pick out your 5-7 best plays (your Magnificent 7!) and work on them over and over! Self-scout and see what you’re calling in the game. If you’re not using it in a game, delete it! Focus on those KEY plays that you need to get better at!
Most coaches do not have the patience or perseverance to see things through to the end. That’s why the Bible so strongly encourages folks to “press on!” Philippians 3:13 is one of my life verses. It exhorts us to “press on toward the goal!” Press indicates that they will be pressure. We have to persevere through it. Never give up and never give in!