Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

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!

Prepping for the Playoffs

Posted by admin November - 7 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Some of you have the good fortune of being in your area’s playoff’s at this time of year. For those who have packed up the equipment, get some rest! You’re now going to turn your program around by getting in the weight room as early as possible! An extra week of lifting in November is not likely to win 4-5 more games next fall. Get away from it all. Your players will come back refreshed too.

If you’re in the midst of the playoff’s, I want to pass along a few things that I learned during my tenure as a head coach. Eleven of the last 15 years that I coached, we earned a playoff berth 11 of those seasons. We won regional and state championships during that run. We were doing something right! and… we did some things wrong. Let me share some things that I feel will be of interest and value to help you navigate your way deep into your playoffs.

1) Keep your same routine. There will always be a little more sense of urgency once the post-season starts. However, the more you can stick to your regular schedule, the better the atmosphere will be. We are creatures of habit. Do something to upset our homeostasis and it psychologically knocks us for a loop. For example, if your normal practice is 2 hours, don’t all of a sudden run it out to 3 hours so you can get some “extra work” in. If your schedule worked during the regular season (it must have or you wouldn’t be in the playoffs!), it will work during the post-season.

2) Do NOT take any playoff opponent lightly. Suppose you are the higher seed in the first round. The tendency would be to think that “we have to be the favorite.” If you pass that along to your players, whether consciously or not, it is a recipe for disaster. Going in over-confident or lacking in focus or intensity might be just what the underdog needs to pull off the upset. EVERYBODY in the playoffs is a good team. Sell that to your players… and, I might add, your coaches. If they go out with a “cocky” attitude, players can pick up on that too.

3) Don’t change your game plan! This sounds a little like #1 but I want to focus on your specific game-planning here. We were in the Final 4 in the state one year and thought we had a very good chance of getting to the Finals and winning it all. The team we faced in the Semi’s presented a blitz that we had not seen. We spent waaaaaay too much time preparing to block it and, because of that, it took away from our practicing the other plays that we should’ve been preparing.
Stick with what’s been working during the season. As a long-time Wing T coach, we were never quite sure what defense we’d see come game-time. People tended to “freak out” when they scouted what we were doing and tried to come up with (what they thought) was some elaborate (bizarre) defense. We knew on the first series whether we were going to dominate that night… because, if they weren’t in their regular front, they hadn’t practiced enough to stop us.

As my dad used to say, “Dance with who brought you!” Another one was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You’ve earned the right to be a playoff team because of your success during the regular season. Just keep doing what got you there!

Hope!

Posted by admin October - 31 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I wrote last week about my friend who died. It was a rough week. We held a “Celebration of Life” service for my friend yesterday. He had asked me a month ago if I would conduct the service. How could I say no? It was amusing to see the look on some people’s faces when they saw me get up on stage to do a “funeral” service. “I thought you were a football coach??!” they said. “I was… but I am also an ordained pastor!” I replied. I could see the cognitive dissonance all over their faces!

How about you? What are you “known for” or “known as” in your community? We get pidgeon-holed at times. Be sure, as the Bible says, to let your light shine.

I want to talk about HOPE today. When people gather at a funeral, their immortality comes right to the forefront. We don’t like to think about death and eternity. Funerals cause us to actually face it. It’s uncomfortable. Why? Cuz we’re not PROPERLY prepared to face it!

You know if you’re read a lot of my posts that “The 5 P’s of Success” concept is pretty much the foundation of anything I talk about when it comes to coaching, parenting, teaching and/or life in general. The same thing holds true with death. But I have some good news for you today. You CAN know in advance where you’re going when you die! There is hope!!!

Most of us live UNprepared to die… even though it’s inevitable. I am prepared to die! I’m not ready to die but I am prepared. What prepared me? A relationship with Jesus Christ. John 3:16 is not only one of the most famous verses in the Bible, it is also one of the most important! To paraphrase it, it tells us: “God loves each of us so much! that He let his Son die on a bloody Cross. If you believe in Him, you can have eternal life in heaven.

Jesus offers to everyone the gift of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life with Him! This gift is called grace and, yes, it is AMAZING! (Just like the song says!) If you’ve never accepted this offer of salvation and eternal life with Jesus… then I want you to know that God invites you to come! As a follower of Jesus, I invite you to come.

Seeing what happened to my friend last week (he was only 58), I think it’s important that we all understand that our lives on this earth can end without warning! I shared with the people in attendance at the celebration service yesterday the following words: If my friend Earle (and because I’m writing this… so I’ll say me too!) could share one thing with you, it would be THIS:
Make peace with the God who created you! Don’t reject Jesus’ love. There is no one who will ever love you more than Jesus! His love is sufficient to meet ALL of your needs!

Write me if you’d like to know more about this. In Jesus’ love, Lew

A “Real” Loss

Posted by admin October - 25 - 2017 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

It’s amazing how life’s experiences can put things in perspective for you! We, as coaches, get sooooo wrapped up in winning football games that we forget that there are things (and people!) in our lives that are a LOT more important than getting a “W” on Friday night. It was brought home to me this week.

On Sunday, one of my closest and dearest friends died. He’d been battling cancer for 6 months or so and had deteriorated quickly over the last 2 weeks. I went by to see him several times a week right up until the end. It was sad to see such a vigorous, kind-hearted man dwindling away to just a shell. But, his suffering ended on Sunday morning. He went home to be with Jesus! As much as I miss him, I know that he is now free of pain and is full of joy being in the presence of his Lord and Savior. My job now is to comfort his family.

This has taught me to cherish those people that God has placed in your life. Preparing to win football games is important… don’t get me wrong! However, don’t neglect the other parts of your life only to “die on the altar of success” in coaching! You will regret it.

I heard a song the other day which summed up my philosophy on life. It’s by the female Christian singing group Point of Grace. The chorus is a call to how all of us should live our lives. It’s entitled Turn Up the Music. It goes like this:

“Turn up the music! Turn it up loud. Take a few chances. Let it all out. You won’t regret it… lookin’ back from where you’ve been. Cause it’s not who you knew and it’s not what you did… It’s HOW YOU LIVE.”

Good advice for all of us.

Pay Attention to Details

Posted by admin October - 17 - 2017 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

I was fortunate to have had a lot of excellent coaches work with me and for me during my tenure as a head coach. One in particular still influences my life today. “Coach Sam” was called to be a pastor so he left coaching to devote himself to Jesus and his ministry. I visit his church from time to time to soak up some of that wisdom that God’s Holy Spirit has given him. If you don’t have someone in your life like Coach Sam…. wellllllllllllllll, Pastor Sam, you need to get one. If you DO have a “pastor Sam” in your life, lean on him for godly wisdom.

One of the most important things I gleaned from Sam during the time he coached with me was our title for this week: “Pay Attention to DETAILS.” In other words, NEVER assume anything. Never assume that the directions that you give your assistant coaches will be carried out. Follow up! Never assume that your instructions to your players are understood. Quiz them. Ask questions. Get them to demonstrate what they have learned. Pay Attention to Details.

Interestingly, the Bible says, “The hand of the diligent makes rich.” This word diligent actually means: paying careful attention to details!!! Be diligent.

A good practice that I learned from reading a devotion from the Bob Gass ministry folks is, “When you give someone instructions, check to be sure they’ve made a note of them. If not, you should be concerned. The unlearned and uncommitted tend to trust their memory with everything, but the shortest pencil is still better than the longest memory. When someone doesn’t consider what you’re saying important enough to write down, they are sending you a signal. Even if their intentions are good, in their busyness or overconfidence your instructions can easily be forgotten. Those who are follow-through people always ask additional questions about the assignment and instructions you give them.”

So there you have a lesson learned from the perspective of the leader and… if you are an assistant right now, be that guy who always asks additional (good!) questions to get clarification and a time frame for the assignment you’ve been given.

Taking care of the little things is one of my Keys of Success. It may take a little more time and a lot more diligence to make sure you’ve paid attention to the details but… it’s worth it in the end!

Drive Killers

Posted by admin October - 10 - 2017 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

Sorry for not posting last week. I retired a couple of years ago to give my wife the “first fruits” of my time. She wanted to travel; but, football consumed so much of my time that we were limited to going anywhere for just a 2-3 week window in the summer! So, we are beginning to check off destinations on our “travel bucket list.” Last football season, it was a Viking River Cruise in France and this fall it was a week in NH and Maine. We’ve always wanted to see the beautiful fall foliage of New England… and the seacoast villages of Maine’s coastline. We had a fabulous time.

I’ve been “consulting” for several teams all over the country this season— helping most with their Wing T offense but a couple of coaches are “picking my brain” about how to run an effective defense. I’m watching video for a number of schools and a couple of things repeatedly jump out at me that produce success on Friday night. I’m going to “go negative on you” and talk about those things that you cannot do (thus, “Drive Killers”) if you want to win on a consistent basis.

Drive Killer #1: Foolish Penalties. Let me point out that most penalties are foolish. IF you are having a coach watch for infractions during practice and… the players are penalized for them, then they have NO EXCUSE when it comes to being penalized during a game. Some of the biggest are a) illegal use of hands (it’s still Holding, to me!) and b) Illegal Procedure; i.e., either aligning incorrectly (too many men in the backfield; 2 backs in motion; or, jumping offside.) Sorry Coaches but… these are on YOU!!! These are things that must be addressed and RE-addressed in practice. You cannot let your players get away with this. 5 up/downs or 5 pushups makes the point. Let the punishment “match” the number of yards you’re penalized in a game. It’s too important to just “fuss” at the players and then rush on to the next play!

Then you get the more serious penalties like late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct. Again, “what you emphasize, you will achieve.” If you fail to emphasize how important it is to NOT commit an infraction by basically “ignoring” it in practice, don’t expect your players to suddenly not commit violations in games.

Drive Killer #2: Missed Assignments. I remain amazed at coaches who think it’s more important to “get through” their practice script of plays than it is to STOP! CORRECT!! and RUN IT AGAIN!!!— till it’s executed correctly. A missed assignment is going to put you “behind the sticks” and now you’re going to be paddling upstream on subsequent downs. Give quizzes. If a player can’t tell you his assignment on a particular play immediately, drop him for 5 push ups! If he knows it… carry a pocketful of Hershey’s Kisses… and toss him a piece of candy. Make sure whoever you put on the field KNOWS his assignments. The other side of this is HOW to execute his assignment. I see way too many teams who try to pass and the QB has barely set up before a DL is in his face! Teach your players HOW to pass block. If you don’t know how, talk to coaches of teams that successfully pass the ball and learn from them.

If you’ve read any of my other stuff on this blog site, you know that I emphasize doing a few things realllllllllllllly well. It’s not how much offense you have; it’s how well you execute what you do have! Pare things down and focus on the key things. Your players will execute them better.

Drive Killer #3: Poor Play-calling. If you drive the ball on the ground all the way down to your opponent’s 15 yard line and then decide to throw a pass???!!! What’s up with that? If you’ve been moving the ball effectively out of 1 formation, why change? It seems to me that Offensive play-callers get “bored.” You seem to be thinking: Wellllllllll… things have been going too well running this play or this formation; let’s try something else!” Really??? What’s the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” How true when calling a high school offense.

Then, the overall Drive Killer gets back to my basic premise that is the foundation of my coaching philosophy. I call it my “5 P’s of Success.” PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. The key is “Proper.” I observe too many coaches failing to prepare their players properly. It leads to a ton of mistakes that kill drives and ultimately lead to your side of the scoreboard showing LESS points than your opponent when the clock ticks down to 0!

Recipe For Success

Posted by admin September - 26 - 2017 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

I had a coach contact me the other day and admit that last week’s post “fit” his situation and he appreciated the words. He seemingly asked in frustration, “Coach, what was your secret of success over such a long period of time?” He went on to say, “We had a couple of good years and then fell right back into mediocrity.” This is what I shared with him.

A “recipe” is just what it is: a certain number of ingredients (all necessary) all measured out in the just the right quantity; then allowed to sit and finally, bake for the proper amount of time. Then… your cake/pie/cookies come out just right! My wife makes THE best home-made chocolate chip cookies. I noticed recently that once she’d put all the ingredients together that she put a lid on the bowl and put it in the refrigerator for a while. I’d never seen this before, so I asked her about it. “You need to let the cookie dough firm up before you spoon them out in the pan or they will lose their shape and spread out too much in the pan.” I didn’t know this! It’s one of those Little Things that can make a BIG difference. Remember that, Coaches, when you are preparing your team.

There are a LOT of factors that can produce a successful season. Obviously, having talent helps a lot! Having experienced, knowledgeable and loyal assistant coaches is important, too. But, there are those intangibles that a successful coach comes to realize are necessary to being successful. If I had to write out 3 ingredients that need to go into the recipe that produces “yummy cookies” (winning football teams!), I’d suggest these:

Teach, expect and demand (if necessary) that your players:
1- Play HARD
2- Play Smart
3- Play Fast

I think I got this from Bear Bryant… or something similar to it. At any rate, it has proven to be a successful recipe for the different teams that I led for 31 years as a head football coach. Let’s look briefly at each ingredient:

1- Play HARD. I’ve heard coaches say that “I can’t teach hustle.” Au contraire! I beg to disagree. If hustle is a fundamental block of your coaching philosophy then it is imperative that you teach hustle; ie., playing HARD. You have to teach it because most people are not self-motivated. You do a lot of drills where going hard to the whistle is expected… and if they don’t, they do it again. Pursuit drill on defense is a great example. Timing each gasser or sprint during conditioning is essential. If they don’t make their time, they run an extra sprint. They need to know that lack of hustle can get you benched. What you demand, you achieve.

2- Play Smart. Players simply MUST know their assignments in order to be successful. If they don’t know them, that falls back on the coach. Either you are trying to do too much or… you need to find a better way to get it in the kids’ heads. Another area of “playing smart” was staying away from making “bonehead errors.”
Those “little things” during a game that can cost you dearly. One thing I always did during practice was to make sure we talked a LOT about things like: a) don’t block behind the ball! Be a cheerleader— don’t have a TD called back cuz you did something stupid. b) there’s no reason to ever get a late hit. Know where you are on the field. And if it happened, the player “paid a price” with some reminders after practice on Monday. c) ball carriers don’t fumble. We worked a lot on ball security but… if a fumble occurred, the player got to do one of “Coach J’s Fumble Drills” during practice on Monday. It was a strong deterrent to coughing up the ball in subsequent games. Something I learned from my high school coaches, Billy O’Brien and Jimmy Calhoun, is that we want to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes.
Never beat yourself! I’ve said it before: you may be called “Coach” but you’re really a “Teacher.” Soooooooo… teach!

3- Play Fast. Kids won’t play fast unless they are confident in what they’re doing. Hesitancy invariably causes a player to be that “one step behind” that keeps him from making the play when you need him too. It also means being in shape so that physically each player can play fast and hard for 4 quarters. So, it’s mental and physical.

These are just some things to think about as you evaluate your coaching style and how you’re practicing during the week. Once your players understand that this is what’s expected of them… they will work to achieve these objectives. There were many Friday nights that I stood in front of our players just prior to taking the field and reminded them to: “Play HARD! Play Smart!! and… Play Fast!!! Let’s go have some fun!!!”

When It ALL Goes Bad!

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

It was a rivalry game! The newspaper had hyped it as the game of the week in the entire area. Two reallllllly good teams meeting for the first time in a number of years where the game actually meant something to BOTH teams. Excitement was in the air; a big crowd was in the stands and… we fell flat on our faces!!! We gave away 3 scores and shot ourselves in the foot 3 times inside their 10 yard line. Final score: 0 to 35!!! Total deflation!

Have you ever had it happen to you and your team? Expectations are high. You’re excited about the season and… BANG! It all comes crashing down. It happened to us with that thumping we received on Friday night. Sooooooooooooo… what do you do when this happens? “Panic” is NOT an option! Playing the “blame game” is NOT an option! “Giving up” is NOT an option! and… ADDING MORE PLAYS is NOT an option! A wise coach once told me that, “when things go bad, reduce… don’t increase!!!” You need to simplify— not complicate!

Some of you have probably heard my slogan. It’s one of our Principles of Success for Coaches. It is: SIMPLICITY = CONSISTENCY!

If you want things to be “simple” to learn (and I am not talking about “dumbing down” things!!!) then you have to make things consistent! Otherwise, you are creating confusing and doubt in the minds of your players. This, in turn, leads to hesitancy. If a football player hesitates, he’s going to get beat! For example, you can’t have one set of blocking rules for O linemen vs. an even front and then a different set of rules (for the same plays!) vs. an odd front! It’s not consistent, therefore not simple, and thus… confuses your linemen.

Take a look at your game stats and your playbook and see if there are plays that you are rarely (or ever) running right now. Get rid of them. Stop practicing them. Concentrate on those “Big 5” key plays that you need to improve upon.

Finally, you have to be the encourager. You have to “speak life” when your players are down. It won’t do any good to criticize and point fingers when things have gone bad. Make it clear to your players (and coaches) that we are not going to stop working. We ARE going to get better. One of my favorite sayings is from Tim Duncan. I believe he shared that he first heard it from his grandma when he lived in the Caribbean. It goes: “Good; better; best. You can never rest! Until your “good” becomes “better” and… your “better” becomes “best!”

Coming From Behind (to Win!) and… Getting Better

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

One of the hardest things a HS coach has to deal with is being sure that he is maximizing the talent that he has. You simply have to play to your strengths. That requires analysis and evaluation of your personnel and staff on a weekly basis. Although I’m not an advocate of taking 5-6 hours each weekend to grade every play of every player, I do think it’s important that you take some time to study the game video. If you’re on Hudl, you can use the telestrater and make notes as you’re going along. When you’re finished, send it out to the players and coaches. By the way, I wouldn’t send the game video to your players until after you’ve made your notes! Why? The players will stay up Friday night just to “watch themselves!” They don’t care as much about seeing what their mistakes were. If you don’t post the game until after7 you’ve made your notes, at least then… as they watch the game, they’re going to see your notes.

I also make sure that I make a big deal about big plays that they make too! I “telestrate” stars all over the clip! One other thing you can do to be sure they watch the video is to “imbed” a secret reward! Somewhere during the game (you can do it twice if you want), you select a clip and type a note to the players: “When you see this note, text me. You’ll get a reward on Monday!” For those who see it and text you, keep a bag of Hershey’s kisses in your desk at the locker room. When a player who can tell you what clip the “secret surprise” was located, flip a couple of kisses at him!! It’s not a big deal but the kids love candy!!

The final step in this post-game evaluation is the toughest. It’s when you decide that you have to make some changes in personnel and/or positions. It can be a “shock to the system” of a high school player when he’s told that he’s been demoted or moved to another position. But, you show him the evidence from your evaluation and (this is important) give him HOPE! Let him know that his position is now “open” and if he’s the better man during the practice week, he’ll start. You can give the other player some game time if you want to evaluate him in game situations or… maybe the back-up performs better in practice and he gets the starting nod. But I’ve always like the concept that our Wrestling coach used with “wrestle-off’s.” Whoever wins the wrestle-off during practice is the one who wrestles in the match that week. A little healthy competition can teach a high school kid a powerful lesson.

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