Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Discipline = Teaching

Posted by admin May - 17 - 2016 - Tuesday

I was blessed to have had great coaches when I played high school ball at Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake, VA back in the mid-60’s. I am proud to say that during my varsity career I never played in a losing game! (We tied a couple! but NO losses!!!) We were a powerhouse. It was also the era of Vince Lombardi… where coaches everywhere were attempting to emulate Lombardi in ALL facets of their coaching. Everyone wanted his success on the field (several NFL championships… and later, 2 Super Bowl wins) but, somehow, too many coaches also decided to emulate Lombardi’s tough, disciplinarian—martinet personna when dealing with their players. Quotes from Lombardi’s Packer players (“He treats us all like dogs!”) just fueled the fire. In my mind, it gave licence for coaches to be terrorists. Fortunately for me and my teammates, this was NOT the case with our coaches. In fact, I can remember only 1 time in 3 years that a coach even raised his voice at me! Oh, there was lots of correction and doing things over till we got it right; but, our coaches did not subject us to endless streams of invectives or hours of grass drills for minor infractions— like so many other coaches were doing. And… isn’t it funny that the one time that I was “fussed at” by one of the assistants is still so clear in my head 50 years later??!!! Hummmmm??? Think about it!

Discipline on any team; in any organization is critical to its success. Without discipline, there is no order. Without order, the team crumbles under its own weight of disobedience. Teams need discipline and coaches need to be cognizant of 1- what discipline actually is! and 2- how to use it effectively to get the desired result.

Let’s establish one thing right now: Discipline does NOT = “Punishment!” It does NOT equate to PUNISHMENT!! This alone can create a paradigm shift that will revolutionize your coaching. I briefly stated in last week’s post that what discipline DOES equate to is “TEACHING.” I often say to coaches who are also classroom teachers: “When you are handing back a test paper to your students, do you make nasty VERBAL comments to those students who did poorly on the test?! Do you scream and rant at those students who failed your test?!” Invoking the wrath of the teacher is what every student desires to receive, right??!! NO… of course not! So, why subject your players to this verbal abuse??! Cuz they’re football players and they need to be able to “suck it up?!” Not really. They may be mentally and physically tougher than the average teenage boy but… it doesn’t mean that your verbal assault is going to improve his play. THAT’S the key!

What we as coaches, teachers… leaders are looking for is positive results from our subordinates. It’s really a case of motivation. What propels our players to WANT TO succeed??? I submit that degrading remarks, critical comments and endless “Punishment Periods” are not the answer!

My definition of a great coach is, first and foremost, that he is a great teacher! Even a better description would be that he is a great “CONDITIONER.” Not that he can run his players to death doing gassers or grass drills but that he can “Train” their minds (and bodies) to perform at a level that produces great results on the football field. This is NOT accomplished through PUNISHMENT!!! If anything, “Punishment” is DE-motivating!!! and that’s definitely NOT what we want!

I was a “yeller” on the practice field. But… it was NOT to scream and yell at an individual player for screwing up. I raised my voice to 1- shout encouragement and/or 2- to be emphatic that we needed a better effort from “Everyone.” It was never a personal attack. The kids KNEW when I was upset cuz I got L-O-U-D! If you scream ALL the time, kids learn to “tune you out!” If coaches are going to be positive motivators then you need to speak “Words of Life!” Be known as an encourager. Be known as a positive guy. DON’T be known by your players as “the coach who, all he does, is chew your butt off when you do something wrong. NEVER do you hear anything positive from him!” (Is THAT how you want to be remembered by your players???) I hope not!

LAST THING: Let the “punishment FIT the crime!” Yes, there are times when you WILL have to punish someone… or a whole team! When players break the rules, swift and JUST punishment needs to be meted out! If our players were late getting on the practice field (unexcused) they did one “up/down” for every minute they were late. If a player got a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty in the game, he got 15 tackles on the 1-man tackling stick on Monday after practice. (See: we worked on a skill while we were punishing!) If our defense didn’t pursue the ball (exhibited laziness!) during Team period in practice, they got to bear crawl to the sideline and back… while the Scout O was getting ready for the next play! … which, by the way, ALWAYS takes too much time!!! If one of our offensive players jumped off side during practice, everyone on offense dropped down for 5 push ups. (5 yard penalty = 5 push ups! NOT 50 or 100!! 5 makes your point!) And… why is it that Receivers coaches punish guys for dropping a pass? First with 10 push ups and then they start doubling the amount? We’d have kids on the ground doing 100 (fingertip) push ups… missing 3 or 4 more chances to catch a pass! How does this MOTIVATE or TEACH a kid to catch the ball better????!!!!! See my point??!!! Let’s “discipline” that player by teaching him HOW to catch a football… not humiliate him by doing hundreds of push ups for missing a pass. If he can’t catch, he shouldn’t be at wide receiver anyway!!! Be a great coach— be a great teacher!!! Train your players through the use of effective motivational techniques.

“If you want someone to REPEAT a behavior, REWARD it when he does it! If you want a player to STOP doing something, IGNORE it and eventually it will go away!” That’s from my days in Behavioral Psychology class at The College of William and Mary! (and “No!” I was NOT there at the same time as Thomas Jefferson!!! lol) I never forgot it. It works!!!

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