Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“Don’t fuss… be thankful!”

Posted by admin March - 15 - 2010 - Monday

A couple of coaching friends have written me to “vent” about their situation at their school; i.e., dealing with their weight program. One coach asked me to comment on “multi-sport athletes” as opposed to a boy playing only one sport. Good topic!

We encouraged our players to participate in other sports…. as long as the coach of that other sport reciprocates. If he wants to play “you can’t play with my toys!” game… then I let the AD know that we would be a little stingy too. But, for the sake of discussion… I think the more sports a kid can participate in (compete!) in, the better!

I think back to our top football players over the years and there were very few who did not compete in another sport… and did extremely well. I am not belittling the need for players to get bigger and stronger in our weight program, but the chance to compete at a high level in another sport is one of those factors that builds mental toughness. Several coaches have asked about how you develop “toughness” in your athletes. I think that mental toughness is the prerequisite for having physical toughness. You’ve got to work on their minds!!! Being put in those blocks at the start of the 200 m. dash “builds character.” Those athletes will have time during the summer to get something from your summer weightlifting if you set it up right. I liked for our guys to wrestle in the winter and run track in the spring. If they wanted to lift with us, that’s fine… but I encouraged them to consider how the other sports might help them for football.

Being at the middle school level for 2 years now (since retirement from HS coaching) I have gotten to see the “background” of how a lot of attitudes are developed in boys. For example, we had 3 “key” 8th graders this past fall, whom we were counting on to lead our team, decide to run Track last spring instead of lifting in our introductory weight program we have here. I found it interesting that they all seemed to keep coming up with excuses as to why they couldn’t run in the meets??!!! When it was time to “compete” this past fall, we saw some of the same aversion to “putting it on the line” in football… just as we had in Track!

I know that it is easy to get frustrated when you don’t feel like you’re getting the participation in your off-season weight program you want. The kids who aren’t doing ANYTHING are the ones you need to be concerned about. A little tip: get your players to exert some “positive peer pressure” on those guys. You can talk till you’re blue in the face… but hearing it from their peers can work wonders. And it doesn’t have to be a team leader either. Sometimes it’s better to get a friend of theirs who’s made a commitment to lifting to talk with them.

Another factor: those (we’ll use basketball) players who play another sport and refuse to come out for football and/or weight training. The issue might be that “selfish” coach who won’t let his (basketball or wrestlers) players participate in another sport; i.e., football. Go talk to that coach and see if this is his policy or… is this just what the player is “perceiving” to be the pressure, or the threat, from that coach to play only his sport. I learned from my players that kids can easily misinterpret our statements. I used to tell players: “Ron, you need to be in the weight room.” Some thought it was a put-down (“you’re so skinny or weak that you NEED to lift weights!) and others misintrepeted it to mean that “you better be in the weight room or you won’t be playing football next year for us!” That’s why you need to talk to the coach. If you’re still not satisfied, try to set up a meeting with the coach, the player and you… so everyone can “hear” everyone.

It would help, if you have an uncooperative/selfish coach, to meet with that player’s parent and the player. I was always honest with parents but if you’ve got a 6’3 forward in basketball who could help you in football… call his parents and set up a meeting. How many 6’3 forwards are playing major college basketball??!!! Not many. But how many colleges would like a 6’3 wide receiver who can run and jump?!!! Great selling point. I had a 6’5 All State volleyball player and his dad approach me during the winter of the boy’s junior year. He wanted to try football before he graduated from high school. I knew that this was going to cause problems with the volleyball program so I told the AD exactly what had happened— the dad approaching me! I made an agreement with the boy. IF it was obvious after a week or so of pre-season practice that he just lacked the skills to help us in football, that I would “release” him so he could go back to the volleyball team. That seemed to help. Oh… the boy was outstanding and led our league in receptions that next fall with 9 TD catches– can you say “alley oop” pass in the red zone??!!!!

I would always let my AD and/or Principal know what’s going on. That selfish coach can also be a spiteful coach. You need to let the proper people know what’s going on and what you are doing about it. A good AD is going to encourage the athletes in your school to participate in as many sports as possible. and… encourage coaches in the school to share. One motivator that our HS had was: if a student/athlete was a 3 letter winner for at least his/her junior and senior years, they receive a beautiful (large!) plaque honoring them for this achievement. They are called on stage at the end-of-the-year Awards Assembly so every athlete in school can see them receive their award.

Soooooooo… if you don’t have a couple of kids in your weight program that you would like to be in there— “Don’t fuss! be thankful!” Be thannkful for who IS in there with you and work like crazy to help them acieve their goals. When those other athletes see what’s happening with these weight lifters, they will take notice.


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