Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Hail Alma Mater!

Posted by admin February - 25 - 2017 - Saturday

I have memorabilia from my coaching career scattered all over the house… though my wife makes me keep it contained primarily in 2 rooms!!! Looking at a picture that one of the player’s mom painted triggered a memory. I get coaches from time to time asking about “how do I build tradition?” “How do I build pride in our program?” I got this idea years ago watching a couple of college football games and kinda combined the two. The painting I was referring to is of one of our player’s helmet being hoisted high in the air. All you can see is his hand, part of his arm and our Winged helmet extended above him. It depicts one of the most meaningful times during the entire week for our football team. Let me tell you about it.

I saw Southern Cal rush over to their band after a big win one Saturday evening. Pete Carroll came over too and directed the band in playing the Trojan fight song. The next week I watched the pageantry and tradition of the Army-Navy Classic (I never miss that one!) I was soooooooooo impressed with how each team stood at attention for the other’s alma mater being played. The next Monday I went to our Band Director with an idea.

We discussed the tradition at our school of playing the alma mater just after the game ends. We both were concerned about how few people even paused and listened. I presented my idea of how to improve this and he loved it. The next home game, this is what we did:

As soon as the traditional post-game “walk the line” handshake between teams finished, our players and coaches hustled over to our sideline right in front of our band. Just seeing this got the fans to stop and see what was going on! As the band began to play our school alma mater, every player proudly raised him helmet above his head and held it there until the end of the song!!! We then huddled for our post-game talk and headed to the locker room. I can’t even tell you how many people waited around to tell me how moving and special that moment was! On Monday, I was summonsed to the principal’s office! He, too, wanted to tell me what an outpouring of positive comments he’d received since Friday’s game. I knew we had something special and we continued to do it for every home game (win OR loss) for the rest of my career.

It’s important to stress to your players what their decorum must be. A LOT of people are going to be watching you and will notice if you don’t show school pride and respect during the playing of YOUR alma mater. I emphasized “your” because I wanted to develop a greater sense of pride in our school. With the football team leading the way, many other students felt compelled to follow suit. From my vantage point in back of the team, I could see the looks of pride on the faces of faculty and alumni at the game.

It’s a Little Thing that can make a BIG difference in your program!

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