Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Head Coach— High School vs. College

Posted by admin March - 19 - 2012 - Monday

I spent a great Friday/Saturday in Lynchburg, VA at the Mid-Atlantic Wings ‘n Things Coaches Clinic. Some outstanding speakers and Cecil Phillips always puts on a 1st class operation.

I heard 2 different (HS) head coaches say that: “I’m going to be more of a CEO this coming season. I’m not going to coach a position… just kinda wander around the practice field and fill in where I’m needed. I’m gonna let my assistants handle more duties.” UGH!!! In probably 99% of the cases (that I know from being in HS coaching for 35 years!), that is a BAD decision. Let me explain why and you can draw your own conclusions.

First off… “been there; done that!” There’s not much that I didn’t try during my 22 years as a public school head football coach. I decided one year that I would pattern things after what I’d seen after visiting Va. Tech’s spring practices for 2-3 days. I told the staff that I was NOT going to coach a position on either side of the ball. That I would be the CEO… wander around the practice field and step in, help out and/or make corrections when I saw fit. I thought my staff would love having more responsibility and a little more autonomy. What I discovered (from a conversation with my AD after the season) was… my staff was jealous. “Why does Lew get to stand around during practice while we’re working our tails off?!” “Coach J. is just lazy… he didn’t work as hard this year.” THAT kind of stuff!

Now maybe I had a rather selfish, lazy staff but… from MY perspective, what I found was: I was bored out of my mind!!! With no position to coach, I DID just wander around the practice field. I became the “Schedule Time-keeper”— watching my clock all the time to blow the whistle when it was time for a change of periods. I also learned why a lot of college head coaches build towers on their practice field. If they’re going to “oversee” things then… they need to be in a position to “see over!” I just couldn’t be in 2 or 3 places at once. So rather than focusing on (at least!) coaching up one position… I was wandering around looking over everybody’s back. Which in turn made my assistants very uncomfortable.

A long-time assistant who was extremely loyal sat down with me and laid it out. I think this gets to the crux of the matter… and it’s why I said at the opening that… in 99% of the cases that I know about— the head coach needs to be highly involved in at least one position and in ALL phases of your program. What he said to me was: “Lew, you are the best coach on this staff! You spend more time studying the game. You spend more time watching video. You know our system better than any other member of our staff. If you ‘draw back’ from coaching, we are putting ourselves at a distinct disadvantage. You need to be FULLY involved in all aspects of our program!” WOW! He certainly got my attention.

I started evaluating. I won’t mention names but… 2 of the most successful programs in the state of Virginia over the last 25 years (one guy won 9 or 10 state championships during the 80’s and 90’s and the other has now won 2 state championships and 8 district championships in the last 10 years) basically do ALL of the coordinating! They call all of the plays on Friday night. They make all of the defensive calls during the game too! They are smart; they know the game; they know their personnel… they know MORE than anybody else on their staff. They’re out front directing the team… where they need to be!

College coaches go out and hire highly talented, extremely knowledgable assistant coaches. They can afford to take a little more “hands off” approach. I just don’t think that most head high school coaches can afford to do that. A HS head coach needs to be as involved as he can be. Yes… “coach your coaches.” And, challenge them to be “students of the game.” But, when it comes down to it.. you wouldn’t tell your best RB (who is also your place kicker) to “just go over there and practice your kicking. That is a very important part of our team. We may put you in for a play on Offense if we need you in an emergency situation.” Hummmmmm…. I just don’t think that that’s utilizing your talent to your best advantage.

Just my thoughts….

2 Responses to “Head Coach— High School vs. College”

  1. Joe Bremer says:

    Coach –

    Well said…..I agree completely!!!

  2. Tracy Jackson says:

    I think what you are saying is so true. Your players and assistants need to know you are out front in every aspect. The general needs to lead his troops, and there is a reason you are the head coach, and it is for the reasons you stated: probably the best informed, puts the most time in and has the greatest emotional stake. I have done it both ways and my two sons who coach for me told me the same thing, and that the defense would not be as good if I was not coaching the four down. With my best teams,in 22 years of head coaching, I was the O line coach, the most important position on the staff IMHO.