Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Head Coaches as “Leaders”

Posted by admin February - 28 - 2017 - Tuesday

There is soooooooooo much out there on “Leadership” that I don’t know if I can add anything that hasn’t already been shared by some of the experts! So, I’m going to try to synthesize things and give you some bullet points on what I’ve learned; what I’ve seen and, thus, what I know and have lived through as a head coach for over 30 years.

In its simplest form, when I size someone up as a potentially strong candidate for a head coaching position… it comes down to 2 qualities:
1- Self-confidence
2- Self-control

Self-confidence is NOT cockiness. It’s a quiet self-assurance that you know what you’re doing and you know in your own mind that you can motivate, teach and lead by example. Now, admittedly, some coaches who are extremely self-confident get labeled as arrogant. I think this is oftentimes jealousy! The successful head coach believes in his system; he’s been successful running that system and others see him as being aloof or unapproachable. “He’s (fill in the blank with someone you might be a little envious of!!!) just a bit too full of himself for me!” says the coach who wishes he was having the success that the “arrogant” one is!

NO! I’ve told our players over the years that the difference between being cocky and confident is: a confident person can back up the positive feelings about himself because of (positive) past experience. The cocky person is simply trying to convince others AND himself that he is good! It’s pretty easy to see right through the charade. It’s like the black belt in karate. He doesn’t have to walk around telling the world how “bad” he is. He can show you!!!

Interestingly, I believe that your level of self-confidence directly affects what style of leadership you naturally assume. Which in turn goes a long way in demonstrating how much self-control you possess. I’m not talking about a passionate, enthusiastic guy who loves to see his players compete and excel— and cheers them on! No. I’m talking about the guy who lacks self-confidence. He therefore, tends to micromanage and exhibit the Authoritarian style of leadership. When things go wrong, he quickly points the finger at others instead of taking responsibility and he readily criticizes staff and players when they fail to meet his expectations and demands. Why? It gets back to that level of self-confidence he possesses.

As a young head coach, I always set high expectations for my players. However, when they failed to achieve my level of expectation, I would become frustrated and angry. I had to “grow up.” For me, the Main Thing that transformed me was pursuing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As I gained confidence in the Lord, I gained confidence in myself. One of the Fruit of the Spirit that the Bible talks about is: yep! Self-control! Jesus helped me with this too. My advice? Try Him! You’ll like Him! He already loves YOU!!!

We kept working hard. We developed a system of offense called the Delaware Wing T. We adopted Virginia Tech’s 4 man front pressure package on defense and we concocted a rather unorthodox style of play with our special teams which drove people crazy!!! And… I was determined that we would persevere! “Never give up! and… NEVER give in!” became our battle cry! I had a great staff that stayed with me, for the most part, for a long time and we emphasized to the players, starting in middle school, that we were going to be a great football program. A program built on: UNITY! RESPECT!! and TOTAL EFFORT!!

We had a system. We had a philosophy. I grew to be a confident, disciplined leader. I basically wanted a program where kids wanted to play for me! They knew they were going to work hard but it was going to pay off. We built a tradition of excellence based on these tenets. As a result, we had 16 straight seasons of at least 6 wins in one of the toughest districts in the state of Virginia. The concept works!

Leave a Reply