Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Myer and Leach

Posted by admin January - 4 - 2010 - Monday

After hashing over the 2 major news events coming out of the Bowl season so far, I wanted to pass along a few ideas about Urban Myer’s and Mike Leach’s decisions to you.
First, reflecting on Coach Myer’s decision… I think I spoke of this adequately before in an earlier post when I shared some ideas about post season “get away from it all” and how to organize your out of season. I know that I had to put the brakes on myself numerous times over the years as I became more obsessed with “getting ahead” during the off season.

I can empathize with what Urban must have been feeling after that big loss to Alabama. All of us get overwhelmed at times. The pressure that we put on ourselves to win is tremendous. I read a statement made by my good friend, Bud Foster (the D Coord. at Va Tech), a day before the Chick-fil-a Bowl last week: “I coach out of fear of failure.” He wants to be soooooo prepared that he minimizes those chances of failing. THAT is what motivates him.

I talk a LOT more about this situation in my book, 101 Little Things That Can Make a BIG Difference. Check it out! Also my blog entry on “After the Season” focuses on this aspect of slowing down and taking some time off to re-charge your batteries.

This situation at Texas Tech with Mike Leach and Adam James is really what I want to focus on. It is a situation that I suppose is only going to be fully rectified in court. But there are things that any coach should be aware of that will minimize the possibility that this might ever happen to you and your players.

First and foremost: Your job is to coach football! Your Trainer’s job is to evaluate and treat injuries. You need to make this abundantly clear to your Trainer and Team Doctor. They don’t tell you what plays to call and you don’t tell them how to treat an injured players! Guys: stay out of that business. It will lead to nothing but trouble.

Don’t go to your Trainer and tell them something to the effect: “you’ve got to get that guy back on the field for us by Friday. We’ve GOT to have him for this week’s game! Do what you’ve got to do to get him ready!” That’s a recipe for disaster. You need team guidelines as to how a player who can’t practice is to be treated; where he’s supposed to be and if he’s expected to dress out… even partially. You need to sit down with your Trainer and Team Doctor and review these guidelines before the season starts. If a player attempts to go out to the practice field without being properly dressed, for example, you have a guideline written down that your Trainer can enforce. If there’s a problem, the Trainer knows to let you know. I even tell the Trainer that he/she is responsible for whatever conditioning the injured player can participate in.

Most importantly, don’t alienate that player by making fun of his injury or attempt to embarrass him to “quit acting like a pansy and get back out here to practice!” You’re setting yourself up for trouble. “I” was that injured player back in my playing days in high school and college and it was embarrassing enough not to be able to practice with my teammates. If a coach would’ve singled me out as being “less than a man” for not practicing, I would have been humiliated. Regardless of whether you “like” that particular player or whether he came out to practice with a cocky attitude and made you mad, you CANNOT single him out by ridiculing him for being a possible malcontent and/or malingerer.

You must have a Player Policy Sheet with your policies for handling every conceivable situation you may confront during the season. (The one I used is also in my book) Once you have your policy on Player Injuries written out, you have something to stand on. If a player refuses to follow your policy, you now have grounds for disciplining that player. That should NOT, however, include banishment from the practice field. You deal with him in private in the coach’s office after practice is over. I might add that a phone call to his parents would be warrented also. Keep the lines of communication open with your team parents. It’s better to hear it from YOU first rather than the boy gets home and unloads his side before you call!

I like to follow the guideline of “W.W.J.D.” in making decisions that affect the young men that I work with. I think another way to consider what your actions would be, if placed in an untenable situation like Coach Leach apparently was, is to ask yourself this: IF this were MY son, how would I want him to be treated??? Apparently, Craig James did not like what he heard from his son about the way his son said that he had been treated by his Head Coach. And the fur began to fly.

I’m hearing some commentators say that this is a “touchy area”.. that coaches need to be more careful in their dealings with players because parents are quick to jump on any little thing. I disagree. If you build the rapport and respect with your players and their parents that they deserve, then incidences like this are minimized. One of the most significant statements that I make at our Parent Orientation meeting during pre-season is: “Moms and Dads… I understand that you have given me the responsibility of caring for your most precious possession— your son! I will do everything that I can to preserve that trust. I, and my staff, will do everything possible to help your son and NOT hurt him. He is important to us too.”

If you don’t have that attitude towards ALL of your players, then I suggest that, perhaps, you are in the wrong profession. Because… if it’s not about the kids, then who is it about? You and your ego?! I hope not.

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