Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

No “Pay”… No Play!

Posted by admin December - 17 - 2020 - Thursday

I really can’t believe that I am writing about this subject today. However, if you are looking for answers as to how to “turn around” your program or… “get it over the hump” then this is something you need to look at. It will fall under the umbrella of DISCIPLINE. More specifically, who gets to play on Friday night?! This all came about because of a discussion I had recently with a guy close to a struggling football program who told me that the HC lets guys skip practice for various (“good”) reasons during the week but still let’s them play on game night! My reaction? “Whaaaaaaaat? Really??!!! You’ve got to be kidding??!!!”

Unfortunately, kids (people in general) will try to get away with as much as you let them— particularly adolescents. It’s why it’s said that “teenagers are always pushing the boundary limits.” Most people are not self-motivated. In fact, most people are LAZY!!! It’s why we have coaches and personal trainers! I bet you can count on one hand the players whom you have coached who did not need to be pushed. Those are special kids indeed! I also bet that they are extremely successful now that they are adults, too. My point being: if you let kids “skip” practice and still let them play/start on Friday night, you are doing that player a disservice and you are setting yourself up for a lot of problems in your program.

Team guidelines must be in place to deal with a subject such as this. Players, parents, (assistant) coaches, trainers and administrators need to be clear on what your policy is as far as missing practice and still being allowed to play. Once you establish your guideline, you need to publicize it so there are no questions. Finally (and here is where the rubber meets the road)… you must be committed to following through on that policy! Even if it’s your starting QB! If not, you are wasting your time.

Here was the policy that I used for 25 years and it worked out well. First off, we had a clear-cut understanding of what an excused vs. an UN-excused absence from practice “looked” like. If a starter had an unexcused absence, he did not start. In fact, he missed the entire first half. Then, if the backup was doing fine, the starter might not play in the 2nd half either! If a player had 2 unexcused absences, he was benched. In both instances, he would have to win his starting position back… along with some extra conditioning for what he missed during practice.

An excused absence came with a doctor’s note. Missing practice simply because he didn’t “feel well” was not excused. If the Trainer deemed a player was not eligible for practice, that injured player still dressed out (THAT is important!) and was at practice the entire time. If the Trainer gave him exercises to do, those had to be accomplished also. If a player could not practice (at least) by Thursday— one day of “active” practice after attending ALL practices— then he did not play on Friday. Again, all of this was subject to the Trainer and/or Team Doctor’s orders. It amazed me how many “miraculous Thursday healings!” we had over the years!!! But, I always told our Team Doctor that he made the medical-related decisions… not me!

Every Head Coach should have a “Player Policy Sheet” or Guidelines of some sort that are written out, distributed to players and parents… reviewed with those groups; signed, returned to the HC and kept in a safe place during the season. Due process is a big deal in this day and time. You need to be able to “CYA” if and when the time comes. Having clear-cut policies in place helps you avoid unpleasant discussions/confrontations that might come up.

Finally… a word of caution: BE CONSISTENT! If you’re going to make a “rule” or formulate a policy, you better be ready to back it up! Overlook an infraction just one time— particularly if it involves a starter or your “star” player— and it will come back to bite you in the butt! Be consistent! Stick to your guns! Create discipline by expecting players and coaches to adhere to your policies. It’s a KEY to success in any organization!

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