Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Playing “2 1st Halves!”

Posted by admin October - 4 - 2016 - Tuesday

I am helping a local team with the implementation of the Delaware Wing T offense. I’ve seen some good things. Execution improves each week. Unfortunately, it’s not showing up in the win-loss record. They lost their star running back in the first game and it’s been a little tougher to get that yardage when it’s crunch time.

More importantly, the team as a whole has not been able to “put it all together” for 4 quarters. Three times in the last four weeks, they’ve gone into halftime with a lead… only to fall in the second half. I think it’s become something of a “psych out” problem for the players.

I had the same problem the first year I returned to coaching at a local private academy. In fact, one of the returning seniors warned me how “last year, coach, we lost 5 games in the 4th quarter. We had the lead and couldn’t hold it.” The same thing held true through the first four games of the, then, current season. We were winning at halftime in ALL 4 games and succumbed to our opponents’ relentlessness late in each game. We were 0-4 and easily could’ve been 3-1 or 4-0. We just seemed to have this “psychological block” for playing 4 quarters!!!

We were on the road for our 5th game and once again went in at halftime with a 2 touchdown lead. You could almost “feel” the foreboding atmosphere in the locker room as we met as a team to recap the 1st half. I’ll chalk this one up to hearing God’s “still, small voice” in my head but… I looked at the players and said, “Guys, take off your shoulder pads!!!” The look on their faces was priceless! I repeated my command, “Take off your shoulder pads… NOW!!! We have played 5 great “1st halves” and folded in the 2nd half. Sooooooo… we’re going to play 2 1st halves today! Take off your shoulder pads just like it’s the beginning of the game. We’re going to go out in a minute and play ANOTHER 1st half!!” Something clicked! One by one they began to peel off their pads, laid them on the floor and began to move around the room. I could tell that it was a very “freeing” moment. After 5 minutes or so I told them to “get dressed. We’re going out to play this game!”

The “second” 1st half went even better than the “real” first half! We proceeded to win our last 6 games of the season. Yes! Every halftime, we went in and took off our pads! I did it a couple of times over the next 4 seasons just as a reminder for the players. I’m going to recommend that we do this “ritual” this Friday night for the team I’m helping.

Overcoming psychological barriers sometimes requires creating a paradigm shift. This means “turning things around” in our heads so we see something from an entirely different perspective. We created that paradigm shift in our players’ heads and once they saw things differently, it changed their behavior. Why? Because “perception is reality!”

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