Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Prepping for the Playoffs

Posted by admin November - 7 - 2017 - Tuesday

Some of you have the good fortune of being in your area’s playoff’s at this time of year. For those who have packed up the equipment, get some rest! You’re now going to turn your program around by getting in the weight room as early as possible! An extra week of lifting in November is not likely to win 4-5 more games next fall. Get away from it all. Your players will come back refreshed too.

If you’re in the midst of the playoff’s, I want to pass along a few things that I learned during my tenure as a head coach. Eleven of the last 15 years that I coached, we earned a playoff berth 11 of those seasons. We won regional and state championships during that run. We were doing something right! and… we did some things wrong. Let me share some things that I feel will be of interest and value to help you navigate your way deep into your playoffs.

1) Keep your same routine. There will always be a little more sense of urgency once the post-season starts. However, the more you can stick to your regular schedule, the better the atmosphere will be. We are creatures of habit. Do something to upset our homeostasis and it psychologically knocks us for a loop. For example, if your normal practice is 2 hours, don’t all of a sudden run it out to 3 hours so you can get some “extra work” in. If your schedule worked during the regular season (it must have or you wouldn’t be in the playoffs!), it will work during the post-season.

2) Do NOT take any playoff opponent lightly. Suppose you are the higher seed in the first round. The tendency would be to think that “we have to be the favorite.” If you pass that along to your players, whether consciously or not, it is a recipe for disaster. Going in over-confident or lacking in focus or intensity might be just what the underdog needs to pull off the upset. EVERYBODY in the playoffs is a good team. Sell that to your players… and, I might add, your coaches. If they go out with a “cocky” attitude, players can pick up on that too.

3) Don’t change your game plan! This sounds a little like #1 but I want to focus on your specific game-planning here. We were in the Final 4 in the state one year and thought we had a very good chance of getting to the Finals and winning it all. The team we faced in the Semi’s presented a blitz that we had not seen. We spent waaaaaay too much time preparing to block it and, because of that, it took away from our practicing the other plays that we should’ve been preparing.
Stick with what’s been working during the season. As a long-time Wing T coach, we were never quite sure what defense we’d see come game-time. People tended to “freak out” when they scouted what we were doing and tried to come up with (what they thought) was some elaborate (bizarre) defense. We knew on the first series whether we were going to dominate that night… because, if they weren’t in their regular front, they hadn’t practiced enough to stop us.

As my dad used to say, “Dance with who brought you!” Another one was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You’ve earned the right to be a playoff team because of your success during the regular season. Just keep doing what got you there!

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