Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Season’s “Theme”

Posted by admin June - 11 - 2018 - Monday

As school ends for everybody, a head football coach’s mind turns to preparation for the upcoming season. One of the things that I did as a head coach was to create a theme for the players to focus on for the season.

I first saw this around 1990. Our staff visited East Carolina University for their coaches clinic. I noticed their players walking around the football complex with their ECU Football team t shirts on. A big pirate in the middle with ECU Football surrounding it. Interestingly, when a player would walk by I saw something printed on the back of the shirt which made me scratch my head! Near the top were the letters in big, bold print: TEAM. Hard to see, but down at the bottom of the back of the shirt, were the little, tiny letters: Me. What the heck?!!

As another player passed me, I spoke up and asked him: “What is the significance of the two words on the back of everybody’s shirt?” He replied, “Coach, it’s to remind everybody of what our coach wants us to focus on this season.” “What’s that?” I asked. “BIG Team! Little me,” he stated. WOW!! It was the first time I’d ever heard it put that way and it stuck with me.

That summer when I ordered our Team T Shirts for the upcoming season, I had the company we bought the shirts from print the same thing on our shirts! That was the first time that I had our “Team Theme” printed on our shirts. It was an easy way to keep the theme out in the open in front (behind!) the guys all season long. What I realized when I first put on my shirt was that the “slogan” (or theme) was right there in front of me as I pulled the shirt over my head!

It became one of the most important items on my agenda from then on… to decide what our slogan or theme would be for that next season. I even asked the players a couple of times if they had any suggestions. Some of their ideas were very good.

Let me point out too that I used the purchase of the “season t shirt” as a fund raiser each year. I expected every player to purchase a t shirt for the upcoming season. The price was reasonable but still helped us raise some much-needed funds for our football program. I would print the year for that upcoming season in the middle of the front so they couldn’t “sneak in” a shirt from a previous season! The shirts became so popular that I let family members purchase them too. Everybody affiliated with our program was seen wearing our Team T Shirt in the community.

The slogan was important. It focused on a theme that I felt that the upcoming team would need to keep in their psyche. It often had to do with an “issue” that we had to address the previous season that I stressed to the team throughout the off-season. For example, one year we had a group of players who allowed mistakes from a previous play to rob them of their focus on the next play! THAT became the theme for the next year and the slogan on the back of the shirt: NEXT PLAY!

Another time, we’d had a great season the year before. I noticed that a lot of the players seemed pretty satisfied with themselves during the offseason and our success had kinda gone to their heads. I harped on: STAY HUMBLE; STAY HUNGRY! We talked a lot about excellence and what it entailed. STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE was a theme one season.

Is this helping to spawn some ideas in your head? I hope so. Our players liked the shirts and they found the theme/slogan on the back to be inspiring. Your players probably will too.

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