Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

“The UVa Way!”

Posted by admin April - 15 - 2016 - Friday

If you can find Pilotonline.com, you should go to the Sports section and read Ed Miller’s write up of Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s practice and… practiceS! By “practice” I mean, Ed’s description of yesterday’s events during practice and for “practices” the discussion of HOW Bronco wants things done. WOW!!!

The article opens with a detailed description of the “punishment period” that several players had to endure for getting into a fight during practice. It’s waaaaaay over the top – the amount of punishment – in my opinion, but… these are college athletes— NOT high school and Mendenhall is establishing his expectations with a new team. My main point, though, is the same as Mendenhall’s:
“DISCIPLINE is paramount” on a football team!!!

This group of players did “Up-Downs” for “19 long minutes”— is how Ed describes it. And… Bronco “repeatedly made the players start over if they didn’t perform perfectly. “Hey coaches, every chest that doesn’t touch – add 10,” he said. The final tally was 170 “up-downs.” Miller says, “the price paid for a punch thrown during a brief dust-up between offensive and defensive players.”

Though it “wasn’t much of a punch” said one of the players, Mendenhall saw it as a “teachable moment.” It showed the players how the coaches would handle such things. Mendenhall came from Brigham Young in December and started preaching: 1- accountability, 2-developing “will before skill” and 3- instilling a culture of everything being “earned, not given.”

Mendenhall is a devotee of business management theory. He has a whole library of business management books that he’s read on display in his office. His practices are run efficiently and… fast!!! Real fast. No wasted time. Yet, Bronco practices the adage of “anything not done perfectly has to be done again!” Miller goes on to say that the players seem to be buying into this new environment. One was quoted in the article as saying that the accountability and discipline is just what the UVa football program needed. Mendenhall has certainly turned things “upside down” in Charlottesville this spring. Miller quotes Bronco as saying, “The work capacity is part of our (UVa football) culture. We don’t want anyone on the planet that has a football program to work longer or harder or more, but us, we just happen to do it in a really fast and efficient way in a condensed amount of time.”

I’ve advocated any number of times in my posts on this blog that “there is a HUGE difference between high school and college football.” As high school coaches, we can’t do a lot of things the way college coaches do in running their programs. However, there is a fundamental philosophy that pervades our culture today that needs to be rectified. That CAN be the role of the high school football coach. I can sum it up by using Bronco’s words: “EARNED, not given!” I see too many of our young people living under the influence of this “culture of entitlement” that is so widespread today. This is something that as coaches we can combat. Our “star” players are held to the same standard as the rest of the team. Players earn starting positions– not have them given to them. Discipline and accountability become the hallmarks of our program. We can enforce with “tough love” and not be martinets about it. But, my experience while coaching was if you set high expectations for your players, they will strive to achieve them. You do it in a way that is positive and encouraging— NOT degrading or condemning for your players. One of my favorite pastors has a saying that I love! He says: “We cannot rise to LOW expectations!” Set high and lofty goals for your team and exhort them to achieve them.

We have a responsibility as high school coaches to not only produce wins ON the field but to work at making our players winners OFF the field too.

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