Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

What Now?

Posted by admin December - 2 - 2020 - Wednesday

Those of you who were able to play football this fall are more than likely done with your season. If you are still playing, then it means that you are in the playoffs. If so, good luck! I want to talk to those whose season has ended. Even more specifically, to those whose season did not go as well as you’d hoped it would. The question is: what do you do now? My answer? You get feedback! And you get it from a number of sources.

I was reading an article about my Virginia Tech Hokies’ defense this morning. They have the unpleasant task of taking on Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers’ offense this weekend. What I found interesting were the quotes from the Clemson Offensive Coordinator. They were not your typical coach speak— lauding the Hokies on how great they’ve been playing; what an outstanding job their new DC has been doing. Nope! He was honest and, wellllllllllll…. blunt! In a nutshell, he said that Tech’s defense has been “all over the place. That they still haven’t found their identity.” In my mind, that’s the kind of feedback that Coach Fuente and his staff needs… IF they are going to improve! Self-evaluation is fine. Unfortunately, self-evaluation often doesn’t give you an objective picture of how you’ve been doing. That has to come from someone else! Who? Anyone who has seen you play and has a level of expertise in knowing something about how football teams are supposed to perform.

One of the key groups that I sought feedback from at the end of each season was my graduating seniors. They had nothing to lose. Their career was over and they didn’t have to worry about any fallout if they spoke their minds about the program they’d just participated in for the last 2-3 years. Getting them to “open up” was the hard part. I always led with this question: What can I do as the Head Coach of this football program to be a better leader? In this way, you are asking for feedback but you’re asking your (former) players to help you… help you to improve. Take notes and don’t stop to defend yourself. Listen! Get clarification if you need it but let them talk.

Another group would be opposing coaches. Someone whom you respect and maybe won’t play again next year. Question him about what he saw in general. Then ask for specifics: how hard was it to prepare for us? What gave you concerns? Was there something you saw that was a weakness on our part? You want the good, the bad and… yes, even the ugly!

Media people. Or, recruiting service guru’s. They come to your games. They see you play. Question them about what they saw. Let them know that you want them to be forthright with you. You can’t improve if you don’t know what your weaknesses are.

There were former coaches who followed our teams when I coached. I liked to “pick their brain.” It might even be worth asking one of them if they would be a scout for you next year. Ask them to watch your team and get a report from the retired coach on what he’s been observing.

The important part is now the hardest part. I’m not saying that it’s going to necessarily be pleasant to have someone criticize things you’ve been doing. But, the listening is only the starting point. My challenge to you is: are you willing to make the changes that people have shared to improve your team’s performance? I have been in this role as a “scout” for a couple of coaches since I retired. They were all willing to listen. Very few of them had the fortitude to attack the weaknesses I observed and make things better. Several of them are not head coaches anymore.

Growing Means Changing. That’s one of my church’s Core Values. It’s true. If you want things to get better, you must be willing to change. Cuz what you’re doing now doesn’t seem to be working! I hope that things get better for you… I really do!!!

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