Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

What’s YOUR Mindset??

Posted by admin May - 12 - 2015 - Tuesday

I just finished reading an article in the latest issue of American Football Monthly magazine. If you don’t subscribe, you should! I also had the pleasure of hearing Bryan Stinespring of the Virginia Tech Hokies football staff speak at our local sports club luncheon yesterday. Interesting how both the article in AFM and Coach Stinespring’s talk related to each other! The article in AFM is entitled “The Mindset of Excellence” by Tim Mitchell. In both the talk and the article, the coaches emphasized pursuing excellence and the attitude you must have if you’re to achieve it.

Coach Mitchell’s description of a “losing program” really hit home to me. He writes, “They weren’t a losing program because of their record (yes, the record was bad). They were a losing program because the past coaching staff set limits on possibilities.” He later points out, “When you define the young men on your team by the won-loss record, you have officially crossed the line and become a losing program.” I say “Amen” to that!

Coach Stinespring shared about some of the struggles that the VT team had to deal with last season. How, their record of excellence (10 straight seasons of 10 wins or more), had become a goal but at the same time something of an “albatross.” Once they fell to 7 wins, everyone was screaming for their heads. Funny how a LOT of programs would love to have a 7 win season!!! “Stiney” shared how their head coach, Frank Beamer, never faltered. He related how Coach Beamer suffered a serious burn when he was young. Instead of letting Frank feel sorry for himself, Frank’s mom came into the hospital one day and told young Frank, “Walk the Hall.” She made him walk past the hospital rooms of burn victims more serious than his. Patients with diabetes who’d had a limb amputated. Kids dying of cancer. It was a real wake up call for Frank… and something he never forgot. So when things got bad for the Hokies last fall, Coach Beamer exhorted his staff and players to “Walk the Halls.” There’s always someone worse off than you. Be appreciative of the blessings that God has provided you.

As Coach Mitchell says, “To be a program that touches excellence, you must be a coach who has no limits. A coach who believes losing is simply an opportunity to grow…”

We had a situation last fall on my team that forced me to take some drastic measures. We had suffered several majors injuries and we were playing the meat of our schedule with as many as 7-8 starters missing games. It was the first time in my 26 years as a head coach that we had a 4 game losing streak. We were getting pounded pretty good late in the 3rd quarter of that 4th game. I sensed that there were a lot of players who were on the verge of giving up. I’ve always stressed to my players that effort comes before excellence… and victory. Our guys were not giving much effort— for the second week in a row. I was very frustrated… and a little ticked— to put it mildly! I called the team over on the sideline late in the 3rd quarter and let them have it pretty good. I probably said something that I shouldn’t (I threatened to submit my resignation on Monday if they quit on me again!) but we needed something powerful to wake us up! It worked because we scored 3 times in the 4th quarter and held them scoreless to “make it a game” toward the end of the contest.

I later caught a little “grief” from some of my players for that statement! I explained that I had NO intentions of stepping down. We were on “life support” and I needed to “apply the paddles” to resuscitate them. We were not giving our best effort and that was disappointing. I am going to spend a LOT of time this summer in presenting activities to our players to develop mental toughness. That simply means that I want them to learn to give their best effort no matter the situation. To get a little better each workout. Don’t whine; don’t complain; don’t make excuses when they DO fail. I want them to give their best effort when we challenge them. Then the next time to get a little better when faced with adversity. I want them to “Walk the Halls”— stop feeling sorry for themselves and give their very best each time they compete.

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