Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for January, 2010

Recruiting, Part 2

Posted by admin January - 27 - 2010 - Wednesday Comments Off on Recruiting, Part 2

I wanted to add a note to yesterday’s post.  One other important subject that you need to be versed in:  the NCAA Clearinghouse (which I understand is not even called by that name anymore.)

Questions are going to arise from parents and players concerning how they register; what is a CORE  g.p.a. and what SAT or ACT score earns them a “passing” score.  Right there, with the use of the term passing score, shows that they do not understand the sliding scale concept of grades vs. scores to determine initial eligibility.

It is imperative that you educate yourself on these concepts so you can answer questions as they come up.  Go to the Clearinghouse’s website.  There is an excellent Guide for Student-Athletes that will familiarize you with everything about college recruiting guidelines that you will need.


Posted by admin January - 26 - 2010 - Tuesday Comments Off on Recruiting

Do you want to promote good will among your players’ parents? Do you want to build a sense of trust and confidence in your players’ minds that you are FOR them… that you have their best interest at heart? Then… you need to realize (if you haven’t!) that one of your primary jobs as a Head Football Coach is as the primary contact between your players and college recruiters. If you disregard this; blow it off as “not part of my job description”; or farm it out to an assistant coach… then you are foresaking a major area of what the football community considers to be one of your major functions.

Yes, it takes some work. Yes, it takes extra time at home or during your planning bell. But… it’s for the kids. And if you are not “about the kids” then you are in it for the wrong reasons!

Think back: what was one of the motivations for you playing football back in your high school days? Wehn I was in high school (many moons ago!), mine was that the pretty girls loved the football hero! I bet most of you thought that one day you would play in the NFL! I know I did. That means that a goal for nearly every HS player who’s ever played is to play football in college. Are you a “dream maker” or a “dream buster” for your kids?!

I talk about this subject in my book, 101 Little Things… so I would encourage you to consider purchasing a copy to read more about this. But, let me discuss a couple of things here to make a point: if you want to build a strong relationship among your players and their parents, you need to gain the reputation as being a coach who helps players get to play college ball. Now… notice that I did not say: “get a college football scholarship!” There is a huge difference. That is part of the education process that you have to present to your players and parents. One point that I always emphasized to our players and their parents was: “I, as the high school coach, cannot get your son a scholarship!” I can be your son’s “agent” or “publicity manager” though. I will get the word out to college recruiters that there is a player at our school that you need to evaluate. I will provide game film and highlight dvd’s and academic transcripts. I will “talk your son up” to the recruiters who come through. But… the final decision as to who is offered a scholarship and who is not, is solely the decision of the college coaches. I will be the “promoter” for your son but the colleges will decide whether he fits their needs. Once this key point is established, then it is up to you to back up what you say with your actions. Getting a player into a Div. 3 school is as important in building that good will as it is for a player to go to a top Div. 1 school. It builds your resume and reputation for “getting kids into school!” Which, I know, goes against what I just said… but that is the public perception. You certainly HELPED along the way and that’s something you can talk up with parents.

It is my opinion that one of your top goals as a head football coach is to get as many of your players playing college ball as possible. Developing relationships with college recruiters improves their chances. You must make yourself available to these guys when they stop in your school. You need to get to know them so you can counsel your players and their parents as to what type of football program he might be looking at. If you care about your kids, you want the best for them that you can provide. Taking the time to get to know these recruiters and for them to get to know you is a key cog in the process. I know of a local coach who has the reputation as being “stand offish” and “uncooperative” with recruiters. I still have enough contacts at the college level that they talk to me. It’s amazing the opinions they have of some of the HS coaches in our area. A lot of it is based on what type of job the HS coach does to promote his kids!

This is a general comment on what you should be doing. As far as HOW to go about it, that’s in the book! I will say that having a general meeting for players and parents at this time of year is one major activity you can perform. Have a power point presentation for them and a general meeting one evening at school in the next month. A good friend of mine who coaches at Amherst County HS just related to me that he has his recruiting meeting scheduled here real soon. All interested parents and players are invited. He does a great job in educating his players and really rolls out the red carpet for the recruiters.

When I was coaching, I used to set up individual family meetings for freshmen and sophomores that I recognized as having the ability to potentially play at the D1 level. Meeting with the player and his parents laid the groundwork for what they could expect in the recruiting process. It’s overwhelming for the family and I always let them know that I would be there for them throughou the process. But, I also talked with parents of kids who were not being looked at by the big schools. I would go out of my way to “court” the smaller schools too. You don’t want the reputation as being a coach who only works for his top athletes or one who only works with the big schools! Again, it’s all about developing good will throughout your program.

“The Art of War” and Coaching Football

Posted by admin January - 19 - 2010 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

I watched a show on the History channel the other night about the Chinese military strategist Sun Tsu and his book, The Art of War. I was fascinated by the analogies made that apply to football. I read the book years ago and applied some of Sun Tsu’s concepts to my coaching strategy at that time, but this program took it to another whole level.

I was so intrigued that, when it was over, I went to the internet to see if anyone has written anything about coaching football by applying Sun Tsu’ strategies. I found several but one in particular raised my eyebrows. It was a blog report by Coach John Reed. I have purchased a number of his books on football over the years so I was interested to see what he had to say. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the paradymn shift that occurred as I read his entry!

Coach Reed’s take is that… rather than football coaches taking a page out of the book of military generals and strategists, that military generals should be following some of the concepts that we utilize as coaches!!! The main one being: the use of filming practices and games to help us evaluate our talent, the opposing team and to set our plan of attack! Generals, according to Coach Reed, do not use film to the extent that we coaches do… and that is a mistake!

This led me to the Message Board on this morning and a discussion about game planning that a young coach started. That was the confirmation that I needed to jot down some thoughts about the use of strategy and planning that is a Little Thing that can make a BIG difference in your team’s success on Friday night.

I go back to my 5 P’s of Success: PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Proper is the key word; for without proper preparation, your chances for success diminish greatly.

I refer back to The Art of War and again recommend that you read this book… or at least find a website that will cover the key points. This guy Sun Tsu reallllllllllly understood people and that the intellectual and emotional side of preparing men for combat/competition is a key to successfully overcoming your adversary. If you are interested in improving your ability to strategize and plan, you should read this little book.

I would also refer you to my book, 101 Little Things, for I have a whole section on Game Planning and preparing your players. One of Sun Tsu’s main axioms is that “the little guy” can defeat the “Big Guy” by outsmarting him. Talent helps… no doubt! But your ability to plan and execute your plan is a key to success.

To paraphrase a verse in the Bible from Proverbs: “the people perish for lack of a vision by their leader.” You as the Head Coach need to learn all you can about strategy and planning and executing that plan so your team does not “perish” on Friday nights.

God bless you!

Take the Initiative!

Posted by admin January - 11 - 2010 - Monday Comments Off on Take the Initiative!

In looking at factors that produce successful high school football programs, many times it boils down to factors that produce successful HS coaches! At this time of year, it’s time to start “gathering steam” again as you get your off season program started. Some of you, however, may be finding it difficult to motivate yourself. A losing season last year; a proclivity toward procrastination; or a fear of stepping out into the unknown may be reasons why some of you have not gotten started like you should! We simply have to take the initiative and stop waiting for the optimum moment to get moving.

Too many of us are waiting for someone to come along and tell us what to do next. The story’s told of a man who was employed by a duke and duchess. One day he was called in to speak to his employers. “James, how long have you been with us?” said the Duchess. “About 30 years, Your Grace,” he replied. “As I recall, you were employed to look after the dog,” she said. “Yes, Your Grace.” “James, the dog died 23 years ago,” said the Duchess. “Yes, Your Grace,” said James, “What would you like me to do now?”

Why do we fail to take the initiative? Because we don’t realize the consequences of our inaction. The lesson here is: Nothing happens until you quit holding back! You can’t wait for everything to be perfect. You can’t wait until your fear subsides. You must take the initiative. Overcomers understand that momentum is your friend. As soon as you start moving forward, certain things become clearer and easier. And when the momentum gets strong enough, many of the problems actually take care of themselves.

You can only pray, plan and prepare for so long, then you must step out in faith and act. The only time over which you have any control is the present. The idea of “tomorrow” can be very seductive, but the promise it holds is often false. It’s starting, that stops us!!!

Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, stated, “The greatest time wasted, is the time getting started.” The hardest part of writing a letter is writing the first line. The hardest part of making that phone call is dialing the number.

So how do you overcome this difficulty? You must schedule a specific time for doing what you don’t like to do or fear to do. Each time you follow through and do it, it will get easier and you’ll get better at it. Albert E. N. Gray, a successful insurance agent with the Prudential Insurance Company, states that the common denominator of success— that secret of success of every person who has ever been successful— “…lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”

Notice that nowhere in his definition does Mr. Gray say that successful people like doing these things. He simply states that successful people form the habit of doing them!

Make a list of things that unsuccessful coaches don’t like to do. Then ask yourself: Is that me?! If so, you need to start forming some habits. As previously stated, schedule a specific time for doing what you don’t like to do or fear to do until it becomes a habit.

You must be willing to persevere. The Jordan River didn’t dry up the moment the Israelite priests stepped into the water with the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders. God dried it up 26 miles upstream, so they had to wait till all that water passed by (see Joshua 3:14-17). Why did God do it that way? Because He sees the big picture. So trust God and take the initiative! And may God bless your efforts.

Thanks to KLOVE Christian radio for ideas from their daily devotional booklet, On the Right Note.

Sooooo… now you’ve got the HC job!

Posted by admin January - 7 - 2010 - Thursday Comments Off on Sooooo… now you’ve got the HC job!

What’s next?? You’ve been hired as the new Head Coach. It’s not a great situation but the program is now yours and you want to do the best job you can to get things turned around. A coach just posed this hypothetical situation and asked: “What are the first 5 things that you would do?”

This is assuming that the hire is a done deal and you have been given free rein to run the football program the way you want with NO interference from the AD, Principal or Boosters’ Club President! I might add: if this hasn’t been addressed before you accept a new HC position, you MUST discuss it. If your new Principal says that you will not have the final say so on who you fire and who you hire for your coaching staff, you better notice that BIG red flag flying over the building!!! cuz… you’ve got problems already! It’s OK that you share what’s going on with your administrators (they ARE your bosses!) but if they don’t trust you enough to let you run your program as you see fit, I would be very cautious about accepting that position. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as they say!

OK… here’s what I would recommend that you do, first 5 things, when you take over as a new HC:
1- Have a team meeting with the veterans (from youngest involved in your program, freshmen, to your varsity veterans. And, make sure that they are ALL there. If someone misses, go find him first thing the next morning and let him know that you missed him! That he is important enough that you came and found him individually. Don’t ask him “why” he missed, just show him that he is needed. Set up a time when you can meet individually because you have some things for him to fill out and you want to share with him what you have in store for the team.

In the meeting, you want to distribute an Information Sheet (name, address, phone no., class schedule, position you played— general stuff) and have them fill it out right there. Bring some pens cuz most of them won’t bring one!!! Collect them and hand out a Goal Planning Sheet (you can find a copy of mine in my book!) Tell them that you will be meeting with each of them in the next 2 weeks to go over these goals so don’t lose them!

Finally, and you can do this as a question on the Info Sheet, ask for the names of 3 guys who are walking the halls who they would recommend that you talk to about coming out for football. Be sure to make them understand that it’s THEIR team and if they want to be good, then we need the best athletes we can find. Also stress that “we want you to be ‘picky’— not just anybody can play for this team! Make wise choices!” You’re building a foundation of high expectations in their minds from the get go!

2- Interview Coaches. Start with the current staff and find out who’s interested in being considered as a member of your NEW staff. Ask them to submit a one page resume and a paragraph or two on “what is your coaching philosophy?” Then make appointment times for each individual who submits the paper work to meet with them individually. The coach who posed this question asked about keeping guys on from the previous staff who didn’t show themselves to be “good coaches.” But… it was based on the previous team’s offensive and defensive productivity. I don’t think that this is a valid factor in whether he is a “good” coach or not. If the talent level was down, he may have been coaching his backside off but there’s still not enough stallions in the barn to win the race!

What I’d recommend is: look at their coaching philsophy statement. When you meet with them, ask them to verbalize it to you. That way, you’ll find out if he really means it or he was just copying something from a book to make himself look good! But…. in my mind, coaching philosophy is not nearly as coaching style.
This is the difference between what you think and what you DO!! How does a guy treat kids? Is he a “yeller?” Does he think it’s OK to use curse words or abusive language? As the HC, it’s your job to be sure that your assistants are well versed in WHAT you want taught. How it’s taught is the individual coach’s style. That, to me, is the KEY! Once you have determined who you want to hire, you need to start placing them in the individual positions. I would recommend that you try very hard to hire an assistant who will run your off season weight lifting and speed training program for you.

3- 2nd Player Meeting (and be sure that your whole staff is in attendance!) with ALL interested athletes. Announce when the Weight Room will open. Talk more about your philosophy and some goals that you have for the program. Talk positively. Get the kids excited. Let them know that you have high expectations for them. That, together, we are going to get it done!

4- Get your Lifting program started as soon as you can get it organized and off the ground. This is also covered in my book. You will probably have to continue to “recruit” the halls to get kids out. Make it worth their while to be there!

5- Get your X’s and O’s finalized and start having monthly staff meetings in the spring. Start taking care of the “Little Things”. Do you have both of your pre season scrimmages. Does your AD set up a time for physicals to be given at your school in the summer? Are there 7 on 7 Tournaments you can sign up for in your area? Is there a college that has a Team Camp that you can start getting the kids interested in attending together.

It’s all about “team building.” It will require all of your focus and energy and still practice hasn’t even started! Stay on top of your players grades. Someone may have to go to summer school to get eligible… that’s YOUR job to be sure that the player knows.

It’s also all about changing the climate around your school. If you know anything about meterology, you know that when a weather front settles in (we’ve had 2 bad Nor’eastern storms here this Fall and early Winter in Tidewater Virginia… and now a cold front!), the only way to change that “cold front” is with a massive change in the atmospheric conditions. Without a massive movement of air, the temperature won’t change. YOU have to be that massive warm front!!! You will set the tone for changing people’s minds about football at your school. It might take a couple of years; but, given time and the right people (coaches, administrators and players) it can get done.

Myer and Leach

Posted by admin January - 4 - 2010 - Monday Comments Off on Myer and Leach

After hashing over the 2 major news events coming out of the Bowl season so far, I wanted to pass along a few ideas about Urban Myer’s and Mike Leach’s decisions to you.
First, reflecting on Coach Myer’s decision… I think I spoke of this adequately before in an earlier post when I shared some ideas about post season “get away from it all” and how to organize your out of season. I know that I had to put the brakes on myself numerous times over the years as I became more obsessed with “getting ahead” during the off season.

I can empathize with what Urban must have been feeling after that big loss to Alabama. All of us get overwhelmed at times. The pressure that we put on ourselves to win is tremendous. I read a statement made by my good friend, Bud Foster (the D Coord. at Va Tech), a day before the Chick-fil-a Bowl last week: “I coach out of fear of failure.” He wants to be soooooo prepared that he minimizes those chances of failing. THAT is what motivates him.

I talk a LOT more about this situation in my book, 101 Little Things That Can Make a BIG Difference. Check it out! Also my blog entry on “After the Season” focuses on this aspect of slowing down and taking some time off to re-charge your batteries.

This situation at Texas Tech with Mike Leach and Adam James is really what I want to focus on. It is a situation that I suppose is only going to be fully rectified in court. But there are things that any coach should be aware of that will minimize the possibility that this might ever happen to you and your players.

First and foremost: Your job is to coach football! Your Trainer’s job is to evaluate and treat injuries. You need to make this abundantly clear to your Trainer and Team Doctor. They don’t tell you what plays to call and you don’t tell them how to treat an injured players! Guys: stay out of that business. It will lead to nothing but trouble.

Don’t go to your Trainer and tell them something to the effect: “you’ve got to get that guy back on the field for us by Friday. We’ve GOT to have him for this week’s game! Do what you’ve got to do to get him ready!” That’s a recipe for disaster. You need team guidelines as to how a player who can’t practice is to be treated; where he’s supposed to be and if he’s expected to dress out… even partially. You need to sit down with your Trainer and Team Doctor and review these guidelines before the season starts. If a player attempts to go out to the practice field without being properly dressed, for example, you have a guideline written down that your Trainer can enforce. If there’s a problem, the Trainer knows to let you know. I even tell the Trainer that he/she is responsible for whatever conditioning the injured player can participate in.

Most importantly, don’t alienate that player by making fun of his injury or attempt to embarrass him to “quit acting like a pansy and get back out here to practice!” You’re setting yourself up for trouble. “I” was that injured player back in my playing days in high school and college and it was embarrassing enough not to be able to practice with my teammates. If a coach would’ve singled me out as being “less than a man” for not practicing, I would have been humiliated. Regardless of whether you “like” that particular player or whether he came out to practice with a cocky attitude and made you mad, you CANNOT single him out by ridiculing him for being a possible malcontent and/or malingerer.

You must have a Player Policy Sheet with your policies for handling every conceivable situation you may confront during the season. (The one I used is also in my book) Once you have your policy on Player Injuries written out, you have something to stand on. If a player refuses to follow your policy, you now have grounds for disciplining that player. That should NOT, however, include banishment from the practice field. You deal with him in private in the coach’s office after practice is over. I might add that a phone call to his parents would be warrented also. Keep the lines of communication open with your team parents. It’s better to hear it from YOU first rather than the boy gets home and unloads his side before you call!

I like to follow the guideline of “W.W.J.D.” in making decisions that affect the young men that I work with. I think another way to consider what your actions would be, if placed in an untenable situation like Coach Leach apparently was, is to ask yourself this: IF this were MY son, how would I want him to be treated??? Apparently, Craig James did not like what he heard from his son about the way his son said that he had been treated by his Head Coach. And the fur began to fly.

I’m hearing some commentators say that this is a “touchy area”.. that coaches need to be more careful in their dealings with players because parents are quick to jump on any little thing. I disagree. If you build the rapport and respect with your players and their parents that they deserve, then incidences like this are minimized. One of the most significant statements that I make at our Parent Orientation meeting during pre-season is: “Moms and Dads… I understand that you have given me the responsibility of caring for your most precious possession— your son! I will do everything that I can to preserve that trust. I, and my staff, will do everything possible to help your son and NOT hurt him. He is important to us too.”

If you don’t have that attitude towards ALL of your players, then I suggest that, perhaps, you are in the wrong profession. Because… if it’s not about the kids, then who is it about? You and your ego?! I hope not.