Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for November, 2010

Consistency Leads to Excellence!

Posted by admin November - 29 - 2010 - Monday Comments Off on Consistency Leads to Excellence!

The thoughts I’m sharing with you today come from my school principal, Lee Fowler. Lee coached high school ball for a number of years and was quite successful. So, when he speaks, I listen! He writes:
“I’ve observed a lot of programs during my 40 plus years of playing, coaching and following football. I have come to realize that if your basic offensive or defensive system is sound, and CONSISTENT, it really doesn’t make any difference if it’s Wishbone, Wing T or Spread. The key thing is consistency.

I have never met a coach who was successful in the long run who changed what he was doing every year— especially in high school. There are a lot of reasons for this. The most obvious being that the longer you use your system, the better you know it. The better you know it, the better you are at coaching it. When problems come up, you are more adept at diagnosing them and finding a remedy.

The less obvious reason has to do with talent level. A top flight HS football program will periodically compete for the state championship, but will rarely miss the playoffs. We all know that talent is cyclical. However, when you have a “down” year, with a good program you are still getting the kids out for your team and you’ll have a few good players. The problem is the other players that you have to compete with. That is where the value of consistency comes in. That offensive lineman who has been doing the same techniques and footwork for 3 years in practice can now be a competent senior starter. That holds true at virtually every position. That is why you so often see programs “reload”, when in fact they have been building for 3 or 4 years. They have kids who have been in the program and understand what it takes to succeed. IF…. you are changing your offense every year to “fit” your talent, then (unless you’re in a situation where you can recruit), when you have a down year, you are going to struggle.”

Be conscious of this right now! This is the time of year when you begin to tinker with your offense or defense. You are starting to make plans for what you want to run next year. My/our advice is: If your system is sound, spend time in the off season with your entire staff learning more about what you are doing. Clinics, visits with other staffs and watching coaching videos are invaluable tools to building a stronger base of knowledge. As Lee says, “make sure that you do it within your current system. Don’t shift gears completely or it will cost you when you need it the most.”

Time of Year

Posted by admin November - 22 - 2010 - Monday 1 COMMENT

Coaches: For those of you who have maybe just recently started reading my blog, I want to point out that I try to make the entries “timely” for coaches. By that I mean that what I write about “fits” into the school year as far as what is typically going on in a coach’s life at that particular time. For example, last year at this time (you need to go back in the “history” section), I wrote about dealing with failure… and that some of you may be facing a firing from your postion. I shared some words of encouragement.

Rather than re-writing, I encourage you to look back over the previous months’ entries and see if there’s a topic that is cogent to your situation. If there’s something that you’d like me to respond to, please feel free to email me and let me know!

I want to share a thought this morning with you that really impacted me when I read it. It’s title is: Make Ripples!

The story’s told of Elzeard Bouffier, a 55 year old widower who lived in a French village in 1910. He was surrounded by poverty and despair. So he did something! He collected thousand of acorns and planted them throughout the area in which he lived. When they took root, he then cultivated beeches. When they became saplings, he planted birch trees. One day, amidst the death and devastation of World War I, a mysterious grey mist appeared on the horizon. It was the oaks of 1910, below them the adolescent beeches and below them the tiny birch seelings.

Bouffier kept planting, and at the end of WW II, French environmentalists annoucned that a “natural forest” had “mysteriously” sprung up, flourishing amidst its barren surroundings!

But the story doesn’t end there; his forest started a chain reaction. Water flowed in brooks that had dried up. The wind scattered seeds and willows, rushes, meadows and gardens sprung up. New people came to live there, bringing with them hope and prosperity. Elzeard Bouffier found acorns, planted them and God did the rest!

God can do much with little. Look what He did for David with a sling and a stone. He fed 5000 people with a little boy’s lunch. And He will do the same for you! Your life is like a pebble; it may not look like much, but drop it into a pond and watch the ripples spread out in every direction. Every day you live, you have 3 options: 1- Think only of yourself and your own interests. 2- Since success doesn’t come without the possibility of failure, take NO risks and go no further. or… 3- Ask God to show you what you’ve got, then use it to make ripples.

Give thanks with a grateful heart. Happy Thanksgiving, 2010!

Aggressiveness and Toughness

Posted by admin November - 16 - 2010 - Tuesday Comments Off on Aggressiveness and Toughness

I commented in an earlier post about the lack of aggression on the part of some of our players this season… and said that I’d be commenting about it more at a later date. That “date” is NOW!

I was talking with my principal this morning and he lamented about how tough it is at our age to get back in shape! He’s trying but it hurts. I won’t use the word that he used to describe himself. Let’s just say that whimp would be a synonym for that descriptive word he used!!! He went on to say that of all the famous quotes from Vince Lombardi that, perhaps, the one that holds the most truth is:
Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Aggressiveness is, I think, mostly innate; i.e., built into us early on in life… maybe ieven n our genetic make-up at conception. That’s not to say that we as coaches can’t make a player more aggressive. The problem becomes how to develop it (aggressiveness) without being abusive to our players.

I would submit that the answer lies in building toughness in our kids. And, it starts with mental toughness… not physical! I don’t remember where I first heard it, but some coach that I respected said something to the effect that: “we’ll break them with our mental toughness and then we’ll crush them with our physical toughness!” Which, to me, says that it’s more of a state of mind than anything else.

Once a kid has mental toughness, he is able to do so much more (from a physical standpoint) than his opponent. There’s a self-image created in your players’ minds that there is nobody tougher than us. How do they know this? Cuz they’ve worked harder than anyone else to get there.

It starts in the off-season weight program. And, it’s more than just “pumping iron” for 6-7 months. This is the time to “get inside your kid’s heads” and make them start believing that they are tough! It’s something you build… not tear down! In my book, 101 Little Things, I give some ideas about how to create this atmosphere of toughness.

Once pre-season work-outs begin, the type and amount of conditioning that you do adds the next “coat of armor” on their psyches. I would encourage you to talk to your Track coach (if he is knowledgable) or contact the Strenth and Conditioning Coach at a local university to get some ideas about the type of conditioning to do for football and, even more importantly, how hard to push them… how much work you do! The whole time complimenting your players on how hard they are working and how tough they are becoming. Once they believe in themselves, they are going to be a lot more confident when it’s time to hit someone else.

What I am saying is that the psychological approach to your off-season training is just as important as the physical side in your plan to improve your players’ performance.

Walking the Plank!

Posted by admin November - 12 - 2010 - Friday Comments Off on Walking the Plank!

We had our Team Celebration the other night… aren’t parents great?! They took care of everything!! It was wonderful! The coaches were sitting around talking and the lamentation began: “what went wrong last week in our one loss… that kept us out of the City Championship!” There was that “one player” who seemed to break down on every play that could’ve been a big play! and… it was one guy in particular who just didn’t get after anybody all day. Our line coach brought up the age-old question: “How do you motivate a kid to give his best every play??!!!??” My response was: “Coach, if we could find the answer to that, we could make millions!”

Motivation. What drives people to succeed? What factors block them from achieving? It’s a complex question, no doubt, but there are some universal factors that any wise coach is going to be familiar with and apply when working with young people. Let me give you an example:

It’s easy to walk across a plank that’s on the ground, but raise it a little and it becomes harder. Now, imagine that same plank 100 feet up, without a safety net under it; looks scarey doesn’t it?! The Bible even talks about it: “Fear is crippling.” (1 John 4:18)

And the more that’s at stake the harder it is; white-knuckle syndrome kicks in and you develop a case of the “what if’s.” Fear is living in the future… before you get there. And among the trolls lurking under the bridge to your future are 2 things that Dr. Joan Borysenko cites as affecting your performance:

1- Fear of Failure. She writes: “When I was admitted to Harvard, I was sure there’d been a computer error and that I’d be exposed as a fraud. A Lawyer freind of mine stops just short of terror every time she has to give a final argument before a jury. Even when you’re an expert, fear doesn’t necessarily go away. Accepting fear as part of the journey instead of running from it, helps you conquer it!”

2- Fear of Imperfection. This one makes it hard to do anything, because perfectionists set unattainable goals and berate themselves when they can’t reach them. It’s impossible to learn without making mistakes; so learn, and move on.

Solomon said, “Fear of human opinion disables (you)” (Proverbs 29:25). We need to stop worrying about pleasing people all the time. When you look back at what you’ve already overcome, you begin to realize that most times failure doesn’t do permanent damage— you actually grow through it!

I saw a sign in front of a church that I drove by the other day. It said: “Change is inevitable; growth is optional.”

So stay focused! With God, you can walk any plank. Who knows, you might even begin to enjoy the challenge!

End of the Road!

Posted by admin November - 4 - 2010 - Thursday 1 COMMENT

Welllllllllllllllllll… like some of you, our season came to an end yesterday. We were 5-0 going in and were playing another undefeated team for a slot in our City Championship game. (Remember: this is Middle School— 6th, 7th and 8th graders). We had several chances to break it open in the first half but mistakes and the other team’s aggressiveness intimidated some of our kids and we kept making that “one mistake” which stopped a big play from happening! We led at halftime 2-0 but it was tenuous. They came out on the first drive of the 3rd quarter and stuffed it down out throats! It was pretty much over when they scored again early in the 4th. Their last score was just an “add on” after our kids had gotten frustrated and overwhelmed.

Which, of course, leads to my thoughts on getting whipped. I took the staff out to eat after the game and the conversation was based on: “what went wrong? what happened?!” My brief analysis was this:
God placed in each of us a mechanism that, when we are in a physical confrontation, it kicks in and creates in us a Fight or Flight reaction. For some of our kids, it was the first time all year that someone “hit them in the mouth” on the snap of the ball! For some of them, it was a shock… and they backed down! (FLIGHT!) For a few of our kids, they got mad and fought back. But… it was some key players who didn’t take the fight to the opponent who cost us numerous times when we needed someone to make a play.

One of our assistants asked the “million dollar question” over dinner: HOW do you get kids to be more aggressive?!” I told him that he could find the solution to that problem that he could make millions!!! My only response was:

A lot of this is environmental. How the kid has grown up. Yes, some of it is genetic make-up too, I think, but it comes down to that first time that the boy is playing “tackle football” in the backyard and someone hits him. From then on, a pattern is developed. He either “enjoys” it and wants to get in the mix or he finds the fear and pain quotient is too high.

We, as coaches, can coax more aggression out of a young player but I just don’t think you can turn a non-aggressive boy into an aggressive one under normal circumstances.

More on some ideas for promoting “good” aggression later.