Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for February, 2011

Transition to Spring Sports

Posted by admin February - 23 - 2011 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

We’ve had a great turn-out for our off-season work outs thus far. We started with 14 and grew to 25 last week. I commented to my wife when I got home last Wednesday that we’ve been doing this for 6 weeks now and not once have I had to fuss at anyone about not giving 100% on every drill!!! It’s an amazing group of guys!
But, this week spring sports started at my school. And for a small school that means that the majority of the kids are going to be playing a spring sport! Today when I arrived we had 4 players waiting for me. At one time in my career I would have disappointed and down in the dumps; but, I guess I have matured some! One of my assistants and I ran them through their drills just as if there were 24 (or 44) instead of just 4. By the time we got to our second drill station, one young man walked over from Track practice. He’s very dedicated and could have gone home but chose to come to our work outs. That speaks of his character but also what we are trying to do here as far as making football something to be involved in (at least partially) year-round.

Once our work-out was over, I called them up and thanked them for coming out. I told them that if only 2 of them show up next week, the coaches will still be here! I sait, “We care about you and we care about this program. From January to July is the time to see the most over-all improvement in your strength, speed and agility. Keep coming on Wednesday’s and we will help you improve!”

I don’t know how many will show up next week but I know that we made an impression on those guys today. They’ll talk about it among their friends tonight and tomorrow. I want them to know how important they are to me and how much I want to help them achieve their goals.

From a personal standpoint, it was a reality check. I had just talked with a coach a few days ago about something my dad told me a long time ago: “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” Don’t get upset over who does NOT show up… focus on the one’s who ARE there and give them a great work out. Make your off-season program something that they want to participate in and you’ll get the kids out there.

Building Trust

Posted by admin February - 16 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on Building Trust

I just had a coaching friend write and ask my ideas about building trust… and how important is it to a team’s success. First off, I think it’s very important. But, it is something that you have to build. You have to make it a priority in your off-season and right on through the fall!

He related how he has several players who can really help them…but they won’t make a commitment to the weight room. He wanted to know if they should just cut them lose now. I related to him how it is only February. It’s a long way to August and the start of practice. Encourage these kids but I’m never one to give ultimatums to teen-agers! He’s in high school, for goodness sake! Those kids probably have no clue what “commitment” is all about. You can’t build trust, responsibility and other positive character traits in a young man if they aren’t around you to have an influence on him.

I found that those guys who are hesitant to join your lifting program see themselves as weak! If they come into the room, they’re going to be embarrassed— so why come in there? Your studs are the ones already there! They “want” it and can’t get enough of it. You have to become a strategist/recruiter/salesman and find a way to make your off season program appealing to those players who don’t want to come in the weight room.

One thing I did was… one day a week we had what I called Skills and Drills Day. There was no weight room work-outs. We were out on the track and the field doing agility work; plyometrics; speed training and then… we let them just throw the ball around (with no coaching!) They are like little kids when you just toss a couple of footballs out there! Some of them kick; others punt; a lot just tell the other guy to “go deep!” Just observing from a distance can give you a chance to see who can run and catch. The kids are having FUN… that’s what brings them back!

Now I have a platform to encourage that guy who won’t lift to take the next step: “why don’t you come back tomorrow and work out with us in the weight room?” Once they get in there, you’d better have your veteran lifters ready to take them under their wing and HELP them… not belittle them! If you want them to come back, you need to make it a team building experience and not an opportunity to embarrass a newbie. He’ll never come back if he feels humiliated because he’s not as strong as his peers.

I know you feel pressure to get those kids motivated and committed. But don’t let the pressure get to you! You don’t make enough money to let it ruin your day. And… if you’re feeling pressure, you’re passing that pressure along to the athletes. I don’t know many people who respond positively to high pressure salespeople. We may cave in momentarily; but when we come to our senses, the item we were pressured to buy gets returned. Kids who feel pressured to come in the room won’t stay there long. Make it as positive and challenging as you can.

Overlooked: Tempo!

Posted by admin February - 14 - 2011 - Monday Comments Off on Overlooked: Tempo!

I was working on some offensive stuff today and got to thinking… tempo and snap count are two little things that I haven’t talked about much. They tie together in the sense that how quick you get set and then how soon after that you snap the ball all work together to keep the opposing defense off balance. What made me think of this? I was watching the Washington National’s “classic” baseball game on tv earlier this evening. They were replaying Strausburg’s first start this past summer against the Pirates. The announcer said as he snapped off an 82 MPH round house curve: “How can a batter even touch that?! He’s expecting high 90’s heat and he drops a curve in there that breaks his knee caps. The batter can’t move!”

WOW!!! I’d love to be able to do that against those 11 hungry young men over there waiting for my guys to snap the ball!!! How do we do it? With tempo!” That’s what Struasburg did with his change-up curve!

I love the Oregon commitment to a “fast break” offense. Get up there and snap the ball! I’ve thought for a long time that huddling is wasting time! Time we could be using to get another play or two (or 5!) off in a game! Of course, that’s true unless you want to “slow the game down” and let the clock be your friend! I’d rather be in the attack mode and make the defense have to play at my speed. Or… should I say “speeds.”

I heard Pat Murphy from Helena MT speak at the National Wing T Coaches Clinic 2 weeks ago. He gave 3 excellent presentations. One of the little things that might have been ignored was how concerned he is once his offense goes to their shotgun package in the Wing T about how quickly they get the ball snapped once they break the huddle. I believe he said that he wants to break the huddle and get the ball snapped in 4 seconds! THAT is tempo! I saw several clips where the defense his team was playing against simply was not lined up and ready to play. He abused them! The psychological impact, in my opinion, is tremendous.

But, you can’t have tempo unless you have a “base line.” That’s why I like to change the tempo… just like Strausburg changes speeds with his different pitches. When we huddle and run our base offense, it is a “standard” pace. I want our kids jogging to the line but we are not really in a hurry. But, when we go to our Spread Shotgun attack, the first difference is: we don’t huddle! That changes things for the defense right there. They don’t know at what pace or tempo we’re going to be moving at untill they get a bead on us. We can go “regular” pace… just don’t huddle or we can go “NASCAR” pace where we are in 2 minute drill mode… even though it’s not an end of half or end of game situation. Get ’em cranked up! Make the defense play chase!

The final point here is your snap count. I think it is critical that you have at least 2 different snap counts and now (thanks to Coach Murphy again!) I’m advocating a third: “No Play.” You’ve seen Spread teams do it. QB calls out the play, lifts his leg or claps his hands, barks out a signal and everybody just freezes. Wellllllllll, except for the defense! They have a tendency to jump! In high school we call it a “cheap 5.” But I disagree. I think it’s a valuable 5 yards… you earned it! By being more disciplined than the defense, you got them to jump. That’s playing the psych game at its best!

Don’t Cross the Line

Posted by admin February - 9 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on Don’t Cross the Line

It’s that time of year when everyone’s off-season program is in full swing and some of you are gearing up for Spring practice. While you are looking at your program, I want to encourage you to use this as a time of SELF-evaluation also.

We hear and read about famous men who get themselves in trouble because they can’t control themselves. I want to encourage you to “NOT cross the line!” Set clear boundaries for yourself— and KEEP them! Wisdom tells us: 1) Don’t cross the line. The first time you do you tell yourself, “just this once.” But what you don’t know is, you’ve opened a door you may not be able to close!

2) It’s easier to cross it the second time. The man who slips downstairs while his wife’s sleeping to watch something on tv or on the computer that he knows he shouldn’t (why is he sneaking around if it’s OK??!!) soon discovers that, like an addict, you have to increase the dosage. Before you know it you’re driven to seek even higher levels of arousal. The Bible makes it pretty clear: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” (Rom. 6:16)

3) Eventually the line gets blurred. You keep wavering between what’s right and what’s wrong, thinking, “I can quit any time that I want,” and the Enemy of our soul whispers, “Gotcha!”

4) Finally the line disappears. Like the story of the Prodigal Son, you lose everything. Spiritually, you lose your confidence before God. Personally, you lose your sense of self-worth. Publically (and this is when it goes viral), you lose respect and influence with others.

It’s important to note that “good” things can hurt you too! For instance, a work ethic is a good thing, but lack of balance can make you neglect your family and even ruin your marriage. Rest and relaxation are good things, but too much “vegging out” in front of the TV will stunt your growth… professionally

Interviewing for that Head Coaching Job

Posted by admin February - 2 - 2011 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

I was asked by a colleague for some pointers in interviewing for a HC position that’s come open in his area. He’ll be meeting with the committee next week. I may have commented on this in an earlier blog (last year) but it’s “that time of year” when people are hiring so I thought it was worth repeating.

My views on the interview process are based on a background in Psychology and a study of this whole process. You might consider my views as a little “radical” because I don’t take the “normal” approach to interviewing. My feeling is: The LESS the better! Many of you want to come in with these booklets— which would put War and Peace to shame in their number of pages— that you think are going to impress the interview committee. Let me tell you, that’s the last thing that will impress a principal, a Math teacher, a player’s mom, the local bank president— whoever is sitting on that hiring committee! They will hire you because of: Who you are and NOT what you know!!!

People are not aware of how much impact “body language” has on our interactions and, more importantly, the opinions we garner about others when we first meet them. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “first impressions matter” but WHY do they matter? Because our tendency is to “size up” people based on what we perceive at the non-verbal level. Too much cologne; deodorant break-down; too much hair gel; wrinkly clothes; food stuck between your teeth; looking down instead of making good eye contact…. and more. All of these “body language” cues speak louder than anything you will verbalize.

Not that WHAT you say isn’t important also! You need to be ready to give good answers to the questions posed. This is where rehearsal comes in. Videotaping yourself is good but getting in front of an “audience” is better. You need feedback from people… about how you made them feel. You want to focus on their emotional reaction to you… not your answers. You might sway someone on the committee with a good answer to a question posed but you’ll leave a lasting impression based on whether you touched them on an emotional level. That’s what effective sales techniques are all about. What are you selling to the committee? You are selling yourself!!! Again, it’s not how much you know; it’s what kind of impression you make. Think about it… the guy who got that job that you intereviewed for 3 years ago. He’s now gone from that school with a record of 2-28!!! Someone on that committee must have thought he was the best candidate! Somebody thought that the guy could coach! But… look at the record. What did he do; what did he say that got him the job??!!! I would bet that he came across on that non-verbal level as being more pleasant or more enthusiastic than the other candidates. It could have been something like he had some college experience or knew somebody on the committee— who could speak to what kind of person he was. Very rarely do you find the coach who’s selected as being the guy who comes with the biggest resume/playbook!

When you go in to meet with them, shake everyone’s hand and look them in the eye and… SMILE!!!! Sure you’re a little nervous but smile anyway. Before you sit down, ask where they want you to sit. Upon seating yourself, make sure you’re sitting up straight. If you brought a resume or booklet, do NOT distribute it until you get up to leave. You don’t want anything distracting them from observing and/or listening to you. They can look over the written material later.

When answering questions, be succinct. You don’t need to “impress” them with your vast warehouse of knowledge. My thought is: make them ask for more. Give a response that answers their question. And… it’s important to know HOW to “end” a response. “In conclusion” or “to summarize” lets your audience know you are finishing. A voice inflection up says the same thing. Make sure you make eye contact and smile at the person who asked the question as your finish. If they want more information, they can ask for it. Leave them wanting more…. don’t have “diarrhea of the mouth!”

Once you’re excused, thank them again and there’s nothing wrong with shaking hands with each person again. If you brought written material, you better be sure that you have a copy for every member of the committee. Find out beforehand how many will be on the committee and bring at least 2 extra copies in case they sneak somebody in on you! OH… your handshake tells a lot about you too! Don’t crush someone’s hand and certainly take it easier when shaking a woman’s hand. I think it goes without saying that how you dress and what you wear speaks volumes about you too.

I would say in conclusion that substance is important but… appearance is everything! I love the statement: If subliminal cues don’t sell products, then why do advertising companies spend millions for 30 seconds of commercial time during the Super Bowl broadcast?!

My “5 P’s of Success” once again come into play here: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance! If you have questions