Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for April, 2011

Spring Parents’ Meeting

Posted by admin April - 29 - 2011 - Friday 1 COMMENT

We had our spring parents’ and players’ meeting last night. It was my initial contact with all of my players and parents in one place. I thought the meeting went well because of a number of positive comments that I received after it was completed.

For those of you who’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I took over our program in late December. As a new coach coming into a school with an established program, there were things that I felt like I needed to do to get the ball rolling in the right direction. The editor of American Football Monthly magazine asked me to write an article documenting what those steps I’ve taken have been. It’s going to appear in Gridiron Strategies this spring or early summer. Check it out!

What I want to comment on in this entry are those statements that parents made to me after the conclusion of the meeting that stood out as important to them. These are things that I think any coach should be aware of. They will be in no particular order of importance— I just want to relay those factors that you need to consider in building parents’ confidence in you as a successful high school football coach.

1- Several parents came up and thanked me for stating that practice will end at a specific time every day. If it was a lousy practice, then we “lost a day” that we can’t earn back. We won’t run past the time stated on the daily practice schedule. Our’s is a private institution with strong academics. Grades are important to everyone. When parents know that practices are going to end on time, they are appreciative of the organizational skills that you as a coach possess.

2- Character counts. I talked about sportsmanship, respect, no profanity and Christian character. Though we are not a religiously-affiliated school and I will not be evangelical in my approach with the players, parents appreciate that you are concerned about all phases of their son’s life. The emphasis can’t just be on the physical aspect. I think you must include the emotional/mental and… the spiritual. I’ve found that you can apply Biblical principles to any organization and never even mention God. Yep, the Bible is that foundational to our lives! I talked about everyone having a positive attitude and that “Attitude is EVERTHING!” There’s the emotional/mental component. This is high school football. We as coaches have to be positive role models for the young men who play for us.

3- The final thing that several people commented on was… that I am interested in keeping the doors of communication between parents and me (our staff) open. If you take the attitude that: “this is my program and I’ll run it the way I want with NO interference from meddling parents” then you’re in for a lot of heartburn and frustration. Our parents know who’s in charge but they also know that if they have a concern or need some help with their son (there are so many boys out there with a Mom trying to raise him alone), they can come to me. I don’t want to create an adversarial relationship with parents. Get them involved… they want to help you too… IF you just ask! Get people to invest in your program. That means that they will care about what happens to everything that relates to your team. I am very fortunate that I am part of a real community at my new school. There is tremendous school pride and the people band together to support each other. My job is to cultivate that. It’s a strength and I want it to just get stronger. I am blessed!

These parents are placing the responsibility of taking care of their most prized possession (their son) in your hands. They want to know that he is going to be treated well while he’s with you. If you let them know that you want to work with them, you’ll build walls around your “Village” and not between you and the parents.

Just some thoughts. I hope they help. Comments???

Happy Resurrection Day!

Posted by admin April - 19 - 2011 - Tuesday Comments Off on Happy Resurrection Day!

I sat and watched Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of Christ again the other night. It reminded me once again how much God loves us… that He’d let His Son go through that mauling for you and for me! It was excrutiating to watch it portrayed on the tv screen in high def! WOW! It made me realize how true the Bible verse is that says: No greater love does one man have for another than that he would lay down his life for another! That is what Jesus did on that day… took that beating; got nailed to a cross and died a horrible death for our sins.

My granddaughter was watching it with me and it didn’t make any sense to her about how Jesus took our place and died for us. I told her, “suppose you were over at Sophia’s house and she did something bad… and her Mommy was getting ready to punish her. You stepped forward and said to her mom: ‘No…. let me take Sophia’s place. Punish me instead.'” I could see in my granddaughter’s face that it “clicked.” I hope it “clicks” for you too!

I recall when I was in elementary school living near Washington, DC. Our Cub Scout den went to the Wax Museum in D.C. one day. The scene of the 4 Chaplains on the WW II ship that was sinking from a topedo attack captivated me. They had given up their life jackets to save others. The scene showed them singing hymns and praising God as the ship sank. That same verse was there: “No greater love can be shown than to give up one’s life for another!” Those chaplains were exemplifying Christ-like love for their fellow man.

Let’s remember that life lesson as we close in on Easter week-end. Bunnies and egg hunts are fun but this holiday commenmorates the greatest act of love ever exhibited toward mankind. So… “Love one another!!!”

Remember: “HE’S ALIVE!!!!


Posted by admin April - 12 - 2011 - Tuesday Comments Off on THE CHALLENGE OF LEADERSHIP

I failed to include this at the end of my last post. I am on Bruce Brown’s email list for information that he sends out in conjunction with his organization, Proactive Coaching LLC. If you don’t subscribe, I would encourage you to do so. Coach Brown has some excellent stuff to share with coaches. This month’s email included a “Leadership Lesson” that appears to be from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King described the best leaders as being “tough minded and tender hearted.”

Then Coach Brown has a saying right below that. He calls it: The Challenge of Leadership.
To be strong without being insensitive, demeaning or rude
To be kind (compassionate) without being weak
To be humble without being timid
To be proud without being arrogant
To be respected without being feared

THAT’S why it’s called a challenge!!! If you can’t say that you encompass most of those 5 traits to the degree stated, I would encourage you to 1- start reading your Bible and study the life of Christ; 2- take a course on leadership; or 3- find a less challenging career than leading young people.

Spring Practice

Posted by admin April - 12 - 2011 - Tuesday Comments Off on Spring Practice

I have completed the hiring of my new coaching staff. It took longer than I had hoped so now we are playing “catch up” as far as everyone learning the new system. I had hoped to have had a staff meeting in March but now we will meet in April and May.

What I’ve had to do is start tutoring individual coaches on material that they need to learn. We are having a “Mini Camp” at the end of May. That means that our coaches need to at least know their basic drill sequence for their position for those 2 days of practice. The coaches who have received the brunt of my time so far have been my new Defensive Coordinator and my Offensive Line coach. Then my JV Offensive Coordinator (who will be my Press Box Spotter on Varsity game nights) is hungry to learn the system… so we’re working on his soaking up as much Delaware Wing T offense as he can. He’s a sponge!

This Mini Camp that I mentioned has a 2-fold purpose: 1- introduce our system to our players at my new school and 2- drum up interest in football as the school year is coming to a close! We will be able to evaluate the talent and teach them some fundamentals in 2 2-hour practices. More importantly, in my mind, is the impression we’ll leave in our students’ minds about how positive an experience playing football at our school will be for them. I want this Mini Camp to carry over into our summer weight-lifting program. Momentum at this time of year is an important factor.

Somebody asked me if we are going to participate in any 7 on 7 tournaments. My answer was: “I love 7 on 7 but right now our program is not where it needs to be in terms of having players up to speed with running our passing game or even aligning in a Cover 3. I wouldn’t know how many players would even show up if we did participate.” This falls under the catagory of… we’re growing and learning. Don’t push things too fast. It comes in steps. We’ve got a young quarterback whom I am very excited about. By next summer, we’ll be ready to compete in some 7 on 7 tournaments. Till then, we’ll spend the time learning our system.

For those of you who are in a similar situation as I am (being a new head coach at a new school), I want to bring up that American Football Monthly magazine is going to be publishing an article I’ve written for them entitled, “10 Things New Coaches Need to Do… When starting at a new school.” Look for it this spring.

Let me know if there are questions or topics you’d like me to discuss.


Posted by admin April - 6 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on GETTING ALONG WITH EACH OTHER

I had the good pleasure of interviewing and hiring a new coach the other day. This was a rather unique situation in that I hired a gentleman who is even older than me!!! He is 76 years young! and I hope that I feel and look as good as he does when I get to that age! That sounds weird since I’m coming up on 62 in June but it’s all in how you live life!
We talked about a lot of things as the inteview progressed— me trying to get to know him and he wanted to know how I ran our program. One topic that came up was “Coach to Coach relationships.” He wanted me to share a little about how I conduct staff meetings. I told him that, first off, I’m not a big fan of long meetings. We get in, we get to work and we get out! He asked about how we hash things out. I told him that I am not comfortable with agitated confrontation and coaches arguing with each other. I shared how I’ve heard other coaches almost “brag” about the knock down, drag out fights they have “behind closed doors.” But when they leave, they’ll all in agreement!

I watched Coach’s face as I shared this and I could tell that he was uncomfortable. He stated, “we can disagree without being disagreeable! THAT is excellent!!! What great words of wisdom… and experience. This guy has coached on the high school and college level for over 50 years. To hear him say that just confirmed what I’ve always felt: a staff can have differences of opinion but they will be shared in a respectful, mature manner. Too many times people try to win an arguement by out-shouting the other people. It’s like it becomes a bullying session and the testosterone is pumping. I’m convinced that nothing of any good comes out of a meeting (confrontation) like that!

We have to learn to “Get Along With Each Other.” If you are in a staff meeting and there is a disagreement as far as how something should be done, then there are 2 things that need to happen: 1- Attack the problem, not the person. You can’t solve a problem if you’re obsessed with fixing the blame… or getting your way… or not caring about the other person’s opinion. I love what the Bible says about this, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper outburst.” (Prov. 15:1) In resolving a conflict, how you say something is as (or more!) important than what you say. If you say it offensively, you’ll be received defensively. You’re never persuasive when you’re abrasive!

2- Focus on your similarities, not your differences. I can only imagine a managerial staff of a major corporation meeting for their weekly staff session and some manager in charge of marketing wants to get in a “wee wee” match with a senior VP! He begins to raise his voice and tell the VP how “stupid” his idea is. Then someone else shouts, “well, you’re both stupid! I have a strategy that is much better.” Yea, right! That’s not going to happen. Why does it need to happen in a coachs’ meeting? Aren’t we professional, too? We are professionals and we should conduct ourselves as professionals— in private as well as in public.

You can “say” that everybody leaves that meeting in one accord and will stand together publically. I just don’t think so. Somebody’s feelings are hurt. Somebody else feels slighted or worse. It is not a happy staff. What happens next is… that night after practice, the different “camps” all congregate and continue the discussion. What you are developing is a bad case of disunity and disloyalty, Head Coach.

This needs to be covered in your first pre-season staff meeting. New guidelines are laid down as to how business is going to be conducted when you meet. Head Coach— you have to have the gumption to stop the madness! as soon as it starts. If you have a hot-tempered assistant, it would be wise to meet with him one-on-one and tell him that arguments and temper flare-ups are not going to be condoned anymore. If he can’t keep his emotions in check, he will not be allowed to contribute! and then… stick by these rules!!

When it comes down to it, the final (executive) decision must be made by the head coach. You listen to all of the opinions and then tell them “THIS is how it’s going to be done.” You do it respectfully and with calm resolve. You work on: “disagreeing without being disagreeable.”