Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for May, 2011


Posted by admin May - 31 - 2011 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

For a lot of you, school is coming to a close for another year. Some of you have finished spring practice and/or your off-season weight lifting work-outs. It’s a “lull time” before the summer kicks in. Eight weeks till pre-season practice starts, guys!!! This is the time of year when “deflation” sets in. You’re probably happy to have some time off. You’re glad NOT to see those players for a week or so! You start thinking about the upcoming season and maybe you don’t get too excited… UGH! You may be suffereing from burnout!

Remember the story in the Bible about Moses and the burning bush? It burned and burned but it did not burn out. Some folks who once burned for God or football or teaching… have burned out. Loyal workers in the church for years, then suddenly they vanish. A valued coach who unexpectedly resigns. Burnout has been described as: “fatigue brought about by devotion to a cause that failed to produce the expected reward.” hummmmmm??? Sound familiar? Does that hit close to home for any of you: coaches; pastors; teachers???

So how can you avoid burnout?
1- Seek God’s input. The Bible says that “if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5) God is THE Expert; consult Him!
2- Realign your priorities. Too many irons in the fire mean none of them gets the attention they deserve. Learn to say “no.” Your family will appreciate it, even if others don’t!
3- Practice the art of thanksgiving. It’s said, “get into the habit of noticing— and nurturing— the unspectacular good things that happen to you.”
4- Learn the art of physical relaxation. Take 10 or 20 minutes during the middle of the day and enjoy a quick rest. I’ve heard it called a “power nap.” It works! Coax your body and your mind to just relax. Maybe imagine yourself basking on a warm beach somewhere.
5- Excercise. It’s one of the best stress reducers you can use. A brisk mile walk can do wonders. Some of you may want to go farther and harder— but get out there and exercise.
6- Find someone to share with. One of my former assistant coaches was the most loyal guy I’ve ever worked with. He was there for me to “dump on.” He was a great listener and a great support. When I get home, I have my wonderful wife to share things with. She’s gifted with wisdom. My pastor and my best friend are also there for me. Shutting yourself off merely increases the problem rather than solving it! Which leads me to prayer. Take the time to share with God too. He’s the BEST Listener of all!


Posted by admin May - 26 - 2011 - Thursday Comments Off on USE YOUR TIME WISELY

If you’re wise you’ll stop frequently and think about HOW you’re spending your time! Pastor/author Chuck Swindoll wrote: “In a book I read, The Time Trap, I came upon a list of the most popular time wasters. It helped to pinpoint some specific areas of inefficeincy I must watch. Who hasn’t heard the true story of Charles M. Schwab and Ivy Lee? Schwab was president of Bethlehem Steel. Lee, a consultant, was given the unusual challenge, ‘Show me a way to get more things done with my time.’ Schwab agreed to pay him ‘anything within reason’ IF Lee’s suggestions worked. Lee later handed Schwab a sheet of paper with the plan: ‘Write down the most important tasks you have to do tomorrow. Number them in order of importance. When you arrive in the morning, begin at once on # 1 and stay on it until it is completed. Recheck your priorities, then begin with # 2, then # 3. Make this a habit every working day. Pass it on to those under you. Try it as long as you like, then send me your check for what you think it’s worth.’ That one idea turned Bethlehem Steel Corporation into the biggest independent steel producer in the world within 5 years. How much did Schwab pay his consultant? Several weeks after he received the note, Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000, admitting it was the most profitable lesson he had ever learned.”

Coaches, time management is one of my keys of successful people!” Find those “time wasters” in your life and make a change. Prioritize and attack! This holds true as you plan a season, plan a game and even plan one practice! Prioritize! Too often we “major on the minors.” We get caught up in doing too much and get nothing accomplished. Here is a case where too many little things can actually weight down your progress. Know what the BIG Things are… then, focus on the little things in those focal points.

My philosophy of coaching: Get reallllllllllllly good at a few things. A well-trained army will defeat an army 10 times its size. Make sure your kids know what they’re doing before they hit the field on Friday night.

Thoughts As Spring Practice Concludes

Posted by admin May - 21 - 2011 - Saturday 1 COMMENT

One of the MANY nice things I’ve discovered in an Independent school setting is that our school sets the guidelines for when and how much we can work out. So, I decided we would have a spring “Mini Camp” after spring sports concluded at my school.

It was well-publicized for several weeks and I wanted to see who would show up. The plan was to give our players a “sneak preview” of how we’ll do things when pre-season practice actually starts in August. We had 2 2-hour practices where I introduced our practice schedule, our Offensive and Defensive schemes and just ran our players through some drills. It went well. We got a lot accomplished and it was a good “send-off” as our players start exams next week and finish classes. I saw a lot of hustle and the focus was excellent. We won’t be real big but it doesn’t matter. Our hallmark is speed. Combined that with the fact that we have very smart kids, we have the makings of an excellent football team. We did some intro tacking drills (just using bags) and I saw some very aggressive kids too!!!

What I didn’t see were 4 or 5 potential starters! Several still had Select Lacrosse (a big sport at our school!) going on so they had to miss. OK. Conflicts happen. It did concern me that lacrosse took presidence over football since school lacrosse had ended. That didn’t concern me as much as the 2 or 3 who just didn’t think it was important enough to make the effort to attend. It simply confirmed in my mind what I learned about high school athletes years ago:

There are football players and there are kids who just like to play football. We had them at the public school that I coached at also. Those kids who enjoy playing football but just don’t get excited about going “all in” to prepare themselves properly. Their shadow will probably never cross the weight room door all spring and summer. Evening conditioning and throwing the ball around? Nah… they have better things to do. But… come August they’ll be there for practice to start and…. will probably be good enough on natural ability to beat out anybody who’s ahead of them!

I know what you’re thinking: “think how good they’d be IF they’d get in the weight room?!” You’re right. I couldn’t agree more. What I want you to realize, though, is: you need to be careful to keep the door open for these “kids who like to play football.” What you want to do is to turn them into “football players.” It’s just NOT in their DNA right now. I think you are making a huge mistake if you set some kind of ultimatum that if a player is not in the weight program they can’t play football for you! You’ll never have a chance to change their attitude if you don’t even let them come out when practice starts!

Here’s what worked for me. Once they are part of the team and practice has started, weight lifting is mandatory for everybody! They must lift twice a week as part of the practice schedule. What I found was: teen-agers and their self-image are funny things! A lot of kids who finally confided in me admitted that they were embarrassed, ashamed or just plain afraid to come in the weight room. But… once they started working out IN-season, they found that they liked it; it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be; and… “I’ll be there this winter, Coach!”

The other part of this that I want to emphasize is: you can win with players who are not “weight-room rats.” Those “guys who like to play football” DO like to play football! And once practice starts and you’re getting ready for your opener, they are just as excited and dedicated as the guy next to him who spent the last 8 months religiously working out 3-4 times a week.

We had a fullback/linebacker who started on our AAA varsity team for all 4 years. During those 4 years, he was the state heavyweight wrestling champion 2 or 3 times and the state champion in the discus a couple of times. He simply liked playing sports year round and did not want to come in the weight room. I did see him walk in the weight room one day and start “messing around.” He put 300 lbs. on the bench and repped it 10 times! He laughed with his spotters and said, “that’s just a warm up… too light!” and went to 350 lbs. Now, he had everyone’s attention… including mine! He lifted 350 5 times— and the other kids went nuts!!! He said, “put 400 on there and let’s see what that’s like.” I started to step in but I could tell that the 3 spotters he had could handle it when! he couldn’t get it up. Remember: this guy is a 17 year old Junior who’s never lifted a weight in his high school career (at least in our weight room anyway!) What do you think happened when he cleared the 400 lbs. off the racks? Yep, got 1 rep and set it back! I was dumbfounded!!!

I later found out that he lifted a lot with his dad but the kid was just gifted! I’ve never seen a high school player as naturally strong as he was. He later earned a full ride to a Div 1A program. He also played on 3 of our teams that made it to the Regional championship. Suppose I had been “Mr. Hard Nose” and said that he couldn’t play football if he didn’t lift?!!

Be careful coaches about the rules that you make… you may have to enforce them! OR… you may have to break one of them to show favoritism to a player that you need. Now you’ve lost your credibility with the rest of your team. Once you lose your integrity with teens, it’s hard to earn it back. Lose a kid’s respect, he won’t work for you.

Our team rules are pretty simple. I got these from one of my former head coaches from my college days. Most of you know him as “Dr. Lou!” Coach Holtz’s rules are:

Beyond that, be careful about laying too many stipulations on kids’ behavior. You could wind up “cutting off your nose to spite your face!”


Posted by admin May - 18 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

Something to think about— whether you have a personal relationship with Jesus or not!:

Sometimes God permits things, other times He actually plans them. Either way, He’s got a definite plan in mind.

In the midst of unspeakable heartache, Job said, “He performs the thing that is appointed for me.” (Job 23:14) When you realize that God has “appointed” something for you, it changes how you see it.

It’s like flying. On the ground your view is limited, but 10,000 feet up everything looks different. Now you’re seeing what God sees: “the BIG PICTURE!”

The Bible says that after Job came through his trials he was blessed with twice as much as he had before (see Job 42:10). Does that mean if you lose a $50,000-a-year job you’ll get back a $100,00-a-year job? Or that your checkbook will always balance? Or your car will never break down? Or your health will never fail? No! Sometimes God rewards our faith with things we can’t measure in monetary value— like relationships, joy, character, peace you didn’t have before, a fresh sense of purpose, protection from danger, favor with others, clearer understanding, more compassion and intimacy with Him. What value would you place on those?!!

Let’s get practical a minute… cuz the Bible is always applicable to our life situation or circumstance. Here are 3 things you need to keep in mind at all times:
1- God wants you to trust Him in all things— whatever you are going through (see Psalm 138:8).
2- When it’s your responsibility, God expects you to fulfill it (see Ecc. 9:10).
3- In order to bless you, He will sometimes move in ways that are hard to understand or explain (see Psm. 25:4). Why? So that when the answer comes there’ll be NO doubt about
Who gets the credit!

Proverbs 3:5, 6 is one of my main life passages. It says:
“Trust the Lord with all of your heart…
and lean not on your own understanding.
In ALL of your ways, acknowledge Him
and He will set your path straight.”

If we put Him first in our lives, His Word says He will direct us and crown our efforts with success! Are you putting Him first?! Second? Do you even know Him?? Write back and we’ll talk.


“Buying In”

Posted by admin May - 11 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on “Buying In”

I attended our school’s National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony last night. Our principal gave the keynote address. A LOT of wisdom in a 10 minute speech! It reminded me of 2 important things: 1- you can say what you need to say in 10 minutes and have a huge impact on your audience. Too many of us simply “like to hear ourselves talk!” That is a reminder to all of us that we probably say waaaaaaay more than we need to say at any one setting. Kids, yes adults too!, do a great job of pretending to be listening… when, in reality, most people are going to tune you out after 10-12 minutes. I read a study that says that this is the average attention span of people today: 12 minutes! How did this come about? We are trained to stop paying attention when a commercial comes on!!! Prime time TV shows break on the average every 12 minutes. It shows that all of us watch too much TV!
and 2- Stories have the greatest impact on your audience. You want to capture their “heart” if you want them to respond to your subject. Jesus was the greatest story- teller Who’s ever walked the earth. Think about the things that we remember most from the Bible— His parables. Stories! Stories appeal to our emotions. Capture the emotions, you capture the mind.
Dr. Fowler shared the story of “Johnny the Bag Boy.” If you have not heard it, “search” it on the internet. You need to read this story!!! In summary, Johnny heard a motivational talk and “bought in.” The motivational speaker was presenting her talk to 3000 people. One young man paid attention and “bought in” to what the speaker was encouraging people to do— and it changed Johnny’s life and those around him.

Dr. Fowler shared about how he’s been to teacher in-services and everyone was grumbling about why they had to be there. They had better things to do with their time. He’s been to principal’s conferences and they’re moaning and groaning about the same thing! Then, he attended a coaches clinic. 300 coaches crammed into a room… all with paper and pen in hand, paying rapt attention to the speaker and what he was presenting. Why the difference? Because the coaches were looking for that one “nugget” that could help them win a football game! They had bought in and were motivated to learn!

All of this made me think. What about our players? What about our parents? What about our assistant coaches? Have they “bought in” to our system? Out of a room of 3000, 1 young man “bought in” to what the speaker was trying to “sell.” Don’t be frustrated if you don’t see whole-sale changes in attitudes from your team. You see, sometimes it only takes 1 person with a great attitude (who’s bought in) to change the whole landscape! When you read Johnny’s story, you’ll see what I mean. (“Everybody wanted to be in Johnny’s line!!!”)

YOU can make a difference. One of my favorite quotes is ascribed to Winston Churchill: “Never give up… and never give in!” Take the time to create a library of motivational stories. Humorous, serious, poignant or perplexing… a story will capture your audience and pave the way for the people working with you to “buy in” to your system. Get that one young man on your side and you can do wonders!

Good luck and God bless you!


Posted by admin May - 3 - 2011 - Tuesday Comments Off on HOW TO HAVE A PERSONAL “REVIVAL”

It never ceases to amaze me how one can take Biblical principles (not even bring up that they are from the Bible!) and apply them to our daily lives and it just “works out!” You probably read the title of this entry and thought “he’s going to talk about religion.” Hang in there! This “revival” thing applies to football coaches too.

It’s that time of year when school is winding down. Coaches have been going hard in the off-season for 4-5 months and you feel drained. Some of you have Spring Practice to go through too. Then the summer begins. Our need for revival can be emotional as much as it can be spiritual. (Some of us might need BOTH!) I wanted to share some thoughts on how you can have a personal revival if you are feeling worn down or run over by your circumstances.

1- Get thoroughy disgusted with yourself! Yep! Complacency is the enemy of growth… whether it be emotional, intellectual or spiritual. A complacent soul is a stagnant soul.

2- Set your face like a rock toward a sweeping transformation of your life. Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they start. We must throw our whole being into our desire for change.

3- Do a thorough job of repenting. Again, easily applied to a spiritual revival but it’s true of any facet of our life. Repenting does not mean just “feeling bad” for what you’ve been doing or failed to do. Repentance is an action word. It actually means “to turn about or around” and head in a different direction. Until we recognize how badly we screwed up (yes we— don’t blame our failures on others!)— we will never develop a desire to change.

4- Make restitution whenever possible. If you owe a debt, pay it… or at least have a frank understanding with your creditor about your intention to pay. If you have quarreled with someone, go as far as you can in an effort to achieve reconciliation.

5- Finally… have faith in God. Begin to expect. Look up toward the Throne where your Advocate sits at the right Hand of God. All of heaven is on your side. Did you know that God desires to bless you? He’s not a punitive god. He loves you and is there to help you. But, first, you have to look to Him! God will not disappoint you.

IF… you desire it, you can have a personal revival!