Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for June, 2011

Summer Preparation

Posted by admin June - 29 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on Summer Preparation

For many of you coaches, practice is less than a month away. While you may be focusing on getting your players ready for the upcoming season, you need to be readying your staff and yourself for the season also.

I want to mention a couple of things you should be doing. These are also found in my book, 101 Little Things…. The “little things” you’re doing right now will pay dividends in the fall.

1- You should be putting together your Daily Installation Plan. This is an “outline” of which plays/series you will be installing on offense each day and the defensive fronts you’ll be working on each day. I say “outline” because it’s going to give you an overall picture of what needs to be covered on a daily basis so you have everything in that you want to have installed by your first game. I would encourage you to break it down further, though. Have an objective of what you want installed by your first scrimmage. Then what else you want installed by your second scrimmage. This helps you to focus and not get overwhelmed by the size of the project. I would include Special Teams in this outline also.

2- Once you have your Daily Installation plan, you can begin on your individual practices. I would not wait and do this day by day. You need an over-all plan of attack and it’s important to stick to it. You can make some minor adjustments as you go through each practice but you need to stick to your Installation Plan so you don’t miss anything. Be ready to present the first week’s worth of practice schedules to your staff in your pre-season meetings.

3- Staff Meetings. Just prior to practice beginning, you need to meet with your staff. It may mean closing down the weight room for those last few days before practice starts; but, that can actually be a good thing. Your players need a little break before things gear up. Being off a couple of days isn’t going to hurt them. In fact, it may have them “hungry” for practice to start! Your staff needs to meet several evenings. I’m not an advocate of “marathon” meetings. Even motivated adults have an attention span. My recommendation is three nights of 2 hour meetings just prior to practice starting. The first night you cover Offense and the “offensive” Kicking teams (punt, pat and kick-off return). The second night Defense and the “defensive” special teams. The last night is focused on specific preparation for practice. Have each coach explain his drills for individual period; review the daily installation schedule and go over the practices for the first week— finishing with a close examination of the first day’s practice. This is particularly important if you are a new head coach or have a relatively new staff.

4- Pre-season Parent/Player Meeting. It is important to meet with your players and their parents early on. I think it should be before practice even starts. You need to review your policies and review your pre-season schedule. You might even want to have parents and players sign off on the policies to show that they understand them and agree to abide by them. Then, if any problems ensue later in the season, you have “due process” on your side. Be clear about your policies but be upbeat and explain that your policies and rules are important to promote team unity and ultimately the success of your program. Finish the meeting by sharing how excited you are about the upcoming season and you have high expectations. Regardless of how bad you think you might be, everyone has high hopes at this time of year. Don’t dash those hopes by being a “negative nelly” in front of all of your players, coaches and parents. A pastor-friend of mine has a slogan for his church that he constantly puts in front of his congregation. I think as a head coach you should remember it too: You cannot rise to LOW expectations.

God bless you in your efforts!

Give Your Marriage A Tune-up

Posted by admin June - 22 - 2011 - Wednesday Comments Off on Give Your Marriage A Tune-up

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…. summertime and the livin’ is easy! and retirement makes it even better! My family spent last week in Las Vegas for our son’s destination wedding at Caesar’s Palace. Fun!

A coaching friend in Wisconsin keeps me on his email list when he sends out his quarterly team newsletter. It’s a great idea that all of you should consider doing. This one was unique, in that, he had his wife write it!!! Out of his appreciation for her and her being a great “coaches wife!”, Clay asked her to write the letter that goes out to players, parents and boosters this time.

It got me to thinking about wives and marriage and the season quickly approaching and what it does to coaches’ families at this time of year. I found some material that I think is good advice for any husband (or wife!) but especially for coaches.

The secret to closeness in marriage is not sparkling conversation or shared interests or incredible sex. As good as those are, the secret is practicing plain, old-fashioned thoughtfulness and kindness! It’s the stuff we learn when we’re young and forget when we get too busy (like football season!)— things like respect, sensitivity, attentiveness and caring. If your marriage needs a tune-up, start doing these four things:

1- Practice “hug therapy.” When you’re at odds with each other, remember this: a hug works wonders. When we touch one another in caring ways our bodies actuallly produce chemicals which calm us emotionally and help us to bond physically. God designed us that way. Pretty cool, huh?!

2- Don’t forget the small stuff. When you routinely build little kindnesses into your marriage they become a source of strength later; it’s like money in the bank. You can draw on it when you need it. So think “personal” or “sweet” (wives LOVE that stuff!), like helping to clean up after a meal, making the bed in the morning, walking the dog or taking out the trash.

3- Mind your manners. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean common courtesy should go by the wayside. The Bible says: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” (Eph. 4:32) That means listening without interrupting and practicing the basics like saying “please,” “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” This stuff is not rocket science, but it works!

4- Compliment each other. Your wife is not a mind reader (though, if she’s like mine, she sure seems to be able to do so at times!) Whenever you think something nice about them…. tell them!!! We live in a cold, competitive world. Hearing that she’s loved, smart, attractive and fun from her husband means everything to a wife.

Bottom line: don’t close your wife off when football season starts. She can be your greatest ally and your biggest supporter. For me— after 37 seasons together, my wife is my source of wisdom. Without her support (and the strength that God’s Holy Spirit provides me), I would never be able to withstand the pressures which come to bear during the fall. Take good care of her guys!

Strategy and Tactics

Posted by admin June - 7 - 2011 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

I’ve discussed in a couple of posts how similar football coaching is to commanding an army. Both require meticulous planning, an ability to look ahead and adjust on the run and a degree of luck once the operation is under way.

I watched a program on the Military channel last night entitled Surviving D Day. WOW!!! If you saw the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, you have an idea what those soldiers had to go through (literally!) to fight their way over 1000 yards of open beach just to reach the cliffs.

From a football coach’s standpoint, there are a lot of things to learn about this invasion. It all started about a year or so earlier when the planning began for the invasion on the Normandy coast of France. Gen. Eisenhower and his staff began to develop their strategy— their broad plan of action designed to achieve the goal of getting a foothold on French soil. Your strategy is what you do with your total resources that are available to you for this upcoming football season. If you haven’t done so yet, you and your staff need to start strategizing NOW!

What are your team’s assets? their strengths? What are your deficiencies? Where will you have to compensate? What are you going to be good at? How will you distribute your assets to gain the greatest advantage? For my team, our chief assets are smarts and speed. A deficiency is size. We need to strategize to maximize our assets and protect our deficiency. I might add we are also extremely aggressive. That makes up for the deficiency in size! We will be very sophisticated in our strategy because our kids are so intelligent. We will run wide, throw the ball a lot and attack on defense to utilize our team speed. We will run our Delaware Wing T offense which was first developed for teams that lacked huge linemen. We want guys who are agile, quick and like to hit. That’s my guys… to a tee!

I think a KEY to good coaching is: knowing where to utilize your strength. This simply means placing players in the positions where you can maximize their talent and give that player the best chance to help your team succeed. I can remember one year being adament about a kid who’d played LB for 2 years needing to go to Defensive End. We were going to play a lot more aggressive style of defense, particulary up front, and I felt that this athlete would be perfect rushing off the edge. I met a lot of resistance from our coaches. But I stood my ground and the boy ended up making 1st team All District for his outstanding play that fall— at Defensive End.

Tactics are the details. Tactics are the means of carrying out your strategy. This is the conduct of an engagement. How a battle is fought… how a game is played is a matter of tactics.

In the Normandy invasion, Allied forces were split into a 5 pronged attack across a wide front of beaches along the coast of France. You may recall that paratroopers (my uncle being one of them) dropped in behind the lines to secure bridges and causeways necessary for Allied advances into the heart of France. All of these details were the tactics that the commanders of the US and British forces came up with.

Suppose you’re looking at a season (or even an individual game) where you feel “out-manned.” Your strategy is to “shorten the game.” Thus, your tactics would be: run the ball! You want the clock to keep running. Passing it a lot just lengthens the game. Here you can see how strategy and tactics work together.

So, the first step is to plan. Next, you need to look ahead so you can make adjustments as things unfold. This is another KEY to good coaching: be a good game-time coach. Your strategy won’t change once you’re in the “heat of battle” but your strategy may change as circumstances call for it. I see too many coaches who cannot or will not make any changes during a game. This is a mistake in tactics.

The last factor is be lucky! The Germans did not commit their Panzer tank divisions to the coast for they feared that the Normandy invasion was simply a diversion. They believed the real invasion was going to be at the Pas de Calais. However, once they confirmed that Normandy was the real deal, they called on Hitler to divert the tanks. This was the morning of June 7th. There was still time to drive the Allies back into the English Channel! But, Hitler had taken a sleeping pill the night before and gave strict orders not to be disturbed! He slept through the morning without being apprised of the situation. By the time he made a decision to move the Panzers, it was too late! A little luck never hurts.

We used the “shorten the game” strategy one year ourselves. We knew we’d have to run the ball, play good defense and kick it away when we bogged down to have a chance to win against a much bigger and better football team. What we did not figure in was… at 7:30 the skies opened up! We’d kicked off at 7 pm and there was no lightning. So we played on. By half-time the field was a quagmire! We played the second half in mud up to our ankles.

We got a lucky break with the weather, had cashed in early with a score in the first quarter and hung on to win 7-6! It’s important to note though… we had prepared for this kind of weather by going outside in it to practice. I don’t know where I got the saying but it’s one of our program’s “mantra’s: “Football practice doesn’t get rained OUT… it gets rained ON!” If you might have to play in it, you’d better practice in it. Again, who first said it I don’t know… but it goes something like this: The harder we work (on the Little Things!), the luckier we get!