Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for January, 2012

The Power of Perseverance

Posted by admin January - 28 - 2012 - Saturday 1 COMMENT

Thanks again to Bob Gass ministries for showing me some things that I want to share with others…

Did you know that one of the great themes that runs throughout the Bible is— perseverance. Paul, who refused to give up, wrote in the letter to the Galatians: “Don’t ever grow tired of doing good. In God’s good time, we will reap a harvest if we do NOT lose heart.” Emerson said, “The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” Are you merely a starter, or are you also a finisher? When the enthusiasm for a new season fades, when the odds of a winning record seem insurmountable, when it looks like success is impossible— you MUST keep forging ahead.

I’ve shared that this past football season provided some new highs and lows for me in my coaching career. It was the first time as a head coach that a team that I coached lost 4 games in a row… and it was to start the season. In 3 of those 4 opening losses we had the lead midway through the 3rd quarter! Three of those first 4 games were against eventual play-off teams— one played in a state championship game and another one won the state championship in their division.

There was a time in my career that even losing just the opener would’ve thrown me in a tailspin. I remember my old high school coach saying, “Your opening game is worth the next 2.” In essence, lose the first one and it will probably take 2 more weeks to get you back on track. He was a prophet and didn’t know it! I knew that our Delaware Wing T offense worked. We’d won over 150 games with it at my last school. I knew that our 4-4 defense worked. We had good kids—not the biggest, but they were smart and tough. I kept going back to that verse in Galatians and one in Phillipians (3:13): “Press on towards the goal— don’t look back.” I was the leader. I had to show our players and coaches that we could not give up… we would not give in!

Quitting is more about who you are, than where you are or what you’re up against. The reality is, external things don’t stop us; it’s what happens on the inside that determines whether we press on! The old saying goes: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it. Most of us stop ourselves from reaching our goal or our full potential.

We can pretend that people, things or situations outside of ourselves are to blame for our failures… but, in reality most failures occur as a result of a lack of bulldog-like tenacity. da Vinci said, “Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed on a star, does not change his mind.” You must have a mindset to tenaciously pursue your dream. The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying!

Some goals are simply insurmountable. But, if you keep on trying… think how much further along you are than if you’d quit at the first roadblock. I’m reminded of a story I heard a number of years ago. It seems in parts of Canada they have marathon swim races instead of road races. In this one province, people would swim across this huge lake 10 miles wide. The gun sounded, hundreds of swimmers hit the water. As most races go… as they hit the halfway mark the pace had forced many to fall behind. At the 3/4 mark, it had become a 2 man race. One swimmer had forged ahead early and held a strong lead. But the man in second place looked strong. As they approached the finish line, the man in the lead faltered and the swimmer in second moved ahead and won going away. I was disappointed that the guy who’d worked so hard and held the lead for so long ended up only coming in second. Then I sat up straight as I read the next paragraph.

It seems that the swimmer who finished second had swum the race with one arm! A war veteran who’d had his arm blown off by an IED, the man still swam distance races with one arm. Had this guy failed?! In my mind… heck no!!! He’d given it everything he had. He had finished second, true, but he never gave up. He’d overcome insurmountable odds just to get across that lake. Think about how far he’d come (in life) just by not giving up when he awakened from that operation and had no arm! This is the power of perseverance. NEVER give up… NEVER give in!

Assistant Coaches

Posted by admin January - 22 - 2012 - Sunday Comments Off on Assistant Coaches

Just waiting for the first NFL Play-off game to start!
I had a very pleasant Friday afternoon at my school. My Offensive Line coach retired after the season. He was a long-time coach and KNEW the Wing T (which we run) line play really well. I was in a jam because my AD informed me that we could not hire someone to fill his position… I’d have to name someone on the staff to coach the O line! The rest of the staff had just gone through one season of Wing T— so they were all “rookies” as far as Wing T blocking was concerned. I met Friday at school because: the assistant coach whom I asked to take over the O line called to ask if we could meet for a couple of hours to start going over line play!!! WOW!!!

To you Head Coaches out there: how many times has THAT happened in your career?! The guy who’s going to do it was already our Defensive Coordinator and coached the OLB’s on defense and worked with the TE’s on offense. This is a huge undertaking for him… but one that obviously he is excited about.

It got me to thinkin’—- head coaches need to know that when you find an assistant coach who shows initiative and is willing to put in the extra hours to really become proficient at his job: take care of that guy! The old saying I heard my pastor use recently holds true in church, in business and… in coaching: 20% of the people do 80% of the work! If you have a staff of 6-7 coaches, you’re lucky if you find 2 who are going to go “above and beyond the call” to help you out. It’s simply human nature. Most of us like to stay in our comfort zone.

You need to work to motivate and create an atmosphere on your staff where assistant coaches’ input is valued. At the same time: I try to make it clear to my staff that… IF you want IN-put… then there must be some OUT-put! They can’t just show up in August at the first day of practice and expect me/us to listen to all of their great ideas about how things should be run. You have to earn the right to be listened to!

This means going that extra mile during the off-season. Being at the work-outs; going to clinics; watching game video and just taking part in the routine stuff that happens from January to July. Again… encourage ALL of your coaches to participate in off-season activities. By letting them know that this is the time of the year (off-season) when a lot of decisions will be made about the forthcoming season and… we/I need your in-put—- it’s letting the assistant coaches know that you value them and their ideas. But… if you don’t show up, there’s not much chance to share what you’re thinking!

For this one coach who is reallllllly fired up about learning, I just keep “feeding the beast!” He wants to learn so I am making the time and effort to teach him what he needs to know. I am also making it a point to 1- let him know that his efforts are appreciated and 2- thank him for going the extra mile. People need to know that their effort is important. I believe it was from the book, The One Minute Manager that I first heard of this: for leaders, executives, supervisors… get out from behind your desk and get out on the floor and see and be seen out there among your workers. Observe and be observed. It’ll keep people on their toes. Even more important… catch someone in the act of showing initiative (going the extra mile) and recognize them for it! Interestingly, it doesn’t even have to be something tangible. An announcement over the PA system. A hand shake and a thank you as you walk by their desk. A quick email letting them know you saw them working hard…. any of these can be motivating.

If you give tangible rewards, it doesn’t have to be something big. I’m not talking “end of business year” (big) bonuses like the Griswald’s expected in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!!!— For you coaches reading this: it always amazes me the power of a little piece of plastic that affixes to a player’s helmet. We believe in helmet awards. The kids LOVE earning them! I am convinced that if you want a behavior repeated, reward it! Again, it doesn’t have to be big! A t shirt; a pair of wrist bands, a pair of socks— for achieving some goal in the weight room. Gift certificates to the local ice cream shop or fast food restaurant are good, too. My players at 2 different high schools and a middle school collected helmet award stickers like they were gold coins!

We have one special award sticker that only goes to players who go “above and beyond” during a game. So, only 1 or maybe 2 are handed out each game. We had a situation this past fall where I had one sophomore who was a good player but just hadn’t “bought into” the concept of giving a total effort every day. He kidded around a lot and when the other players were running hard, he tended to coast at times. In our 9th game of the season, he was playing OLB when the RB broke around his flank. He got pinned by a WR’s block and the RB took off down the sideline. I figured “that’s it.. he’ll go the distance and they’ll get back in the game.” All of a suddent, like a shot— here come’s this sophomore flying down the sideline and he caught the kid on the 10 yard line. It had been about a 50 yard sprint to catch him! We held them and they did not score.

The following week at our Awards Ceremony, the last award I hand out is the Fleur de Lis sticker for going “above and beyond.” When I called this boy’s name out, he tried to play it cool as he came forward to receive it but I could tell he was pleased. The next day the boy’s dad told me how proud the player was to receive that sticker. He talked about it all the way home. The next week in practice this kid was all over the place! That following game, he picked off a pass and ran it back 40 yards for a TD. A new player had been born… all because he was recognized with a “little piece of plastic” in front of his teammates for giving the kind of effort we want from our players. By the way, he has not missed a weight room work-out all winter!

The power of showing appreciation to people. It never ceases to amaze me why coaches and/or administrators don’t realize this and put it into action. It can change the morale of your whole staff.


Posted by admin January - 15 - 2012 - Sunday Comments Off on Ruminations

Interesting day so far… and it’s only 2 pm here on the East Coast.
First thing, my activity on Facebook is going to be short-lived. I read a comment by a former student who bashed Jesus, slammed Christianity in general and mocked Focus on the Family for paying for commercial time on the NFL game yesterday. The sad thing is: this guy was an on-fire Believer in high school. I posted on Facebook that I was sorry that he had become so cynical… that he had been such a strong withess to me when he was in HS. and… what happened?! All of the atheists on his wall erupted! I should have known better. I warn students all the time: when you put it on the internet, it’s out there for EVERYBODY to see. No more Facebook for me!

Second… today would’ve been my Dad’s 91st birthday! He died waaaaay too young. Died of a heart attack the night of his 56th birthday, shortly after midnight— so I guess it was technically Jan. 16th. What a shock to get that phone call at 2 in the morning! As I look back on his life and our relationship, I can’t help but marvel at the work that God’s Holy Spirit has done in my life.

For years after his death, I was very bitter toward my dad. He was a “teaser” and could be highly critical of me. His idea of “encouraging words” were not what I’d call very positive in nature. For example, the night I signed my football scholarship my senior year in high school. The coach from William and Mary had just left the house and my dad turned to me and said, “Congratulations son… I never thought you’d do it.” KAPOW! Wow… “Thanks Dad!” He couldn’t have deflated me any more than if he’d dropped me with a sucker punch to the solar plexus!!!

By 1993, I knew that I had to deal with this bitterness. It was eating away at me. He wasn’t around to talk to obviously. He had to up and have a heart attack and die on me before I had the chance to work things out! A friend offered me a copy of a book which was instrumental in helping me to forgive my dad and restore our relationship— even though he was gone. The title of the book is Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands. Since reading and applying what Seamands states we can do to heal memories, I truly feel set free.

I can look back now at my times with my dad and just smile! I have no bitterness… no anger. I have come to realize that he did the best he could to be the best dad he knew how to be. I can pruodly admit now that what he built into me is character— and a work ethic and a mental toughness which have all helped me achieve what I’ve achieved professionally. In my emotional life, the glory goes to my Heavenly Father, though. From the Bible studies that I’ve done; from reading Seamands’ book; from the many times of sharing and wise counsel from Spirit-filled friends; with the help of my wonderful wife… through the direct intervention of God’s Holy Spirit!… I can say that I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind in this area of having an unforgiving attitude toward my dad.

To think today that it is Dad’s birthday and get a warm feeling inside for him… it confirms for me that God is alive and working in my life. He wants to work in your life too!

Roll Tide… Roll!

Posted by admin January - 10 - 2012 - Tuesday 1 COMMENT

Like many of you, I watched Alabama dismantle LSU last night! Some things came to mind as I settled into bed past midnight here on the East Coast:
1- Defense DOES win championships! but… you’d better have some Offensive out-put too (and an accurate place kicker!) or… you will lose 9-6 in OT instead of winning 21-0! Alabama’s willingness to “open things up” on Offense while LSU seemed content to bang their heads against that unbelievably solid Alabama defense was the difference in the game.
2- Be able to recruit the top athletes in the nation! Many of you don’t know but we played against the back-up QB at Alabama… Phillip Sims. Phillip was the most prolific passer in the history of Virginia HS football. And, he languishes on the bench. (Colorado State, here I come?!) That’s the quality and depth of talent that Alabama (and LSU!) recruit every year.
3- Develop a passion for running to the football (whether it’s defense or covering kicks— POW!) and get there with the desire to a- make a tackle… not just a “hit” (did you see any missed tackles last night…. like you do in NFL games?!) and b- arrive in a bad attitude and punish the ball carrier!
4- Work relentlessly on “run fits.” I learned this from my friend Bud Foster at VT and Kirby Smart obviously demands the same thing of his defense at Alabama. Everyone is a piece of the puzzle and the pieces have to fit. If you are not emphasizing this on your defense, you need to learn more about it.
5- Play your position and don’t give up the big play. No doubt that LSU has many “game breakers” on their offense also. Alabama just did not allow them any breathing room to make a play. The announcers kept saying that “Alabama is only pressuring with 4″… but they play a 3-4 defense! Which means that a LB was coming nearly all the time. Where he was coming from was the LSU QB’s problem!
6- Finally, my last observation. Did you see how many plays Alabama’s defensive tackles made behind the line?! They slanted and pinched and got pressure because they were coming off the ball and penetrating. On the high school level, I think this is even more critical. I can’t say that I’ve seen a defensive lineman in the state of Virginia who compares to anyone I saw on that field last night. A few maybe but so many on one field….wow! Again, the brilliant analysts kept saying that “Alabama’s defensive line just covers up for their LB’s so the LB’s can make all of the plays.” hummmmm?? Wrong again! Those linemen were exploding off the ball and getting penetration. We could learn a lesson in how to coach defensive linemen from what we saw last night.
Alabama certainly put into practice my 5 P’s of Success: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. The meticulous preparation Saban and his staff ascribed to paid off in spades last night. I thought at times that ‘Bama’s defense KNEW the play before the ball was snapped! They were everywhere they needed to be whenever LSU tried something! THAT’S preparation. Congrats to all of you Crimson Tide fans out there! You have the best coach, best players and best fans in the country… THIS year!
Happy New Year everyone! and… how ’bout my man Tebow??!! Go Bronco’s!

WHO Are You Relying On?

Posted by admin January - 5 - 2012 - Thursday 1 COMMENT

My thanks to Bob Gass ministries for the devotion topic that inspired this entry…

You solve one problem and another one comes along to take its place. They’re not all big but the cumulative effect on us is that it wears us down. (In the battle between the river and the rock, the water wins!) In the Bible, Jesus was pretty emphatic when He said, “Here on earth you will have many trials.” As Rick Warren says in The Purpose Driven Life, “Life is a TEST.

Think about this… how do you assess the strength of something? By testing it! Some of our most life-enriching experiences will come during our worst moments— when our heart is broken, when we feel abandoned, after a big loss on Friday night, when our pain level goes through the roof— and, you turn to God!!! That’s when you learn to pray heartfelt, honest-to-God prayers. Our son had 2 grand mal seizures in one day when he was 4 years old. My wife and I were basket cases. She told me later that all she could do until I arrived at the hospital was to pray the Lord’s Prayer over and over. “It never took on real meaning until I prayed it from a need so deep that I couldn’t even focus on anything but God’s help,” my wife told me later. When we’re in pain, we don’t have the energy for superficial prayers. They come from the depths of our soul.

One of the strongest verses in the Bible is in the Book of 1st Peter. It says: “Don’t be shocked that you are going through testing… It will prepare you.” Prepare us for what? Prepare us for what’s going to come next! James says, “Consider it JOY when you go through all kinds of trials and tests, for they will strengthen you.” We need that strength the next time we’re tested. When we’re in pain, that’s when we discover who we should rely on. If you, at the very least, acknowledge that God is our Source of strength, then you will discover, “The Lord is close to those whose heart is breaking.” (Psalm 34:18)

If you know your Bible stories, realize this: God could have kept Joseph out of prison, Daniel out of the lion’s den, Jeremiah out of the slimy pit and Paul from being shipwrecked… and YOU out of the pain you’re suffering right now! But, He didn’t! As a result, each of those men was drawn closer to God and eventually impacted the world around them. Your problems force you to look to God and depend on Him rather than yourself! This was especially hard for superachievers like St. Paul. “We saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but, that was good! For then we put everything into the hands of God, Who alone could save us.” (2Corinthians 1:9)

If you haven’t read Tony Dungy’s book, you need to. He has so many great quotes but one that I like says, “I’m a firm believer that the Lord sometimes has to short-circuit even our best plans for our own benefit.” This is a former player, coach and godly man whom I respect and want to emulate. Whether you are a football coach or not, read Dungy’s book!

You’ll never know what God can do until God is all you’ve got. If any of you reading this feels that way right now, you can certainly contact me and we can talk and pray about it. But I want to encourage you to place your needs into His capable, loving hands and watch what happens! Learn to rely on Jesus and not yourself.