Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for August, 2012


Posted by admin August - 29 - 2012 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

I attended the funeral of one of my former players on Saturday. He was a Believer (I know, cuz we talked about it the last few weeks he was alive) so he’s with the Lord now. The joy of knowing he’s in heaven was mixed in with the sorrow of losing such a fine young man. He was 37 years old, a dad and a well-respected employee for his company. He had a lot going for himself. Except… lung cancer got him. He never smoked a day in his life!

Seeing so many of my former players in one place for the first time in 15 years was exciting— except for the reason we were all gathered together. It was hard for me to see them as mid-30’s men… when, in my mind, they were still 17 and 18 year old boys. To be able to put an arm around one guy and give a consoling hug to another brought back memories of “being there” for those guys when they were still in high school.

You see… their senior season of 1997 was a special year. We’d just come off the worst record in 6 years the fall before (5-5) and the rising seniors were determined to turn things back in the direction they’d been. What ended up was an undefeated regular season (10-0) and the first District championship for our school in 20 years. They went on to finish 11-1 and set the course for our program for the next 10 years.

There were a lot of great players on that team. The young man who’s life we celebrated at the funeral was a starting defensive back. He wasn’t one of the “stars” but he was a perfect example of our philosophy of “BIG Team… little me.” Always had a smile on his face until it was time to play. Then… his intensity and his burning desire to win came out. He told me in July after we’d lost a 7 on 7 passing league game (nothing important in the big scheme of things!), “Coach J…. we’re not losing again! Scrimmages, games… nothing!” He was right for the next 13 weeks! That quiet fire that he possessed rubbed off on his teammates and drove them to play at a high level every week.

We will miss you Troy. Your legacy shows in the number of guys who drove hours to be at your funeral. For coaches who are reading this: never underestimate the influence that one quiet guy can have on the rest of your team. That guy might be the one who everyone else is looking to when things get tough. You need to look to him too.

Preseason Scrimmages

Posted by admin August - 22 - 2012 - Wednesday Comments Off on Preseason Scrimmages

We played our first preseason scrimmage last Friday and play our second one this Friday. The state of Virginia allows 2 scrimmages before our regular season opens.

The question came up: “How much do we ‘show’ in our scrimmages? Our first game opponent will be looking at our scrimmage videos… I’m not sure how much to show him.”

My response is: Who’s more important… your own team or that opposing coach? I have always subscribed to Coach John Wooden’s philosopy when preparing my team. We are going to work very hard to get our players technically sound so that they can play with confidence and a high level of efficiency. What our opponent does (or knows, in this case) is secondary. I spend as much time scouting as anybody. But, I think we sometimes get hung up on what the opposing coach is going to do instead of focusing on “proper preparation” for our own team.

So, my response to the question of “how much to show in the scrimmages” would be along the lines of… what do you need to work on? What plays/packages/fronts, etc. do you need to see? We work from the perspective that scrimmages are “practices against other teams.” What do you need to evaluate that week? Are there particular plays or players that you need to see perform in a live scrimmage setting? Hiding stuff from opponents means that, in essence, you’re hiding it from yourself too! When are you going to see if a play “works” unless you run it against someone else? I select those series that we need to evaluate and concentrate on those during the scrimmage. You’re going to be running these plays the most during the year so who are you fooling by hiding them? It just hurts you.

Now… if you’re the type who likes to throw in a little “Boise State trickeration”… that’s a different story! I will share with you that this is an objective that I’ve set for our Offense this year. We are going to have a “Trick of the Week” this year. We have already started working on the first couple since we have more time in preseason. The kids are excited and it adds a little zest to Offensive practice. If you need some examples of “tricks” feel free to contact me!

The Circle Maker

Posted by admin August - 16 - 2012 - Thursday Comments Off on The Circle Maker

We are reading a book church-wide right now. It’s having the same dramatic effect on me and our entire congregation that Purpose Driven Life did 5-6 years ago! The name of the book is The Circle Maker by Pastor Mark Batterson. Pastor Mark says to: Dream BIG… pray HARD… think LONG!

I wrote last week about one of our players having to stop playing because of a serious medical condition. I started praying (a LOT of people starting praying for our player!) and was about to give up (on God— cuz that’s in essence what you do when you give up praying for someone!!!) yesterday. I persevered though and spent a few minutes asking God one more time if He would heal and restore the young man’s health. I have to tell you… I wasn’t praying very boldly. The other thing Pastor Mark says is: “Bold prayers honor God and… God honors bold prayers!” Thus, his challenge to: pray HARD!!!

The player and his Dad walked into my office before practice yesterday afternoon. They were playing “coy” but I could tell something was up! They sat down and burst out: “He’s clear. He can play! They re-did the test and it’s clear. It was there last week and it’s gone now!” I gave the boy a big hug and just started praising God! When I told the team, I explained that here is a huge example of the power of prayer!!! It’s always good to “sprinkle a few Seeds” when God gives you an opportunity!

Dream BIG! Pray HARD!! Think LONG!!!

Dealing with Adversity

Posted by admin August - 13 - 2012 - Monday Comments Off on Dealing with Adversity

I shared my Lou Holtz “something bad is going to happen sometime this season” speech the beginning of last week. Little did I know how prophetic I was being! Our numbers are low anyway— but when you lose 2 starters in 2 days, it realllllllly begins to thin the ranks!

The 2 players we lost are both great young men and would have played a lot for us. Our guys were devastated when they heard the news. I feel bad for them. It certainly doesn’t ruin our season (cuz we’re still loaded with talent!) but our depth which was thin is now paper thin!

Two things come to mind as I present this: 1- the mental side of losing players to injury. I told our coaches that we will remain positive, encouraging and focused. The kids will follow our lead. The Bible says to: “Press on” and that’s just what we’ll do. Coach Holtz said that when adversity strikes, you have to “close ranks” and keep marching. Press on toward the goal! 2- the physical side. How much contact do we have in practice? I’m of the opinion that limited contact is all that’s necessary. We have tough kids. They like to hit. I told them the other day that we won’t hit much in practice. We want them to be like “caged lions” when we turn them lose on Friday night. Not getting to hit much during the week should have them fired up for game night. My high school coach said years ago, “If somebody is going to get injured, at least let it happen in the game— NOT in practice.” I subscribe to the same philosophy. We have our first scrimmage this Friday. We will practice just like game week. Lots of reps; lots of enthusiasm but little contact. We’ll save the banging for Friday night.

I know coaches who swear by the adage that “you have to hit live every day… to toughen them up!” I say, if they’re in high school and they don’t like to hit, they probably shouldn’t be out there in the first place. Excessive contact is not going to “toughen up” a player— it will just wear down his body. Why do you think that most NFL teams rarely go full pads once the season starts?! We need to be smart as high school coaches and make sure our guys aren’t so beat up that on Friday they can’t perform.

Start of Practice!

Posted by admin August - 1 - 2012 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

We start practice tomorrow. I’m feeling the normal excitement of getting a new season started… especially since I feel we have a chance to be really good!
Some of you know that I use a “Word of the Week” as both motivator and for character building. I would encourage you to develop something similar. If we’re not teaching values and character (and “Yes!” it IS our job as coaches to teach character!!!) then we are missing out on a crucial component of helping the young men whom we coach to grow into responsible adults.
I simply compile a list of positive character traits (courage, unity, honesty, etc.) and every Monday I write a new word on the white board in our team room. That word becomes the focus of all of my “pep talks” during that week. I find video clips or stories to solidify the significance of developing that trait.
Since we only have 3 days of practice this week, my focus will be on: SUCCESS. I want the players to formulate a definition of success. With those 3 days to use, I’m going to talk about what I think are the “3 components” of success: unity, respect and total effort. They are the foundation for any successful organization. If you can get your people to buy into those 3 traits, you’ll find (particularly when the going gets tough) that your people will find a way to stay on track. However, if they are not unified… President Lincoln said it the best (he took it from the Bible… so I guess GOD said it the best!): “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

It’s a matter of developing and demanding a “BIG Team; little me” attitude among your players. You have to model it and keep teaching it… cuz that attitude goes against the grain in athletics today.

Good luck and God bless you!