Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for November, 2015

State Champions!!!

Posted by admin November - 25 - 2015 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

What a ride! We finished our regular season with a 7-3 record. All 3 losses came against teams from higher divisions- bigger enrollments than us. And… all 3 were playing for the state championship in their division over the weekend. So, we felt pretty good about our season and team going into the playoffs this year.

I announced my retirement from coaching after our last regular-season game (took a page from the Frank Beamer book!) and gave the players a weekend to process things… then down to work. In our state association, like the NCAA FBS, we play a Final 4. It means that your regular-season record is critical to getting into the state-wide final 4. We were seeded second behind a team that was undefeated. We won our semifinal game pretty handily which set up the showdown this past Friday.

We had them 24-0 (we still always go for 2 after scoring!) and went in at halftime up 24-6. We scored twice more plus a safety in the second half to complete our season and the state championship! What a way to finish the season! What a way to finish a 41 year coaching career! Our kids were great. We played with passion and persistence. Our defense was “lights out”– recording 8 sacks and causing 4 turnovers. They got a lot of passing yards between the 20’s but couldn’t finish.

It finally “hit me” in church on Sunday. The pastor announced to the congregation what had happened on Friday night and we got a nice round of applause. The reality of a state championship (my first after 41 years!) sunk in. I was overcome with joy and gratitude to Jesus, my Lord. yep, I cried!!!

Our family has a LOT to be thankful for tomorrow. Every time I think of Friday night, I get that stupid grin on my face again. God is gooooooooood!!! ALL the time!!!

I wish all of my friends who follow these posts a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

“3 Minutes in Paradise!”

Posted by admin November - 17 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off on “3 Minutes in Paradise!”

I’m not big into the so-called “punishment period” with our players. Throughout my career, I’ve attempted to stay positive. We, obviously, point out mistakes and correct them but… I tell my coaches to “conduct yourself as a class-room teacher while on the field.” For instance, a teacher would not hand back a test paper to a student who’d just failed it and proceed to scream and embarrass that student— in front of all of his classmates! So, don’t do it on the practice field either. I get frustrated at times and I DO raise my voice! But… it’s generally directed to everyone in common instead of berating one player.

However, there are two very effective reminders that we use to develop discipline. OK… so some folks would say that it’s punishment but it’s effective and it curbs the unwanted behavior quite quickly! One is “the shark is in the water!” I have one of our assistant coaches “lurking” near the entrance to our practice field while we are lining up to begin the first period of our practice schedule. IF… a player comes out late (after I’ve blown the whistle to start practice) and does NOT have a note from the Trainer or a teacher, “The Shark” gets him! 15-25 continual Up-Downs (remember: in front of the rest of the team!) is a very strong deterrent to being “unexcused” late to practice!

The other “reminder” is for our Running Backs/Receivers— whoever carries the ball and potentially could fumble. I’ve done this for years. I just started coaching the RB’s again after 4 years away and we had 2 fumbles in our first game; 1 in the second and 1 in the 6th. THAT’S IT! Our kids just know how to hold onto the football! Perhaps my patented “Fumble Drill” has reinforced this. The player at fault steps out in front of the rest of the backs during our Individual Offensive Period on Monday’s practice. I am in front of him, 5-6 feet away, with a ball in my hand. He begins to chop his feet and then I “roll” (pretty forceably) the ball to one side of the offender (about 6-10 feet away from him) and he has to go chase it. Then, he has to dive on the “loose ball” and cleanly recover it or… that rep doesn’t count. He jumps up and flips the ball back to me. I don’t even catch it most times— I simply bat it like a volleyball coming at me in the other direction of the player! Now, he has to run about 20 feet and chase, dive on and recover (cleanly) the “fumble.” He jumps up, tosses the ball to me and “bat”— I send it flying back in the original direction! He does this 6 times cuz that’s how many potential points (TD) he cost us by turning over the ball. It’s done right in front of the backs but the rest of the team can see what’s going on. Trust me… it’s no joke. The player is worn out when he’s done chasing and diving on that ball 6 straight times. Plus, if he missed a recovery, he gets to do an additional rep. We do “ball security” drills every week but I think that this UNpleasant Reminder does more than anything to put it in the kids’ heads: HOLD ONTO THE BALL!

Finally, “3 Minutes in Paradise!” We played 2 games in August this year. I’m sure it’s probably hot in August where you’re located too. But, we see mid 90’s and high humidity until late September in Tidewater Virginia. I did not feel like we were in good enough shape even with all of the conditioning we’d done all summer. So after our second game, I instituted a new tradition to our weekly practice schedule. At the end of the Monday practice, we circled the team up in the middle of the practice field. On the whistle, everyone began to chop their feet. I call out 1 player to get in the middle. Then… I start the clock! That player has the “fun” of leading the rest of the team in 60 seconds worth of up/downs!! He can go as fast as he wants. (Interestingly, even rookies and back-ups will work everyone reallllllllly hard when called upon to lead the team!) I blow the whistle at 60 seconds but everyone continues to chop their feet. I give them a 15 second “rest” and call out another player to the middle. He leads the team in Up/Downs for 45 seconds. At 120 seconds I blow the whistle… feet keep chopping for 30 seconds of “rest” and I call out a 3rd, and final, player. This is usually one of our leaders who is also in the best physical shape on the team. He begins to put ’em on the ground for the final 30 seconds. At 180 seconds I blow the whistle and call the team up to me. If everyone hustles over to me, we’re done. If I see someone dragging, I send them back! We do 15 seconds more of Up/Downs and I again call them over. Amazingly, everyone runs this time.

We have continued this tradition through the rest of the season. We did it for the last time last night at the end of our final Monday practice. We play for our State Championship this Friday so… there are no more Monday’s to do “3 Minutes in Paradise!” I won’t say that the guys were sorry that it was over. I do see now a sense of pride in the fact that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did in August. It builds them physically and psychologically.

“It’s Time!”

Posted by admin November - 9 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off on “It’s Time!”

I gave one of the toughest speeches of my professional career Friday night after our game! We had just won our regular-season finale, clinched the #2 seed in the state playoffs and had been named our Conference (undefeated!) champions for 2015. Needless to say, everyone was flying high. Unfortunately, I had to share something with the team and their parents that put a bit of a damper on the evening’s festivities.

I called everyone, players and parents, together in the gym right after the game. I started off congratulating everyone on a great season and talked about plans for the playoff and, hopefully, a state championship run. Then… I shared that as of the end of the season I would be retiring as their head football coach. There was stunned silence.

My reasons are too varied to go into here. Suffice it to say that I knew “It’s Time.” I’ve been doing this for 41 years— 30 of those as a head coach. The long bus rides, my worries over the mounting number of injuries to players and simply a need to move on were all factors. Most importantly, the Lord showed me that it’s time to give the “first fruits” of my time and energy to my wonderful wife of 43 years. She’s been beside me through all 41 years of coaching. We’re both still in good health and she wants to travel. It’s time that I make myself available to take some of these trips she wants to take. I can’t do that if I’m tied up with football year-round. The Lord is closing one door while He’s opening another. I’m excited to see where He wants me to go. It’ll be a new chapter.

Coaches: If you are married, take care of your wife! Especially now that high school football season is drawing to a close for most of you. I’ve written about it before— take your wife away for a “Get reacquainted weekend adventure” here real soon. Spoil her rotten. Let her know how important she is to you. Make it “her” weekend. She deserves it!!!

I’ll still be posting here on a regular basis. I’ve even had some thoughts about writing another book. But… before all that, we have a 2 game season left! In our association, it’s like the FCS in college football. You fight your way through the regular season to earn a berth in the Final 4. We have to win 2 games to be crowned state champions. It all starts today when we hit the practice field. Remember: PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!!!”

Calling Off the Dogs

Posted by admin November - 4 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off on Calling Off the Dogs

We have had a rather prolific offense this season. A lot of that is attributed to an outstanding running back. He doesn’t need a lot of blocking and can turn a short gain into a long TD in the blink of an eye. Plus we’ve had good line play all year and we have several other backs who have played well. That’s the beauty of the Delaware Wing T! It’s a “4-back offense.” We’ve used all four successfully.

Which brings me to the point of this post. When is it time to “call off the dogs” versus when is it necessary to keep the 1st team on the field. We had a game two weeks ago where neither defense could stop the other’s offense! The final was 66-44! I never took our starting offense off the field because our opponent continued to stay within 2 touchdowns the whole second half. Other times, I knew the game was “in the bag” and we pulled our starters as early as the 3rd quarter. I’ve even started subbing in the second quarter if it was apparent that the game was already out of hand.

I know I’ve been accused (behind my back) of “running it up.” I have to take exception to that accusation. There have been times that our offense has scored in the 50- 70 points range; however, any td’s scored in the second half were earned by the backups— many of them are freshmen.

It is not my job to stop our offense. That’s in the hands of the opposing team. I am not going to tell my backups that they have to “let up” or even take a knee (unless it’s less than a minute left and we have the ball.) That goes against everything I know about competitive sports. These are kids who spend most of the practice week on the scout teams. On game night, they may get in on a kicking team. Their chances for playing time are pretty slim. They live for a blow out! I am not going to send them in the game and then tell them that they are not to do their best! If the opposing team’s defense can’t stop our second and third team players then… that’s their problem. We have a running clock in Virginia and once a team is up by 35 in the second half, the clock rolls. That limits the number of subs we can get in the game! There have been games that we stood on the sideline hoping that our backup defense could get a stop cuz we wanted to get our second team offense (or at least sub in a couple of offensive players) on the field. The running clock ticks away and before you know it, the game is over and those 2-3 offensive players did not get a chance to play. I hate that!

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve had some big halftime leads over the years. I tell the starters during halftime that they get one series in the 3rd quarter and that’s it… their night is over! So, the starting offense better score and/or the starting defense better get a stop. They watch the rest of the night. If our backup offense continues to put points on the board, so be it. That’s what we coach ’em up to do… execute.

Sportsmanship is important to me. It’s one of our program’s core values. We’re not to taunt opponents. We’re going to be respectful to the officials. We’re going to pull our starters in the second half when we have a comfortable lead and it’s obvious that our opponent is out-matched. When I see opposing coaches with 30- 40 point leads late in the game with their starters still playing— throwing the ball down the field and ignoring the fact that their subs continue to watch while my players get humiliated…. well, that bothers me a lot! and I’ve let a few opposing coaches know my feelings about it during the post-game hand shake.

Let your backups play when they get a chance! They’re going to be your likely starters the next year or two. Nothing beats game experience.