Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for February, 2016

Attacking Defenses

Posted by admin February - 23 - 2016 - Tuesday Comments Off on Attacking Defenses

I spent part of last weekend in Northern Virginia at the Nike Coaches Clinic. It was an honor to be asked to speak at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast Saturday and share my testimony! Then I had an hour to present a topic that I think is important to any OC’s successful play-calling experience— How to Attack Defenses. I shared what I think are some rather “unique” concepts when discussing HOW to attack a defense. Of course, I am partial to the Delaware Wing T “Order of Offense” when it comes to recognizing attack points along the defensive front. However, I emphasized in the introduction that no matter what offense you run, there are factors that a play caller needs to be aware of to get the maximum benefit out of his offensive attack.

One thing I encourage ALL coaches to do is to be a “Student of the Game.” In this instance, to study principles of warfare. An understanding of the strategies and tactics (do YOU know the difference???!!!) of great generals and/or (I love) the US Marine Corps. I’ve shared on this website the book entitled “Warfighting” by USMC General Gray. A very important read!

Beyond that, I want to share a couple of things that perhaps you’ve never considered a part of “attacking defenses.” I won’t go into detail here but if you’d like a copy of the Power Point presentation, email me.

Those “unique” and often under-recognized factors that you can utilize in attacking defenses are:
1- Your HUDDLE(S). Changing the tempo creates problems for defenses. We “regular” huddle on occasion but most of the time we either go No Huddle or “Sugar” Huddle; i.e., huddle close to the LOS, break fast and snap the ball on a quick count.
2- CADENCE. Have a varied cadence keeps defenses off balance. We also incorporate “shooting” the hand down by our linemen in our “long” cadence to draw the defense into possibly tipping their hand on blitzes.
3- ALIGNMENTS/PACKAGES. This is something new that I just “bought into” recently. Different looks (with the SAME plays!!!) force the defense to adjust on the run. More importantly, it adversely affects their preparation during the week.
Then the “normal” factors…
4- SCOUTING AND GAME PLANNING. Another principle of warfare: “Know your opponent.” You need to study your opponent and plan accordingly.
5- GAME ADJUSTMENTS. This one factor is, I believe, the single most important factor that separates the “good” coach from the “great” coach. It’s the ability to “adjust on the run.” Recognizing changes that your opponent has made and making the appropriate adjustment so that your attack remains effective.

Have A System

Posted by admin February - 16 - 2016 - Tuesday Comments Off on Have A System

My staff and I often knew on Sunday evening if the team we were about to play on Friday had much of a chance of beating us… just by watching a few game videos. The teams that ran 3 different offenses in the 3 game videos we watched were, we felt, doomed to mediocrity. How can you install a new offense in 3-4 days and be ready to execute well enough to win on Friday? It’s almost impossible.

I know that frustration leads to emotional decisions but… be careful about trying to change too much in one week. You think you’re frustrated now??!!! Wait until game time when your kids are floundering and your offense or defense is getting whipped. THAT’S a frustrating time.

You need to explore and set upon a “system” right now in the off-season… when you have time to study and learn it. I think you need to have a “system.” The talking heads on sports programs tend to belittle the idea of having a “system.” That somehow that limits you in what you can accomplish. Welllllllllllll… Oregon has a system. Alabama has a system. Ohio State has a system. They all seem to do pretty well even though they operate in a “system!!!” You need something you can “hang your hat on.” You need something that you are “known for” in your conference or division. What we all need is an identity.

I sat in on an interview with the AD at my former school yesterday. He was nice enough to ask me to help in the interview process for my replacement. I asked the young coach who we were meeting with, “What kind of offense will you run if you are selected as the new HC?” His answer kinda disturbed me. Putting it succinctly, he was all over the place. He’d do this and he’d do that! If he had a passing QB, he’d install the spread. If he had… and on and on. I started thinking: It’s nice to be flexible but… you run the risk of simply trying to install too much. Too many blocking rules; too many plays; too many changes and the result is going to be a lot of frustrated players.

When I settled on the Delaware Wing T offense as our “system” in 1989, I did two things. 1) I took our staff and spent a weekend at the U. of Delaware soaking up as much knowledge from Tubby Raymond’s staff as we could. We continued to visit UD and other Wing T coaches every year. 2) We repainted our helmets to look like the U of Del. “winged helmets!” Most people thought we were copying the U. of Michigan helmet! Not so! We wanted to look like the Blue Hens. The players loved it and thus our “Identity” as that Wing T Team was born. When we played teams, they KNEW that they better stop 121/929 (buck sweep to the TE/Wing flank) or they were going to get it crammed down their throats! As Knute Rockne used to say: “Make your opponent fear you… and respect you.” We certainly earned a healthy dose of both!

Have a system! and perfect it!! I still think that Vince Lombardi had it right: “Do a FEW things and… do them VERY well!” The guy with the thickest playbook is not necessarily the winner on Friday night!

Your Outbursts Are Damaging!

Posted by admin February - 10 - 2016 - Wednesday Comments Off on Your Outbursts Are Damaging!

My morning devotion from Bob Gass ministries realllllllllllly struck a cord in my spirit this morning! Let me quote a few sentences:
“Angry outbursts are destructive in all relationships, especially in your home.” (This would hold true on your football team, too!) “Children are the most vulnerable to parental anger, and they mirror their parents’ behavior. We shape our children’s destiny by our words, behaviors and attitudes, and if they’re raised in a home that’s consistently high-volume, they’ll react similarly. Your actions are training your children to be hysterical and violent. Soon everyone will be overreacting, flying into fits of rage, and attacking one another. When you exhibit tantrum-like behavior you’re actiong out of a selfish need to get what you want, when you want it, in the way you think you ought to have it. Please—for your family’s sake— start acting like an adult; exhibit self-control!”

Wow! That was a smack in the face for me. I was referred to the passage in the Book of James as a strong reminder of the best way to interact with children (and people in general): “My dear brothers, take note… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1: 19-20. NIV.

Combating Stinky Game Uniforms!

Posted by admin February - 5 - 2016 - Friday Comments Off on Combating Stinky Game Uniforms!

This idea popped into my head this morning as I was doing the grocery shopping for our family this morning. Yes… I do the grocery shopping! I’ve loved going to the grocery store since I was a kid! Anyway…

As I went down the aisle looking for kitchen trashcan bags, I recalled our predicament during the season. We take a number of long bus rides to away games during our season… I’m talking 3-4 hours. Our school was always good about booking charter buses for us on these long rides. But… we stored our sweaty, stinking uniforms in the bin below the bus for the ride home. The guys took showers and cleaned up before we boarded the bus for the ride home but their stinky stuff was still “on” the bus. It didn’t occur to me until this past season that the raunchy smell that filtered through the bus was not the clammy bus itself. All of those sweaty, dirty uniforms’ odor was seeping up through the floor! It was rather unpleasant to say the least. Then the idea hit me! “Thank You, Lord!”

I bought a roll of Febreeze-scented trash bags— 80 bags for about 5 bucks. Each guy took a bag and a magic marker pen when he came into the visitor’s locker room after the game. He stored his stuff in the trash bag, pulled the draw string tight and wrote his jersey number on the bag. He then tossed his bag in with the other equipment under the bus before he went aboard. WOW!!! What a difference.

Try it! You’ll like it!!!

New Format for Goal Planning

Posted by admin February - 2 - 2016 - Tuesday Comments Off on New Format for Goal Planning


Goals are useless without a mission statement. What does your organization “stand for?” What is your purpose for even existing? If you do not know the answers to these questions, you won’t accomplish much. Because: If you don’t know where you are going… How will you know how to get there? More importantly, HOW will you know you’ve even arrived??!! It sounds silly and pretty basic but, if you read Pete Carroll’s autobiography, he admits that he had NO answer to any of these questions; therefore, his coaching career floundered. When he was able to answer these questions, the success of his team’s sky rocketed!

So, Step #1: Develop you Mission Statement.

This weekend my wife and I spent 28 hours at our church’s Leadership “Advance!” Our pastor decided he didn’t want to use the normal word “retreat” because we wanted to come out of this weekend moving ahead (advancing) toward achieving the goals God has set down for our church for 2016. Before he shared with the leadership team the goals for 2016, he brought forth 4 CONVICTIONS that God had placed on his heart. He hesitated to call them “problems” but, in essence, that’s exactly what they are. It got me thinking that IF we cannot identify our problems, how can we fix them?! And if you think your organization doesn’t have any problems, you’re just kidding yourself! You are setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even started. This was a brand new way of identifying goals and I was all ears.

To give you an example, here are the 4 Convictions that our pastor shared with us:
1- Empty seats are a problem.
We need to be inviting people to attend one of our church’s worship services so they can hear and see the love of Jesus Christ for
2- Empty hearts are a problem.
There are over 1 million unchurched people in the greater Hampton Roads, Va. area. Their hearts need to be filled with the hope
that only Jesus Christ can provide.
*** You can see where conviction #1 and #2 “collide!”
3- Empty stomachs are a problem.
I saw recently in the Pilot that the percentage of children who go to bed hungry in Tidewater is 25-40% of all the children in our area.
This is unacceptable.
4- Empty hands are a problem.
At our church, we need to get more people involved in serving. Whether it’s inside the church building or out in the community,
we need more people getting involved in helping others.

Based on those 4 Convictions, our pastor then laid out his goals for 2016. I won’t go into those here. Suffice it to say that you become aware of your “problems” and then… you ask yourself the next question:
WHAT are we going to DO about each of these problems?
Get the answer to each of those questions and you have formulated your goals!!!

Once you have your goals laid out, you have to address the final leg of this journey. Now you have to form your strategies. Strategies are the “HOW” of achieving your goals. You’ve identified your “convictions” which in turn has led to what it is you want to do to overcome those problems. Now you develop the action steps your organization will need to take to reach each of your goals.

Let me take a “football” team goal and run it through the process so you can see how this works.

1) CONVICTION: We have not been scoring enough points on offense. This is a problem!
2) GOAL: We want to average 30 points a game next year.
1- Have a “System” of offense.
Develop an “identity” on offense! Are you going to a) spread people out? b) are
you going to be a “run first” offense? c) will you be an option attack?
*You need to be known for doing something… that defenses have to stop!
2- Staff Development.
The coaches need to spend time studying and learning our offense better— in the
Hire a new Offensive Coordinator?
OC studies how to call plays; i.e., HOW to attack defenses with your offense
3- Player Understanding
“Skull sessions” with the players (in the off-season) installing the offense through
weekly playbook –study sessions.
4- Execution
Paying attention to details when you start on field practice sessions. Demand a
higher level of execution than ever before.
5- Player Personnel.
Fitting the right personnel in the right position. You can’t run an option offense if
you don’t have an option-type QB!
6- Reward Progress.
Find ways to reward “good behavior!” A great block earns a helmet sticker. A
great catch gets you out of some conditioning. Something that recognizes

I hope this gives you something to think about. Break things down by identifying your problem areas. Have a strong conviction that these problem areas must be addressed. Come up with goals that will solve those problems. Then, develop strategies that will give you the steps you need to take to see those goals achieved.

Finally, our pastor closed the session with a powerful statement. A statement that encapsulates what dedication and persistence ultimately produce. Here is the statement:
The bigger the impact you desire to make, the greater the sacrifice is required!!!