Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for December, 2016


Posted by admin December - 20 - 2016 - Tuesday Comments Off on Expectations

One of my favorite local pastors has a slogan that caused me to pause and think about today. His slogan is: “You Cannot Rise to LOW Expectations!” Think about that for a second…. in regards to your attitude toward your individual players and your team/program as a whole. If YOU don’t believe that a particular player is capable of being successful on the field, in the classroom or life in general… you’re very likely setting him up for failure. If YOU don’t think your team is going to be very good next year… you’ve very likely setting them up for failure. Why???? Go back and read Pastor Melvin’s statement again!

Psychologists have shown time and again that our preconceived notions about others whom we meet can and will have a direct impact on their success… or failure. It’s called the “Rosenthal Effect.” In the original study, teachers who were led to believe that a low-achieving student (upon first entering their class at the beginning of the school year) was one of his/her brightest incoming students actually treated this student differently. It produced some amazing results. These low-achieving students “bloomed” in the classroom and were some of the top students by the end of the year!!! Why? Because of the “expectations” that the teacher had for those students. Higher expectations actually led to greater performance!!!

I discussed “motivation” with a coach the other day. I said that I thought it is over-rated! That unless a player wants it, it’s very difficult to motivate them to do any better. That’s when I started thinking back to my Psychology classes in college and remembered the classic study by Robert Rosenthal. It became clear when I coupled it with the pastor’s slogan that we CAN improve our players’ performance!

As coaches, we set the standard. If we don’t expect much, then not much is going to be accomplished. If we work to make our players believe that they are capable of more and keep expecting it of them, positive change can occur. Whereas we CANNOT rise to LOW expectations, we CAN rise to high expectations! It’s a matter of believing in your players, telling (and showing) them that you believe in them and then continuing to encourage them to set high expectations for themselves.

I heard a talk once by former Baylor U. football coach Grant Taeff on his “secrets to success.” One of his secrets was: Set High and Lofty Goals! In other words, dream BIG! We don’t get the chance to coach many superstars during our careers. I was fortunate enough to have 4-5 former players who actually made it to the NFL. That’s out of some 3000 that I coached over 42 years. But, I had plenty of others who were willing to “grind it out” and work to become the best they were capable of being. I truly believe it was because I had HIGH expectations for them and that attitude motivated them to set “high and lofty” goals for themselves!

Improving Your Relationships

Posted by admin December - 15 - 2016 - Thursday Comments Off on Improving Your Relationships

I’ve had a few coaching friends (high school) who’ve been let go the last couple of weeks. It makes me wonder… what went wrong? In both cases, the team had a winning record so, unless the administration expected a championship season, it must have been more than wins and losses involved. The other major area that always seems to come up is what I call The Relationship Factor. Like a friend said the other day when he called to talk about the firings: “He must have really ticked off somebody!” Yep! Probably did!

I love the fact that the Bible is so practical. I’ve shared with groups that even if you’re not a Christian, Biblical principles will still “work” in your life and will help bring you successful living if you’re willing to apply them. I have a few principles that I’d like to pass along that can help your relationships at work or home or anywhere. They will help improve the quality of your relationships.

1) Put others first. One of the key points that Coach Lou Holtz always makes when talking to groups is that a key to his coaching success was that he always tried to find out what his players wanted to achieve and then he would find a way to help them achieve their goals. The Bible says to “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men” (Ephesians 6:7). If you incorporate that attitude in your relationship with others, you’re going to be very successful.

2) Always show appreciation. Practice the “3 to 1” principle: 3 positive, encouraging statements for every one critical comment or correction you have to make. Dr. John Maxwell has something he calls “the 101 Percent Principle.” Find one thing you admire in another person… then give them 100% encouragement for it.

3) Forgive it, resolve it and move past it. If someone has hurt you, the sooner you address the issue the better. As the Bible says: the other person doesn’t have to apologize for you to forgive them. That comes from having a forgiving spirit. You forgive the person and move on. As my wife reminded me constantly for 42 years of coaching, “Take the HIGH road, Lew!”

Building MENTAL Toughness

Posted by admin December - 6 - 2016 - Tuesday Comments Off on Building MENTAL Toughness

I have noticed that several coaches are already starting up their off-season programs. Wow! Not much of a break— for coaches or players! If you’re starting before Christmas, I recommend that you use the days before Christmas Break to “install” your program. Introduce the daily program; teach the basic lifts you’re going to use; get the young kids and rookies oriented to your routine and get some base line lifting max’s for each player. Then have your formal “start up” after you return at the new year.

If you are not doing speed training, you need to make it a part of your off-season program. Too many players just don’t know HOW to run. With your speed training, you need to be doing agility drills also. Do some research over the holidays if you’re not sure what to do. They’re just too important (speed and agility) not to be doing them at least twice a week.

If you can find anything on what the Strength and Conditioning coach is doing at North Dakota State, you need to study what they are doing to produce those athletes! I have seen them on TV in the National Championship FCS game for the last 5 years. They run better, cut quicker and hit harder than any other 1AA (yes! I’m still old school!!!) team in the nation! Thus, a 6-peat is not beyond the realm of possibility in a few weeks!!!

Many coaches have asked me: “How do you make your kids tougher?!” I always have to ask back… to explain what exactly they mean by “tougher?” Are you talking about physical toughness or MENTAL toughness? That always causes them to pause for a moment! My feelings are: it’s very hard to teach a teenager to “become” physically tough— or toughER. That aggressive nature is either built in or developed early in their life so that there is no fear of contact. In fact, many of them relish the contact that football provides! However, I think coaches can develop mental tougher. And, surprisingly, I believe that if you can instill greater mental toughness in a player, a byproduct of that will be greater physical toughness! It has to do with confidence that they can be an “overcomer.” We did a series of drills and activities over the years that promoted mental toughness. The self-confidence that was instilled in our players helped them to face obstacles on the field (and later in life) that they couldn’t have overcome if we had not challenged them to believe: “YOU CAN DO THIS!!!”

It really comes down to creating a competitive situation where any player will have an opportunity to succeed. I am NOT talking about the insideous concept rampant in our society today of: “everybody gets a trophy!” NO! In sports, you compete to win. That’s what we want to do in our off-season program— give everybody a chance to WIN! He accomplishes this by sometimes challenging himself. Set goals (reachable, yet challenging) for a “first level” accomplishment and then set high and lofty goals that only the few, the best are going to achieve. Pit linemen against linemen. It’s silly to expect a 295 tackle to beat a 175 running back in the 40! Let the big boys compete against each other to see who the fastest lineman in the group is.

Here are the drills and activities that we used at different times over the years:

One of my favorites (which I have talked about in this blog before) is something that one of my former coaches nicknamed: “Count Downs.” Check in my blog history to find out more about it. Or… contact me if you want more information on “Count Downs.”

Another is “Brace Up” after you have everybody do a set of push ups. Just hold them in the “up” position and see who can stay “locked out” the longest! As they drop out, they cheer on their teammates who are still braced up. During this, and ALL drills, you want to encourage them to “Push Through the Pain!” Don’t quit. Help them to see that they can go farther than they think they can.

Something similar is a contest to see who can “hang” the longest from the pull up bar.

A great one I got from the movie Facing The Giants is extremely challenging. It’s a bear crawl down the field with a teammate riding piggy back. If you haven’t seen the movie, you can see the coach challenge/encourage one of his players to perform it… and go further than he thought he could go! Great football scenes and great message in the movie!

Wall sit for time! Last man standing… or “squatting” I should say! Do some ab work every day at the end of your workout. Core work is very important. At the end, do leg lifts (6 inches off the floor) for time. Again, push them, challenge them, exhort them to “push through the pain.” I would have them yell back at me in the middle of the exercise: “I CAN DO THIS!!” Say it again guys… let me hear you!!! “I CAN DO THIS!!!”

Finally, if you can secure some big tractor or airplane tires, have races across your practice field with them. The players literally “flip” them over and over to see who can get his tire to the finish line first! This is grueling but very effective and very challenging!

Kids today don’t get challenged enough. You want to inspire them to achieve more than they even believe they’re capable of. A coach accomplishes that by being an “inspiring influence!” You never badger or belittle a player when he “gives up” too soon. You encourage; you exhort; you help him learn that he CAN do this!!! He can do it by pushing through the pain. He never gives up and never gives in. He keeps hammering that rock! Mental toughness on Friday night can be a key to victory.