Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for January, 2017

Make Your Special Teams “Special”

Posted by admin January - 31 - 2017 - Tuesday Comments Off on Make Your Special Teams “Special”

I have the honor of speaking at 2 Glazier clinics over the next two months. I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my talk outlines and rehearsing what I’m going to present (PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!!!) One new topic that I have never spoken on in the past is our Kicking Game. I’m entitling it: “Make Your Special Teams Special. Utilizing Unconventional Ways to WIN in the Kicking Game.” i want to share a few concepts here. If you’d like to know more details, please don’t hesitate to email me.

I learned a long time ago that 1- Special Teams ARE important and 2- we don’t have nor make enough time in our practice schedule to work on all of the kicking game like we should! This created a problem. Either spend more time (which is limited anyway) each day on the kicking game OR… find some ways to make what we do in the kicking game simple and unique… “unconventional” if you would!

I read a few years ago about the coach in the midwest who never punted! His team also seemingly always onside kicked. I thought: we’ve been doing that for 15 years!!! We did it out of necessity because we never seemed to have a kicker who could put it in the end zone every time. We learned (the “hard way!”) a long time ago that we NEVER kick the ball deep on kick-offs. It is a recipe for disaster! The last 5 years that I coached, we only kicked deep twice— once the first season and once the last season. Much to my dismay (guess what?), both times our opponent returned the deep (and I use that term loosely!) kickoff for TD’s!!!

As I said, about 15 years ago I decided that we would “pop up” our kick-off’s and give us a chance for a turnover. Yes, it means that our opponent’s offense will start a drive around the 30-35 yard line; however, we also recovered 7 kicks in 12 games last year! I think that evens things out substantially.

We have 5 or 6 different ways we kick off. The only time we’d even think about kicking deep is if the opposing Return team brings all 11 up to their 25-30 yard line. We’re still going to pop it up or line drive it, though. *By the way, did you notice in the college national championship game that Clemson used the “Cross-field Pop Up Kick” several times??? We use it ALL of the time!

That’s just one example of how being unconventional in your kicking game can cause problems for your opponents. I’ve seen good coaches— who prepare their teams well— “forget” to work on defending our “pop up” kicks. The guy over on the numbers either lets it drop and now we’re on it or… they don’t signal for a fair catch (maybe they haven’t gone over the rule with their players???!!!) and our kids blast the return man. Either way, it means that we have a psychological advantage over our opponent. I’m a firm believer in winning the “psych-ops” portion of the battle.

I have plenty more but maybe you can attend one of the Glazier clinics or… Championship Productions is going to distribute video’s for me on this subject. Look for them in Championship’s catalog this spring! Thx!

ALL In??!!!

Posted by admin January - 24 - 2017 - Tuesday Comments Off on ALL In??!!!

I’m hearing from several coaches that some of their key returnee’s are not showing much interest in their off-season program. “What can I do to motivate them to get in the weight room?” they ask! If I could answer THAT question, I’d be out speaking to 1000’s of people every day making a LOT of money!!! My only response is: WHAT are you doing to make your off-season program appealing to your players?

People are almost naturally drawn to something they find pleasant; while they avoid things that are deemed UNpleasant. If you want to draw your players into your weight room, then you have to provide something they find helpful to them and/or enjoyable to do. Just telling your players that you want them to get faster, stronger and bigger is not THAT appealing. This is why it takes a couple of years for the weight room to “catch on.” Kids need to see their peers starting to bulge out of their t shirts when they see them in the classroom or at the mall. They need to see them dominate on the field to see the benefits of lifting. Then they might decide that “maybe I can look like THAT if I lift?!”

But… what if you can’t wait 3-4 years? You have to come up with a “gimmick” to draw them into the weight room. The most effective way is what behavioral psychologists call positive reinforcement. Some would call it a “bribe” but that’s not fair because a bribe is payment for doing something that’s immoral or illegal. Getting into your off-season program is both positive and healthy. *Unless you do something waaaaaaay over the top like the guy did at Oregon the other week! BE CAREFUL about pushing them too soon!!! That’s a NEGATIVE reinforcement and that will drive high school kids AWAY from your program.

What can you offer to get kids to try your program? Positive reinforcement is simply another word for “REWARD.” When someone performs an act that we want them to do again (come back to the workout the next day!) then reward them. I don’t know if any of you took any Psychology classes in college. (I was a Psych major so I took plenty of them!) The one that I found to be most interesting was the Behavioral Psych class where my lab partner and I trained a rat to press a bar to turn on a light which he touched to ring a bell. Then by touching the bell, the rat got a little food pellet as a reward for “performing.” I found it fascinating that 1- the rat was “smart” enough to perform those activities (in the designated order, by the way. He’d head straight to the bell and ring it but… NO food! He had to do the other 2 things first!) and 2- that I had enough patience to train him!!! That experience helped me a LOT during my coaching career when I had some players who weren’t quite as motivated as that lab rat!

What can you offer your players that will encourage them to “ring the bell” to get their treat? Rewards can be as simple as a Chic Fil A $1 gift card. Or… a gold star on a chart. Or a card that gets them a free ice cream for lunch in the school caf. The important thing is that it has to be immediate at the beginning. You are shaping their behavior. Like a slot machine, if you want someone to keep sticking coins in it, there have to be small pay outs in the beginning. Don’t wait a month or even a week to reward your guys for (at the beginning) just attending. If you can get them coming back, they will begin to SEE the changes in their body. This should help to at least get them in the door.

“Values Determine Culture”

Posted by admin January - 19 - 2017 - Thursday Comments Off on “Values Determine Culture”

My pastor is a wise man. His message on Sunday has been resonating through my mind all week. I decided it was time to put my thoughts in writing. I placed the (above) title in quotes because this was Pastor Michael’s main point. It’s his and I want him to have the credit. It sure does answer a lot of questions about why some organizations succeed and others fail… or why some football programs always seem to finish near or on the top while others struggle. Families; schools; churches— any team/organization where there is a leader and he/she is expected to “lead” can look at the “culture” surrounding that team and see what the head man’s values are. Or… maybe, that he doesn’t haven’t any values! Yes, we should “lead by example” but the example we set is based on those qualities that the leader holds most dear.

For example, the head coach says he values hard work. He can model it for his staff and players all he wants. However, if he does not value it enough to expect/teach/demand that those under him accept that value too… the HC is going to be frustrated and he’s not going to have many people who work for him very highly motivated. If a player is loafing during wind sprints, do you look the other way? Or… do you rationalize his lack of effort by saying to yourself: “welllllllllll… he’s our best player. I need to cut him some slack.” BALONEY!!! If you value hustle, then you hold people accountable for hustling. And if they don’t hustle, then there have to be consequences. Staying after practice and have a “tutoring session” with the HC where he has the player run a few more sprints— but, THIS time… they only count if the player runs them hard! That’s sending a message! By expecting that everyone hustles, you building a culture where players and coaches are always moving at a fast pace. One of my expectations when I was coaching was: “We’re going to run (not walk) everywhere we go.” The players crossed a bridge from the school grounds to the athletic fields. At that point, they strapped on their helmet and they jogged the 50 yards to the edge of our practice field. When I blew the whistle at the end of practice for the team to gather around me, they were expected to RUN over. If they didn’t, I’d tell them to go back where they were (even if their group was at the other end of the field) and let’s try it again!!! We simply did NOT walk on the football field. Hustle is something I valued and we built a culture of being known as a hustling team. I thought it was important and I feel strongly that it was a contributing factor to our success over the years.

What do YOU value? If you don’t know, you need to sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself: “What is most important to me?” and… if you say “winning!” then your values are misplaced! Winning is the byproduct of study and determination and striving for excellence and showing respect and being a man of integrity. Don’t ever think that these character traits aren’t important to your personal success or the success of your team. They are the building blocks of success!!!

Why Do “Underdogs” Win?

Posted by admin January - 10 - 2017 - Tuesday Comments Off on Why Do “Underdogs” Win?

I sat in amazement last night as Clemson and Deshaun Watson wore down and ultimately dismantled the vaunted Alabama defense. It was quite a show. There are so many factors involved in evaluating why one team won and the other lost but… one lesson I learned from last night’s national championship game was: NEVER count out a champion!!! Especially when they’re playing for pride and playing on emotion.

I fully expected Alabama to take care of Clemson last night. They pretty much confirmed it through 3 quarters. Then something happened that I didn’t hear the “experts” comment on to any degree: Bo Scarborough got injured. ‘Bama then had like 6-7 “3 and outs” in a row. And Clemson started catching fire. Pure and simple: Clemson wore out Alabama’s defense.

Another take away I had was: you need to be able to throw (and catch!) the ball if your running game is shut down. Many high schools lack the ability to throw passes and complete them when they need to. In a close game between two evenly matched teams, you’d better be able to throw the ball effectively. Clemson, for the most part, could and… ‘Bama, for the most part, couldn’t!

Defense wins championships. True, Clemson gave up 31. However, they also “saved” another 8-14 points when Alabama had good field position but couldn’t cash in. Think about it… Alabama didn’t really have a sustained drive all night. It took big plays to get on the scoreboard.

Finally, although I highly respect Nick Saban… I LOVE Dabo Swinney! I think emotion can carry you further than some think. Whereas, Alabama seemed to be “going to work”… Clemson appeared to me to be “coming to PLAY!” They were excited. They were fired up. Their coaches were enthusiastic and energetic. They did not berate or degrade a Tiger player if he messed up; rather… they were “inspiring influencers.” That, to me, is the definition of great leadership. Dabo inspired those Tigers. I heard that Watson told the offense as they took the field for the last drive, “Let’s make history.” THAT is a player who is also an “inspiring influencer.” He “took over” the game and, yes… it reminded me a LOT of Vince Young in the ’05 national championship when Texas beat USC in the last minute. I just hope that Deshaun Watson has a better pro career than Young did.

Bowl Games Analysis

Posted by admin January - 3 - 2017 - Tuesday Comments Off on Bowl Games Analysis

I wonder how many other coaches are like me? I cannot watch a college game without “studying” what’s going on. I find myself “analyzing” what’s going on instead of just being a “fan” and enjoying the game! Life-long Learner, I guess! I’ve seen some things I really liked in this year’s bowl games and… some things that I just had to scratch my head and wonder “who thought that THAT would work?!!” Here are some general observations from watching at least some of ALL the bowl games:

1) Yes! DEFENSE does win championships! But… you better be able to move the ball and SCORE if you want to win! Case in point: Alabama. Enough said! Then, the Virginia Tech comeback. 4 of the 5 second half scores were “short-field” scores— set up by… yep: their defense!!! the Rose Bowl was verrrrrrrry entertaining— IF you like offense! Both teams struggled to stop the other from making big plays. Why don’t people take more downfield shots??!!

2) Will officials ever call offensive pass interference again? The “push-offs” by receivers are unbelievable! And the officials let them get away with it.

3) Let’s put a time limit on press box reviews! If the Review Official can’t decide in, what, 40 seconds… the play stands! Snoozer!!!

4) Special Teams play is taken very seriously by championship-level teams! I saw very few long kick-off or punt returns. Kickers and punters were solid and I’m not sure that I saw but 1 or 2 blocked kicks. Coaches: Spend the time and put the best personnel on the field to make your kicking game solid. It’ll pay off in a close game. Trust me! THAT’S the “voice of experience” speaking. We won our share over the years due to a play that occurred in the kicking game. Lou Holtz once said, “In a close game between 2 evenly matched teams, it usually comes down to a play in the kicking game that will determine the final score!” Truth!

5) Defenses have “caught up” with the spread uptempo offenses! What’s next out there?

6) Most Game Announcers have no clue what they’re talking about! If they call a Speed (or Jet) Sweep a “Flanker Reverse” one more time!!!! Whew!

7) “Trick” plays have a place in big games! I absolutely LOVED the “fumblerooski” play that SD State pulled off against ND State in the 1AA National quarterfinal game a couple of weeks ago! I think Auburn tried it last night… but screwed it up! We ran 3 trick plays in our state championship game last season. Two of the three worked and… both went for TD’s!!!

8) Spread teams need a goal line “package.” There is still a place for a little smash mouth football!

9) It ain’t how you start… it’s how you finish that determines the final outcome. And… don’t celebrate too soon! Your opponent may get the ball 1 more time. Once again, Penn State learned last night: The only thing that the “Prevent” defense prevents is: a victory!!! College QB’s will pick you apart if they have time to throw! Strategic blitzes are the only way to go!

Happy New Year everybody! and… Sark calling the ‘Bama offense won’t make a bit of difference! Alabama by 17 points!!! Yep… they’re THAT good!