Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for April, 2017

“Little Things” DO Make a BIG Difference

Posted by admin April - 25 - 2017 - Tuesday Comments Off on “Little Things” DO Make a BIG Difference

I am pleased to announce that I am “going home!” After being away for 11 years from the school and program that I helped build, I am going to “Consult” for the current head coach… and help out as a volunteer assistant on a part-time basis. I felt like the Lord was telling me that He wanted me affiliated with that program again. I am thrilled!

In the 2 weeks that I’ve been “hanging out” around the weight room and on the field while the kids run through drills, I’ve observed some things that I felt were significant enough to share with the head coach. Each of them goes to the foundation of my philosophy of coaching: 1- Everyone can hustle; 2- BIG Team; little Me. 3- and my third “plank” of “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”— which requires a coaching staff who’s willing to teach and teach it well!

Hustle: “It doesn’t take talent to hustle.” In my time as a head coach, all players ran everywhere when they were ON the field— practice and game! We ran onto the field; we ran everywhere we went! I think this builds a sense of pride and establishes a core value that we will not tolerate lack of effort. I noticed the other day that the coach called the players up at the end of the workout. A bunch of them walked over to him while the linemen (who were 50 yards away!) jogged over. *I think it’s interesting to note that the O Line coach played for me at Western Branch. He said later that “running is just how we do things!” Several of the backs commented (positively) on seeing the linemen jog over to them! Good start!

Team First! As the HC began his closing remarks to the players, I noticed that several of the veterans were off about 10 yards away!!?? They were gathering up the bags and shields and carrying them to the storage shed beside the field. A very nice thing for them to do but… they were missing out on the “words of wisdom” that the coach was sharing. I pointed out to him later that I think it’s important for ALL of the players to gather around (in front of him, by the way!!! Have them form a semi-circle in front of you. You want to be able to look them in the eye when you talk. You don’t want players behind you that you can’t see and… they can’t see you!) to hear what he has to say. I also stated (back to point #1) that if the HC is calling the players over, it must be important! So, they better coming running— not walking!

Then there’s the situation with storing the equipment. I used to ask for volunteers to stay back and pick up the equipment and help me get it into the shed. One hot, humid August day I noticed that the same 4-5 players were helping me close up every day! I stepped outside of the shed and looked toward our locker room (which is about 200 yards away) and some of the players were already nearing the door and taking off their pads and shoes!!! I went ballistic!!! I started blowing my whistle long and loud (repeatedly!) till the word reached the locker room that “Coach J wants everybody back on the field… pronto!!!” They came running! I gathered them around me (in front of me!!!) and said, “These 4 guys stay out every day and help me close up the shed while the rest of you head in and get a fast exit after practice. That is not fair and it does not exemplify what “BIG Team; little me” represents. From now on, NOBODY leaves the practice field until all equipment is stored away and I lock the door!!! If you want to help, and your help would be appreciated, that’s great! Things will get cleaned up faster with more people helping. But… we’re ALL staying here until the field is cleaned up! Is that clear??!!” From that point on, we got more people involved in clean up but… everyone went in as a team at the end of practice!

It may seem like “little things” but it’s all part of the BIG picture. You want to instill qualities that will make your players successful on and off the field! Teaching them that hustle and unity will carry them through life builds character. Making these “little things” I’ve discussed here part of your program’s culture are building blocks toward achieving that end.

Be An Effective “Time Manager”

Posted by admin April - 17 - 2017 - Monday Comments Off on Be An Effective “Time Manager”

One of the habits of a successful person is the ability to manage one’s schedule. It means “being on top of things” and meeting deadlines. It requires a high degree of organization but, that in itself is the factor that makes successful people successful!

For a Head Football Coach that means having a schedule and sticking to it. At this time of year, you should be laying out a monthly plan of upcoming events to carry you right into your pre-season practice. If you haven’t done so, you should arrange for your pre-season scrimmages. Find out what day practice officially starts and work backwards to this month to plan your spring and summer workouts.

Meetings: I’d recommend at least monthly off-season staff meetings. And, here is a key: All meetings start on time and finish on time. Let your staff know that you will start precisely at whatever time you’ve designated the meeting. Thus, they need to arrive 5-10 minutes early so they can be ready when it’s time to begin. Tardiness is inexcusable. We used to call this “Lombardi Time” for Vince Lombardi of the GB Packers. On the other end, the meeting ends at the prescribed time too. If you haven’t finished your business, continue it to the next meeting. It’s important to have an agenda so everyone stays on task. If you have a “talker” on your staff, you may have to pull him aside and ask his help in keeping everyone focused on the agenda.

Something else just crossed my mind. The same thing holds true for team practices; i.e., start and finish on time. If you don’t get everything done that you wanted, you put that on the kids at the end of practice. “It’s time lost that we can never earn back, guys!” you tell them. And along that line… when practice is over, ask for help in cleaning up the field and putting away equipment. Invariably, it seems to be the same 4-5 players who stay out and help lock up the equipment shed. You know what? The rest of the team can just stand there at the edge of the field till everything is done. NOBODY heads for the locker room until every player can go in together!!!!

Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

Posted by admin April - 12 - 2017 - Wednesday Comments Off on Are You Willing to Pay the Price?

I’m borrowing a theme from Bob Gass ministries’ daily devotion book, “The Word For You Today.” I highly recommend it to you!

He talks about things that you have to overcome if you want to be succeed in life. He points out that “success usually comes at the end of a struggle; if it came easily, everybody would be experiencing it.” There are no shortcuts to success. You have to be willing to pay the price by spending the time and making yourself do the things that UN-successful people don’t like to do! You need to remember that anything’s value is determined by the price that you’re willing to pay. Lasting success doesn’t come cheaply.

One of the things that all of us need to overcome are our fears. What are you afraid of? I know that in my life for years it was the fear of failure… and the subsequent fear of rejection from others. The remedy is simple: “Face Your Fears!” but the motivation is usually lacking! Instead of fearing failure, your concern should be the opposite! You should be concerned about the regret over never trying!!!

Is fear of criticism a problem for you? As you do experience success, certain people are going to resent it and resent you!

I love the Bible story of Nehemiah, the man who God called to be the RE-builder of Jerusalem’s walls. He had jealous enemies who did not want to see him succeed in the project. They came up with all sorts of enticements for Nehemiah to stop work and come down off the walls. His response?? “I am doing a great work, so… I cannot come down.” Do not defer to the opinions of others— especially when you know you’re doing what God has put on your heart to accomplish! Stay up on your “wall.” Keep laying bricks— or whatever God has called you to do.

Advancement and success require us to persevere. You build that wall brick by brick. It won’t happen overnight. With time and consistent effort, great things can happen. Don’t let fear and doubt get in your way. Go for it!!!

Thoughts on Staff Organization

Posted by admin April - 5 - 2017 - Wednesday Comments Off on Thoughts on Staff Organization

It’s that time of year when I’m hearing from coaches about what should they do with their coaching staff responsibilities and organization. I’ve got several Word doc’s available if any of you would like to take a look at them. Note that my email has changed. Please email me now at:

Here are some random thoughts on how you should organize your staff:

1- Who is the smartest, most knowledgeable… most experienced coach on your staff? If it is YOU then you need to be doing the majority of the important duties… like play-calling and running the defense! Interestingly, the most successful coaches in our area of Tidewater Virginia call both the offense and defense on game nights! They “fit the bill” on the qualities I stated above… so they take the major responsibility during games to affect and control the outcome. Don’t just give offensive play-calling to a young coach and you sit back on game night and basically “watch.” This is not college and it’s definitely not the NFL. Don’t use them as your basis for how to manage your program! This is high school.

2- If you want your offense to “go” you better have a great O line coach! You can give young, inexperienced guys some drills to run for Running Backs or Wide Receivers Indie period but… if you don’t have a quality O line coach, you are in trouble. In most cases, I’d even say that, if necessary, YOU take the O line (Head Coach!) and make sure that things are running smoothly up front.

3- Should you “split” your staff? Unless you are a “big time” powerhouse with 10-12 “quality” assistants and… 75- 100 kids on your squad, your staff members should coach both sides of the ball. I might add that I am not in favor of full 2 platooning either! In high school, you need your best players on the field as much as possible. Give them a rest on Offense and special teams but get those athletes on the field as much as possible so they can make plays for you!!! But, with your staff, I think it’s best to have assistants work both sides of the ball. I like having our JV players and coaches do Indie and Group periods during practice with the Varsity too.

4- Have a Special Teams “over-seer” who makes sure the special teams/players are on the field on Friday night but… you should consider assigning individual kicking teams to individual coaches. Give your assistants something to invest in. Make it theirs. They’ll take a lot more pride in getting things done if it’s their responsibility to make that particular special team excel.

5- Finally, give those young, hungry assistants responsibility for a position. You will have to “coach the coach” to be sure he understands the fundamentals of the position. You’ll have to give him a set of drills you want him to run during Indie period but most coaches want some autonomy and responsibility. Once you go to Groups, your Coordinators take over.

If any of you reading this want to “kick some things around” or you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!