Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for September, 2018

Make-up Games

Posted by admin September - 17 - 2018 - Monday Comments Off on Make-up Games

As most of you know, the area south of us in North Carolina and South Carolina is under water from the rain of hurricane Florence. In Tidewater Virginia, though, we escaped the fury of the storm… THIS time! However, all of the games were canceled last Friday. Now everyone is scrambling to re-boot their schedules. It kinda reminds me of the time I was stuck in the Atlanta airport when a thunder storm swept through. Once the airlines started rescheduling flights, it was a mess! The same thing is happening here— not just this week, but for the next 2 weeks.

Some teams are making up Friday’s game tonight; others tomorrow; some on Wednesday. That will affect the regularly schedule games for this coming Friday. And when you reschedule that one, it affects the ones for next week too! We’ll leave all that to the AD’s; but, I might add… you, as the HC, should be allowed some say so in how your schedule is reset. Be proactive and go speak to your AD and/or principal and let them know what your feelings are before they make a final decision. You have a stake in this thing and your voice should be heard.

What I want to share with you is HOW you prepare for those “short” weeks… when you have multiple games to prepare for. The first rule is: take 1 game at a time! Stay focused on your current opponent as you practice with your players. However, there’s nothing wrong with getting a head start with scouting your next opponent. Request Hudl video now… and start breaking it down. You do all of this while you tell your players that: “YOU have one focus! Get ready to play the best game you can play THIS game.”

Setting up a practice schedule can become a problem too. You have to decide a couple of things: 1- which drill periods you’re going to reduce in time or… eliminate altogether. 2- Which “day” do you eliminate? That is, delete your “Fundies Day” (typically Monday for the teams that I coached) or not have your “Run Through/Pregame” practice. I think it is important to keep things as similar to a normal practice week as you can.

The normal weekly practice schedule for the teams that I led went like this: Monday: Fundies (both sides) and Introduce the Scouting Report. Tuesday: Big O Day. Focus on Offense with a 20-25 minute period for Team Defense. Wednesday: flip the script and make it Big D Day… with a 20-25 minute Team Offense period. *NOTE: We practiced Special Teams every day! Then Thursday was: “Play A Game” Day. This was our Dress Rehearsal. I talk about this at length in my book, 101 Little Things. Check it out!

So… let’s say your play on Monday and your next game is Friday! You have 3 days to get ready. The first thing I’m deleting is “Thursday.” I make sure that I point out to the players on Tuesday that we will a) keep to our normal schedule as much as possible then b) we will not have our regular “Dress Rehearsal” on Thursday this week. Remind them on Wednesday too.

The other issue is how much contact do you put your players through when there’s a short week. If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you know that I’m not an advocate for much body-on-body “full” contact during the week anyway. However, rarely did we ever go out in anything less that full gear. Why? For protection. All it takes is for one Scout Team player to slip and nail your star RB in the thigh with his shoulder pad… and your star is now injured going into the game! (Yes… it happened to me more than once! You’d think I would’ve learned.) The only time we didn’t go out in full pads were weeks where we had an extra day of practice— playing on a Saturday instead of Friday night. But, that’s a different topic!

My “5 P’s of Success” come into play sooooooooo often! You’ve got to get your team properly prepared. That means having a plan for the whole week before practice starts the first day! Organization is the bed rock of preparation.

“Learned Laziness”

Posted by admin September - 10 - 2018 - Monday Comments Off on “Learned Laziness”

I had an epiphany last week on the practice field at the local high school that I’ve been helping with this season. My role was supposed to have been as a “consultant” to the head coach. What this basically means is that I make recommendations and he makes decisions. It has been a very good relationship. However, because of this close relationship, the (paid) assistant coaches were being ignored. This became clear to me last week.

We were in the middle of offensive 7 on 7 while the O line was at the other end working on pass protection. The HC is also the O line coach so he was 50 yards away. I was the one running the 7 on 7 drills. (Remember… I’m only a consultant.) At one point during the drill, I sensed God’s Holy Spirit nudging me to “take a look around.” What I saw was very disturbing. The assistant coaches were basically gathered on the sideline talking among themselves. It was a real wake up call for me.

Later that evening I called the HC and told him what I had observed and… to let him know that I would not be attending practices anymore. At least for a couple of weeks. My desire to “get to work” and keep practice moving had caused me to over-step my level of responsibility. As my wife told me later that evening when I explained the situation, “It sounds to me like you’re a Coach— NOT a Consultant!” She was right. So, I explained to the HC that he was going to have to shake up his staff and get them out on the field and coaching. They do a great job during Individual period. They’re good, young coaches. By removing myself from the practice field, they are going to have to step up and step in and contribute a lot more during Group and Team periods. What I had taught them was what psychologists call learned laziness! They could step back and do nothing because “Ole Coach J” was going to run the show for them.

The HC has had to speak up several times during subsequent practices to get the assistants to get out of their comfort zone and continue to coach/teach/encourage/correct throughout the entire practice. Why does he have to do this more than once? Because a habit had been formed. One does not break a habit with one try. He will probably have to speak up numerous times throughout the next few weeks until it “clicks” in the minds of the assistants that… “Coach J is not around to step in and do my job. I need to get busy.”

It is imperative that a HC understand that he has to “coach the coaches” before he ever thinks about coaching the players. I learned this from one of my coaching mentors. Get your staff organized and make sure that they are clear about the expectations that you, as HC, have for them. If they are not meeting those expectations, you will need to remind them during practice. If a coach continues to fall below the level of your expectations, then a private meeting is in order. If that does not change things, it may be time to plan on letting that coach go and find someone else who wants to work!

This should occur during the off-season. Monthly staff meetings need to include a period where your expectations are stated, then discussed. But, unless the HC is disciplined enough to stay on his staff once practice begins… there are going to be people who will always look to take the easy way out. The HC is responsible for his assistants. He is the one who has to lead the team. And that “team” includes the coaching staff.

Meeting with Parents

Posted by admin September - 6 - 2018 - Thursday Comments Off on Meeting with Parents

One of the big issues that coaches have to deal with is parent conferences. It is important to have a policy in place as to how/where/when you will meet with parents and then… communicate it. I have recently seen some HC’s “jumped” by irate dads after a game— right on the field! This should not happen. There is a way to control this situation but you have to be proactive.
Most every coach has a preseason parent meeting these days. It is important to present your guidelines for how you’re going to conduct your program. If you need a format, check my book. My Player/Parent Policy Sheet is listed in there. Anything from how you will deal with injured players attending practice to how a player letters should be covered. But, let’s focus on parent meetings.

It is important to keep an open door policy when it comes to dealing with parents. You need to let them that you want to help them; that their son’s well-being is important to you. Once you establish this, you must also let them know that if they want to meet that there is a time and place to do it.

You will not meet after a game or practice. Your mind is on other things and you can’t focus on their concern. After a game is also an emotional time and it’s best not to discuss things of a personal nature then. This is all in the spirit of wanting to help. So ask for their cooperation. Then…. if you are “jumped” after a game, for example, you can say, “Mr. Jones. According to our team policies, which I know you are aware of, I will not hold conferences with parents after games. If you would like to talk with me about your son, please call the school on Monday morning. We can talk when I can get to a phone or you can make an appointment to come in. Thank you. I’ve got to get into the locker room now.” And… WALK AWAY! Don’t get drawn into a heated situation where you may say something that you will regret later.

If you don’t have a stated policy about parent meetings. then tell the parent that this is not a good time to talk. “Sir, please call and make an appointment on Monday.” And, again… walk away.

OK… so they make an appointment the right way and you’re there in your office. How do you conduct yourself? There are 2 guidelines that you need to enforce: 1- we will discuss this calmly and 2- you will not discuss another player with these parents.

1- Things can get out of hand quickly if you allow the parent to become emotional. A raised voice or cursing are warning signs that emotions are getting high. You MUST remember that you are in charge of this meeting and you set the ground rules! If things get out of hand, you can give ONE warning. After that, the meeting ends and you ask them to leave. Do NOT meet with parents when you are alone. Have an assistant coach sitting outside or if you’re in school, know that there’s someone available if you call for support.

2- Parents are usually upset with a) the amount of playing time/starting their son is getting (or not getting!) or b) why is Johnny Jones playing and my son isn’t?! That’s where you draw the line. Again, firmly but politely, you state, “Mr. Smith, I do not discuss other parent’s children with you. You would not want me to do that with another player’s parents… so I am will not discuss it here.”

What you can tell the parents is what their son can do to improve his chances of getting more playing time. Share with them specific things that he needs to work on. There’s nothing wrong with saying that. Try to keep it in a positive vein.

I always tried to be positive but honest. Most parents have an overblown view of their son’s talent level. I would tell them something like, “Yes, your son has the potential to play college football. In my opinion, though, I don’t think you can expect a Power 5 conference school to offer him a scholarship. If he wants to play Div. 2 or 3, I can contact coaches on his behalf and see where that goes.”

You’re going to occasionally get that dad who played a little high school ball and has coached Rec League… and he listens to sports talk radio, so he knows a LOT more than you do about coaching football. I would sit there and listen but would conclude by reminding them that “the principal hired ME to coach this football team. I appreciate your input but I need you to understand that I am the coach and you are the parents. Please encourage your son to work hard and have a great attitude. Those are important attributes that we can work on together.” I don’t agree nor do I disagree. I thank them for their time and tell them that I have another appointment. The meeting is concluded.

The KEY here is: you are in charge and you have to control things… including your own temper! Be cooperative; be understanding but… don’t be a push-over.