Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Archive for August, 2020

High School vs. College

Posted by admin August - 26 - 2020 - Wednesday 1 COMMENT

There is a vast difference between the things that college coaches can teach (and expect their players to execute) and the things that high school coaches can expect their players to excel at. How many of you have at least 1 Div. I player in your program right now? Think about it: that one guy is the only player whose skill level is such that an ACC or SEC or Big 10 school wants him to come play for them in the future. Do you think it’s wise to expect the rest of your players to be able to perform at your D1 guy’s level? I submit that you are setting goals that are too high! Nothing wrong with having high expectations…. and encouraging your kids to reach for the stars. There’s also a point where a standard is unachievable. Then it becomes frustrating for everyone involved. “Well, Lew… anything is possible!” you may say. My response is, “No. Not everything is possible.” I’m as positive a guy as you want to meet. And I know that miracles DO happen. But… still. I was watching Miracle again on tv the other night. That team was so well-prepared when they met (and defeated) the Russians, that when you look at everything they went through to get to that one game, I don’t think you can call it a miracle win. They were good enough to defeat the Russians and on that night they DID!!! The best strategy when setting goals is for them to be challenging and…. realistic!

I am not advocating “dumbing down” what you teach your players. But, I think you have to be careful in assuming (and you KNOW what the definition of “assume” is??!!) that your high school players really know the game. They play a lot of computer football and they watch the ESPN “Talking Head Experts”… so they think they know football. But, my experience tells me that you might have those 2 or 3 guys who really understand the game; the majority are clueless. I did a routine “experiment” one season and checked to see which of our players were logging in the hours that the coaches hoped they would in watching game video on Hudl. Even our best player told me that he really “didn’t get a whole lot out of watching Hudl!!!” Wow! and he’s in an NFL Camp as I type this!

My point here is to encourage you to check out other high school coaches who are running your schemes before you seek out a college coach. If you have one near you, the best college coaches I found to get information from were D3 coaches. Their athletes; their facilities; their program in general is the closest to what we experience at the high school level. Most of those D3 coaches are young and gung ho! They would be happy to talk “X’s and O’s” with you.

For those of you who won’t be playing (hopefully) until the Spring, you have 5-6 more months of off-season preparation. Use this time to continue to study and learn. There is so much information out there now on the internet that you can utilize. It will help you to grow your staff, yourself and your program. It’s worth repeating: Be a “Student of the Game” and a “life-long learner.”

Try it! You’ll like it!

Make Your Special Teams “Special”

Posted by admin August - 21 - 2020 - Friday Comments Off on Make Your Special Teams “Special”

Have you ever wondered why the call them “Special” teams?? Where did that name come from??!!! The reason I say this is because far too many times over the years, the teams that we went against were anything but special when it came to their Special Teams!!!

You’ve probably heard the adage that the “kicking game is 1/3 of the game.” I believe it to be true; however, how many of you spend 1/3 of your practice time on your kicking game? Not many, I bet! I will admit that we did not either. We did spend a LOT of time in preseason practices getting every kicking team installed; but, once the season began we only spent about 20 minutes on Special Teams during a 2 hour and 20 minute practice. Yet, our kicking game was almost always superior in performance during games. Why was this? Two reasons:

  • We put a high priority on Special Teams… and the players knew it! The first segment of practice each day was the Kicking Game. Putting it first showed the team that we were not going to overlook it. Yep! It was that important. Also, we were not opposed to playing starters (on Offense and/or Defense) on our kicking teams. We let our back-up’s know that they could play a lot of ball and even earn their Varsity letter by contributing to our Special Teams but… it was not going to be “given” to them. They would have to show by their hustle, aggressiveness and positive attitude that they deserved the chance to to play on our Special Teams. Why? Cuz we wanted our Special Teams to be “special!” If a back-up was the starter on, say, our Kick-off team, then the defensive starter would be the back-up on the Kickoff team. There were games where we would insert the defensive starter on the kickoff… just because it was an important; i.e., playoff, game. We also sent our starting Running Backs deep on Kickoff Return. For 2 seasons, we had 2 future NFL players as the deep returners on our Kickoff Return team! Yep! It was that important!
  • The second reason that our Special Teams were “special” is because we did things a bit differently (uniquely) than most teams. You’ve read of the team in (is it) Missouri that only On-side kicks their kickoffs? Kinda crazy huh? Wellllllllllllll…. he “stole” that idea from us!!! (Just kidding!) But, we were “onside” kicking everything as early as 2001. Our concept was not a true “onside” kick but rather a “sky” kick to the opposite 30 yard line on the numbers. What we wanted was a “pitching wedge” golf shot. Accuracy was critical… as was hang time! We wanted our opponent to have to fair catch all kickoffs. That put the ball on their 30 yard line with NO chance for them breaking it long. We had one hard and fast rule on our kickoffs: Do NOT kick the ball deep down the middle of the field! It’s a recipe for disaster. The best part of our “sky” kicks is (as previously mentioned) people did not properly prepare for it. There were many games that we recovered a kickoff (or two!) simply because our opponent’s return men stood there and watched the ball bounce…. thinking it was like a punt. We’d dive on it and always loved to see the official direct his arm towards our opponent’s goal line! “First down!!!”

Not only did we do things differently, we only did them one way! We had one Kickoff Return. We had one way that we punted. Our Punt Return team did it one way! We rarely faked because we did not have time to work on it. By doing things one way, we could get a LOT of reps in each day in practice. The players knew how we did it and we never changed things. You’d be surprised how many reps you can get in 7-8 minutes by doing your kicking team only one way!!! Plus, doing it this way, we got realllllllllllllly good at it. For example, our goal was to return at least 1 kick-off back to (at least) the 50 yard line. Our Kickoff Return team was disappointed if we didn’t return one for a TD each week. We got so efficient with our Kickoff Return that people stopped kicking deep! We got great field position and didn’t have to set up our Wedge/Middle Return.

A coach whom I worked for years ago was famous for saying: “What you emphasize, you will achieve.” True…. to a certain extent! You can emphasize something (D End “wrong-shouldering a kickout block, for example) but if you’re not teaching it in a way that a player can excel at it, you’ve wasted your time. It’s why I came up with the adage that “PROPER Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!” Work hard on your execution in your kicking game and you will see results. Lou Holtz was known to say that “In a close game between two evenly-matched teams, it’s probably going to come down to a play or two in the Kicking Game that’s going to determine who wins.” Think: Auburn’s “Kick Six” against Alabama or Michigan’s punter “whiffing” on that last-second punt and Michigan State recovering for the winning TD! Just 2 examples of how Coach Holtz’s adage proved to be true.

Spend the time it takes to truly make your Special Teams “special!!!”

Spring Football

Posted by admin August - 11 - 2020 - Tuesday Comments Off on Spring Football

I’m wondering how many other states have already declared to do what Virginia is going to do??? Football in high schools in Virginia will not be played until March and April. In fact, NO high school sports in VA till (at least) Christmas.

Several coaches have lamented to me about how disappointed they are and… of course, how down their kids are that they can’t play football this fall.

The question becomes: how do you take a bad situation and change it for good? The answer: an attitude adjustment is needed!

We use the word attitude a lot. But… exactly what is “attitude?” The dictionary says the definition of attitude is: “A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in one’s behavior.”

So the way we “think” impacts the way we “act!” The attitude that you, as the Coach, project to your players has a major impact on their behavior. “Take that frown and turn it upside down!”

Here’s what I’ve shared with a couple of coaching friends who were struggling with how to present this major change in the sports calendar so that their players would accept the (radical) change and have a good attitude about it. I said:

Tell them (fall athletes) that “now you get to see what baseball players have dealt with since they started playing organized ball!!!”

Create a paradigm shift. You’ve got to bring about a “fundamental change in underlying assumptions” about a certain situation. When you get football players to “see” themselves the way that “spring” sport athletes “see” themselves, you can begin the shifting.

What is is about being a “spring” sport athlete? Wellllllllll…. you start school in the fall and nobody is talking about or even interested in your sport! Why? Cuz it’s still 6 months until you start playing. Soooooooo…. what do you do in the meantime? Work hard to prepare properly for the start of pre-season practice! You lift; you run; you do drill work; you play 7 on 7 (IF it’s allowed in your area)—- you do the things that are necessary to get ready to have a great season!

You LOOK AT yourself as a “spring” sport athlete this year! Do the things that “spring” sport athletes have done for years! Mentally prepare your mind the way that “spring” sport athletes have done for years! THAT is what you “plant” in your athletes’ minds!

An Attitude of Gratitude!

Posted by admin August - 5 - 2020 - Wednesday Comments Off on An Attitude of Gratitude!

We live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast… Tidewater Virginia. Beautiful summer weather— perfect for visiting the numerous beaches in our area. The problem is: we are also “on the radar” for any hurricane that races up the coast! We got hit the other day. Not hard… just a cat 1… but it was enough to knock down trees and power lines. As my wife and I sat in the dark early yesterday morning, it was apparent that I would have to get out our generator and gas it up.

Oops! The only gasoline I had was a small can for the lawnmower. Soooooo…. off I went in the car to search out a gas station that was open! I passed numerous places that were closed due to no electricity. I finally found a gas station that was open; but, so did a LOT of other folks! It felt like I was living in the late 70’s again with the Arab oil embargo causing gas shortages and looooooong lines at the gas pump! People were generally nice, and patient, and 30 minutes later I had 3 gas cans filled and on my way home.

Fortunately for us, it was only 4 hours later that our power company got our power restored and our lights (and AC!!!) were back on. Last night my wife said to me, “I love electricity!” I couldn’t argue with that!!!

Which brings me to my point: appreciate the small things! You never know when they might be taken away from you. How sad that we groaned and complained that we couldn’t use our oven. We couldn’t watch tv. All I could do was sit in front of the fan and read a book! Whiner…..

If you’ve followed me on this site for any length of time, you’ll know that one of the most important “sayings” that I emphasize is: ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!!!

It’s amazing how much our attitude (our frame of mind) can affect everything we do. My wife and I both stopped and took a few minutes to think about the things that we are grateful for: the men/women who worked throughout the night to get our electric power restored. The folks who opened up their gas station so I could buy some gasoline. I even said a prayer of thanks for Thomas Edison… for coming up with the means of running current throughout a city!!! Our “attitude of gratitude” made for a great evening of rejoicing!