Monday, January 25, 2016

Implementing RPO Concepts

Back about 15 years ago we started to experiment with RPO concepts. RPO stands simply for Run-Pass-Option. We were talking about how we would call a run and the defense would load the box. The corner over our single WR, however, was playing 8 yards off the ball with no underneath help. I really wish we had called a stop route.

Fast forward a couple of years and we were playing a team that was crowding the box again when we were in 2x2 sets. They were playing cover 3, with the OLB's playing 1x1 on our tackles. Below is a diagram that shows the defensive alignment.

We built in some uncovered rules, and told the QB to alert "BOZO" if the defense showed this alignment. We would rise up and throw to the #2 WR. Regardless of what the play call was, if the defense showed this look we would check BOZO. This worked well, and eventually the defense adjusted and started to cover our #2 receivers. 

During our off-season meetings we started to talk about building quick game concepts into the call. We began to tag our run concepts with a quick game concept. Once we saw the defense was not honoring our perimeter skill players, we would tag the quick game concept. If we tagged it, we were telling the quarterback to throw it. The QB would fake the run and throw the quick. This was great until we added the tag and the defense lined up to take the quick game concept away. Below shows the defense aligned to take away the bubble.
We told our quarterback, if we tag it, you throw it. Our bubble screen got hit in the mouth. This was not very good. At some point we saw a coach at a clinic mention they were having their quarterback make a pre-snap determination of whether he would throw or run based on defensive alignment. This, to me, was very intelligent. From here, our RPO system was born.

We would build in pass concepts to our runs, and if the defense lined up to take the run, we would throw the pass. If the defense lined up to take the pass away, run the ball. There is nothing magical about this approach. It was sound in principal and in practice. 

When we implemented this initially there were some growing pains. We learned we had to have specific criteria of when to throw and when to run. We had to determine how we would communicate our concepts. We had to train our quarterbacks to be able to make a good pre-snap determination. We also had to make sure we had the "right" guy at quarterback. We couldn't have a guy who was selfish. We had to have someone who would be able to make the right read because it was the right read.
Below is an example of a simple RPO concept off our inside zone read. 

Over the last few years we have greatly expanded our RPO package. Every run now has a pass. When we call the run we are calling the pass. This has greatly helped our offense to be more explosive and more balanced. It has forced the defense to defend the entire width of the field while having to remain gap sound. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit was the fact that we could get our skill players the ball in open space. The touches for our X and Z receivers increased tremendously. Below is an example of our inside zone read concept before we implemented our RPO concepts.
If our QB got a pull read we had to hope our #2 WR was able to block the OLB. If the OLB blitzed from depth or walked up late, our QB basically had to give the ball regardless of what the defensive end did. Our quarterback got hit in the mouth more than once. 

Once we added our RPO concept, if the OLB did not honor our #2 WR, we simply threw the tagged quick game concept. This allowed us to have a high percentage throw the protect the run. Below is a diagram of the same concept with the built in RPO.

If the outside linebacker aligned over our #2 WR, we would execute the run. If the OLB aligned inside our #2 WR, we would throw the quick concept. The QB would catch and throw. If we executed the run and got a pull read, we still had to deal with the backer. The QB would replace the read and get his eyes on the OLB. If the OLB widened, the QB would keep. If the OLB attacked him, he would throw the ball to the #1 WR, illustrated in the diagram below.

Essentially we were playing triple option football, just with a twist. And if you consider our pre-snap process, we would playing quadruple option football. The quarterback could throw the quick game pre-snap based on alignment. If you look to the tight end side, our Z WR is running a stop route. If the defense gave us the stop route, the QB could throw that as well based on pre-snap alignment.

This is just one example simple quick game concept that can be built into a base run play to give you a manageable RPO. You can implement this in a couple of days of practice time, and it will lead to some explosive plays. We now have a multitude of RPO concepts in our offense. 

A couple of questions I get are: Do we have lineman downfield? At times we do, but this is a concept thrown just behind the LOS, so we can have lineman downfield. Does our QB ever mess up the read? They do, but more often than not they are conservative on throwing the quick concept pre-snap. 

We complete this concept at a 98% completion rate, and we average over 6.8 yards every time we throw it. It is essentially a toss sweep to a good athlete. It has helped greatly to improve our run game as well.

After speaking at clinics on RPO concepts for several years, and helping several schools install RPO concepts into their offenses, I decided to write a book. It is available on both ibooks and on Windows and Android based systems through the Kindle App. I wanted the book to be accessible to all without $$ being a factor, so it is just $9.99! 

The book covers everything you need to implement RPO's into your offense. Whether you want to add RPO concepts to your entire run game, or you want to start with one or two simple concepts, this book will show you how to do so with confidence. I cover everything from pre-snap to 2nd and 3rd level post snap concepts and reads. The book is written with a very systematic process to installing RPO's. Regardless of your system, this book will give you a method and a plan.

The apple version on ibooks has video embedded. Their are clips of all of our RPO concepts. The Kindle version has everything but the video clips. Both books are chalk full of diagrams and explanation. The biggest thing is that this book is a manual with a very systematic process of installing RPO's into your system. 

Here is a link to the ibooks version: These iBooks are truly innovative as the video brings the concept to life. If you have an iPad or iPhone, or a Mac, this is the way to go. 

Here is a link to the Kindle version for all Android and Windows devices:
The Kindle cover is a little different. I wanted to keep things fresh!

I will be speaking at two Nike Clinics this year, and the Northwest All Sports Clinic in Seattle. The clinic in Seattle is Feb. 11-13. I will be speaking at the Nike Clinic in Louisville Jan. 28th to the 30th, and the Nike Clinic in Mississippi the 18th to the 20th of February!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Using Tempo to Create Explosive Plays!

Offensive coordinators are always striving for new ways to gain an advantage over the defense. We go to clinics and visit coaching staffs trying to find new ways to gain more yards and score more points. One very important area that has helped the evolution of football is tempo. Over the last ten years we have seen a significant increase in the number of teams who use elements of tempo in their offense.

Back about 15 years ago I began my own experiment with tempo. We were getting ready to play a team that had us physically overmatched. They were better than us up front. They were faster than us in the secondary. They had dominated everyone they played. We decided to play at Nascar Tempo for entire drives. We were in the I Formation for the most part, and we were option based. We did jump in the gun to run our zone read concepts, but our identity was being in the I and running the ball.

In the first quarter we ran 30 plays and racked up over 180 yards on the ground. We had two drives that started inside our own 10 yardline. We were able to consistently move the football. As soon as the play ended we were sprinting to the line and getting set. We were going as fast as we could and the defense was lost. They couldn't communicate their fronts and coverages. They couldn't get lined up properly. Despite being overmatched we were able to consistently move the ball. Our tempo system was born.

"We ran 30 plays in the first quarter and racked up over 180 yards on the ground!"

The second tempo we added was our Freeze or Look tempo. We are going to make it look like we are going to run a play at Nascar Tempo. We would sprint to the line and the quarterback would say, "ready go." If the defense jumps we snap the ball and run verticals. We essentially get a free play. If the defense doesn't jump the quarterback says, "easy-easy look-look." The offense looks over and we signal to them the play we are going to run. When we use the freeze/look mode I have a chance to look at the defense and call a play based on how they are lined up. I found I called a better game when I could see how the defense lined up each play.

We then added four more tempos to our offense. Playing fast is great, we like to do it, but the defense will adapt to whatever speed you play. If you play fast, the defense will get acclimated and play fast. If you play slow, the defense will get acclimated. But if you change tempos the defense will not be able to settle into a comfort zone. Each tempo we added had a specific purpose, and the defense never knew when we were going to run a specific tempo. We are able to change speeds from one play to the next. Because we can play fast every snap if we want to, the defense must prepare that way. They must get their call in immediately, regardless of what speed we actually go.

Adding an element of tempo has helped us to become much more explosive on offense. When we change speeds we have more explosive plays than when we play one speed. The biggest mistake I have made is slowing down when we had injuries and trying to shorten the game. When we did this we sacrificed effectiveness on offense. We eliminated what might have been the most dynamic part of our offensive system.

Coaches ask me about tempo and how we implement it into our system, and I decided to write a book about it. There really wasn't a book that gave a systematic approach to building a multiple tempo system into an offense. This book I wrote talks about how to incorporate tempo into any offense. It gives you a process that can easily be adapted to anything you might do. What is special abut this book is that it contains video! It is built on Apple's Ibooks platform. The downside is that it can only be viewed on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. I also have version for the Kindle with text and pictures! There is no video on the Kindle version.

I shared the book with a few close friends in coaching, and they believe this is one of the best pieces of information available on tempo! It takes you through a simple process for each of our tempos, and how you can fit them into your system. Whether you are running a wing-t system and huddling, or you are an Air Raid team, you can benefit from what I talk about in the book.

One very important aspect of the book is the price. I wanted it to be affordable to coaches. I priced it at $14.99, but for the first two weeks of release the book is just $9.99! There may not be a better value out there!

Here are a couple of screenshots from the book:

The book includes over an over of video clips so you can see each tempo in action! I include practice footage as well, so you can see how we teach and install each tempo! And, I show you how you can build picture boards as one method of communication! I also take you through a simple communication system you can use to implement tempo into your offense!

If you are looking to learn more about tempo, this is a book you NEED to purchase! Here is a link to the book:

Here is a link to the Amazon Kindle Version:

This book will give you something you can use with you program!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Improving Our Craft

One of the things I like most about the winter is having the opportunity to research innovative ways to improve our program. Regardless of whether we went 16-0 or 5-5, or 0-10, we want to find ways to do things better. This time of year is vital to improving our programs.

There are three things every coach can do to improve this off-season. There are actually about 3,000, but we will focus on three. First, attend at least one clinic each year. Whether you are in your first year as a coach or in your 40th, there are areas you can improve. At each clinic I attend I try to find at least 5 things that I can use with our players and our program. It may be a small coaching point, or a way to communicate something in a way our kids will understand. It may be tweaking a blocking scheme, or a new route combination. The key is finding things that can practically be applied.

The first high school coordinator job I held was for David Diaz at Columbus High School. Coach Diaz took us to the Megaclinic in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where we heard some tremendous speakers. As a young coach it was overwhelming to hear some of the top high school and college coaches in the country giving clinic talks. Coach Diaz had our staff divide up where we would go so we would get the most out of the clinic for our program. Megalinics actually bought out Frank Glazier and adopted the Glazier name.

It was in Atlantic City that we met Jerry Campbell, who was the offensive coordinator at Westwood High School in Round Rock, Texas. Coach Campbell took time to talk me through an overview of the option game. We flew him up to visit our staff and coach our kids and coaches up on the midline, load, and veer options. Coach Campbell became a great mentor and role model to me, and is one of the great men in this business. If you haven't met him yet, you need to!

In addition to attending clinics, we would visit college staffs in the spring. Typically we would visit one or two local staffs. Our goal was to learn what other people were doing that worked, and figure out the best things to incorporate into our program. You can never think you have it figured out. You have to always be trying to improve and get better.

Third, talk ball with guys who come to visit your school recruiting. When coaches came through the door recruiting our guys, we were going to ask questions. It may be scheme related, or it may be about practice organization. Mike Simpson, who was the defensive coordinator at The University of Albany when I was coaching in the Bronx, was very helpful to talk to. As we watched film of a player I would ask him technique questions. How could we play this better? What could this kid of done better to take on this block? What drill do you have that could help our defensive lineman spill the trap? Most coaches want to help, but you have to be willing to ask.

At the time I didn't realize how lucky we were, but New Hampshire's offensive coordinator walked through our door to recruit a running back. We watched film and he noticed were were running some zone read concepts from the gun. This was back in 2001. The coach was Chip Kelly, and he got on the board and talked us through some things they were doing. He talked to us about tempo and how they were snapping ball fast without huddling. We all were amazed at his passion and knowledge. I wish I had taken the time to ask him more questions. You never know where that guy coming through your door is going to end up. Take time to pick their brain and learn something new.

Make sure you don't get caught in the trap that you already know everything. I have never understood coaches who say they never get anything out of clinics. They aren't looking very hard. There is always something you can pick up. I once worked with a guy who said, "we do what we do, and none of these guys are going to share anything valuable anyway." I may not be very smart, but to me that is a bull crap excuse to not go to a clinic.

Here are a couple of thoughts for younger coaches figuring out how to get better...

1. Listen to small college and high school speakers
   These guys tend to have material that is most applicable to high school coaching. They tend to have a lot of knowledge, but they face a lot of the same battles high school coaches face. When they talk scheme it often can be applied to the high school level.

2. Listen to Division I position coaches
   It is very cool to listen to big time head coaches talk, but they are not going to give you a lot schematically. The guys who you can take the most from are position coaches that are talking technique. James Franklin was a tremendous speaker on receiver play when he was at Maryland. It was easy to see that he would one day lead a major program.

3. Get a card from the speaker
   The card will most likely have their school email address which cannot be found on many staff directories. This can help you when you have a player that you would like them to look at, or when you have a question.

4. Here are some NFL speakers you need to hear
   Jim McNally, Alex Gibbs, and Pat Ruel. These are three guys that are offensive line gurus that know their football!

5. Join XandO Labs! These guys do a tremendous job of putting together a variety of clinic reports and research projects. Their website is For just $49 a year you get access to information from some of the top coaches at the high school, college, and NFL levels.

6. Buy DVD's and Books
  Books and DVD's are great resources for you to get more information and have it available to review at your convenience. There are books and DVD's for just about every title available. Often you can save 50% on DVD's at clinics. Keep your eye out for sales around the holidays as well. If you are looking for pistol resources check out my website at

7. Check out every day. In addition to reporting on coaching changes in college football, football scoop has insightful articles about programs from NAIA and D3 up through the top BCS programs. I have picked up a ton of program building tidbits from them over the last couple of years.

8. Talk to coaches who are successful
   I am constantly in contact with guys who have information I think can be beneficial. Be on the lookout for guys who do things really well. If I am looking for information on screen game I call DJ Mann @Thamannjr at Crosby High School in Texas. If I want to talk about program building I am going to reach out to someone like Randy Jackson @Coach_RJackson at Grapevine High School, or Joey McGuire @Coach_McGuire50 at Cedar Hill. If I want information on getting my athletes the ball in space I am going to call Will Compton @CoachWCompton. Create a database of guys who do certain things well so you can contact them.
9. Use social media
   Social Media has really taken off and has become a great place to share information. Not everything on social media is trustworthy, but there are several Facebook Groups and Twitter Chats where coaches share information. #txhsfootballchat on twitter Wednesday nights is a great place to start.

10. Visit Coach Huey! is a great place to find information. Coaches from all over the country and even internationally share information.

The biggest deal is to take time to research and improve. It is vital that we work hard to improve as coaches in the winter and spring. We must always be on a  quest to be our best! Use the resources that are available to continually improve as a coach and as a person. Our kids deserve nothing less!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Building Champions Through Mental Toughness

The winter, spring, and summer is a great time of year for football coaches and players. This is the time of year when you have the opportunity to begin anew. This is when you can build the mental toughness your team lacked in the fall. This is the time when you can change, enhance, or grow the culture of your program. By the time August rolls around your culture will have been built. What you do between now and then to build the culture you desire is completely under your control.

There is no magic pill for building mental toughness. There is no quick fix. Building mental toughness and creating a culture that embraces the pillars of success is a process. It is also a choice. You choose to build mental toughness. You choose to build a culture. I do not buy the argument that "this group just wasn't mentally tough." What did you do to develop their mental toughness? Like anything, you teach mental toughness with intent.

Mental Toughness won't build itself. It takes a lot time and effort, as well as complete buy-in from your coaching staff. If one member of your staff fails to hold your athletes to your standard, you will lose trust from your athletes.

You must first clearly define MENTAL TOUGHNESS...
Mental Toughness is the ability to face adversity, failure, and negative events,  without a loss of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm. 

Building Mental Toughness is composed of five key components:
1. Clear Definition of Mental Toughness
2. Setting Clearly Defined Standards of Performance
3. Accountability: Reminders and Rewards
4. Exceeding Self-Imposed Limitations
5. Accountability and Reminders

Standard of Performance
Your standard of performance is the level to which you expect your athletes to perform. These must be clearly defined, and you need standards of performance for every aspect of your program. Your athletes must know what is acceptable and what isn't. Don't just tell them to get to parallel when you squat. Demonstrate parallel to them, then have them get to parallel with no weight on the bar. Don't add weight until they can meet the standard without weight.

Once you set your standards, then you must hold your athletes accountable. This is a HUGE part of building mental toughness. It might mean you do the same drill or exercise 30 times. You do it until they meet the standard. You cannot let them do less than the standard. If they all are suppose to count each rep, then hold them accountable. If they don't do it, you have a reminder exercises. You then reteach and have them perform the exercise again.

One example of this is when our athletes are suppose to clap during a drill. If they don't clap, we stop the drill and give them a reminder. We then reteach our standard and repeat the drill. If it is done appropriately, we move on. The reminder does not have to be long, grueling or painful. It needs to be short and quick, allowing the group to get back to the task at hand.

Learning to Work Through Adversity and Discomfort
This is perhaps the most important aspect of building mental toughness. Most athletes will use about 50% of their capacity. However, they think they are at 100%. They believe they are at their peak level of performance and the tank is empty. This is the point when most athletes will shut it down. This is the most important point in the process of building mental toughness. Great competitors are able to push themselves to use 100% of their capacity.

A great exercise to teach mental toughness is ab work. Put your athletes on their back with their hands under their ups or at their side. Have them straighten their legs and extend them out, lifting their heels six inches off the ground. Have them hold this position for just ten seconds. This will be easy for them to do. Then, have them hold it and don't tell them how long. After about 15 seconds they will begin to twist and turn. They may even moan and grown. Some will let their feet hit the ground, taking pressure off their mid section. This is the point at which you begin training mental toughness.

Explain to them the expectation and standard is that everyone will keep their legs straight and their heels at 6 inches. If they bend their knees or put their feet down, the clock will stop. Tell them no negative noise is allowed. What is allowed is positive encouragement to the man next to you. You tell them the clock will start at 30 seconds. Have a coach with a timer and have them start the time when everyone has their heels at 6 inches in the appropriate posture. When someone loses posture or drops their feet, the clock stops.

The first time we did this guys gave up very quickly. Depending on the state of your program this could take an entire day. While this is going on, coaches need to be encouraging the athletes. Remind them they can do more than they think they can. Tell them you believe in them, and they have to be willing to trust themselves to get through this.

Over the course of the spring you increase the amount of time they must be able to hold the 6 inch position. Constantly reinforce the exercise is about being able to push through. Another variation is to have an athlete who loses the position stand up. The first time you do it you will have several standing. Repeat the exercise and tell them the goal is to have no one standing. For every player standing, you have a reminder exercise. But the kicker is, you have the guys that completed it properly to the reminder. This conditions them that when they make a mistake, it affects everyone.

Forty 40's
Another great exercise is called forty 40's. We did this back about 15 years ago as a rite of passage for our guys. We told them they were going to run 40 perfect 40's. We wanted them to learn to keep the same posture and focus with the 40th rep as they did with the first rep. We wanted them to have the same attitude and effort when they were dog tired as they did when we began. The key for this exercise was the fact that the rep only counts if it is perfect. We defined perfect as perfect stance, perfect start, perfect effort, fast finish. If they didn't meet our standard, the rep did not count.

The first time we did this it took us nearly 90 Reps to get forty perfect reps. It was a real test of mental toughness, but what our guys learned was they were capable of so much more than they initially thought.

The first time we did this we actually did it on a hill we named "San Juan Hill." It was a steep incline that was about 25 yards to climb. We had them sprint up that hill for what seemed like hours. None of them thought they could do it. We knew they could, and we constantly reminded them.

Self-Imposed Limitations
This is all part of getting them to push through their self-imposed limitations. Most athletes mentally limit themselves before they begin. Heck, many coaches do the same thing. We start this negative talk and pretty soon we have talked ourselves out of something special because it might be a little bit tough.

Reminders and Rewards
Reminders and Rewards are simply how you give immediate feedback on whether the standards are being met. If the standard is being met, you provide a reward to you athletes. If they don't meet the standard of performance, you have a reminder. Your reminders should start small and progress. Updowns are a great reminder. They are also a great way to teach mental toughness.

1. Set clearly defined expectations and standards of performance
2. Give Immediate Feedback
3. Immediate Rewards and Reminders
4. Reinforce Positive Behaviors
5. Continually Reinforce Your Standards

Building Confidence
As your athletes learn to increase their capacity, they will grow in confidence. They will begin to believe in themselves and their teammates. Our role as coaches is to continually remind them of the greatness they have inside, and that we are merely trying to pull that greatness out. The exercises themselves will break them down mentally. We have to make sure we are constantly reinforce that they can do it. We have to reinforce that have more in the tank than what they think they have. Keep telling them you believe in them. This will help to build that confidence that will certainly carry over to in-season competition.

Before your players can win on the field, they must win in the weight room, in the mat room, and on the track. Mental Toughness is not built during the season. It is built in the winter, spring, and summer. It is built by doing things others aren't willing to do. It is built with intent. You won't ever "happen" to have mental toughness. You have total control over how well you develop mental toughness in your athletes.

Coach Vint has authored several books and instructional DVD's with Coaches Choice. His book 101 Pistol Option Plays is actually available now as a 2 volume interactive ibook for the iPad! It is similar to a traditional book, but it contains several hours of video as well!
Order Part 1 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1- Traditional Option Concepts
Order Part 2 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2- Spread Concepts

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Guest Blog Post: Jim Harshaw

One of the most difficult issues in sports is being able to communicate and build relationships with parents. When I first began coaching I had now clue what this would entail. It is one of the most important things we must do as coaches.  I have screwed up many times in my dealings with parents, and each time is a valuable learning experience.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Jim Harshaw about a book he has written called Dealing Successfully With Parents. Coach Harshaw has coached at every level of sports, and brings an outstanding perspective to this important issue. Jim has shared a guest post, and I have also included a link to his TED Talk. He offers tremendous insight that you can use to build stronger relationships with parents.

By: Jim Harshaw

Surveys show that dealing with parents is one of the top most time consuming and frustrating tasks that coaches deal with on a regular basis. 

Having coached for 15 years from youth through Division I, I've spent countless hours researching best practices on dealing with parents. I've read books and blogs, listened to audio podcasts and talked with dozens of coaches about it. Here's what I've found: it all boils down to communication and education. 

While these are simple concepts here are some practical solutions that you can use right away. 
  1. Let Them Talk: Many parents just want to be heard and by letting them talk without interruption you satisfy that need. Acknowledge that you've heard them and will consider their point of view and move on with your day. 
  2. Admit When You're Wrong: We all make mistakes. When we see a public figure make a mistake and try to explain it away or cover it up, we lose respect and end up talking poorly about them and even trying to undermine their authority. When they apologize and face the issue head-on, we are far more willing to give them slack and a second chance. It's the same with you. 
  3. How to Be a Sports Parent: Parents react with emotion instead of logic because they never took a class on how to be a good sports parents. It's your job to teach them things like how to be supportive at home, what kind of nutrition they should be providing and what kind of feedback is actually helpful for you. It will not only minimize the issues you have to deal with but also maximize the performance of your athletes.  
Get many more tips and tactics as well as worksheets and templates in the Dealing Successfully with Sports Parents ebook. Access to this proactive guide will help you spend less time reacting to criticism, responding to emails and looking over your shoulder... and more time coaching. Download Coach Harshaw's Book Here

This is a guest post by Jim Harshaw. In addition to learning how to deal successfully with parents as a youth, high school and college coach, Jim Harshaw learned many life lessons on the wrestling mat. He was a 3X ACC Champion for the University of Virginia, trained at the Olympic Training Center and competed overseas for Team USA. He lives in Charlottesville, Va with this wife Allison and four children. 

Here is a link to order Coach Harshaw's Book: Dealing Successfully With Parents

Here is a link to Coach Harshaw's TED Talk...

Coach Harshaw is more than an outstanding speaker, he is also a very good coach who cares about the success of his athletes away from sport. He has great advice for coaches of all levels. I have screwed up many times, and this information will help me to be a better coach.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Coaching with Purpose

One of my favorite websites to check out is, where coaches share their thoughts and insight. A topic that frequently comes up is "why coaches went into coaching." I have chimed in a few times, and recently I shared some information that I wanted to put into a blog post. For the next couple of minutes I am going to jump on my soapbox about what it truly means to be called "coach."

Coaching is about much more than teaching a sport. The same way that teaching is about much more than the results of a state mandated test or whether a kid can calculate an algebra equation. It is about teaching kids to be the very best that they can be, and they can do more than what they think they can. And it all starts with relationships. I watched my dad coach when I was growing up, and the love he had for his players was unconditional. He was a master at building relationships with kids that lasted a lifetime.

Building relationships is much bigger than just sending a text to a kid or an email blast. It is about caring for the kid outside of sport. it is about learning about his home life and background. it is about learning their hopes and dreams and fears and goals. I talked to guys my dad coached 40 years ago and they talk about him in very high regard. And, they never mention a win or a loss. They talk about how he helped them through difficult situations they faced in their personal lives. These are things that are not out in the public eye. Part of building relationships is about being available.

Many times I asked my dad why he taught and coached, and he never talked about winning and losing. He talked about giving kids something to believe in so you can impact them through sport, improving their life after sport. Do you care about the Jersey, or the Player wearing the jersey? Do you care about the kid as much when he is in ISS as much as you do when he is scoring touchdowns? Do you cast kids away when they make a mistake, or do you reel them in for a teachable moment?

I am blessed to work with a head coach who sets a great example for building a program based around love. Coach Jackson cares greatly about each player. He often says, "do you teach English, or do you teach kids?" The answer to that question says a lot. It starts with wanting the very best for every kid you coach. It is about loving them unconditionally. It is about caring about them for who they are, not what they can do. It is about looking deep inside each kid and finding the gold inside. We can't give them greatness, they already have it. Our job is to pull it out of them. And again, it all goes back to relationships. If they know you care about them, and I mean truly care about them as more than a player on your team, they will play their hearts out.

Why is this important? Because someone has to fill the void that left by the absence of fathers. Most of the kids we teach and coach don't have a relationship with their father. For most of them, we are the only positive male role models they might have in their life. We may be the only adult male role model who truly cares about them and loves them unconditionally. Many of our young people are surrounded by adults who break promises. We have an opportunity to be someone they can trust.

One thing I have learned is to never, ever talk negative about a player in public. It does not do you any good personally or professionally. It builds a disdain and a distrust within your current and former players. Guys are going to talk and share information. Imagine what you would think if you ran into a former colleague and he told you your former boss said you were a lazy S.O.B. with no heart... How would you feel? What if that same colleague came up to you and said, your former boss said even though you didn't see eye to eye he said he always loved and respected X, Y, and Z about you... Which is more effective? If you are going to use an example of a former player, leave out the name. Or, bring back the former player to share his story. Let him educate your players.

Tell your players you love them, then back it up with your actions. If they make a mistake, coach them through it. Tell them you believe in them, and remind them of this often. Ask them about their family... and then listen to what they say. Hold them accountable for their actions and explain to them how it benefits them in the long run to be held accountable. This doesn't mean berate them in public. It means privately talking to them about the behavior and telling them why you are holding them accountable.

Take 5 minutes a day, three days a week and have a character talk. Have a different coach deliver the message each time, and keep it to 5 minutes. Bring in former players to give the talk. This will be meaningful to the players.

But again, this all comes back to if you don't care. If you don't really care, then you may want to make a career change. If you don't care whether Johnny has food on the table, or you don't care whether Bill became a good father, then your players are right.

When I first started coaching it was all about winning and losing, and I did not care about my players outside of sport. I really didn't care about them inside of sport unless they were a good player. We took a losing baseball program in the mid 90's and won games, but something was missing. Then I went to work for a man coaching football who cared deeply about each and every player. It was a great lesson for me on why we do what we do. Do we do what we do for ourselves? Or do we do what we do to because we have an opportunity to impact kids? The answer to that question can change and evolve over time. My purpose for coaching continues to evolve as I grow as a person.

The biggest regrets I have don't have to do with a play call or a why we lost a game. They have to do with how I might have handled a situation differently. They have to do with the crappy example I set on handling adversity. They have to do with the stuff I said to and about kids. There are kids that I had a chance to impact and I chose to take the easy way out and break them down. Why? Because I didn't care. I had a chance to build them up and help them to believe in themselves. I let my ego get in the way of this opportunity. Don't let your ego get in the way of an opportunity to change the life of one of your student-athletes. Is what you are about to do going to satisfy your ego, or is it going to help that kid be successful? An instructor at West Point once said, "give em what they need, not what they deserve."

There are some who would say this philosophy doesn't work. This is all kumbaya. That would be patently false. We coach our kids hard. We hold them accountable for every little detail. If we don't do something right, we do it again. But we try to do this without breaking them down. We work hard to coach with passion and enthusiasm each and every day. We bring energy and try to set that example for our kids. We don't sugarcoat things. We tell them the truth, but we do so with a twist about how it can change. We add that we believe in them. As John Wooden said, "a coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment." If you constantly break your kids down, they will play like they are broken down. More importantly, they will live their life broken down.

Here is the cool part... When we began to coach as transformational coaches nearly 20 years ago, we won more games. We were more consistent. Our kids believed in themselves. We had better leadership. We had trust between players and coaches and players and players. Our players could handle adversity. And, our kids learned values that have continued into adulthood. If you want to be champions on the field, you have to be willing to build champions off the field. You have to build  culture of love and trust within your program.

The best part about this is that how we coach is a choice. How much we care is a choice. I make mistakes each day. Yesterday I said something to  a kid I had to apologize for. I told him I shouldn't have said what I said and asked for his forgiveness. He responded that he forgave me. We hugged. He said, "thank you coach." I told him I loved him. He repeated it back. Our relationship is now strengthened because of it. He knows I care about him, and I modeled for him what you do when you make a mistake. Some would say that showed weakness. I would tell you that something like that shows great strength. That kid can now use that lesson when he is a husband or father and makes a mistake.

That is the real goal. What can we do to build young men that will be great husbands and fathers? What can we do to help them achieve more than they once thought possible What can we do to help them believe that they can overcome adversity they will face in life? And that all starts with the relationships you build.

Coach Vint has authored several books and instructional DVD's with Coaches Choice. His book 101 Pistol Option Plays is actually available now as a 2 volume interactive ibook for the iPad! It is similar to a traditional book, but it contains several hours of video as well!
Order Part 1 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1- Traditional Option Concepts
Order Part 2 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2- Spread Concepts

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

#txhsfbchat or the Future of Your Coaching Education

Today we have a guest blog post by a coach who has done a tremendous job of organizing Wednesday Night football chats on Twitter with the hashtag #txhsfbchat. Chris Fisher, or @coachfisher_rp as he is known on Twitter, took a few minutes to share his thoughts on how Twitter has impacted coaching.

#txhsfbchat or the Future of Your Coaching Education
By Chris Fisher

Traditionally football coaches have the opportunity to attend clinics in the Spring and Summer to learn from coaches at the top of their profession and network with coaches across the state. These clinics can offer insight into what has made these coaches and their programs successful.  College coaches offer additional educational opportunities by extending invitations to high school coaches to visit their facilities and attend Spring practices.  Together, these opportunities help to expand our knowledge about all aspects of football, developing successful programs and well-rounded athletes.

These clinics are typically well-attended, covering numerous topics in a lecture hall setting ending with occasional Q&A sessions.  Unfortunately, attendees must take their own notes from the presentation, and they have limited time to participate in the Q&A sessions. At the conclusion of the clinic, the presentations are also not readily accessible for coaches to review and archive for future reference.  

Coaches from all over the state and nation come together to share ideas and develop their professional network.  Outside of the clinic coaches have the opportunity to learn from each other through informal meetings and direct discussion.  We learn more from each other when we can directly engage someone in conversation. Coaches sharing thoughts, ideas, and philosophies about football promotes our professional growth and the development of successful programs.  

To create a forum for coaches to engage in continual professional growth, I began #txhsfbchat on Twitter.  Twitter is an amazing social network that gives you authentic, direct engagement with someone about whatever subject you wish.  A Twitter chat focuses that conversation and brings in a much larger audience that each participant can learn from while also providing their own voice to the learning process.  

Since #txhsfbchat began, coaches from Texas and across the United States come together Wednesdays at 8 pm CST to answer questions, engage with other coaches directly, and learn from each other.  Questions are provided for participating coaches to answer and interact with each other while driving their own professional development and expanding their personal learning network each week.  It is an amazing learning experience as this wealth of knowledge from head coaches to assistants is shared every week.  We have discussed position work, off-season programs, character education, offensive and defensive philosophies and many other topics in our continuing conversation.  Connections are being made with coaches all over the state of Texas as well as coaches from the rest of the nation.  All in the spirit of becoming better coaches, and to grow in this game that we all love.

Many school districts in Texas and all over the United States are recognizing Twitter chats as authentic forms of professional development and even crediting participants with PD hours for their answers and activity.  I believe that #txhsfbchat provides coaches with this same opportunity to be active participants in their continuing education.  Instead of waiting on those one or two weekends out of the year to cram as much info from each speaker as we can into our notepad, we can learn from each other every week by using social media.  It is a powerful educational tool when put to good use.

Please join us every Wednesday at 8pm CST and take control of your professional development as a football coach.  Just search for and follow #txhsfbchat.  The chat is always archived on

Chris Fisher

Coach Fisher has created a trend, as #txhsfbchat has spawned a couple of additional chats for coaches. Twitter has become a great avenue for coaches to find and share tremendous information. It truly is amazing how far technology as taken coaching, and the amount of information readily available. Thank you Coach Fisher for sharing your insight, and for all you do for coaches across the country!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Building Unity Among Your Offensive Lineman

Anyone who coaches offensive football knows that success starts with your big boys up front. The better your offensive line plays, the better your offense tends to perform. Of course you still need good athletes, but a good offensive line will maximize the talent of your skill guys.

One of the most important tributes of an offensive line is unity. That group, more than any other, must be able to play as a unity. They must all be on the same page. I am blessed to work with a tremendous offensive line coach who is passionate about developing his group. He is one of the best at building offensive lineman into a unit. I asked Ty Palmer to write about how he builds unity with our offensive lineman, and he has put together a great article.

Building Unity Among Offensive Linemen

Ty Palmer
Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator
Seminole High School
Seminole, Texas

Offensive linemen are a very unique and special group. It is a fraternity to coach and/or play offensive line. We as a whole tend to stand up for and defend each other at all costs even if we do not know the other guy. The only thing we have to know is he is a lineman like me. This is what makes coaching the offensive line so special yet so challenging at the same time. There are not many kids in the backyards and parks of America that dream of being a center on 4th and 1 in a state championship game and getting a pancake block that keeps the drive alive. If you find that kid, please call me because I will adopt him right now. Most linemen grow up wanting to be quarterbacks and running backs whose dreams are crushed in the 7th grade when they get sent to the other end of the field. It is seen as a disgrace to be one of “us” by most kids. However, it is a badge of honor and courage to be one of “us.”

As an offensive line coach, you have a unique challenge ahead of you. You must be able to take a group of kids who may or may not like each other, come from various backgrounds and beliefs, and often did not grow up dreaming of being an offensive lineman and make them play as one unit. I believe to be an effective line coach, you must be a psychologist as well. You have to be able to figure out what makes your group run and how to get them to do it day in and day out in the most thankless role on the field. I am blessed that my head coach, Kent Jackson, was my offensive line coach in high school. He gets it. Our offensive coordinator, James Vint, has coached the line before, and he makes sure his quarterbacks make them feel appreciated. People do not realize how far this can get them in life with the hogs. They expect me to love on them, but it goes a long way when other people recognize them. I tell my guys, “Me and your momma are the only ones who know you exist and love you.” They have to learn to depend on both you as their coach and also themselves. I know you have all heard the universal “BLOCK LINE” from the stands, when ultimately, it is the back that hits the wrong hole. This is part of being a lineman; no one knows you exist until they “need” you.

I have done several things with my guys to promote unity and build togetherness amongst them. This year we started a Hog Meal every Tuesday night after practice. We would meet at a coach’s house to eat dinner and just get away from the field house together. I did not want to watch film at this meal or do anything related to football. They needed to get away from it and be around each other in a relaxed environment. It also allows your kids a chance to see you outside of coach mode and be yourself. This goes a long way in allowing them to see you care and love them as people and not just as football players. I have always heard, “Kids do not care what you know until they know you care." I firmly believe this statement to be true, and I think this is one of several ways to show them you care. It is amazing what some cheap hotdogs and cookies can do for a group of linemen. I know that sounds like a fat kid joke, but it isn’t. I think this is something that can be done with any position group.

Another thing I do is always have some sort of saying for the season or theme to bring them together. This varies from year to year to keep it fresh and new for my guys. I usually allow my upper classmen to help in this process.  Kids can be very creative if you let them help, and it means more to them when they have ownership of it all. We try to keep it a “secret” for the linemen, and it is our thing. It is funny to watch the skill kids trying to figure out what we are doing or what something means and how bad they want to know. I think this gives my linemen some pride in having “their thing” and helps bring them closer. Last year our rally cry became “LOCK THE GATE.” I was watching a show with Hugh Freeze, and he was giving a speech before the Alabama game and he told them, “They are good men, but we will lock the gate and go looking for a fight.” It just so happens that our field has a gate that locks during the game to keep people off the field and is right by our pre-game warm-up spot. The kids rallied around that and it worked for us. You have to find your thing and what will work for your kids. Each one had this hanging in their lockers and they loved it. 

Last season, I used a chain link as their rallying point. Everyone has heard the saying, “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link,” so I bought each one of my kids a chain link and they had it with them at all times. They wore it on a necklace, kept it on their key chain or even laced it on their shoe laces. I still hear from my seniors about how they have theirs with them still in college. Nothing is new in this profession, and most good ideas are stolen. It’s no exception that I stole this idea from my head coach in high school (he is a master of motivation). To this day, I still have a dog tag he gave us my senior year in high school on my key chain. Right beside it is my chain link from last year. I know these may seem like little insignificant things to you, but to your kids, they are huge. They give them a common battle cry and rallying theme, which is what a group of linemen need. 

I tell my kids, “You are five bricks but one wall,” all the time. I firmly believe it, and you must too as a line coach. You are their lifeline and their support; you must be bought in as a line coach. They know when you are not fired up to be a part of them. You have a challenge to make them love being linemen and staying out of the spotlight. This is why the Coaches Of Offensive Linemen (C.O.O.L.) association’s logo is a mushroom. Mushrooms grow in the dark and are fed garbage yet continue to flourish. That is the perfect picture of being a lineman. You must find a way to help them understand that and flourish through the garbage.

These are just some of the things I have done to help build unity with my guys. They may or may not work for you, but hopefully there is something here you can use to help you out. I always love hearing what others have done or are doing with their guys as well, so feel free to contact me. I love talking offensive line play and techniques.  My email is ty_palmer09@yahoo I can be found on twitter at, so feel free to contact me on either one. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Simple Concept, Explosive Plays

My background on the offensive side of the football is with Option principles. My first opportunity to be an offensive coordinator was running an I-Based offense that focused on running the Midline, Load, and Veer option concepts. When we evolved into a gun and pistol offense, we continued to be option based. We try to find new and innovative ways to read defenders.

Perhaps the easiest and most popular read play to install is the inside zone read. Offenses from youth football all the way up to the NFL have adapted some form of the inside zone read. While many programs have put their own stamp on this popular concept, the principles are the same. The offense is going to block the box defenders while reading the backside C gap defender. 

The inside zone read allows the offense to cancel a defender without having to block him. It can give you a man advantage. You essentially can get one more blocker to the second level. Defenses have to not only have to cancel gaps, but now they must make sure they account for the QB as a runner. Defensive coordinators have to make sure they have a player assigned to the QB and to the running back. When defenses have to account for the QB, they have to borrow from the secondary, or ask their defenders to react very quickly to get in a position to make sure the QB doesn't run free.

The bowl games were fun to watch as several teams employed different versions of the inside zone read. UCLA ran it well against Kansas State, hitting several big plays. Perhaps the biggest play came in the fourth quarter when K-State was mounting a furious comeback. UCLA needed a big play... and they got one. 

The Bruins aligned in a one back gun set with a TE. Essentially this is a pro set, but putting the H back in the slot to the open side forced K-State to have to essentially defend an extra gap up front. K-State's answer was to roll their safety down to 5 yards put him man on the H back.

As you can see from the picture below, Kansas State has a dive and a QB player by alignment. 
Because they had two players outside the read side tackle, one of them could play the dive, and one could play the QB. 

On the snap of the ball the QB meshed with the dive back and saw the defense had a dive player and a QB player. We teach our QB, "when in doubt, give it out." This is a principle we used back in our option days. We would rather have our back getting downhill and being physical. 
The problem for K-State is that both players worked to the QB. Instead of playing their responsibilities, they made a choice to do their own things. The two things that kill a defense faster than anything are blown option responsibilities and missed tackles. Both of these will get defensive coordinators pulling their hair out!

When both players went to the QB, they left a huge void in the C gap. The UCLA's read side guard and tackle did a great job of comboing the 3 Technique to the backside backer, leaving no one to play the dive back. 

With the secondary in man coverage, there was no one left when the RB got through the first and second levels of the defense. The result was touchdown run that put UCLA up two scores.

I am sure K-State spent many, many reps drilling their guys on option responsibilities. However, UCLA did a great job of mixing up their looks on the perimeter. That is one of the reasons I love the zone read game. You can show the defense several different looks without having to change your blocking scheme.

If you are looking at adding the Inside Zone Read, or looking for a new wrinkly you can use, 101 Pistol Option Plays is now available as an interactive ibook. It has play diagrams, slides, blocking scheme descriptions, and hours of video! It is divided into two books, and the IS Zone Read and other read game concepts are found in Part Two, which consists of plays 54 to 101 and can be found here:
You must have an ipad or Mac to view the ibook. It will not work on an iphone. If you have a Mac or an ipad, you need to check out this book!

I also have several videos on the pistol and spread offenses. They can be found here:

If you are in the Northwest I will be speaking at the Washington State Football Coaches Mid-Winter Clinic January 23rd through the 25th in Seattle!

I can be found on twitter a

Coach Vint has authored several books and instructional DVD's with Coaches Choice. His book 101 Pistol Option Plays is actually available now as a 2 volume interactive ibook for the iPad! It is similar to a traditional book, but it contains several hours of video as well!
Order Part 1 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1- Traditional Option Concepts
Order Part 2 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2- Spread Concepts

Thursday, January 8, 2015

101 Pistol Option Plays is Now available in ibook Form!

It is amazing how far technology has come in the last 15 years! The technology that is now available has made vast amounts of information available for coaches at all levels. We have come a long way from the days of waiting 5 hours for 16mm film to get developed!

My first year coaching I went to the MegaClinic in Atlantic City and bought a video by Jerry Campbell, who would become a great mentor to me. Jerry's video was a VHS tape on the installation of the option game. I played that video so much I wore it out! In about 2005 I ordered my first instructional DVD. You were able to skip from chapter to chapter and more easily find information. I thought that was high cotton! Little did I know what the future held.

Several years ago I was asked to record my own coaching DVD's with Coaches Choice. We started with a set of 4, then did another set, and all of a sudden we had about 18 DVD's. Dr. Peterson, who owns Coaches Choice, asked me to write a couple of books on the pistol. In 2012 we released 101 Pistol Run Plays and 101 Pistol Option Plays.

Last year Keith Grabowski called me and told me he was writing his own pistol book through the ibooks publisher. When he completed it he offered me a chance to download it. It was amazing! He incorporated videos and power point slides into the book. Coach Grabowski opened the door to the future of publishing! It is also a great book! 

This fall, Dr. Peterson called me and said we were going to transform my two pistol books to the ibooks format. I was ecstatic. After seeing the finished product, I am very pleased. 

101 Pistol Option Plays is actually so large that it had to be converted into two ibooks. There is so much video that one book would be too large of a file! Part 1 contains more traditional option concepts like midline and inside veer. Part 2 contains option concepts from the pistol that are more spread oriented. A large part of the book is inside zone read, power read, and counter read. Each chapter has a detailed description of the schematics of the concept being introduced.

One of the greatest features of the book is the ability to incorporate film room walk throughs! I will actually talk you through concepts just like if we were in the film room! It is an amazing way to interact. 

The coaches film room allows the author to talk you through a concept, brining the film room right onto your iPad! 

The ability to incorporate power point slides and full color pictures really brings the book to life!
This is going to be an exciting clinic season as the way you purchase books and videos has forever been transformed! You can now get a book that you can take anywhere, as long as you have a mac or an iPad. That is the one drawback to the ibook format, is that right now it only works on iOS products. The great thing as that you can find refurbished iPad 2's, 3's, and 4's for very reasonable prices!

In addition to my pistol books, there are several other books available using this same technology. Gus Malzahn's book on the Fast Paced No Huddle is also available. Rich Hargitt has some awesome air raid books available on the ibook platform.

If you are looking for more information on the pistol, check out 101 Pistol Option Plays! It has hours of video and hundreds of slides and pictures to go along with the diagrams and descriptions of each concept. Here is a link to 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1
Part 1 focuses on traditional option concepts like midline and veer.

And here is a link to 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2 Part 2 contains more spread concepts including inside zone read, outside zone read, counter read, and power read.

101 Pistol Run Plays will be released in the next few days. 

This is a tremendous platform for coaches to research new concepts, and I am very excited to see what will come down the pipeline in the future!

Ric Butler is leading the charge for Coaches Choice in their interactive media department. You can follow Ric on Twitter @coachchoicerick. He is working closely with @JamesALight

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's a Numbers Game

There is nothing I love more than bowl season! For a two week period there is football on pretty much non-stop on ESPN. If you are a football coach, bowl season is a great time to begin your winter research and development period. I love getting out a pad and paper and taking notes on what teams are doing on offense, defense, and special teams. I record nearly every game and go through each play several times. I firmly believe the inventor of DVR was a football coach!

There were several takeaways from this year's bowl games. First, it's all about numbers. Every offensive team was trying to gain a numerical advantage at the point of attack. If we can get one more blocker to the point of attack, we have a chance at a good football play. If we can get an angle here and leverage there, we can make a big play.

It seems nearly everyone is running some sort of a read or "option" concept. The premise is that it is easier to "read" a defender than to block that defender. By reading a defender, the offense can block a second level defender they normally wouldn't be able to block. 

One great example of the numbers game was UCLA running inside zone read against Kansas State. UCLA is aligned in a 1 back set with both the back and the H back to the boundary. Kansas State aligns to defend the field, putting only 3 defenders to the boundary side. They are going to be a gap short.
UCLA is going to be left a man short to the boundary. UCLA runs the inside zone read with the boundary end being the read. The end takes the QB leaving K State with no one to play the QB. The QB pulls the football and attacks the second level of the defense.
Three things are happening in the above illustration. First, the LG and LT from UCLA are executing a zone combination block perfectly. They are delivering the down defender to the linebacker. The linebacker is working to the A gap, but because the defensive lineman has been driven three yards off the ball, the linebacker is caught in traffic. 

The second thing in the picture is the read key is squeezing to take the dive back. If the read key squeezes to take the dive, Kansas State needs to have a player for the quarterback. Typically this would be the inside backer working over the top. However, the Kansas State linebacker is playing into the A gap. With no QB player, the defensive end should have played the QB.

The third thing in the picture is the outside receiver running a quick hitch route at the LOS, with the H back working to block the corner. The QB is going to attack the second level with the quick hitch essentially becoming the pitch man. The key is the quarterback getting downhill to stress the defense. Because K-State is playing to the field, they have no force player to the boundary. Essentially the corner has become the force player, and he is being blocked. There is no pitch player for K-State.

The QB sees the corner commit inside with the H back riding his hip. He flips the ball out the the #1 WR who sprints up the sideline for a big gain. This is a very simple triple option concept off the base inside zone read play. 

When the offense can get a numerical advantage over the defense, big plays are often the result. Offensive and defensive coordinators are matchup in a game of strategy trying to counter what the other is doing. 

In my 15 year career coaching football I have had the opportunity to be both an offensive and defensive coordinator. On offense we are trying to gain a leverage and numbers. On defense we were trying to cancel gaps while making sure we were not exposed in the pass game. With 11 players on each side of the ball there are a ton of factors that come into play on whether a concept is successful or not. It comes down to execution and athleticism! 

Coach Vint has authored several books and instructional DVD's with Coaches Choice. His book 101 Pistol Option Plays is actually available now as a 2 volume interactive ibook for the iPad! It is similar to a traditional book, but it contains several hours of video as well!
Order Part 1 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 1- Traditional Option Concepts
Order Part 2 Here: 101 Pistol Option Plays Part 2- Spread Concepts

Friday, December 5, 2014

Why We Must Teach Character and Leadership

When I first started coaching I was all about feeding my own competitive spirit. I wanted to win because that's all I had really done. Every team I had been a part of had been very successful in the win column. My first coaching job was with a losing program that had no history of winning. The mentality was that of a downtrodden group that had no hope. While we won some games and changed the culture, we didn't do as well as we probably could have done.

My next job was at Christopher Columbus High School, a large, inner-city school in the Bronx, New York. I was hired by one of the greatest developers of character in coaching today, David Diaz. When Coach Diaz was hired, the program was in the midst of a 27 game losing streak. Participation was way down, and the players didn't believe they could win. As a coaching staff we were all very fiery, demanding, and enthusiastic, and that translated into some success. We had the first winning season in school history our first year, and in the second year went to the playoffs. We thought we had begun building a strong foundation for significant success.

We are at a point where we felt like we were ready to get over the hump and win a playoff game. We had taken a program that had never had a winning season to the playoffs. We had a talented group coming back. Everything seemed to be lined up for us to have a big year. Then we ran into a buzz saw. Our kids were making some very poor decisions off the field. We had to suspend several players and lost others to grades. It was one of the most disappointing seasons of my coaching career. We were mentally weak on and off the field.

After the season we were complaining about how we had a lack of leadership. It was about this time we met Dennis Parker at a clinic and he talked about implementing character education into a football program. We talked with him for an hour after his talk and decided this is what was missing. This turned out to be the most important clinic talk of my coaching career.

We made a decision that we were going to teach character and leadership with intent. We were going to be as intentional in teaching character as we were in teaching our guys how to squat. Too often we think the sport itself teaches character. If this were true, every kid that played football would demonstrate high character. Sports don't teach character, coaches do.

That was an important epiphany we went through. What are we teaching? Are we teaching them to act a certain way? We are, but it may not be what we intend to teach. If we wanted to develop a culture of high character, high energy, mental toughness, everything we had to do had to build this culture.

Too often we think that character and leadership just happen. We say things like, "this group just weren't very good leaders." Or, "this senior class didn't know how to lead." This is when a good self-evaluation is needed. These are the questions we need to ask:

1. What did we do to develop positive leaders in our program?
2. How much time did we spend focused on teaching character with intent?
3. What might we have done that was detrimental to the leadership and character of this group?
4. Where can we find time to improve the leadership and teach character lessons with this group?

The biggest hindrance for us was the worry about what we would have to give up to take time to teach character and leadership? How much time in the weight room would we give up? How much film time would we give up? Where would we make up the practice time?

After talking with Dennis Parker and D.W. Rutledge, we made a decision that we wouldn't have to give anything up. With stronger leaders and a better foundation of character, our workouts would be better and more efficient. We would have higher intensity and better focus. While we would use some of our time to teach leadership and character, this use of time was actually an investment. We would get a return far greater than what we put in.

It was early February when Coach Diaz made the decision that we were going to go "all in" on teaching character. We took one week where we went into the classroom, focusing on character. On Fridays we had our seniors to be go through  leadership development program. After the first week we spent 20 minutes a day, three days a week before workouts in the classroom. One of the reasons this was successful is that each of our coaches bought in to what we were doing and sold it passionately to our kids.

One of the first things we did in the classroom was had our athletes fill out a sheet that gave us some information on them that was deeper than simply who they are. We wanted to know who they lived with, what their home life was like, what their dreams were, and what their goals were. We wanted to learn about their hopes and dreams and fears. We wanted them to understand that we loved them unconditionally because of who they were, not because of what they did.

Up until this point we had coached in a very transactional way. We told them what do do and expected them to do it. If they didn't we expressed disappointment. Often we had conflict and there was a genuine mistrust. They began to fear screwing up because they would face our wrath. Because they feared screwing up, they began to taking any risks at all. They wouldn't try to break personal records in the weight room. They wouldn't try to make a difficult play on the field. They sometimes would freeze under pressure. How did we respond? We yelled at them more. And then we wondered by they weren't improving their performance.

Character education and leadership development changed all this. Instead of a transactional form of coaching, we began a transformational form of coaching. Not only did our players begin to change, we began to change as coaches. Instead of yelling at our players and berating them, we began to coach them through mistakes and remind them of how they can do it better. This doesn't mean we didn't yell. The difference was the purpose of our yelling. Our purpose was to uplift and build them up!

Part of our leadership component involved empowering our players to take ownership of the successes an challenges we faced. We wanted them to know it was their deal and all about them. Instead of us setting the goals, we had the players set team goals. We had them set our goals for the winter and spring, goals for the summer, and goals for the season. We had them come up with a framework of expectations. It was amazing to watch them blossom through this process.

The Results
The results were outstanding! They began to think about the man next to them and the good of the team when they made a decision. Their decisions began to improve both on and off the field. Our players began to walk a little bit taller.  Their grades improved and they began to show excitement for their future. When we first arrived most of our players were taking summer school to get eligible. After implementing a character education program we rarely lost a kid to eligibility.

Perhaps the biggest thing that happened was the trust that was built. They began to trust that we really cared about them as more than athletes. We cared about them in life. We cared about what happened to them when we weren't around them. Our relationships with our players improved and we built bonds that will never be broken. And the relationships they built with each other were strengthened. They began to care about each other and truly became a family.

Did we win more games? Yes we did. We enjoyed a very good six year run of sustained success. We won playoff games for the first time in school history. Our kids were much better at handling adversity. They learned to push themselves to new limits. They developed a solid mental toughness that powered them through challenges they faced. Most importantly, they learned it isn't about them. It is bigger than them. Everything they do and every choice they make will impact others.

Teaching character and leadership will help you leave a lasting legacy. Everything we do as coaches will have an impact on our kids. That impact can be positive, or it can be negative. By teaching character and leadership we can greatly increase the chances that our student-athletes will have a very positive, life-changing experience in our program.

My experience at Christopher Columbus High School gave me tremendous appreciation for the value of teaching character and leadership. While I was a coordinator at the college level we emphasized character and leadership with our student-athletes.

I was blessed to get hired by Kent Jackson when I moved to Texas, one of the best men in the coaching business. We teach character with intent at Seminole High School. We invested a lot of time during two a days introducing our players to the concept of our character and leadership component. We use each day teach character and life lessons with our players.

At some point the good lord will present a head coaching opportunity,  and you can be sure that character education and leadership development will be paramount to our program. It is our duty and responsibility as coaches to develop our players into great leaders with a strong moral compass.

The R.E.A.L Man Program
There are several character programs that are out there. One program I really like is called The R.E.A.L Man Program by Coach Frank DiCocco. It is simple to implement and all the materials are ready for use. I have used this with my athletes and in my classes. This program is being used by several high schools and colleges throughout the US. You can find more information clicking here: The Real Man Program

The Texas High School Coaches Association also has several resources available with their Game Changer Program. I highly recommend these resources as well! Game Changer Coaches

If you are looking for information on the Pistol Offense, I have written two books on the pistol offense with Coaches Choice. If you are interested in learning more about those, click this link: