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: https://coacheschoice.com/m-63-james-vint.aspx









Friday, April 11, 2014

Champions Train Mentally and Physically

If you believe you can, then you have a shot. If you believe you can’t, then you won’t. Too often, we fill ourselves with negative thoughts. We justify why we can’t do something. We tell ourselves we are tired, too sore, too old, too young, too stupid, too smart, too tall, too short, too skinny, too slow, etc, etc, etc. We are defeated before we have even had a chance to begin.

The first person we have to overcome, before we can every think about beating an opponent, is ourselves. We have to be able to mentally tell ourselves we can accomplish what we set out to do. We then have to feed our confidence with positive words. We have to continually reinforce to ourselves that we have the ability. 

During my 19 years in coaching I have had opportunities to be a part of turning programs around. My first coordinator job was at a school that lost 27 straight games and was shutout 5 times the year before we got there. Our first task was not teaching an offense. That was the least of our concerns. Often the kids were beat down after years of losing. Our first priority was teaching our kids to believe they were capable of more than they thought possible.

The change in mindset was not overnight. It also was not by accident. It was a process of continual improvement. We dedicated time to training the mind as well as the body, and we did so with intent. We developed specific activities, both individually and as a group, that allowed our athletes to experience success. 

We started off in the classroom. It was in the classroom that we set very clear expectations, and defined things in a very detailed manner. We used a variety of avenues to provide our players with character and leadership lessons. We spent time each day talking to them about focus and mindset. We defined adversity and mental toughness. We asked them to create an identity. We had them come up with a list of qualities of a championship program. We then had them develop a set of standards of performance. Then, we helped them meet the standards they set.

We were very consistent while focusing on the process. The weight room and track were very important for our cultural transformation. We set up the situation each day, and clearly laid out the expectations. We talked about focusing on the process and the details. Our players began to learn that if you take care of the process, the outcome will be more favorable.

The key is that everything had to build confidence. As their confidence grew, we began to stretch them physically and mentally. We didn't ask them to climb Mt. Everest day one. We created situations where they were able to string small victories together. As they gained confidence, we begin to put them in situations that stretched their limits farther and farther.

When you empower young people and it becomes their deal, they will work harder. They will push through more adversity than what they thought possible. They take ownership, and once they take ownership, you have something special. 

The results spoke for themselves. We enjoyed tremendous success. We won 6 games our first year, scoring over 50 points three times. We went to the playoffs for the first time in school history our second year. The next year we won the first playoff game in school history. Each year we continued to improve. 

The important thing to understand is that beliefs and values can be taught. You are not at the mercy of your circumstances. There are so many things which we have complete control. We realized early on that we could control how we developed leadership. We could control how much we empowered our players. We could control the process of building a championship culture and mentality. 

If you want to change your program, take time to train the mind. Tie your strength and conditioning program into a character education and leadership program. Give your players ownership and watch them excel in ways you never thought possible!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Talent Isn't Enough

One of the funny things about athletics is that anyone can win on any given day. Sure, the team with the most talent is the team you would expect to win, but how many times have you seen the more talented team lose? How does a Mercer beat a Duke? How does an Appalachian State beat a powerhouse like Michigan? How does a program enjoy sustained, consistent success?

The fact is simple: TALENT IS NOT ENOUGH! And yes, I said it in all caps. Over the years I have had numerous players who had talent. A few of them went on to have an opportunity to play at the highest level on Sundays. Others went on to play college football where they earned a degree. And a few of them, unfortunately, thought they could get by solely on their talent. Most of them never had a chance to follow their dreams. Why did some of them enjoy great success while others did not?

They all had five things in common, that made them uncommonly good!

1. A Great Attitude
They were always positive regardless of the situation. They had tremendous enthusiasm. They had a joy about them that people were drawn to. They rarely, if ever complained about anything. They were always fully engaged in every activity we did. They listened and asked questions.

2. Relentless Work Ethic
The greatest players had the greatest work ethic. Those who enjoy great success rarely, if ever, miss a workout. They never cut a rep or set. In fact, they do much more than what they are asked to do. Every rep they put forth their best effort. They are drenched in sweat regardless of the difficulty of the workout. They learned to embrace the grind to the point it wasn't a grind.

3. Mental Toughness
They are able to overcome adversity without a loss of enthusiasm or effort. They like to be challenged, and in fact, thrive when they face pressure and adversity. They don't complain when things don't go there way. They are always searching for the solution.

4. Tremendous Discipline
They rarely put poison in their body. These guys all made a choice to avoid drugs and alcohol. They put their long term goals ahead of their short term desires. Self-discipline is simply about making right choices. When faced with a dilemma, they made the choice that would take them one more step towards reaching their goals.

5. Bring out the best in others
They were able to help those around them perform at higher levels. That is when you are truly a championship quality player. When you can help elevate the game of others, you are well on your way to being a great player. Michael Jordan exemplified this fact.

I have seen first hand what happens when players, coaches, and programs think that talent is enough. They consistently underachieve.

Our job as coaches is to do everything in our power to develop our student-athletes to be the best they can be. This takes time. It is hard. Putting a plan together is not easy. Coaching the details takes effort. This is why most programs are not able to enjoy tremendous success. They are not willing to do the things it takes to be their best.

As coaches, it is our job to do everything we can to help our players perform in the five areas listed above. It is our job to build a culture that leads our players to accomplish more than they should. If we expect them to outwork their talent, then we have to outwork ours.

There is nothing that disappoints me more than when coaches give mediocre effort. And then, they try to justify that mediocrity. We have to look in the mirror and know that we have done everything in our power to develop our players to be the best they can be. Anything short of that is cheating our athletes.






Friday, March 14, 2014

9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Program

What are you doing right now to improve? Are you doing everything you can to improve yourself and your program? Do you strive to find new, more efficient ways of getting things done? Do you invest your time, spend your time, or waste your time?

What we do right now will have a huge impact on the success we enjoy in the fall. This is the time of year when you can have the biggest impact on your program. There are nine things you can do in the next 5 months that will have a huge, long-term impact on your program. These are in no particular order.

1. Visit another coaching staff to see how they do things. Pick an area of your program you want to improve and visit a staff who excels in this area. These visits can be from one to three days. I like to visit one school before spring football and one school while they are having spring football. I have not found a school at any level who was not very open with us visiting. However, I have never asked a district rival. They may not want to share much with you. Most coaches, I have found, are more than willing to share their success stories.

I like to visit coaches who have made huge improvements in their program. I want to see what they are doing in January and February. Programs are not built in September and October. They are built in the dark of winter. Second, I want to visit a program who does something on the field that we want to learn more about. These are schools I want to visit during spring football.

2. Perform a comprehensive data analysis of yourself from the previous season. I have about 6 reports I like to run give me a very good picture of what we did well and what we did not do well. Data can give us a very clear picture of things without any editorializing. For example, back in 1999 we were running load option 8 times a game. Unfortunately, we only averaged 3.4 yards a play. It was our least productive offensive concept. We didn't do a good job of self-scouting during the season at that time. I wish we had, maybe we would have done a better job of calling plays.

With the advent of HUDL, data is readily available. There is absolutely no excuse for not running a self-scout report each game during the season. You can also run a cumulative report. This takes literally no time to perform. In the old days we did this with a pen and paper. Technology has simplified this process. You can run multiple reports with the click of the mouse.

3. Prepare a scouting report on your opponents. The spring is a great time to learn about your opponents. You can run a schematic report and a personnel report. What do they run on offense and defense? What are their tendencies? When do they blitz? Who are their returning players? Who are their best athletes? If you have the information available, use it! Divide this up between your coaches and set a deadline to complete this.

4. Implement a leadership development and character education program. You are either coaching it, or allowing it. You have total control over whether you develop leaders. If you teach your players to lead, they will be better leaders. In 10 minutes a day, every other day, you can teach your players how to be better leaders. There is so much information available that you don't have to recreate the wheel. If you aren't sure where to start, think John Maxwell and Zig Ziglar. They are two great resources to get you started. There are also several programs like Coaching to Change Lives that and the Be a REAL Man Program.

5. Meet as a coaching staff. I am not talking about meeting to meet. I am talking about taking time to formulate a plan of action for the spring, summer, and fall. If you meet for 30 minutes, 2 times a week for 10 weeks, you will be much better prepared than if you meet sporadically. Again, don't meet to meet. Have a plan for what you want to accomplish in these meetings. This is a great time to discuss data from your self-scout and opponent scouting reports. You can prepare your installation schedule for the spring and fall, while having time to review and adjust it before you start practice.

6. Prepare your spring and fall practice plans. I had never done this until we went to a clinic in 2002. One of the college coaches was talking about how they prepare. We started putting our practice plans together well in advance. We then would make adjustments as needed. It helped us to make sure we had everything covered that we needed to. By having this done in advance we were not scrambling the night before trying to get our practice plans done.

7. Develop Speed, Strength, Flexibility Program. Again, have a plan. Don't just lift to lift, or run to run. Have a plan. Also, make sure you teach great technique. If you don't know where to start, go the the BFS or Bigger Faster Stronger Website. Their program works very well for any and every sport. Everywhere I have been we have used some element of their program. Be excited to be in the weight room with your players. If you want it to matter for them, it has to matter for you!

8. Teach Your Players to Set Goals and Develop a Plan For Meeting Them. Have your players write down individual goals they want to achieve. Then have them develop their team goals. Help them develop a plan for meeting their goals. Meet with them regularly to update their progress. Remember, you can't get anywhere if you don't know where you are going.

9. Create a Culture of Success. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do this off-season. You are going to get what you emphasize, so what will you emphasize this spring? Will you hold your players accountable? You create a culture of success be setting high expectations and holding your players to them. Everyone sets high expectations, but what are you doing to hold your players accountable to them? If they don't get to parallel are you letting it go? Or, are you taking the time to correct them until they do it to meet your expectation?

Part of your culture is competition. Create competition for your players. Set up competitive situations where there is a winner and loser. Create consequences for the losers, while rewarding the winners.

This is a great time of year to improve your program and make it better. If you are willing to invest your time, you can make huge strides right now that will make a big impact on your program!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Winning is a Process

Back about 15 years ago I had completed my first season as an offensive coordinator. We had just had our first playoff birth in school history. We improved tremendously in every offensive category. We averaged nearly 280 yards a game on the ground and another 140 through the air. We improved our points per game from 22 to 38. However, we struggled against quality opponents. We were blanked in the playoffs by the number one team in the state.

While we made great strides that season, we weren't there to be simply be competitive. We wanted to win. Many said we didn't have the athletes to compete. While this may have been true, we weren't going to use that as crutch. Our focus was on how we can make the most out of the talent we have. While searching for answers I had the opportunity to hear Nick Saban speak at a clinic. His clinic talk opened our eyes to what we were missing. We lacked a deliberate process on offense. We were not doing a good job of preparation. Don't get me wrong, we worked hard an put the time in. But at the end of the day, we were not very consistent when we played top-tier teams.

We realized we were basically shooting from the hip. We didn't have a specific plan. We were doing things as they came up, and realizing after the fact that we weren't prepared for certain situations. We had the, "I wish we covered that," moments. Also, we were focused on the big picture and not on the details. You see, if you focus on the seemingly insignificant details, you will give yourself a better chance to win regardless of talent. Our focus changed from solely being on the scoreboard, to the process. Our focus was not as much on our opponents as on ourselves. How could we maximize our talent? This was the question we asked each day. We needed to put a structure, or process in place for winning.

A process is often thought of as something mysterious. A process is simply a series of actions or steps taken deliberately in order to achieve a particular end. Whether you are coaching on the field, teaching in the classroom, or selling in the board room, you need to have a detailed process. You need to have a structure in place to get from point a to point b to point c.

Winning is more than simply an outcome. Winning is the result of following a detailed process the must be followed with grueling details. When I say this to some coaches they give me a blank stare. They think winning is simply the result of your players being better than your opponents. While good players are important, without a process in place to develop them into the BEST players they can be, they will be nothing more than talented players who lose games.

Recently Ron Roberts, head coach at Southeastern Louisiana, was interviewed for an article for X's and O's Labs. In the article Coach Roberts talked about how there are a lot of teams with good players that don't win consistently. We all have seen those teams. They are loaded with talent but lose football games. Why does this happen? How can teams loaded with talent lose football games? Often it is because there is no plan in place for them to become successful. With no plan in place, these teams lack discipline. They make silly mistakes at inopportune times. Their players will attack the wrong gap. And when things go bad, they will fold up like a tent.

On the other side of this coin you have teams that consistently win, year-in and year-out. Often they do so with less talent. When coaches see these teams get off the bus they ask, "how are these guys 11-1?" We have all seen these teams. They consistently beat teams with superior talent. How does this happen? The answer is simple, they have a process to prepare to be their best.

If you look at at the most consistent programs at every level of football, you will find they share something in common. They all have a detailed process to develop their players. They have a vision and they can articulate that vision to everyone in the organization. They are passionate and enthusiastic about the vision. Enthusiasm is very contagious. When people are enthusiastic, others want to be a part of the excitement.

A big part of the process is building relationships with players. Great coaches about developing their student-athletes on and off the field. Because they care about their players, they are willing to set high standards for them on and off the field. They then hold them accountable to the standards. You see, great coaches understand the correlation between character off the field and winning on the field. If you allow your players to be undisciplined off the field, it will result in mistakes on the field. One coach once told me, "never let discipline get in the way of winning." What he meant was, let your best players do whatever they want. This is precisely the reason some talented teams do not consistently win. If your best athletes are above the law, you will lose the rest of the team. What this coach should have said was, "don't let a lack of discipline get in the way of winning." When players are not held accountable for their actions, they are not going to help your team be successful. They are going to fold up the tent when things get tough. If you hold them accountable early, you will not have big problems later.

The third factor great coaches understand is that our job is to push our players to reach heights they never thought possible. This requires two things. First, setting a very high standard of performance. Second, it requires holding players accountable to this standard without exception. That is the part that gets many coaches. It's the without exception part. You see, that is what great coaches do. They are able to maximize the talent of their players. This does not happen by accident. This happens because they have a detailed process for helping their players reach new heights.

Where does this process start? 

First, you have to begin with a goal. As Stephen Covey says, "begin with the end in mind." Where do you want to go? What is your desired outcome? Once you know what you want your outcome to be, you need to develop a plan to reach your goal. A goal without a plan is just a dream. It isn't going to happen.

From there we build our process. We are going to start with a road map to our ultimate goal. We are going to break the year down into 5 parts: Post-Season Evaluations, Winter Strength and Conditioning, Spring Football, Summer Strength and Conditioning, and Fall Camp. We want to map the year during the Post-Season Evaluation period. We will adjust the calendar as the year goes. To build the calendar we make a list of all of the most important priorities for each aspect of our program.

One example of this was on offense. We made a list of everything we wanted to install in the spring. From there, we broke down the list even further by priority. What was most important? What did we need to make sure we installed? What situations did we need to work? From here we built our install schedule, coordinating with the defensive staff. Once we had our install schedule built we would begin to script practice. This was done well in advance of spring football. It allowed us to tweak and adjust as needed.

Why would we complete our spring football schedule three months in advance? When you are writing your practice schedule as you go, you are less able to make adjustments. I found we were much more efficient when we were better prepared. Each of our coaches were able to then build a drill menu based on the concepts we were teaching and the skills we needed to improve. We had three months to make adjustments and tweak our practice schedule.

As we went through spring practice we were able to make any daily changes or adjustments necessary. If we felt like we needed to review something we would make the change. We used this same principle for developing our process to help build strength and athleticism in our players. For example, we felt our players lacked in hip flexibility. We did some research and adjusted our strength and conditioning program to meet this need. We were able to build what we called a "pre-phase" into our training. This pre-phase focused on developing hip flexibility and our strength in the core. Again, we built our schedule in advance and spent six weeks on our pre-phase. We focused on the details that we previously overlooked. The results were noticeable and measurable.

We found the more we planned in advance, the better we were able to shift on the fly when we needed. In each area of our program we took the same approach. What do we want to achieve? What is most important? Once we have priorities and goals established, we would build our series of steps (process) to accomplish our goals.

Having a specific, detailed process allows you to be more prepared. Your players will be more consistent in their performance, which will translate into success on and off the field. If you don't have a process and structure in place, you are not going to be as well prepared. You are not going to have everyone rowing the boat in the same direction. However, if you take the time to prepare, and you focus on seemingly insignificant details, you will maximize your success. After all, if you focus on what you don't have you will never be successful. If you focus on maximizing the talent you do have, and you have a structure and a process, you will always get the most out of your kids.

What did it do for us? We took a school that had never been to the playoffs, and in fact, had never had a winning season, and advanced to the quarterfinals four times in six years. We were able to improve each year continually increasing our offensive production. We were very consistent year in and year out, regardless of our talent level.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Three T's (Updated)

This is an update of a post I wrote last year. I wanted to take a few minutes today to share a couple of important points that can help you win more football games. I hope this small piece will be of value to you regardless of what scheme you run. Regardless of which system you decide fits your players, your success will be determined by a few important factors. 

When I was a defensive coordinator, I installed our defense as more than a system. It was an attitude. Defense is about pursuit and passion. We installed our defensive attitude with a very specific process. I like to break things down into their simplest forms. Our defensive attitude revolves around getting the ball back as quickly as possible. There are three ways we can get the ball back: 


1. We can force our opponent to punt 
2. We can get a turnover or a turnover on downs
3. We can give up a score. 
Ultimately, the 3 T's will determine which way we get the ball back.

What are the 3 T's? The three T's are quite simply: Technique, Tackling, and Takeaways. Technique involves two things for our players. First, they must know how to line up right. They have to be able to get into a comfortable balanced stance. Second, they have to be able to control and dominate their gap responsibility, or their pass zone. If we can get our guys to line up right, we can be successful on defense. One misalignment, however, can be disastrous  To make sure we line up right we keep things simple. We have simple alignment rules for our guys.

There are only five things an offense can do to each side of your defense. They can give you a nub, a single, twins, trips, or quads. We have very simple alignment rules for our second and third level players to ensure we are always lined up right. From there, we use our individual and group periods to develop our ability to control our gap responsibility in the run game, and our pass rush or coverage responsibility in the pass game. We teach our players what to do, how to do it, and why they need to do it the way we teach them. 

The second T we emphasize is tackling. We have got to be able to tackle well on defense. Tackling is about more than how to contact a runner. It is about angles and leverage. If your defensive players understand angles and leverage, you will improve your tackling immensely. Every day we work on our pursuit angles. We cover every possible angle that we may face. We work the A gap run, the B gap run, the off-tackle run, and the sweep. We also work our draw and screen angles. We teach our players four concepts that will give us great angles to make efficient tackles.

First is our force concept. We have a player assigned to be the force player on every single play. We teach our force player that his landmark is the outside jersey number of the ball carrier. By attacking the outside jersey number of the ball carrier, our force player "forces" the ball carrier back into our players in pursuit. We tell our force player to take on the ball carrier as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. While we don't want to miss a tackle, our force player is coached to always take an angle where if he misses the tackle, he misses to his help. Our force player is typically going to be an invert/outside backer in our sky or cover 3 look, or a corner in Cloud or Cover 2.

The second concept of pursuit is our attack concept. Our attack players are going to be our defensive end and playside inside backer. They are aiming for the inside jersey number of the ball carrier. We want them to stay square as they approach the ball carrier. They work a slight inside out angle while pursuing the ball carrier. If the ball carrier is inside of them on an A or B gap run, they will work to the middle of the ball carrier's chest. Attack players always spill traps and counters.

The third concept of pursuit is called collapse. Our collapse players are typically our Mike backer and our defensive tackle or tackles, depending on our front. They are aiming one yard inside the ball carrier. They are responsible for the immediate cutback of the football. If they get a downhill run, they attack the middle of the man. They are spill players on trap plays.

The fourth concept of pursuit is chase/contain. Our chase contain players are typically our backside defensive end and backside linebacker. They play counter/reverse/boot on flow away. Once they are sure nothing is coming back, they take the best angle to the football.

Those four concepts of pursuit helped our leverage and angles, which greatly improved our tackling. When we installed this pursuit concept, we found ourselves much more successful on first and second down, which helped us greatly on 3rd down. 

Force Illustrated


One very important coaching point is to Stay square. We need to keep our hips and shoulders as parallel to the LOS as possible. By staying parallel we are able to increase the surface area we have to contact the ball carrier. We are also able to explode our hips into the tackle, allowing us to drive the ball carrier back. When our shoulders our turned, we give you yards after contact. This is not good for the defense. As you can see in the picture above, our collapse and chase players are not doing a great job of keeping their shoulders square. This creates space for the ball carrier to cut back and makes us less effective. However, our Force and Attack players are doing a great job of keeping their shoulders square. 

This brings us to our third T, Takeaways. Takeaways are vital to our success. Any time we can get a takeaway  we are changing momentum. Takeaways also change field position. Forcing a team to punt is great, but often the punt results in a 40 yard change of field position. When we get a takeaway  we are saving ourselves big chunks of yards. Every ten yards we gain on defense is one less first down our offense must gain to score. 

How do you increase your takeaways? We do a takeaway circuit each day. We spend 5 minutes working strip drills, tip drills, and interception drills. We then emphasize taking the football away in all of our indy, group, and team periods. We want to have a ball in every single drill. In our inside run, skelly, and team periods, we are trying to take the football away from our offense. Here is the kicker. The offense also gets better with ball security. I am a firm believer that you get what you emphasize. If you coach your team to get takeaways, and you expect to get takeaways  and you get them to expect to get takeaways, you will get takeaways. 

Our attitude on defense is that every play is an opportunity to score. We are allowed to score on defense. We are allowed to rip the football out from the ball carriers hands. We are allowed to intercept a football in the air. Turnovers don't just happen. We drill our players to know turnovers are created. We must purposefully work to create takeaways on defense.  We drill our linebackers on flying to the football when it is in the air. We had a situation a few years back where our Mike LB intercepted a ball thrown thirty yards downfield on a deflection. He got the interception because he was hustling to where the ball was being thrown. He could have done what many players do. He could have watched the ball and then half ran to where the ball was being thrown. He understood our attitude and has bought in. We teach our guys to read the Axis. The axis is the QB's hips and shoulders. His hips give you direction, his shoulders give you trajectory. Our LB read the axis and he accelerated with everything he had and he got within four yards of the receiver when the QB pulled the pin. The ball was tipped in the air, and our guy made the pick on the run. You can't expect takeaways to magically happen. You have got to drill your players and emphasize takeaways with every drill you do.

The three T's, technique, tackling, and takeaways, are the three key points we emphasize with our defense. They make up our defensive attitude. We are going to line up right, play hard and fast and relentless. We are going to have great technique to control the gap or zone we are responsible for. We are going to pursue the football with great leverage and consistently make tackles. We are going to do everything in our power to take the football away from our opponent. 

If we can line up right and play with great technique, tackle well consistently, and win the takeaway battle, we are going to give ourselves a chance to win every single football game.

The newest Odd Stack Video I have is out with Coaches Choice in conjunction with Nike. 
Basic Concepts of the 30 Stack Defense

Monday, February 10, 2014

Power, The Most Versatile Concept in Football!

Perhaps the most versatile play in football is the power play. With one blocking scheme the offense can give the defense a multitude of different looks.

I have two main goals on offense. First, I want to find the leverage point. We define the leverage point as the area we have an advantage on the defense. Second, I want to put as many defenders in conflict as possible. Rather than running a concept from one formation and giving the defense the same look, I want to give them the same concept from several different formations with multiple backfield actions. This is why I like the "power" play so much.

The first way I install the power is as the traditional downhill power play. Our frontside is going to block gap away. The center is going to block back, the backside guard is going to pull through the first window, and the backside tackle is going to dig out the backside B gap to hinge. The offensive line is leaving the frontside End Man on the Line (EMOL) unblocked.

To account for the EMOL, we have multiple variations of the power. First, we can use a player in the backfield to kick him out. Second, we can use the H back to kick him out. Third, we can use a backside player to kick him out. Fourth, we can kick him with the pulling guard and let the back lead up through the first window. And finally, we can read the end man on the line.

Here is an example of the traditional 2 back power play from the pistol.


Defensive ends and outside linebackers tend to be the best players on the defense. Because of this, we want to be able to put them in conflict to slow them down. If they know that when they get a down block they will get a kickout block, the will be able to anticipate the kickout and box or spill the player based on the defensive call. However, if the defender doesn't know who is kicking him, or if he is being read, or if he is going to be cracked, he is going to hesitate. It is through this hesitation that we gain a tremendous advantage.

Another variation of the 2 back power is the using an H back to kick out the end man on the line. The H can be a frontside or a backside player. In the example below, the H back is aligned to the backside of the play. If the defense were to set their front away from the H, the offense could bring the play back to the side the H is aligned.

Another variation is the have the QB open away from the play and mesh with the back. This forces the defense to hesitate slightly as they don't know if the point of attack is to the mesh side, or away from the mesh side. 


Because we want to keep the EMOL guessing, we can exchange the assignments of the pulling guard and the kickout player. This is a great variation from two and three back sets. In the three back look, the frontside back will block the primary force player. The backside guard will pull and kick out the end man on the line, while the backside back will lead through the window. The quarterback can open to the play, or away from the play.

Another variation of this concept is to combine the veer and the power. This is a great frontside read concept from the 3 back pistol. Instead of blocking the EMOL, the QB will read him. The EMOL is used to squeezing the down block and finding the kick out player. In this read concept, the EMOL is not going to get blocked. This forces him to have to decide whether to play the dive back, or the quarterback. If the EMOL plays the dive, the QB will pull the ball and get replace the EMOL. If the EMOL slow plays or comes upfield, the QB will give the ball. 

If the backside B gap defender is giving the offense a problem, they can make a GUS call, which means guard stay. Because the backside back can replace the puller, the backside guard can now protect the backside B gap. This allows the center and frontside guard to combo the nose. 


This barely scratches the surface of the new innovations of the traditional power concept. The power has been a successful concept for many years, and with new variations, it has grown to be one of the most versatile offensive concepts being run. 

For these and many, many more concepts of the power and power read, check out my DVD on the power and power read from Coaches Choice. It will give you dozens of ways to put the defense in conflict while getting your best athletes the football in open space! The DVD covers multiple ways to run the power and power read from the pistol and gun! I take you through the mechanics and schematics of of the frontside and backside power read from three backs empty! This DVD will help you score more points!

I also have two books on the pistol offense, 101 Pistol Option Plays, and 101 Pistol Run Plays!


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

5 Keys To Achieving Your Goals

Every single one of us has something we want to accomplish. For most athletes and coaches, we have big dreams we would like to achieve. For example, the majority of us want to win a state championship. At the college level our goal might be to go to a bowl game, or to win a BCS game. Many athletes have a goal to earn a scholarship to a BCS school. Coaches may have a goal to be a head coach. The question now becomes, how do we make our goals become a reality?

1. Write Down Your Goals-- The first key is to identify our goals and dreams and write them down. Take out a sheet of paper, draw a line through the middle, and write goals on one side, and dreams on the other. Make a list... Remember, no small dreams are allowed.

"Setting Goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible" -- Tony Robbins

2. Have a Plan-- Once you write down your goals, you have to formulate a plan to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to play division one football, write down what the criteria for being a D-1 football player. Write down the average height and weight of guys that play your position. Write down the 40 time coaches are looking for, and the pro agility time.

As you do this, analyze where you are currently. Once you know where you want to go, and you know where you are starting, you can make a plan to get there. You can't control your height, but you can control your work ethic. You can't control what you squat right now, but you control how hard you work to improve your squat. You can't control your genetics, but you can control what you do with what God gave you.

This is where most athletes fall short. They have something they want to do, but they never write it down. There is something powerful with putting your goal on paper. It makes it tangible. It makes it real. The same goes for coaches. If you want to be a head coach, write it down. If you want to be a coordinator, put it on paper. Maybe your goal is to be a high school position coach. Great, put it on paper.

Here is an example of what a high school athlete might write down for their goals:
Without writing these goals down, the athlete has no end point. By writing down your goals, you have taken the first step to make them become a reality. 
This athlete has identified where they stand right now, compared to where they need to get to achieve their goal. This is a partial list, but it should give you an illustration to what it takes to making a goal become a reality. From here, the athlete makes a list of things they have to do to make their goal a reality. 

Most people will not take these simple steps. This would take 10 to 15 minutes, but very few people will ever take these steps. 

3. Work Through Pain-- For most people, a goal sounds good. They like the sound of the goal, but they don't like the work that goes with it. 

"You are either going to have the pain of sacrifice, or the pain of regret, 
but either way you are going to have pain."

Whether you are a coach, player, principal, or stockbroker, you will increase your chances of success by writing a plan on paper on how you will reach your goal. As a coach, what is your ultimate goal? Have you written it down? Do you have a plan to get there? What is your contingency plan?

My next question is, what are you willing to do to make your goals become a reality? This is what I call the goal graveyard. This is the area most goals die. Why? because most people aren't willing to do what it truly takes to accomplish a goal. Most people aren't willing to sacrifice short-term happiness to achieve long-term success. You have to know what it is that you are willing to do. How hard are you willing to work? How much are you willing to sacrifice? 

"Your Actions Must Match Your Goals"

When you are on your 5th set on parallel squat, and you are dead tired and think you have nothing left in the tank, what are you willing to do? Do you quit, or do you finish? Do you take the easy way out, or do you work through the pain? 

"If you aren't willing to work through the pain, then your goal isn't very important to you." 

4. Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People-- There is a saying, "if you hang with a dog, you will get fleas." Your character is going to be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around. If you want to be successful, find others who want to be successful and spend time with them. Find someone who is doing what you want to do and ask them to be a mentor for you. If you want to be a millionaire, are you going to hang around with people who are broke? Probably not. To make your goal a reality you have got to find people who are going the direction you want to go. 

If you are getting poor grades, who are you hanging around? I imagine you are spending the majority of your time with people who do not do very well in school. Too often I see young people who hang around with people who do not share the same goals. If you want to go to college, don't spend your time around people who are failing their classes. Think about it. Humans are very adaptable. We conform to our environment. Who are you choosing to hang around? 

5. Choose to Take Action-- You see, everything comes down to the power of choice. Only you can choose how hard you will work. Only you can choose what you are willing to sacrifice. Only you can choose to take action. Only you can get a sheet of paper and take the time to write down your goals. You will either do it or you won't... there is no in between.



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jimmy's and Joe's

One of the great joys that I have is getting to visit different parts of the country to consult with football programs. I have the opportunity to work with programs with very proud traditions, and programs that are rebuilding. It is amazing to see what helps some programs win, while others do not. Recently I was visiting with a group of coaches discussing what it takes to win. Some of them thought you win with good athletes. If you have good athletes, you win. If you don't have good athletes, you lose.

There is a saying in coaching, "it isn't about the X's and O's, it's about the Jimmy's and the Joe's." There is a lot of truth to this. Nearly everyone agrees that if you have better athletes you will win more games. Most coaches agree that if you don't have as good of athletes, you won't have as good of a chance of winning. They attribute winning to simply be a byproduct of the level of talent in their program. 

I am going to give you a different twist on this. I will preface what I am going to say by stating up front that having great athletes helps you win more games.... But having great athletes does not guarantee winning...

As coaches, our job is to develop our athletes to be the best they can be mentally and physically. We are not simply at the mercy of genetics. How many of you have seen a team that had great genetics but couldn't win? Why? Because genetics is only one part of the puzzle. 

So what are the other parts of the puzzle? First, is you have got to develop mental toughness. What is mental toughness? Mental Toughness is the ability to face adversity, failure, and negative events without a loss of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm. It is about getting your players (and coaches) to face adversity without a loss of enthusiasm.

"Mental Toughness is the ability to face adversity, failure, and negative events, 
without a loss of effort, attitude, and enthusiasm."

How do you build mental toughness? You put your players in stressful situations. You put them in situations where they will get knocked down several times. You put them in situations where they will have to make a choice at some point. That choice will be whether to keep going, or whether to give up. Of course, as a coach you don't allow them to give up. You provide support and give them opportunities to push through.

Great teams are mentally tough. They are able to overcome adversity. You can't overcome adversity if you give up. You also can't magically become mentally tough. Mental toughness can and must be taught with intent. It takes time and will not happen overnight. Often you won't see the progress for a long period of time. Here is the kicker: If you aren't teaching and developing mental toughness you are teaching the opposite. You don't want the opposite.

The second key is attention to detail. It amazes me how many coaches don't coach the details. At the same time, very few of them have consistent success. If you want your player to take a six-inch zone step, and you are not coaching the details, you are not going to get a consistent, six-inch step. You are going to get a four inch step, or an eight inch step. If you are coaching your guys to do something a certain way, it is because it is the best way. Details separate good teams from great teams. You have to coach them with intent. 

The third piece of the puzzle is understanding that words matter. What you say and how you say it have a tremendous impact on the work ethic and attitude of your players. What you say and do will have a huge impact on the confidence your players develop. Too often, coaches get caught up seeing their players as inferior. We are too small. We don't have athleticism. We are very young. How you see your players is how you will coach them. If you see your player as too small and too slow, you will coach him that way. 

Our job is to build our players up to do things they don't think are possible. We have to be able to look into the future. We have to coach our player to be the very best he can be. To do this we have to dig for the gold that exists inside of them. We have to build them up in the off-season, creating a confidence in them. When they make a mistake, correct it. When they give poor effort, coach them. When they face a challenge, tell them we believe in them. Most importantly, you have to care about them. You have to care about your player regardless of circumstance. 

The mental aspect is probably the most important aspect of winning and it is the most undercoached. If your players don't believe they can do something, it is nearly impossible to do it. The first part of winning is believing you can. This is not something you are born with. This is something that can and should be taught and reinforced. Confidence and mental toughness go hand in hand.

Finally, it is vital you don't concern yourself with the external which you have no control over. You can control you. You can control your effort and attitude. You can control your enthusiasm. As a coach, you set the tone. If you are not enthusiastic, how can you expect your players to be enthusiastic. You control you. We can't control our opponents. We can't control what they have or what we might not have. What we can control is what we do right now. We can control if we are being our very best.

We have a lot more control over the Jimmy's and Joe's than we might think. We can't control their genetics, but we can control what we do to develop them to be the best they can be. We control our workouts, and our level of expectations. We control whether we set standards and hold our kids accountable. We control whether we develop mental toughness. We control the level to which we teach leadership and character. 

This all really comes down to culture. If you want to have consistent, sustained success, you need to have a strong culture that permeates these factors. You build your culture. You control your culture. No one else controls your culture. Only you.... 

If we focus on being the best "we" that we can be, we will be successful. In a nutshell, we must do everything we can do to develop our jimmy's and joe's to be the best they can be. We need to coach them to outwork, and ultimately, out-perform their ability.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The HOPE Foundation and Coach Frank DiCocco

One of the greatest lessons I learned early on is that great coaching and teaching starts with unconditional love. I was blessed to have a father who coached this way. Growing up I had the opportunity to see first hand how unconditional love can impact young people. Early in my coaching career I worked for a man who cared greatly for each of his players. David Diaz coached kids to be better fathers and husbands. I was blessed to be exposed to Joe Ehrmann, author of two books on coaching. He wrote Inside Out Coaching and A Season of Life, which are two books every young coach should read.

Along with Joe Erhmann, I had the opportunity to visit with Dennis Parker, who authored of Coaching to Change Lives with D.W. Rutledge. At Columbus High School in the Bronx, we were searching for a way to teach our kids character and leadership. We took information from all of the aforementioned coaches as well as information from a variety of other sources. We began to piece together what would later be called Champions For Life. Champions for Life was our leadership development and character education program.

One afternoon I was on a message board for coaches and I was responding to a post about the importance of teaching young men more than the game of football. As I read further, I could tell the author of the post was passionate about coaching student-athletes to be their very best in life. We shared a few emails and he told me he was writing books on character. He called his curriculum The REAL Man Program. This young man was one of the most passionate coaches I had ever come across. His name was Frank DiCocco. Frank left this world too soon, but through the work of his family, his legacy will live on for generations.
Frank DiCocco

A few years back Frank started The H.O.P.E. Foundation for a Better Tomorrow, a non-profit organization focusing on Helping Other People Excel. Coach DiCocco's focus was not on himself. His focus was on helping everyone he met achieve their dreams. His goal as a coach was to help his players learn to become REAL men. Frank would email coaches free copies of his books so they would have a resource to teach character. He created handouts and packets and shared these with thousands of coaches. Frank shared this information because he cared about coaches and kids, and the great game we coach. 

Through the foundation Frank founded, his family has made it their mission to put Frank's books in the hands of every coach in the world. They will be at the AFCA convention in Indianapolis giving out copies of Frank's books. They will have a booth and would love to visit with coaches and share Frank's vision. Stop by and say hello to to the DiCocco family.

Please take a moment to check out the H.O.P.E Foundation's website by clicking here: H.O.P.E. Foundation For a Better Tomorrow. There are links to order all of Frank's books, which are great resources for teaching character. I use some of his information with my team, and it has been hugely beneficial. 

There are many reasons why we became coaches. Frank DiCocco became a coach to help other people excel. Each and every day we have an opportunity to change someone's life! 


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Outwork Your Talent

Imagine the possibilities. Imagine breaking through barriers and reaching heights you never thought you could reach... The greatest limitations we face are those we place on ourselves. Sometimes we do this consciously, sometimes we do this subconsciously. We allow ourselves to draw a line in the sand that we will not cross. We tell ourselves this is as far as I can go, so I will limit myself to this point. We draw this line subconsciously  through a sense of entitlement. We think we have arrived so we become stagnant or lazy. We are not willing to work for what we want... We may have all the desires in the world, but when our effort doesn't match our desire, we will certainly fail.

I recently ran into a friend of mine in the coaching world at the Austin Airport. I asked him about a quarterback he had that I recruited back in 2007. This kid had all the tools you could want. He was 6-3, 230 pounds, ran a consistent 4.65 40, and could throw a ball 60 yards. At worst he was going to make a great tight end or defensive end. His coach warned me the kid did not have a great work ethic. The kid was late for practice at least once a week and did not come to workouts in the summer. We decided to pass on recruiting him.

Fast forward six years to the Austin Airport. I asked coach where this young man ended up. The grocery store. Huh? The grocery store where he stocks shelves at night. Despite having all the talent to be a BCS football player, this kid's attitude and work ethic got in the way of his success. When he got to high school he was better than everyone else. Because of this, he thought he didn't have to work hard. His coaches thought they had a kid who would be a big-time football player who would lead them to a state championship. What they actually had was a young man who would lead his team to a 4-5 season as a senior. This sure fire prospect had turned into a suspect by his senior year. He went to a small NAIA school where he lasted three weeks. His attitude had not improved, and the coaching staff had seen enough. This is a kid who said he wanted to play in the NFL, but his work ethic and attitude did not match his desire.

This happens all too often in the world of athletics. Every coach at all levels has stories about kids that wasted their talent. Instead of working hard to develop their talent, they think they can get by on their talent. They think because they are a better athlete that they can be lazy and just get by. This works for a while... until the pond starts getting bigger. At some point your poor attitude and lack of work ethic will catch up to you. 

The goal of every athlete should be to outwork your talent. In fact, that should be the goal of everyone, regardless of the endeavor. Work ethic and attitude are choices. They are not given to you by someone else. They are not willed to you or passed along genetically. You have complete control over your attitude and work ethic. You can control whether you get the most out of your talent. If you fight to outwork your talent every single day, you will be the best that you are capable of being. And that will translate into success.

On the other side of the coin are the kids who have less talent, but they outwork their talent every single day. You have guys that work so hard that they improve and pass by more talented athletes. We all have numerous stories about these guys. They are the guys that are going to reach pinnacles in life because they know how to overcome obstacles. They are never satisfied where they are and they keep pushing themselves.

The final group is the group that is, unfortunately, very rare. This is the group of very talented athletes who have a great work ethic. These are guys everyone else feeds off of. They are the special players that make everyone else around them better. They are the guys that play a big part in the success of a program. These guys are game changers on the field and in the locker room. They are guys that never miss a workout. They are guys that never skip a rep. They are guys that are going to do more than what is expected. These guys embrace the grind of being the best. These are the players that get a chance to play on Sundays. 

This is what we as coaches are working to do each day. We are finding ways to inspire you to do more than you think you can. We are trying to get you out of your comfort zone so you can stretch yourself to reach new heights. We are creating adverse situations where you learn to overcome obstacles and deal with pain. We are trying to get you to realize that your talent doesn't matter if you aren't willing to be responsible to your teammates. 

Here are six specific things you can do to outwork your talent. 

1. Be There
2. Be On-Time
3. Do every rep with a great attitude
4. Embrace adversity
5. Help Your Teammates Be the Best They Can Be
6. Care About Your Teammates

1. You have to be there to be successful. While just showing up will not make you successful, not showing up will guarantee failure.

2. It takes zero talent to be on-time. Being on time is about self-discipline. It is about showing others you respect and value them. On a team it means you understand your are responsible to others and they can depend on you.

3. This is the toughest part for most young people. They get tired and they decide to cut one or two reps. Everyone gets tired. Mediocre people justify not completing the workout. Great players understand that growth takes place when you face stress and pressure. This is where mental toughness comes in. When you are fatigued and you have one more set, are you going to make a CHOICE to do every rep? Are you going to CHOOSE to do an extra rep? Are you going to CHOOSE to finish the drill?  

Champions are not made on Friday Nights. Champions are made in February and March. Champions are made in June and July. There is something very powerful about pushing through and completing a drill when you are exhausted. There is something very powerful of knowing your teammate is willing to do that for you.

4. Everyone does well when things are easy. How do you handle things when they aren't going your way? How do you handle your coach telling you we have five more sets? How do you handle your coach calling you out because you aren't putting forth your best effort? How do you handle your coach or teammate telling you your not getting deep enough on squat? Do you choose to improve or do you choose to give up?

5. Great players are willing to do whatever it takes to make those around them better. This is what separates good players from great players. Good players make themselves better. Great players intentionally make those around them better. You will never reach your full potential until you help your teammates reach theirs.

6. It is much easier to overcome adversity when you have a group of people with a common goal. You need to encourage your teammates to work hard and that you have their back. You will not let them fail. This is where great teams are made. They are made because guys cared about their teammate more than they cared about themselves.

Every single day you have to be willing to put forth the attitude, effort, and enthusiasm to reach your goals. You have to be willing to work harder to do more than what your talent says you can do. If you outwork your talent, you will break through barriers to reach new heights. At the end of the day, you will know you reached your full capabilities. 



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Success, Wooden Style

Let's ask this question... What is success? Is success increasing your profits? Is it having 90% of your students passing a test? Is success going 12-1 and advancing to the state quarterfinals? Those are examples of what I call external success based on outcomes. There is nothing wrong with those measurements. They seem to satisfy the public... But do they really measure success?

For many years I thought that is how success was measured. If you won the game you were successful. If you lost the game you weren't. Then I read several pieces by John Wooden. He had a different definition of success... He said,
"Success is piece of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the very best you are capable of becoming." 

When I read that I had somewhat of an epiphany. It hit me that we need to first overcome ourselves. Instead of worrying about our opponents, we need to focus on become the best "we" that we can be. I decided to embark on a project. I began to research everything I could about John Wooden. I wanted to know why his teams were so successful. What made his teams excel?

First of all, they eliminated comparison based success. When we base our success in comparison to others we are going to find a lot of disappointment. We are going to find ourselves in a position where the ends justify the means. We will put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves... pressure to achieve sometimes unrealistic results. We also tend to be apprehensive. We worry about the external factors over which we have no control.

Bill Walsh used to say the scoreboard takes care of itself. You can't control what the other guys are doing. You can't control whether you are undersized or slower than your opponent. You can't control whether their facilities are better than yours. But what you can control is much more vital. You can control your effort, your attitude, and your enthusiasm each day. You can control whether you put everything you have available into preparing to be the best you can be.

John Wooden got it. The first priority of his teams was self-improvement. He did not care about what other people were doing. He focused on the development of his own players. He couldn't control the players that USC recruited. He couldn't control how they ran their practices. What he could control, however, was who he recruited, and how he ran practices at UCLA.

You can't control what your opponents are doing each day. They should be the farthest thing from your mind. You can, however, control what you do each day. You control whether you wake up on time. You control whether you put ten more pounds on the bar. You control whether you take a set off, or you do extra reps. You control whether you allow your athletes to cut corners.

When you focus on your own team you are focusing on what you control. You are able to focus on a process. This is real power. Real power is being able to control what you can control. Winning, or external success is a byproduct of taking advantage of that power you have. And, if you focus on being the best that you can be, everything else will tend to fall into place.





Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pistol Precepts Article

I love traveling to clinics around the country. It is very cool to meet coaches from other regions and talk about new ideas. I have had the opportunity to speak at several Glazier and Nike Clinics over the last ten years. My pistol lecture from the Oregon Nike Clinic will be in the 2013 version of Earl Browning's Nike Coach of the Year Clinic Notes. Here is a link to that article:


If you are looking for more ideas on the pistol, check out my two books, 101 Pistol Run Plays, and 101 Pistol Option Plays.




Thursday, May 16, 2013

The little things are the Biggest Things

The little things are the  biggest things...

What does this mean? Quite simply... details matter. The seemingly insignificant details matter to the success of any endeavor. If you want to be successful you have to pay attention to the details.

Early in my coaching career I was a "big picture" guy. I didn't spend much time focusing on the how. I was more focused on the what. I didn't understand the value of coaching details. I thought we could out scheme people. If we drew it up on paper, we would win. That's what I thought it mean to out coach people.

Then I had the opportunity to watch Nick Saban coach defensive backs. He was focused on the how and the what. Coach Saban broke down small techniques to their smallest part. Everything fit together. If a player did something wrong, he immediately corrected them and they did it again. He had a process for teaching. Most importantly, his players learned and executed.

That is one common bond that successful teams shared... Attention to detail. They cared about the things that most organizations don't care about. They made it a point to take care of the small things. They set a standard, coached the standard, then held their players accountable to the standard. They accept nothing less. They focus on the details within themselves, rather than the external that they had no control over. While this wasn't the only factor they had in common, it was perhaps the most important.

The programs that were not as successful seemed to look past some things. They didn't value the details. They let things go. They didn't have an edge to them. Watching those programs, it was obvious something was missing. These are the teams that never play to their full ability. They are the very talented yet mediocre teams. They are the mediocre teams that never seem to improve. They don't get to parallel on squat. They don't keep their lower back locked in on dead lift. They don't put the right weight on the bar... 

You Get What You Emphasize

If you want something done right, emphasize it. If it is important, then emphasize it. Things don't happen magically. You have to make them happen. It is a process. You need to have a process if you want sustained, consistent results. You are always creating an incentive. If you reward bad behavior, what will you get? Yes, that's a rhetorical question... 

What do you do if a kid doesn't do something right? Make them do it again. It starts with accountability. We must be willing to hold our players accountable for not meeting the standard we have set. There are several ways to do this, but the best way is to reteach and have them do it over. A great way to teach players to be accountable is to have the entire group do something over. They are all counting on each other. If one of them makes a mistake it affects us all. This can be taught.

Everything we do is becomes habit. If we repeatedly let things go, that is exactly what we will get. Our kids will not do things right. If we tell them to have a flat back on our push-ups, we need to make sure they have a flat back. If we want them to sprint through the end of the drill, we have to emphasize them sprinting through the end of the drill. If they don't sprint through, send them back. 

Why? Why does this matter?

We need to build the habit of doing little things right. We need guys to pay attention to details when there is very little pressure. If a guy can't start behind a line, how can you trust him to line up right on the field? If a guy won't do a warm-up drill right, how can we expect them to do their position drills correctly? If a kid fumbles, are you emphasizing the five points of contact? Do you teach it? Do you coach it?

If you want your receiver to take a split to the top of the numbers, he should align at the top of the numbers. If he doesn't his split should immediately be corrected. If your linebacker is suppose to be lined up with his heels at 4, accept nothing different. If your offset back is suppose to be aligned at 4 yards on the outside leg of the guard, accept nothing else. You will find, however, that lining up wrong is a byproduct of your off-season program. Kids have to be taught to pay attention to details.

Finally, every one of your coaches must be bought in. If you have 6 coaches and only three are willing to hold kids accountable, you will not become consistently successful. You need every single coach willing to coach the seemingly insignificant details. 

Kids that don't pay attention to detail tend to be kids that will give up on a play. They are the kids that are not going to want to face adversity. They will fold under pressure....

If you aren't going to hold them accountable to something, then don't make it part of your program. If you tell your kids to hustle between drills or stations, but you aren't going to hold them accountable, then don't expect them to hustle. 

Making It Work...

1. Clearly Define Your Standards of Performance
2. Teach Your Standards of Performance
3. Hold Your Team Accountable to the Standards of Performance

If they perform, reward them. If they don't, reteach and repeat. Reteach and repeat until they meet the standards you have set.

Let me close with this... Coaching the little things is hard... It means you hold them accountable. It means confrontation and correction... Coaching the details means you can't take a rep off. It means you can't let up. You have to always be on your game.... 

Every program we have turned around started with coaching the details. The better we coached the details, the more consistent we became. Once we gained consistency, we were able to see growth. Once we saw growth, we gained confidence... Once we gained confidence, we started winning more games...

If you take care of the little things, the big things tend to take care of themselves...