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...

In January of 2016, I published a couple of iBooks that can help your program with X's and O's. The first is on Installing RPO's into any offense. Here is a link to the iBooks version: The ibooks version includes explanations, diagrams, and video clips on multiple RPO Concepts. It will give you a simple process for implementing them into your offense.
If you don't have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you can order the Amazon version for the Kindle. It has everything except the embedded video. You can order it here:

I also wrote a book on Tempo. It will greatly help you build a multiple tempo system with simple communication that will allow your kids to play with confidence. It also had over an hour of video clips! You can order the ibooks version here:

Order the Amazon Kindle version here:

One of the keys to our success was tremendous preparation!The key to  preparation was our outstanding group of documents we used for all three phases. If you are looking for fully editable and customizable documents that you can tailor to your program, I have made mine available. 

Here is a link to my offensive game planning documents:
It includes everything from a scouting report template, to practice plans, to a two-sided color call sheet, and more! Each of the nine documents are fully editable and customizable! Order today for under $15 and download them tonight!

Here is a link to the defensive game planning documents. It includes 12 fully editable and customizable documents.

And finally, I put together a special teams resource. This has everything you need, included drill tape, practice tape, and game footage. It includes teaching presentations and scouting forms just for special teams!


  1. Great post, coach! Bill Walsh made a career of insisting on perfection in the little details...and grudgingly settling for excellence.

  2. Love reading this. Rolling through spring ball is a reminder of how important the small details are. Biggest thing that I got from this is that I as a coach have to always be on my game.

    Great Post!