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.

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: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1078061959. 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: http://www.amazon.com/Installing-Explosive-Concepts-Into-Offense-ebook/dp/B01B12YSCG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1075902270.


Order the Amazon Kindle version here:



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!

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: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1078061959. 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: http://www.amazon.com/Installing-Explosive-Concepts-Into-Offense-ebook/dp/B01B12YSCG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1075902270.


Order the Amazon Kindle version here:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Winning is a Process

A little over 18 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. Everything we did was with specific intent. We didn't want to do anything that didn't directly help us to reach our end goal.

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. It is much easier to deal with adversity when we already had a plan in place.

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? Where do we want to go? 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.

A few months back 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: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1078061959. 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: http://www.amazon.com/Installing-Explosive-Concepts-Into-Offense-ebook/dp/B01B12YSCG/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1075902270.


Order the Amazon Kindle version here: