Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Improving Our Craft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote two new 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 apple device, you can order the paperback version! It is available on Amazon!

I also have a Kindle version for Windows and Android devices. It has everything except the embedded video. You can order it here:

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