Friday, December 11, 2015

Reflections of the 2015 Football Season

Well, I have to say this has been one of the most enjoyable seasons I've had in quite some time (seven years to be exact).  I thought that a rehashing of the 2015 season would be in order, seeing as how I've had so many emails wondering where I went, or what I was doing (obviously due to the lack of posts here and over at Football Is Life).  Well, I'll take you through what my year was like and you can see what a roller coaster ride it has been.


Coming off a losing season is tough, no matter where you're at, or what level you coach.  I was coming off losing year number two.  What was really concerning, is I felt as though I wasn't being led by leadership that could get us over the hump the way we needed to.  Sure, we got the schedule tuned in more to our talent level, and the off-season weight program appeared to be headed in the right direction, but there just didn't seem that level of confidence in the leadership, that I've had working on other staffs.  The major underlying issue was a lack of discipline program-wide.  Anyone who knows me, will tell you, that teams I've coached are always disciplined.  We may not be good, but we are trying to be.  We are trying to do the right thing, and we will try to do it, even when folks aren't watching.  I just never felt like we were creating disciplined young men, and that was always in the back of my mind as we went through clinic season, and winter workouts.  This is not a good feeling.  The Winter, in my opinion, is time to learn and recharge one's batteries for the upcoming season.  This did not seem to happen for me, and it was a very uneasy feeling leading into spring ball.

I did go to some clinics, and picked up some good information, but even then, I found myself unable to get very "fired up" about using all of it to make ourselves better.  Normally, the week after I've been to a clinic, I type out all my handwritten notes, so they are clean and fresh.  I usually even share them on my blog.  I got about 1/3 of the way through my notes, and quit.  To this day, my notes still haven't been transcribed.  If I sat down to type them in the evenings, the thought that crossed my mind was "Why"?  That's not the kind of feeling you need to have when you're trying to recharge the batteries.  I knew it was what I'd been through over the past few seasons that had worn me thin, but I thought, like most years once May rolled around, things would get better.  Unfortunately, "better" never came.


Into the start of our spring meetings, I still felt uneasy, and this uneasiness was fueled by again, the overall leadership in the program and the fact we were losing some coaches and replacing them with some greenies.  It's bad enough having to teach young new football players things they should be learning in youth football, but doing the same while teaching a young staff, can really drag you down.  I'm in my late 30's and was the second oldest on staff, easily by 10 years.  We had some pups coming in.  Don't get me wrong, they had some fire, but some had the wrong fire, others had no clue what they were doing, and some were just downright wrong for the job.  Needless to say that first day of spring football came, with little to no excitement from myself.  I'm not a "rah-rah" guy, but I do get plenty fired up for football.  As we started spring practices, it just wasn't there.  I thought I could fake it, or fool myself into being motivated, but that's only going to last so long.  Having to coach, then re-coach things that your assistants should be doing, wore me down within the first few weeks of practice and I found myself just wanting it to end.  We had a young, young group of kids, and that made life even more difficult as the disparity in coaching served only to confuse them.  The lack of leadership from the top didn't help.  When I offered to do after practice or weekend clinics to rehash topics from our off season meetings, nobody would show up.  This my friends, is signs of cracks in the foundation.  I began to wonder if anyone really gave a damn but me.  Again, not good things go find out in the middle of spring football practice.

Then one day, it hit me.  Like Mike Alstott through the A gap, it slammed into me a hundred miles an hour.  I was helping our OL coach work a pass protection drill, that was the most haphazard cluster I'd ever witnessed in my 15 years of coaching.  This was after a 30 minute defensive team session where I literally felt like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz trying to run all those gadgets by myself.  I was exhausted and then went to help with this cobbed up OL drill and I knew afterwards, I wanted out.  I knew I wanted to coach, just not bad enough to continue coaching where I was at.

I like to give things the 24 hour rule and two days later, I felt no different.  I even told myself, just give until the end of spring, then think about it.  Two more days passed by and I just couldn't do it.  I let the coach know, I'd coach the rest of the spring, but afterwards I was resigning.  Of course, he wanted to know why, but what do you say when your staring the main reason for leaving right in the face?  I just cited personal reasons, coached the remainder of spring and went on my merry way.  I had no idea where I was going to go.  See, I'm not in the school system, and I'm pretty entrenched in the local community, so leaving is not as easy as one may think.  Going to another school is a tough option, seeing that the nearest school is over 30 miles in either direction from where I live.  No, I thought this might be the end, or maybe I'd try my hand at middle school ball or Pop Warner again.  I just don't feel like taking a year off is the right thing to do.  I was afraid I'd get rusty, or bored, or worse.

What's beautiful about the game, is the networking among coaches.  Through the years of coaching, and blogging, I've made some very good friends, and these friends are one's that will look out for a buddy when he's in need.  It just so happened that a good friend of mine coaches at a very prestigious program in our area and has been on me since 2010 to join their staff in some capacity.  Now, mind you, this program is over 40 miles from where I live, so going there on a daily basis was not an option.  However, when my friend found out I wasn't coaching, he hit me up with a consulting gig that sounded too good to be true.  Alas, though, I was wrong!  As it turns out, it's one of the best coaching moves I've ever made.  I joined the staff in early June, but all was quiet and I really began to wonder about my decision, but that's why you have to be patient in this business sometimes.


The summer rolled along, fairly uneventful.  I went to some off season workouts, met with assistant coaches and discussed film breakdown procedures, game planning procedures and the like, but it was actually a very mild summer for me.  Then we had our preseason meeting in August and the wheels began to turn.  The man I work for now is an absolute legend in the local coaching community.  His programs have many accolades and he's had a very successful run dating back to the nineties with this program (not something seen in today's game...longevity).  What really struck me about the man and the mission statement of the program is that he scoreboard is so secondary to what they are attempting to do here.  No, football is a tool where I coach now.  It's a tool to mold boys into men.  To make these men great leaders, fathers and husbands.  I've always said that there has to be more to football than just wins and losses and the program I was joining adhered to my internal message to a tee.

The other thing I was seeing right before my eyes was that football was important to these coaches, administrators and the community.  It wasn't just a sport to them, it was a means to an end.  Football was the tool for making men.  Many folks talk about Nick Saban's "The Process", and where I work it's referred to as "The System".  I'll get more into "The System" over on Football Is Life later, but basically, think of Alabama when you want to get a picture of where I'm coaching at now.  Football is paramount here.  Football runs the show, and the show is glad for it.  I'm so thankful this opportunity came along when it did, because my passion has been totally rejuvenated in the past few months.

As I got to know the staff, one item was universal, they were honest, genuine dudes that cared about the individuals they coached, and the individuals they coached with.  They weren't just "yes men", but had the program's best interest ahead of their own personal interests.  See, this wasn't the case at my old program.  Not one bit.  Selfishness and the "get ahead at all costs" mentality prevailed there.  No, at my new job, the idea of "nobody is greater than the whole" rang true throughout.  When I say throughout, I mean from the Freshman coaches and players all the way up to Varsity.  Everybody understood their role, and where they fit into the piece of the puzzle.  Anyone stepping out of line, wasn't squashed, or ridiculed, but was put into place with a lesson given about patience and doing your job for the greater good of the program.  I cannot stress how important this is in running a first class program.

As preseason gave way into the regular season things really began to step up and I was quickly put to the test.  That's what I had been worried about this new job was whether I was going to be used or not, and turns out I was definitely going to get a lot of work coming my way.  From coming up with slants, stunts, and blitzes as well as throwing in my two cents I was well involved in our establishment of a cohesive game plan to attack our opponents.  With the first week of the season, I was up in the booth helping defend one of our toughest opponents of the season.  I knew right then and there this was going to be a very good year for me.


As Summer faded into fall, the hours began to rack up, and I became deeply involved in some game plans, and not so much in others.  Film breakdown was at a feverish pace, as we always tried to get our hands on as much film as possible, sometimes breaking down 10 to 12 films towards the end of the season.  Not only that, but putting together the call sheet as well as the scouting report became quite a bit of work.  Our weekend meetings were beginning to stretch from four hour sessions to six and then on to eight hour sessions as the season wore on.  I had no issue with it, that's the part of football I love, the chess match.  I think we did as good as anyone we faced this season at preparing our players for their opponent, and I can tell you this, it won us some games we might not have otherwise won.

What I didn't realize was how much I was learning, because everything was being done at a rabid pace.  Sometimes I would be out scouting on a Friday night, come in Saturday morning to prepare the scouting report from the night before then be thrust into a three or four hour film breakdown session.  Upon completing the film breakdown we always had to go back and clean up things, discuss what certain formations and plays were going to be tagged as etc.  Once that was cleaned up, we began running the rough version of the scouting report so all of us could head home and begin to digest the data.  I have to say, that data analysis and data presentation is the number one topic I learned this season.  I have some very good ideas I plan on passing on in the future over at Football is Life.  Anyhow, we would return on Sundays to begin game planning, and these sessions were intense.  There was laughter, arguing, silence and the occasional old "war story" told in our war room.  We would generally work through all the formations and plays we felt we were going to see and also the ones that might give us trouble.  I have never been a big "check defense" guy, mainly because I've never coached platooned players.  My guys usually had to go both ways, so you were limited in what you could teach them in a two-and-a-half hour practice.  I started out my career as a check guy, but quickly learned you can be over burdened with these checks if you're not careful.  Well, when your defensive players get two hours of practice time, plus and hour of video time every day to learn, you can really do a lot of things with them.

Video was another subject that I quickly learned is a necessary tool for success.  As they say "The eye in the sky doesn't lie".  Everything we do is videotaped.  Meetings, practice, games, drills you name it, it's videoed.  The same goes for lifting.  When I say the video everything, I mean it.  I found myself looking around for cameras when I went to the bathroom (lol, just kidding).  Anyhow, you get my drift.  Video is important to our head coach.  As coaches, we probably average three hours of watching film daily during the work week.  The weekends are even more intense.  However, the defining truth that lies within all the work, is the desire to succeed.

As fall wore on, I could see that the desire to succeed was paramount in this program.  I'm sure that's everywhere, but what sets us apart from the rest is the fact that we take absolute control over EVERYTHING we can control.  The motto on our staff is "No stone left unturned".  When we scout, we scout everything.  Jersey color, how loud is the band, who are the captains, what type of field is it, how do we enter the stadium, etc.  The list is endless, but the scouts deliver it all.  To the newbie, one might think this effort is useless, and doesn't translate into wins, however when you don't have as talented a roster as your opponent, any little bit helps.  For the most part, we were better than 90 percent of the teams we faced, and breezed through the regular season.  In the playoffs, we saw our cracks rise to the surface, and the one that kept surfacing and resurfacing was the fact that we just don't have the same quality of athlete as some of the other programs.  We did make it to the regional championship game, and were easily the least talented team of the remaining four in the state.  I would also say we were probably the best coached and the strongest.  Unfortunately that will only carry you so far.  Anyhow, the season was very fun and interesting and I'm looking forward to year two.

Misgivings and Lessons Learned

One of things I really learned is an old football axiom, "Think players not plays".  The DC I worked for, does this better than anyone I've ever been around.  He doesn't strap himself to a system, yet he straps himself to the idea of defending his opponent with who he has.  What this means at times is we have LB's lining up where they don't always traditionally play, or DB's moving into the box to play LB, DE's that stand up vs. one formation or have their hand in the ground vs. another.  I can only imagine how hard we are to break down for our opponents because we are base 4-3/4-2-5 defense, but we play a 4-4, 6-1, 5-2, 5-3, 6-2, 3-4 and a 3-3 at some point during the season.  What is imperative about "the system" (see above) is the fact our upperclassmen know the base scheme like their livelihoods depended on it.  We can get in trouble during a game, and make a base front, stunt, blitz or coverage call, and the kids know exactly how to run it.  The reason why is the fact many of them have been doing it for four years and thousands of reps.  Memory, both physical and mental is preached around here.  It allow us to bend our scheme and tailor our scheme to fit our players, as well as defend our opponent with different looks.  You might see our JV defend something out of the 4-3, only to see the Varsity using the 3-3.  What's unique, and what I'm sure many are asking is, how is it that your don't get paralysis by analysis?  Again, we may line up in a 3-3, but we aren't a 3-3 stack team.  Our blitzes we run from the 3-3 are the same ones we would run from the 4-3 with some slight tweaking.  Our kids aren't doing anything different than they would do from the time they are taught how to line up, run a blitz or stunt, react to a block etc.  The unified theme here is reps, reps, reps.  These players are repeating techniques from their freshmen year on up into the time they are seniors, all of the techniques are simple muscle memory.  What a key component of our schemes focus on is having what we deem as the primary tackler.  This is a defender that will arrive at the point of attack (POA) unblocked.  This may be a safety, or a linebacker, depending on what kind of scheme or offense we are facing.  This past season we had a LB who was very good at taking on lead blocks and getting pressure on the QB when he blitzed.  This LB, however, was not very good at making one-on-one tackles.  Our other LB was a very good all around player, but sometimes a bit undersized to be taking on lead blockers all night.  He also was a very good tackler, so many times in our schemes this young man became the primary tackler.  This meant that we had to move these guys around based on formations and how the offense was attempting to attack us.  Things tended to get interesting at times finding ways to get these players in the right position to do what they were best suited to do, but for the most part it worked out, and is the crux of what made our scheme so tough to move the ball on.  The same could be said for our defensive ends.  We have one young man, who would be classified more as a "rush" DE, whereas the other DE is really just a smaller version of a NG.  When we would get into our three man fronts, we didn't as the bigger player to play with his hand off the ground or to drop into coverage, we worked things out where our "rush" DE was always this guy.  Again, based on what we were facing, this meant sometimes having to move guys around just because somebody came out in three-by-one versus two-by-two.  The underlying theme is simple though, don't ask your guys to do what they are not good at.  Get them in positions to do what they do best.  Sometimes that means not doing it EXACTLY like the playbook you downloaded on Scribd says to do it, but that's what being a quality coach comes down to sometimes.  Don't be afraid to think out of the box.

The second lesson I learned was mentioned above and that is the importance of video.  As I mentioned, we video EVERYTHING.  One-on-ones, team, seven-on-seven, one-on-one pass rush, kicking and punting.  You name it, we probably video it.  For the younger players they video and review weight lifting techniques.  The underlying idea behind using so much video is that we want to control EVERYTHING we can control.  We cannot control that a kid is not a 4.3 40 yard dash guy and he only runs a 5.5 as a freshman.  However, we are going to do everything we can by working with strength, conditioning, and technique to get that freshman time of 5.5 to as low as we possibly can by the time said freshman is getting varsity reps.  The video comes into play by helping teach technique.  In the weight room it's used to make sure of proper body posture and form, as well as to insure nobody is doing movements that are potentially damaging.  On the track, video is used to aid in the teaching of proper running form, such as arm placement and stride.  When practice rolls around, it is utilized to reinforce technique, work on schematic deficiencies and yes, to catch the occasional loafer.  There are usually two cameras that operate in the weight room filming mainly, bench, power cleans and squats.  Some other lifts are filmed, but those three are ALWAYS filmed when the freshmen lift.  On the track there is usually one camera set up on the press box filming sprints and distance running.  During practice, there is usually two cameras,and sometimes up to four cameras operating at any one time.  All of this video does take quite a bit of managing.  There are four managers and three coaches assigned to practice video.  On game nights our guys look like some sort of television crew as we usually have three cameras up and running on any given night (sometimes we add a fourth as well).  Sideline video is huge for us, so much so that on Thursdays, our video crew usually sends a couple of guys to wherever we are playing to test the WiFi and search for the best available signal in the area.  Again, we are controlling everything we can control and leaving no stone unturned.

I also got to remember what it felt like to coach on staff that got along, had no personal agendas and genuinely cared for one another.  The reason all of this worked, was great leadership from the top down.  I got brought in to a great group of coaches, that really didn't need me, but adding me made us better.  In some circles, guys would've looked at this move jealously, and would've been trying to tear me down from day one on the job.  This did not happen, because it was clearly communicated to all the members of the team the following items:

  1. What my role was on the staff
  2. What my duties and responsibilities would be
  3. How we were all going to work together
This is extremely important when getting men motivated to work with one another, especially if these men all come from different backgrounds and different walks of life.  There were only two guys that really even knew me on this staff, the rest didn't know who I was from Adam's house cat.  What made the transition smooth was the leadership explaining why I was being added and how I was going to help.  It was a great lesson in leadership, as I think one of my shortcomings, and definitely some of my former bosses shortcomings was not being effective communicators of who was doing what, and what was expected of everybody.  

This was clearly evident in my first staff meeting.  The first meeting of season, is a VERY long one because what happens is the head coach brings up some painful topics, that lead into some pretty deep discussions.  He cites what has happened in the past, how it helped or hurt the organization, and what was being to to remedy or reinforce these historical lessons.  In my opinion, it's clearly genius.  History is sometimes all we have to fall back on when we are faced with a situation, and in many instances when the head coach was discussing things we were doing based on the past, I found myself going back to my head coaching days and realizing how much I had done wrong, by failing to recognize the significance of the moment.  The experience has been truly eye opening, and if I ever do become a head coach again, I'm sure that these lessons will aid me in my journey.  In the meeting, squabbles, and firings were brought up, and there were times that the head coach was even scolding in his comments to the staff.  One thing rang true, he was the boss, there was no bones about that.  He made it a point that if you had a problem, that couldn't be solved, you can always leave.  It is ALWAYS clear where you stand with him.  He doesn't use psychological ploys or verbiage to confuse you, or get something out of you.  If he wants to know something, he asks it.  If he wants you somewhere, he tells you to go there.  If you aren't doing your job, he corrects, you, tells you how to do it properly and does so in a very direct manner.  All of this goes back to the effective communication of being a good leader.  Yes, he's not a robot, he will laugh and joke with the best of them, but only when it's the proper time.  In this meeting he was very blunt, almost to the point of being stern.  You could easily tell he was passionate about his job.  I had no doubts as to who the boss was once our meeting was over.  I also had no doubt of the expectations of myself and the others.  Our goal, on the field, was simple, do things the right way, every time and the scoreboard would take care of itself.  

Also from the first staff meeting I garnered the love this man, and the staff had for the players.  There is one unifying goal where I coach, and that is football will be used as a tool to create men.  These men are ones that will be good husbands, fathers, and productive members of society.  That simple, defining mission statement is one I actually wrote down in my program manual, oh so long ago when I got my first head coaching job.  It is also why I left my last job.  At my last stop, we weren't doing this.  The inmates were running the asylum, and that erodes at the foundation of my very desire to coach.  Where I'm at now, we coach for a greater purpose than the lights on that scoreboard.  We coach to create the men that this country needs.  I cannot see one single reason why anyone else would coach for ANY other reason.  Don't get me wrong, as  young pup, I coached for the wins and the rings.  The funny thing is, these become forgotten.  However, the life lessons can last a lifetime.  The impact we have on coaches MUST last longer than four years.  If all I was doing was coaching from one four year window to another, that would be a very hollow job, and I'm sure I would've long quit the coaching profession.  No, as a coach, we must foster the idea that the scoreboard is secondary to the ultimate goal, of creating men.  This can sometimes be hard to do, but once a coach realizes this, I feel it gives them a greater sense of purpose in this confusing world of being a coach.  This was also probably one of the toughest realizations I had when taking this job is that I would not have direct impact on players.  I'm adjusting to it, but I cannot lie and say that this is all I was meant to do.  No, I'm sure someday, I'll return to the field and coach players that I can impact and mold, as that is what I love most about coaching, but for now, I'm happy with where I'm at.

For all this season was, we did fall short of state championship appearance.  In the end though, I found myself not truly bothered by that, because I knew we had done our best, we had done right by the kids, and nobody could say we didn't work hard attempting to get to our goal.  Sometimes their Jimmies are just better than your Joe's.  I'm fine with that.  I'm fine with it, because I know our Joe's got one of the best sports experiences, as well as life lessons of anyone in our state.  That's something no plaque, or ring can signify.  I truly look forward to the future.  I don't know if the wins will be there or not, but what I do know is, we'll do it the right way, and we'll work our ass off getting there.  


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Grantland Article on Ending Youth Football

If you haven't read this article, and you should, you might not know about Evan Murray. Murray was the QB for Warren Hills Regional High School that died from a lacerated spleen on September 25 of this year.  While, I agree, any young person's death is truly tragic, to blame the game that he was playing, is no different that to blame the automobile that someone dies in.  What liberal, utopia-minded writers such as our dear friend Charles P. Pierce fail to realize, is that death is inevitable.  When, where and how, are completely out of our control.  Here's a sad image for you, if Murray had died after a four year battle with cancer, how many of us would know this young man?  Sure, there would be outpouring from his community, his family and friends, but would the national media even know?

That's how the media in this country works.  They have an agenda, and if they see something that will further their agenda, then they go for it.  What is ironic, is that the fatality rate for football is actually smaller than some other sports, but what most liberal-biased media outlets do is report on the volume instead of the percentage.  Why do they do this?  Well, if they did, they would realize just how full of crap they sound, but when you report to someone that there were 20 football related fatalities the past year, people begin to raise an eyebrow.  This statistic would be ever so alarming if there were say 200 players that played in the United States along.  Why, that would be ten percent of the players were dying!  Well, unfortunately, liberal media folk, such as Mr. Pierce, fail to realize that there were near l 1.1 million football players in the year 2014, in high school alone.  Let's do some real math (i.e. not liberal math) on this.  If we do our division correctly we come up with 20 deaths in one year, per 1,088,158 players (as reported by CNSNews) we come up with 0.002 percent of football players died in 2014.  Wow, let me check again.  Yep, those numbers work!  If you look at the following web page you will see that drivers, ages 16-19 are at a 12.6% fatality rate driving an automobile.  Yet...where is the bleeding heart articles pleading for our government to not allow children to drive?  You won't find it.  Why you ask?  Well, that liberal mom, that just wrote her scathing article about the damaging effects of injury to her son from football, wouldn't want to have to drive him around everywhere he wants to go.  That would be inconvenient.  Yet, she would be just as sad and heartbroken if he were to die while driving his car down the highway.  I wonder if she'd blame the government, or the car manufacturer?

See what people fail to realize, and this is hard when you get down to it, is that life, is not much different that that white ball on the Roulette Wheel.  We think we have full control of our lives, and in many aspects we do, but the fact of the matter is, there is a grave difference between the two.  Life is just  It's fragile and can be taken at a moments notice.  That is why, when I was coaching, I always tried to impart on my players to live.  You never know when your time will be up.  None of do.  We'd all like to think we're going to die of old age with our family around us, seeing us off into whatever afterlife there may be.  Nobody thinks of dropping back to pass a football as their last moments.  I will say this, I wonder, if you could ask Evan Murray, Evan, if you had a choice of dying playing football, or rotting away in a nursing home after having watched all your friends and family die off around you, which would you rather do?  I know, I got a bit graphical there, but you understand my point, to which Mr. Pierce, fails to realize.

See life is not infinite, nor is codified.  It is a series of rambling events that terminate in death.  Sure, many would argue that Murray didn't get to go to college, or get married, see his first son born.  Neither will Isiah Casillas, the young man that led the Nebraska Cornhusker's tunnel walk back in 2012.  He was six, and died from a brain tumor.  I bet what is even more remarkable is if you asked Isiah, how he would want to go out?  I bet it wouldn't be lying in a bed, riddled with cancer, as he watched his parents trying to console him.  No, I bet he'd say he wouldn't mind having his spleen severed in a football hit.  Hell, at least he'd be playing football.

Look, I know this post is grim and dark, but folks, that's death.  That's what we, as human society, have made death out to be.  The reality behind all this darkness, is football, can make the part of your life between birth and death that much better.  What it teaches young men, and how it molds them, is still far superior to any sport out there Mr. Pierce.  Some of the world's greatest leaders have been football players at some time in their lives.  Without games like football, men would be reduced to skinny jean wearing pansies who don't know what it means to be physical, determined, relentless, or disciplined.  But, like you said Mr. Pierce, we'd be alive.  Or would we?  Don't forget that statistic on automobile fatalities for young folks, that are the same age as our Mr. Murray.  I wonder if Murray had died in a automobile accident, if we'd even know his name...

I'm not belittling Murray or his family.  To lose a child, is the hardest thing a parent will ever have to endure.  I remember, every time I went out when I was a teenager, my dad would say "Be safe boy, and remember, you're not supposed to bury your kids".  I had a grandmother, who buried both of her children and her husband before she passed away, so yes, I've seen the face of a parent that has lost a child.  I've also coached football for close to 20 years with zero fatalities under my watch?  Am I good, or just lucky?  Whatever it may be, I'll keep playing those odds.  No Mr. Pierce, you're dead wrong on the sport of football.  While I agree that we are getting players involved that are too young (with some leagues starting as young as four years of age), we do not need to limit the sport to the age of 21.  Junior high and high school are times in a young man's life when he is at him most impressionable.  It is these times in which he needs football and the men who teach it.  It is in these times that our future leaders are made and molded on the gridirons of America.  See Mr. Pierce, football is a great tool for making men.  I'm not sure the same can be said of soccer, or basketball, or even baseball.  No, the struggles, the trials and tribulations in football are the closest resemblance to the struggles of real life that anyone can ever mimic.  The discipline needed to be a good football player, is exponentially greater than that of other sports.  The dedication alone in football is what separates many young men from playing the sport or not.  In this day-and-age of political correctness and mealy-mouthed politicians, our country needs the game of football more than it ever has.  To let one death, or even 20, disparage what football does for the populous as a whole, should be a crime.  No, Mr. Pierce, what the true tragedy is, lies in your words, and their biased tone.  Shame on you for attempting to end one of this nation's finest past times.  You should be ashamed of your self, especially if you are a former player.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Triple Option Volume 19

The Give
If you haven't seen on Twitter (follow me @theduece02 or @footballislifeblog), I'm working as a consultant/scout at a pretty prominent program now.  Gone are the days of game planning by myself until the wee hours of the morning only to get waxed by 40 on Friday nights.  No longer are there days where when we have a lightning delay, we have to wonder if the volleyball team will "let" us practice in the gym (yes, I'm not making this stuff up).  No, I'm coaching now at a place where football is important.  No, important isn't a strong enough word.  Football is life!  Now you know why I'm happier than a pig in slop!  I have been on the job now for close to three months and things are going great and tonight, I leave my scouting duties to go up in the box and actually see our game plan come to life.  I guess you could say I've been promoted.  Nonetheless, I could not be more excited.  Other than having to wear white, which I despise (1. I'm fat, 2. I'm messy, you get it?!), tonight will be one of the biggest stages I've ever coached upon.  Now this is no state championship, nor for a district title.  It is just two elite teams, in a four-quarter, slug fest that will, not only be awesome to witness, but will be awesome to coach in.  Yep, I'm stoked men...I'm stoked.

The Keep
In all of the above, I do have to always look over my shoulder at where I came from.  I still live in my hometown, and my former team, my Alma Mater, continues to play.  What is truly sad is witnessing a program you help build as a player, and a coach, deteriorate to the point of almost being non-existent.  Sure, I'm happy, I'm still involved in football and I'm learning a lot coaching along side some greats, but there's a part of me that dies a bit with every Friday night loss of my hometown team.  There's a piece of me that knows, that program is slipping even further into the abyss from which it has lived in for well over five decades.  As a player, I was a part of the greatest run in school history.  I was a part of the first winning season in 18 years at that program.  I witnessed a team, that three years earlier had been a dismal 3-7, real off 13 straight wins only to fall in the state championship game.  When I came back as a coach, we were a disappointing 2-8, that quickly rebounded to 6-3, then 7-4, 8-3, 7-4 seeing a four year run in the playoffs.  That diminished as quickly as summer thunderstorm, being followed by 0-10, 1-9, and a string of 2-8's over the past several seasons.  When you run through stuff like that, I can tell you, it gets to you.  You question why are you doing this?  I can't tell you how many nights I've stayed up watching film, knowing we just don't have a chance.  What was sad, is we could have.  No, it wasn't the fact that the kids were bad, or they didn't work, or were lazy, or we had poor coaching.  What happened was nobody cared anymore.  Football was being used for one thing and one thing  When I was making our new schedule after the 0-10 season, I knew we weren't the team we had been several years before and we needed to lower the schedule so we could rebuild confidence.  The A.D. quickly told me my schedule wasn't going to work and we could play this team or that team because "they didn't travel well".  Several teams, that were two, three and even sometimes four classifications higher than us were left on the schedule, because it meant more money for athletics.  What the A.D. didn't realize was you put assess in the seats with victories, not who you play.  The program has suffered ever since.  It has never been a presigious program, but when it was up, man did it feel great.  To watch what it's become, is quite sad.  Again, you sit there and wonder, "Why the hell did I put in all that time"?  I often wonder if all of that was worth it.

The Pitch
The above leads me to my next point, and that is yes, it was all quite worth it in the end.  I had a former player text me the other night when he found out I wasn't coaching anymore (he's at another school now and heard it through the grapevine).  He was wondering why I left and we made small talk etc.  He then said "Between you and me you were always my favorite coach".  He later said "Thanks for all the time and effort you've put into me over the years, you don't realize how much it all mean having you on my side and knowing I could count on you".  Yeah, it was worth it man, I just wish it didn't hurt so much though.

Anyhow, leaving has been tough, for that reason, and the fact I'm not coaching players anymore.  I think I can get used to this, but I'm sure one day I'm going to want to have players I can coach, and mold and help become men, but for now, I'm going to relish my role and do the best damn job I can possibly do.  Hell, that's all I've ever asked of my players, it's all anyone can really ask of anybody when it comes down to it.  Good luck this season.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Triple Option Volume 18

Been a bit since I've posted on here, but got some things to talk about, so let's go!

The Give
The mailbag posts over at Football is Life have been quite fun to write to be honest.  What I like about them, is for me, they fit my schedule better than the larger posts I've done.  At the same time though, they have been very informative to my readers and I've gotten some excellent feedback on these posts.  The idea behind me going to this mailbag format is that I get a TON of email, asking questions on various things I've written about or chatted about on Coach Huey's site etc.  Well, most of us were told in school, no question is a bad question, so you might was well ask, as the likelyhood of someone having the same question as you do is quite high.  This way, I don't have to answer the same question, 12 times!  Anyhow, for those interested in participating in the mailbag posts, simple email me at and pose your question.  All questions remain anonymous, so don't worry about having your name and/or username spread around with the question you asked (hey, this ain't Dear Abby you know).  Anyhow, it's that simple.  Ask away, hell, I'm retired now!

The Keep
Looks like Chris Brown over at Smart Football has written himself another book!  In his latest book "The Art of Smart Football" Chris goes on to describe that there's some familiar topics that have been edited and updated, as well as some new stuff that wasn't in his first book "The Essential Smart Football".  I've read his first book, and let me tell you this, it is quite the read.  I actually sat down, the day I got it and read the entire thing cover to cover.  Chris is an excellent writer and does a great job seeing the game and explaining it in a way that both experienced coaches, as well as the casual fan can understand.  I'm ordering my copy this weekend.  Check out the link to get your copy today!  Thanks Chris!

The Pitch
Ok, I've got to get political here on you, so here goes.  Is anyone not concerned about this military training exercise going on in the Southwestern U.S.?  I read about awhile back, and really didn't give it much thought, but the more and more I read about Operation Jade Helm, the worse it sounds.  I hate to be a fear monger, but our current President and government fuel this conspiracy theory because they are so untrustworthy.  I think if the people weren't so afraid of their own government, military action such as this, viable or not, wouldn't be as scrutinized.  Some of President Obama's Executive Orders (EO's) give him all too much power.  I honestly believe the man should have been impeached a long time ago for actions against the Constitution.  However, I appear to be in the minority.  I just find such a large scale military exercise to be quite disturbing, especially taking place where it is.  Again, I'm no 9/11 conspiracy theory guy, I've got to see some concrete proof, but I'm keeping an eye on this one.  What really has me interested is the lack of press this thing is getting.  We all know the media in this country is aimed at keeping our attention turned to one thing while another goes on behind the scenes unreported.  The socialistic trends in this country are disturbing to say the least.  I know this, my vote will not, and will never be for someone who is for socialism.  I mean, we've had so many documented cases where this concept simply fails every time it's tried.  This isn't like the Two Level Defense (2LD) or the Celina Texas 10-1 defense that at least have some merit.  Every country that operates under some form of Socialism tends to lean towards my definition of "misery".

Hopefully we have elections coming up in 2016 if "Barry" doesn't decide to impose martial law on the land and try to keep himself in office.  I hope many of you reading this, realize that if we don't pull back from the liberal policies that have gotten us to where we are now, we are MOST certainly doomed.  Now I'm no gun-totin', religion clingin' redneck either.  There are certain things conservatives do that I don't care for either, however the lack of common sense by the party on the left is absolutely absurd.

One thing the people of this country need to stand up and demand is term limits.  Being an elected official was never intended to be a career choice.  Our forefathers did their elected duty, and when done, returned home to work in their places of business, or on their farms.  If we don't get career politicians out of Washington, nothing will ever change in this country, and I'm afraid it may even get worse.

Ok, so enough of the doom-n-gloom of politics.  Again, that's why I created this site, something a bit different than you see on my other site, and something a bit more "off the cuff".  Take care.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Triple Option Volume 17

The Give
Well, I am officially no longer a high school football coach.  Those words are very hard to swallow.  However, at least I have some solace that it was done on my terms.  I think that was very important and was not the case the last time I left the game.  I am just hoping that it's not the last time I get to walk on the sidelines and call a game, either offensively or defensively.

I have been coaching at my Alma mater for the past 10 seasons.  There were some good times early, but the past 6 years have been rocky at best.  Going a combined 6-60 over that span has made me rethink my priorities not only in football, but in life.  You see several years back I made the choice not to teach, but to work outside of teaching and still coach football.  Although yet to be seen, this may have been a very critical error on my part.  The major benefit is that my livelihood is not tied to the success or failure of the team in which I'm coaching.  This is good because I own a home in a down-trodden market and had I been forced from my job due to poor performance, I may very well have been locked out of moving to another location to coach and teach.  You see, where I'm at, it's easily 40 miles in any direction to the next nearest coaching opportunity.  So, with that being said, I'm not sure what the future holds at this point, but I know this, I can no longer coach where I'm at due to circumstances that are beyond my control.

That is a very, very, hard pill to swallow for a control freak like myself.  However, there comes a point in one's career where you have to realize you've done all you can do, and no matter what else you do, things, quite simply, aren't going to get any better.  I once used to think I could will a program to naive was I?!  Yep, I thought all you had to do was work hard, outwork the other coaches and the Jimmie's and Joe's thing would take care of itself.  Well, my friends, this quite simply is not the case.  I don't care if you're Jimmy Johnson, if you don't have some resemblance of talent, and some team discipline and chemistry, you can kiss your X's and O's goodbye.  I have learned this the hard way, all too many times.

The Keep
If this is, in fact, my last dance as a football coach, I will share some of things I've learned along the way.  Maybe, in some small way, it'll help those that read this blog in their future and with their career moves.  Happy reading!

  • Have a plan.  I don't care if you're just an assistant, of if your the head man yourself, have a plan of action.  Plan your day, your practices your drills etc.  Then have an adjustment plan.  As quoted from the move Valkyrie "This is a military operation, few go according to plan".  This is so very true.  As a coach, you need a plan to formulate your groundwork for how you plan on doing whatever the task is that you have been chosen to do.  If this plan begins to unravel, you have to find a way to get it back on course, or even adjust course if that is the necessary means of action.  No matter what though, always start out with an initial plan.  Just like most goal setting texts will tell you to write down your goals, write down your plan.  If you have any ideas about some pitfalls in your plan, then write down the adjustments too.  Writing things down helps to memorize, so when you're in the heat of the moment you can adjust your plan on the fly.  
  • Know who you're coaching with.  I have coached with some great coaches, and I have coached with guys who couldn't sell French fries at McDonald's.  You need to know this.  Don't just trust that because a guy, including the head coach, has the title coach, is worth a shit.  I've been with guys, who came from damn good programs, that when they coached elsewhere (particularly if it was with lesser talent), couldn't coach their way out of a wet paper bag.  Before you take a job, you need to know what you're getting into.  You need to look at, and investigate the quality of the coaches you'll be working with.  Know who you're working for.  This guy may have the title of head coach, but believe me, in this day and age, it is a title only.  If you are like me, and truly dedicated to your craft, then you need to find someone that fits your mold.  Whatever you do, don't try to fit into the situation.  If you believe in the guy in the mirror, get in with similar folks.  Trying to make a shitty situation better by just adding you to the  mix, will not help things, even if you really are a good or even great coach.  I agree the good ones make the ones around them better, but the ones around the great ones have to be willing to get better.  Weigh your situation out, and choose carefully when looking at where to coach.
  • Know the administration, and what they think of football.  This is the tough one.  This is a pill I still have trouble swallowing, and if you think you've worked for crappy administrations, grab a beer, and pull up a chair.  I'll swap stories with the best of them.  What's even better is, I guarantee, if confronted these people about the fact of how bad they are, these administrators would have no clue.  In the past 10 seasons I have witnessed the first-hand, systematic destruction of what was once a decent football program.  Sure, historically it wasn't good, but it had been built up to be a pillar of pride in the community.  Due to poor leadership and vision from the administration, this program is all but a shell of its former self.  Whether we like to admit it or not, administration has way more to do with the success of a football program in high school than many give it credit for.  Know who signs your checks.
  • Love the kids.  If you can't love a kid that goes out for two to three hours a day and practices in some of the most grueling conditions known to man, then what the hell are you doing it for?  If you are uncomfortable with this, coach college or pro ball, where the relationships can be a bit more impersonal.  For the most part, I've loved every player I've ever coached.  They mean the world to me, and I let them know it.  That doesn't mean I'm all "lovey-dovey" with them, it just means I care about their well-being and their growth, not only as a football player, but as a person.  If you aren't coaching for this reason, then what are  you coaching for???
  • Coach for the right reasons.  If you coach for the "W", or for the ring, you have a hollow and shallow mindset.  Coaching has to be about more than that.  Winning and losing is such a small part of what we are a part of, that those that coach by it and are defined by it, generally don't last long.  Don't get me wrong, I hate to lose, even more than I love to win, but in the end, I coach to make men.  I coach, to help boys become men, and those men become productive citizens in this great nation.  America needs coaches that are like this.  This country needs coaches that are willing to pass on the age old axioms of hard work, dedication, discipline, etc.  In many cases these young men are not getting this in the home.  We, as coaches are sometimes the only shred of a father figure these young folks will ever have.  There is so much more to being a coach than being the right call at the right time, or calling the right pass play for third and nine.  Be more than just a football coach, be a life coach as well.
  • Know your craft.  I have always been the type of guy that cannot and will not half-ass.  I have always and will always put my heart and soul in to everything I do.  I cannot, for the life of me, understand how on Earth anyone can do any different.  Know your stuff, and know it inside and out.  Know how to coach your area to the best of your ability.  Know the technique, and know the hows and the whys.  Stay current on what's being asked of you.  Pay attention in meetings and be prepared to demonstrate what you know to your players daily.  Ultimately be in a position to pass on this knowledge to your players, or at the very least pass on what they'll need to know in a game situation.  
  • Know when to say "I don't know".  Kids aren't stupid, but for some reason, coaches think they are.  If you don't know something, or you don't know how to do something, a kid is going to have far more respect for you if you're simply honest and let them know that you don't know.  Now, this isn't to say you don't need to find out, BECAUSE YOU DO!  This is the trust factor players crave from their coaches.  They need to know that although you don't know the answer now, you're going to try your damnedest to find out the answer, or an alternate solution to their question.  I've seen all to many times a coach, who has no friggin' clue what he's doing, make something up just to look like he knows what he's talking about.  I've never understood this logic, because 99.9% of the time, it backfires.  In the end it only hurts both the player and the coach.  Simply be honest with your players, their respect you for it in the end.
  • Know when enough is enough.  For the first time in my 15 seasons as a football coach, I dreaded the start of football.  Let me rephrase that, I dreaded it, and I couldn't bullshit myself out of not dreading it.  Twice, earlier in my career, I've dreaded it, but was able to talk myself through it, or work beyond the anxiety to push on through a season.  Not this year.  As we entered spring football, I did not want to be there.  I thought that maybe just getting around the kids would help me, and it did some, but if my heart isn't 100% in something, I'm not doing it.  I am burnt out.  I have put everything I have and then some into this program, with little to no result, and it has drained me.  You have to think of yourself and your family, and what I was doing was not healthy for either, so I have had to call it quits.
The Pitch
What does the future hold?  Who knows, I'm not ready to give up the game, I think I just need some time off from the everyday grind of coaching.  I plan on researching, and writing (good news!) some more.  I have some job offers, that I will entertain after some much needed rest.  No matter what, I plan to keep on researching, writing about and studying this game I love so much.  So stay tuned to the blogs and hopefully one day I can return to roaming the sidelines!  Take care.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Triple Option Volume 16

Well, the flexbone posts are rolling to a close over at Football is Life.  I plan on adding a post with some cutups and coaching comments later.  For those of you defensive minded dudes, hang in there, I promise offense will take a back seat here shortly!  On to the Triple Option!

The Give
Well Chris Borland has called it quits due to the threat of concussions in his workplace.  Damn, I wonder how many coal miners are quitting their jobs due to black lung?  Not all of us have the luxury of just walking away from something as Borland has, but I have to say this, when there is so much unknown and you stand to make such a substantial amount of money doing something you love, why not stay?  My thought here is that Borland doesn't "love" the game.  Let's be honest to do what those guys do, even for the money, has to have some love for the game.  NFL players, especially linebackers, get the shit kicked out them weekly.  It's not an easy position, with only running back probably taking harder, more consistent hits.  Anyhow, the thing that Borland's decision has done is to fan the ever growing flame the media has started over the concussion issue.  As if little Johnnie's mom wasn't already fearing for her son's life, now she reads these headlines about an NFL linebacker quitting the game due to the threat of concussions.  We all know how rational mothers are right...right.  Not once does the media report on the fact that there are countless instances where former NFL players are living to ripe old ages and having "normal" deaths.  Where is this data?  You're not going to find it, because just like everything else in this country nowadays, the media is hiding it.  For some reason, the media in America, feels the need to attack things, rather than report things.  I have no clue where this came about, but as usual, I call bullshit.

I've seen several posts on message boards questioning Borland's decision, and listen, if he wants to walk away, I'm fine with it.  However, just say you don't love it anymore.  Don't list "concussions" as  the reason you're leaving.  Concussions aren't the reason he's leaving the game, it's the fact that his love for the game does not outweigh the risks associated with playing.  My love for having things, such as a home, a boat, food on the table, and so forth outweighs the fact that I sometimes have to work out in the  middle of vehicular traffic at my job.  I don't always care for it, but I know if I want to get paid, this is what must happen.  For Borland, that love isn't there, so he called it quits.  Again, I'm fine with that, but he should have said, "I no longer love the game enough to play with the associated risks involved".  No need to mention the "c" word.  Now, for those of us who aren't afraid of it, or are trying to keep passing along the skills and techniques of the greatest game known to man, you really have put a chink in our chain there Mr. Borland.

So what are we, as football coaches, to do?  Educate.  Quite simply, do what most of us do for a living anyways.  Preseason meetings with parents need to address this issue.  Don't just bring it up as casual conversation in your meeting either.  Plan to talk about it.  Support yourself with data and then have a plan for dealing with athletes when they get a concussion (if you don't already have this, please come out of the Stone Ages and join the rest of us).  I think parents will respect you for it, as will the players and your administration.  You may still have little Johnny's mom take him out of football, but she could have done that for fear of knee injuries too.  Some parents you just can't reach.  Like they say, "You can't save them all".  Anyhow, don't be afraid to talk about the "c" word, but DO be ready to field questions on concussions.  Like I said, support your answers with data and then have a comprehensive plan for dealing with concussions.  Here is a link to the NFHS concussion course, which is free to take.  Show this link and share this link with your parents.  All you need to know about concussions and concussion protocol is in there.  I know my state of Florida, requires that all coaches take this course, which is free of charge, in order to be certified to coach there.  If your state doesn't require it, take it anyways to avoid negligence in the event you are faced with dealing with an athlete with a concussion.

In summation, don't let the Borland decision put fear in you about a drop in numbers on your football team.  Promote your team, and when the concept of concussions arises, talk about in knowledgeably and with facts supported by data and you shouldn't have any problems.

The Keep
Politics has always been in coaching.  Fortunately for me, I've been shaded from them for most of my career.  Here lately though, it seems that nobody is exempt from having to deal with politics in the coaching arena.  I was on a coaching site the other day and noticed where there were over 90 coaching changes that had happened in the state of Florida since the end of the 2014 season.  Last season, there was over 100 coaching moves made in the offseason.  With this much movement, one has to wonder, what the hell is going on in the sunshine state?  I'm not sure how this compares to other places, but damn it sure seems high?  On our schedule from 2013 to 2014 there were 4 out of 10 teams, we faced in the regular season, that saw a coaching change.  This year, that number is also 4.  40 percent seems a bit high to me, but maybe I'm being naive.  Upon digging further, many coaches were let go, fired, not retained, whatever you want to call it.  I find this somewhat humorous that the landscape of coaching high school football has now taken on the look of college football, where after 3 seasons if Coach Joe ain't winning we fire his ass.  Let's look at some differences in high school and college football that make this thought process by administrators a complete farce.
I smell bullshit...

  1. College coaches can recruit the athletes of their choice: In high school you have to "run what you brung" and in some cases (as is mine), this ain't much.  How can you judge a guy on wins/losses when you are asking him to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.  When your offensive guard is 5'9" tall and 175 pounds and you are blocking a 3 technique that's 6'3" 280 pounds, um...what do I do with that?!  Even the great Bill Parcells said: "They want you to cook the dinner, they should at least let you shop for the groceries".  This is true, however in high school football you can't "shop".  Many administrators need a "reality check" in this department.
  2. Budget.  Geesh, this is an obvious difference.  College football programs have HUGE budgets and can provide lavish amenities to their players, whereas some high schools are doing good just to have uniforms!  Even within the high school ranks the disparities are evident.  A private school, generally has better athletic facilities than public schools.  This makes said private school more attractive than the public school.  In Florida, cities along the coast, generally have more money circulating through them due to higher population, AND higher population of retired people (who have saved well in their lives, hell, they moved to Florida, that ain't cheap) who are willing to donate to the local high school.  Inland, the rural schools struggle just to have new uniforms every 5 to 6 seasons.  Add in school of choice areas and you have a recipe for disaster.  When a coach can promise little Johnny new gloves and cleats every year, that's kind of hard to compete with 5 year old helmets and shoulder pads that were in style when Walter Payton was in college.
  3. Staff Size.  Another "geesh" one here too (thanks Captain Obvious).  Collegiate coaching staffs can number well over 20 members at an average institution.  This may not even include such positions as director of player personnel and strength and conditioning coordinator.  I've coached with as many as 8 and as few as 4 coaches on a Friday night.  The more staff members you have, the easier it is to coach positions, because some coaches can be assigned to do remedial work on players who are struggling to get a particular skill.  I can't really run Chip Kelly's Oregon offense tempo in practice with 4 coaches.  That shit just doesn't cut it.  This also goes for support staff too.  Hell, I'd be willing to bet there's double digit managerial staff at many universities.  I played for a small NAIA school and we had 4.  We are lucky to get 2 where I'm at now, and usually they are one of our player's girlfriends.  Rarely are they worth a damn, so most of this work falls back on the coaches.  This includes filling water bottles, filling coolers, making sure medical supplies are on hand, setting up the field for practice etc.  I wonder if Nick Saban ever worries about if his coolers are going to have ice in them at the start of practice?  I think not.  Hard to ask Coach Joe to fill water coolers, make sure field is set up AND coach defensive backs JUST like Saban does.
These are just some "off the cuff" differences, there are more, but what the real issue is that why are high school coaches being judged based on the college coaching model?  The prime example is here in Florida where football coaches make a very minimal stipend.  The usual take is 10% of a starting teacher's salary.  That's probably about $3500...a year.  I did the math one time for my stipend, as an assistant, and it worked out to less than a penny an hour!  Sure, we do it not for the money, but then why are we judged just like those that are earning millions of dollars to win?  Not sure why, but I have some ideas.

For starters, most admins, don't want to be troubled with athletics.  With state testing and all the myriad of problems associated with "big brother" dipping his hand into the local education system, the last thing Mr. Principal wants to hear about is how bad the football team is.  To some admins, athletics is a "necessary evil", that trifles them, and gets their panties in a bunch when they have to talk about it.  Most of these types never played sports, so they don't understand their true value when it comes to developing young people into productive citizens in our society.  Try to avoid administrators such as these, they rarely can be convinced on the importance of athletics.

Many admins care very little about this

Next, is politics.  Although principals aren't elected officials, in some school districts they work for elected officials.  When little Johnny's mom is pissed he isn't playing much, or that her son has only won 3 games in his high school career, she doesn't do see you, she doesn't go see the A.D. either.  If your lucky she sees the principal, however more times than not, she goes an bitches to her elected official.  School board members have a wonderful way of "squeezing" principals, much like a mob boss would, to do things that the principal might otherwise not do.  Too many phone calls about your 3-7 season, and you're out, plain and simple.  Even if you are trying to do it the "right way", and the deck is simply stacked against you, you may find yourself looking in the "help wanted" ads.  Doesn't make sense to me, and is a poor system for evaluating job performance.  I work in the private sector, owning my own business, and I damn near vomit every time I see this model used for performance evaluation.  Quite simply, the way things are done in the education system would fly like a lead brick in the business world, but that's because of how the political side of the education system is set up.  If you are fortunate enough to work in a system where the officials are appointed instead of elected you aren't exempt from the politics, but they do generally effect you in a lesser way.

Lastly, is unrealistic expectations.  A few years back I was trying to help a parent understand that we just didn't have the Jimmie's and Joe's to hang with some of the opponent's in our district.  I even had rosters and film up in front of us, and a former coach along with me talking to this individual about how only 2 kids on our roster would even see playing time on our opponent's roster if they were to transfer.  AFTER an hour, this guy looked both of us in the eye and said we needed to do a better job of "creating playmakers".  That's ESPN talk bro.  At the high school level you can make kids better, but this whole idea of developing "playmakers" is a farce.  A kid either has it or doesn't.  Jerry Rice wasn't made by his coaches, he made himself.  Sure, his coaches helped along the way, and I'm sure Jerry wouldn't have been quite the player he was without the aid of his coaches, but he was pretty damn good all by himself!  Little Johnny, at 5'6" and 130 pound running all of 5.0 40 yard dash, probably isn't going to be Jerry Rice, no matter if he was coached by me, or Bear Bryant.  Again, you can't make chicken salad out of chicken crap.

You want me to coach who...and do what???

The Pitch
The Keep section has led me up to this, I think the politics in coaching have eroded at my love for the game.  I feel much like Chris Borland in that I'm now weighing the thought of "Do I want to continue to do this?".  Sure Borland's was health related, but 10 years ago if you asked me if I was going to coach next season, I'd have cut you off with a "HELL YES!".  Not so much anymore though.  My plans are to give it one more year and then evaluate things on a year to year basis.  I have not done all I want to do in football, that is for sure, but I have approached a glass ceiling I'm afraid, mired in the facts that the situation in high school football doesn't appear to be getting any better, I don't appear to be getting any younger, and I can be this less appreciated at home for a hell of a lot less effort.  I never thought I'd write those lines, but after the past few months, I'm beginning to see the bedrock eroding below my foundation.  I'd take a year off, but I'm afraid of getting left behind.  Coaching seems to be moving so fast these days that I'm afraid I couldn't keep up if I wasn't right in the thick of it.  I also am not a half-ass person.  I'm going to go balls out or not at all, I only think that's fair to the kids, since we ask them to do the same.  That's hard to do when the profession of coaching is being bombarded daily by politics both national and local.  

This ain't no sob story either, it's just an actual account of how I feel.  For those of you that feel the need to "boo hoo" on this post, you can stick it where the good Lord split you.  I write to cope, it helps me lay out the issues and put my thoughts out there on paper.  I share them with you, because that's what I do, I write and write about football.  If you don't like it, don't read it.  If you do like it, then good, use it.

Pretty much...

As for me, we'll see, I'm going to give it at least this season, then I'll see where to go from there.  If I'm not "all in" though, I may go ahead and take some time off, or simply retire.  Every dog has his day, so we'll see where this goes from here.  As for the blogs, I'll probably keep writing.  It's good for me and I enjoy it, so I'll keep at it.

Later dudes...


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Triple Option Volume 15

Well, my clinic season is finished, and so I figured time to blog about my experience, and what I think is an ever-growing poor trend among clinics.  Hopefully the boys over at Nike and Glazier will take notice.

The Give
First off, I've been going to clinics, on a regular basis, for over a decade.  I"m going to be honest, they are getting worse.  The content is stale, and it's the same crap just spun another way at each session.  It's the same rhetoric at each one of these things and to be quite honest, I may be done with clinics for awhile.  At least the generic ones put on by Nike and Glazier.  I think I'd rather just schedule visits with college or high school staffs.  I think it would be time better spent.

My issue is this, it's 500 dudes all in windbreakers talking the same shit.  Have you ever stepped back and noticed this?  Maybe I'm being cynical, but damn, it's like 10 years ago they hit record on a Nike clinic and then have just kept replaying it year after year.  Lord Jesus, get some new material, displays, something.  The topics are pretty stale too, especially defensively.  This is what almost epitomizes the state of defensive football right now.  You can go to the offensive clinics and probably get some good stuff (hell I even sat in on a few to see what those boys were thinking when attacking a defense).  I mean, there's stuff out there on belly read, zone read, no-huddle, power read, fling-t, power run game out of pro sets, and the dreaded double wing.  What did the defense have?  Quarters coverage, quarters coverage from the 4-3, from the 4-2, from the 3-4, adaptations in quarters coverage to defend the spread offense, fronts, stunts from the 3-4, 4-3, 4-2, coverages from the yadda, yadda, yadda.  Shit man, I can sit home in my pajamas and research every single thing you just wasted your money on driving to a location, staying in a shitty hotel, and wading through 400 douchebags to sit in on!  Holy fuck, I actually wasted my money for this shit!

When did guys looking like this become football coaches?!

Now I digress.  I used to go to these things and come away with some solid foundations of things I wanted to do and wanted to change.  Maybe I was just a young, hungry coach.  I now only come out of these things with one or two items that I would like to add to what we do.  Most of it is now drills and things that are done in practice, which is good, but it's an awful lot of money to spend, when you can easily get the stuff from the Internet.  I had a coaching buddy of mine Tweet me yesterday "clinics are dead".  The dude, as usual was spot on.  I'm done with them.  I'm going to clinic with staffs now, schedule visits etc.  I may still go to one "generic" clinic just to network, but after that, I'm not wasting my money, and neither should you.

The Keep
I actually heard a guy speak on transitioning from the 4-2 back to the 4-3.  I heard guys talking about why the 3-4 was better than the 4-3 and vice-versa.  I cannot believe, as we sit here in 2015, that dudes are really spitting this game.  Are you serious?!  If one defense was better than the other, then why in the hell isn't everyone running it?  We all saw it with the TCU craze back around 2009 or so, when everyone jumped ship and had to run Gary Patterson's vaunted TCU defense.  Shit, who am I kidding, I got on that bandwagon too.  Now don't get me wrong, I love that defense, but since that period, I've grown to learning this one important thing.  Defense isn't a front, it isn't numbers, it's a philosophical means of stopping offensive football.  You can choose to be one front, or label yourself as a "4-3 guy", but at the end of the day, the good ones do whatever it takes to stop the offense.  That may mean running a 3-4, 4-3 and 4-2 all out of 4-3 personnel.  Who knows.  Just look at any college or pro defense right now and there are times they have anywhere from 2 to 5 down lineman at any given snap.  DC's have found ways to be multiple without being overly complicated.

Clinics suck...

I'll actually give Will Muschamp some props here (yeah, yeah, don't fall out of your chair) as he's a guy that regularly would go between a 3-4 and a 4-3 with a hybrid player called the "Buck".  Charlie Strong goes between 4-3 and 3-3 quite regularly.  The reason, it creates confusion for the offense.  Fronts are, to the defense, what formations are to the offense.  The only inherent problem with this is that some fronts require players to play a different technique than they would in, say their base defense.  Keeping this technique change to a minimum is what makes the good DC's great.

Going back to the first point I made about the head coach that spoke on his defense going from a 4-3 to the 4-2 I was actually shocked at the way they played their 4-2.  All 3 safeties were expected to know all 3 positions (Strong Safety, Weak Safety and Free Safety).  I cannot believe that a Division II coach, would actually be that thick-headed.  Are you serious.  The guru of all gurus, Gary Patterson, doesn't even do that.  In recent months it has come to my attention that many coaches are doing this.  I hate to again, sound cynical, but that ain't right guys.  The SS is taught nothing but how to play in the low position.  The WS and the FS can be cross-trained (as they are in many defenses), but you cannot ask the SS to be a deep post player like this guy was.  Then he went on to bash the 4-2, saying it was complicated because of having to train all three safeties like this.  He said it left them with little time to cover fundamentals.  This guy is a Division II head frigging coach?!  Sign me up!  I could not believe my ears when I heard this rubbish.  Now don't get me wrong, I do think there's a tiny bit of merit when it comes to the fact that the 4-3 is less complicated than the 4-2, but I think it's minute to be honest.  Anyhow, I thought I'd just share that with you guys, just to remind you that because a guy is a "college guy" doesn't mean he knows Jack Dick about football.  Watch who you listen to would be the point of this post.

The Pitch
One thing I cannot stand is when a guy gets up there and starts talking about his scheme, and then starts talking about his 6'3" 290 lb noseguard that's going to Boston College, or his 6'2" 190 lb corner that just signed with Miami.  For Christ sake, if I had those guys, I probably wouldn't be at your clinic to begin with.  Sure long sticking with that 6'5" 250 lb DE you have isn't a problem.  My 6'1 175 lb Johnny's gonna have a bit of a time doing it though.  That shit gets under my skin worse than anything at clinics.  What I cannot stand is it's like Nike and Glazier go and get the guy with the most accolades.  This guys won 4 state titles in the last 7 years.  Yeah, he's also had over 30 FBS signees come from his high school as well.  HE SHOULD BE WINNING STATE TITLES!!!  News flash!  I want the guy that is a perennial contender, that does more with less.  I want to talk to the Paul Johnson's of the world.  The guys that do with less.  Some of the guys I've sat in on that are good with this are:

  • Paul Johnson
  • Ken Niumatalolo
  • Kirk Ferentz
  • Gene Chizik (when he was at Iowa State, don't shoot me here)
  • Any member of the USF staff when Leavitt was there

How many of these guys do you have on your roster?

I've heard all these guys talk, and taken TONS of information away from them because, for the most part, they are in the same boat I'm in.  I don't get 4 star and 5 star athletes.  We've only EVER had 1 FBS player in the 57 year existence of the high school I currently coach at...yes, you heard me ONE.  So I don't need to hear about how your noseguard can hit the center so hard his girlfriend dies and then run cover #2 on a seam route down the field (ok, ok, I'm embellishing, but you get my drift).  These guys, although they don't always get the cream of the crop, they are competitive and they find ways to win.  That's all I'm looking for.  These guys utilize schemes that work for the type of athlete they have.  

The worst is the high school coaches they find.  I mean, yes I tip my hat to a guy who's willing to travel to go speak at one of these things, but let's be honest, most of these guys have some cats that can play.  If they just won the state championship with 7 FBS players, I don't want to hear them talk, as I actually doubt their ability to coach.  I believe it was Dean Smith that said "I'm a much better coach when I have talent".  Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.  I want to talk to the guy that just won the state championship with 7 Division III players.  I'll talk to that guy, especially if he beat teams with FBS and FCS players on it.  That's the dude I want to sit in on.  

For some reason, probably because it's easy, and requires little research, the folks at Nike and Glazier simply go through the state champions from your area and start making phone calls.  The reason, they know the "sheep" (us coaches stupid enough to pay for this shit), will flock there by the hundreds to listen to some guy, with great players, talk about what they did that was so "revolutionary" that it won them a state championship.  No it wasn't the DE going to Notre Dame, or the safety headed to Florida State, or the two OLB's, one going to Texas, the other to Georgia Southern that won them the game.  It was the fact that they played the 4-3 with Quarters Coverage and their way was what got them there.  Bullshit.  The old saying "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" is a good one, but is become ever more cliche' in that every one's working hard now, not everyone has talent though.  Most coaches now, understand you can't sit on your laurels and win a championship anymore.  Coaches are working year round now to develop their players, to develop and work their talent.  Never more has the game been JUST about talent than it is today.  So please don't preach to me about how in your Quarters scheme you just "lock up" your corners cause "Das what we do".  

As for Nike and Glazier, I think I'm done with you until you can prove to me that your willing to do a little homework, instead of perusing the state championship winners and making phone calls.  When you start giving me the Navy's, Virginia Tech's, and Boise State's of the high school world, I'll come back.  Until then, I'll keep my money, and start traveling to these places, in search of what we all want in the off season, the edge to get better.

The Two Point Conversion
Now I know this has been a negative post, but I'm really, really disappointed in the clinics I went to this year, especially Glazier.  The speakers were unprepared, the technology was for shit, and quite frankly most of the speakers acted like they didn't want to be there.  You got to do better than that if you're going to offer what you're offering.  Don't get me wrong, they have a great deal where you pay once and can go to several clinics, but damn, man, get some quality speakers.

Not this guy...

I did take a few things away from the clinics.  I got a little better feel for press quarters, and the fact that I don't think we have the guys at corner to do it.  I got some decent tackling and turnover circuit drills, as well as some special teams stuff.  In all though, I could have just spent a Saturday browsing the Internet, and found everything I found, for a lot less money.