Aggression Training

I hear the question all the time. How do I make Joey more aggressive? I hear it from other coaches and I hear it from parents. Well there is no magic pill you can give him or a miraculous speech you can make to get it to happen. What you can do is make a concerted effort with your team and you’ll make your team as a whole more aggressive. Most of the players will ride this wave and become more aggressive than they were. It is a slow process. You as a coach have to be willing to wait for it but work diligently towards it.

As I’ve said in some other articles, there is little to no testosterone in these little fellas so trying to get them to “man up” isn’t going to work. Challenging their nonexistent manhood is not going to work. You need to get the fear of hitting out of them. You must replace it with confidence. Teach them the skills first with coaches holding bags. Blocking or tackling. Be patient and teach by showing. Encourage them to hit the bag hard and drive. They need to learn that this doesn’t hurt. Keep encouraging to hit it harder and harder. Brag on them on how much harder they’re doing it than when they first tried it. Replace their fear with confidence in what they’re doing. Once they’re hitting the bag hard, you can move onto board drills. If you have a sled, it would be the next natural step but we don’t have one. A board drill is where two players try to drive each other straight back while having a board placed between their feet so that they keep their feet wide while driving. I stopped using boards a few years ago. I think it’s safer and I haven’t noticed any difference in performance of the players. Plus I think we’re more aggressive because we don’t fear slipping on the board. Divide them into groups of 5-8 equally matched players. If you mismatch your players, you can undo some of your progress you’re making. Keep the groups small to get more reps. Make sure you mix up the matchups in the group. Place a coach with each group. Have about one yard between them when they start. About like they’d have in a game. You can have some fun with this. Hoot and holler, get them hyped up and excited as they’re doing it. Brag on the winners and encourage the losers to work harder. You can move a player up to the group one better than the one he’s in if he’s dominating his group. They like these promotions but it also makes them work harder and get better. Just don’t do it before he’s ready. I recommend playing music during this. It automatically increases the intensity. You can play King of the boards if you have time. I usually plan to do board drills for about 15-20 minutes in the practices we do them. When you play King, You have all the players stand side by side facing you. Pick your 2 weakest and let them go first. You declare the winner. Winner stays on. Loser gets behind you. Encourage the team to root for them as they go at it. Keep going until there’s only one. He’s your King. A side bonus to this game is if the parents are watching they learn the pecking order on the team. The players pretty much already knew it.

The younger they are, the more of this they need. I think that board drills are the heart of our aggression. They allow a lot of contact and one on one battles with little chance of injury.

Another part is mental. Not that gaining confidence in board drills isn’t. Convince them how tough they are. Build them up, don’t tear them down. That’s why my practice starts with “Good evening Warriors”. The coach whom I highly respect (that’s you if you lost track) just called me a Warrior. If he believes I am then I must be. These little guys long to be powerful. They long to be a superhero. You just put a helmet, shoulder pads and a jersey on them. That’s just one step short of a cape. Teach them to fly and revel in it with them. Build this warrior mentality into them at every opportunity. Remind them that Iron sharpens Iron and that’s why we do so many board drills.

One of the biggest mistakes youth coaches make is to brag up the other team. They talk about how big they are, about how hard they hit, how fast they are. Sorry coach but in your attempt to challenge your players’ manhood, you scared them to death and they will play against them the same way…scared. And there you stand not understanding how the game went that way and asking me how can I make my players more aggressive. By NOT scaring the crap out of them for one is my answer. When you talk about the other team talk about how they do this but what we’re going to do to counter that is this and convince them that what we’re going to do is better than what they’re going to do. You have to have confidence in your plan for your players to buy into it.

Don’t call them little guys. Beware of your language in this regard. I cringe when I hear a Mom call her son “My Little Man”. She’s doing it innocently and thinks it’s cute but it tears at the fabric of what we’re trying to build up.

As I said in another article on here, remember that you’re building a wall of confidence in them brick by brick. Be patient.

Another drill I like for aggression training is Who’s ball. I learned this drill and many other things from Coach Dave Potter. It’s simply a fumble recovery drill but you let the players wrestle for the ball for an extended period of time. I do this at a station and we usually let them go at it for 30 seconds. They get to do another aggressive and competitive drill in a fairly safe and controlled manner. Hootin and hollering by the coach is encouraged here too.

One drill I love that is like real football is the Bronco Drill. I have seen it called a multi-level Oklahoma drill too. You set up 3 levels. 1st level is your linemen. 2nd level is your linebackers and the 3rd level is your secondary personnel. Make your 1st level about 3-4 yds wide, 2nd level 5 yds wide and the 3rd level about 8 yds wide. Place the levels about 5 yds apart. Adjust these distances based on the age and size of your players.

On the snap count the offensive man attempts to block the defensive man in one direction or the other. The running back has to read the blocks to make the cuts to score. The defensive man is to shed the block and make the tackle. Try to keep the matchups as equal as possible. Last year, one night when we had some players and coaches missing, I put us all into one group and we ran Super Bronco for the first time. We put 2 of each at each level so we ended up with 13 in the drill at once.  2 O-linemen and 2 D-linemen, etc. Still only one ballcarrier. This is now our staple on how we run it. It is fun, chaotic and intense. Everybody loves it. Coaches and players. By keeping the matchups equal, we are increasing each player’s growth as much as possible. There are many other competitive drills you can do. These are just a few. Remember to build up slowly.

Validation comes from God

This is a storytime I do with the boys. I have been sharing this with them for at least the last 5 years.

We should get our validation from God. Validation is that secure feeling down deep in your soul that you know who you and what you are and nothing can shake it. No matter what anybody says to you or if they slander your name, you are secure that you are worthwhile. If we allow people to validate us, we allow them to invalidate us. That’s why we see people that are so happy when they get a boyfriend or girlfriend then so crushed when they lose their boyfriend or girlfriend. They were seeking validation from another person. For a while that other person validated them and they felt good about themselves but when the other person wasn’t there anymore, they felt awful. So many people take this rollercoaster ride all of the time when they don’t have to. We weren’t designed to be validated by other people. People are fallible; they aren’t God and therefore fall short of the requirements to fully validate us. Even our parents, who love us more than any other person does, make mistakes and invalidate us from time to time.

The way we get our validation from God is to know what He’s done for us. When someone loves you and thinks you are worthwhile, how do we know that they do? By their actions. What they do FOR us. We may not always agree with them at the time that what they’re doing is best for us but in the end we know it is. So it is with God. God has created a universe of 200 million galaxies for us to live in. He has provided for the fine tuning of all of those galaxies and specifically our galaxy and planet Earth for you. To allow you to live on this planet, in your neighborhood, in this time. He has done all of this for YOU. He created air for you to breathe, water for you to drink, food to eat. He created the body to carry your soul around on this earth. He created us in His image. The Bible says He only gave his image to man and no other creature on earth. With this image comes a conscience to help us navigate good and evil. It comes with a desire to create, just like He did. A desire to love just as He does. A desire to be loved just as He has. A desire to be extraordinary just as He is. All of this He gifted to YOU so that you may live a wonderful life. He also sent His son Jesus to die for our sins so that we may live eternally with Him. Can you imagine allowing people to kill your son when you have the power to stop it. How painful that would be. What kind of love must He have for YOU that He endured all of that because He knew that is price He must pay to allow YOU to live in His presence forever.

Once you take this knowledge into your heart….your soul…. and make it permanent part of who you are, nobody can shake this foundation of who you are and how loved you are. You were designed to be validated by the one true God and only He can do it. Let Him.

Plan your season before planning your practice.

To steal a phrase from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits book: Begin with the end in mind. I have been doing this with my team for many years but I never really had a title for it.

Envision your team at mid-season. Think this through thoroughly. What plays you want to be running at that point and the players’ thorough knowledge of it. What defense do you think you’ll be running? The mental and physical toughness you want your team to have. The hustle you expect at that point. The conditioning level you want to be at. Now with that mental picture in mind, start writing.

  1. To run offense A, we need to learn these specific blocking techniques. Drive blocks, double teams, pulls, downblocks, reach blocks, etc. Not all offenses employ all types of blocks there are. What are the steps needed for each type of block. If your offense does not use them, it would be a waste of practice time to teach them. Teach techniques specific to your offense. What backfield actions are necessary and what aren’t. What pass routes do you employ? Teach only those. If you decide to add a play at mid-season you never thought of, you can also add the elements of it as well at that time.
  2. Now that you have your list for your offense, make it for your defense and special teams. Obviously for defense, you will need to teach tackling. Other skills will depend on whether you have a reading defense or attacking defense. Do they need to learn block destruction or block evasion or both?
  3. Identify the drills you need to teach these skills. Write them down. If you don’t know what drills to use, either search the internet or design them yourself. I have designed many drills to teach specific game situations.
  4. Now that you have that list, you can plan what you need to accomplish each week to get to the mid-season vision that you started with. Remember to include drills for conditioning and physical toughness. Physical toughness gives birth to mental toughness. I will do some conditioning and drills specifically for this goal.
  5. You are now ready to do your daily practice planning based on the lists of drills you already wrote down. Do the ones you consider most important every day or at least every other day. Others may be once or twice per week. I will also include the lessons I teach my players during water breaks but that may not be your shtick. Analyze whether your players are “getting it” or not. Improve your teaching or number of reps if they are not. Whether you split into separate groups for linemen and running backs is up to you and the makeup of your coaching staff.
  6. Have multiple stations to run drills. Spend 5-10 minutes at each station but no more as that will greatly ratchet up the boredom factor for the kids. Keep each group to 8 kids or less to maximize reps at each station. I like to mix conditioning stations with learning stations. Too much of either makes Jack a dull boy. Players run from station to station. This sets expectations of hustle. If they don’t their whole group runs extra. Upon arriving at the next station, they perform 10 pushup, 10 situps and 5 seconds in a good 3 pt stance (from Derek Wade’s Impact book). We remind them by saying do your 10-10-5. We run to and from everything whether it’s the next drill or a water break
  7. Now you can execute team drills with the whole offense or defense. Repping plays on air for offense and pursuit angle drills for defense are a good start.

While this may be a short article to read, it is a long exercise if you do it.

Remember, not planning is planning to fail. Good luck and have a great season.

Is winning the next game all it’s really about?

For many years I had this expectation of winning every game we played. If we won the game, all I felt was relief. No feeling of happiness or joy, just relief. If we lost, I was crushed and felt awful for a few days afterward. I put that much pressure on myself. I noticed the boys didn’t have this problem. They might cry about it right after the game but in a few hours they were completely over it. Why can’t I be like that is what I thought?

I think I was not making the outcome of the game the main thing, I was making it the only thing. It left me feeling empty. OK, we won. That’s what I expected because I worked my tail off to make it happen. Now what? There has to be more to it than that or you won’t do this for very long. I probably would have quit coaching if I hadn’t figured out that it’s more important to do it in such a way as to benefit the kids beyond just wins and losses.

Once I decided I was doing it for them and not for me it changed my outlook. Now the most enjoyable time for me is practice. When I get to spend time with the boys, interact with them and teach them about the wonderful sport of football and lessons that go far beyond the football field. This has allowed me to create relationships with them for life. That is way more rewarding than any win can be. I also love when I get to share memories of battles won and lost on the football field with them. I have heard from many former players that the time spent with me was the best time of their lives (so far). I am encouraged and saddened by this. Encouraged because I helped to provide them with some of the best memories of their young life. Saddened because nothing else in their life has been better. It gives me incentive to keep going and doing what I’m doing. Also to keep learning and improving the process. I want the next generation to get even more out of the experience than my past players did.

So I implore you, find out ways to make it about them. You will still win ball games. We still do but we’re winning at much more than that now.