All posts by Coach Dave

It’s not “Just a game”

After a hard fought football game in which you lost, you’re faced with a group of crying young men. They’re staring at you hoping you’ll make sense of what just happened because they can’t. You give that famous quote “it’s just a game” boys, no need to cry over it. That statement rings hollow in the hearts of those young Warriors in front of you. You know it does but you’re trying to give solace to them and you really don’t know how. In your mind, you can hear them saying ‘Coach, if it’s “just a game”, why did we work so hard to win it? If it’s “just a game” why did we give up evenings of comfort at home to practice in the cold rain? If it’s “just a game”, why do we feel so good and celebrate when we win? If it’s “just a game”, why do I feel as though my heart has just been ripped from my chest?’

 

A video game is “just a game”. A board game is “just a game”. A card game is “just a game”. These require little preparation and should not upset you greatly whether you win or lose them. To enter into a physical battle with another live opponent that both have put considerable time and effort into preparing for is not a game and it is unfortunate that it is called that.

 

Here’s the truth and here’s what needs to be said. Young Warriors, that game we just played mattered. It’s okay to cry and mourn its loss. Because when you lose something that matters to you, it’s okay to be sad about it. It’s okay to feel pain. In fact, it’s natural and part of the process of life. In fact, I mourn its loss with you. You invested a lot of time and effort in an attempt to win that game. It would be unnatural to dismiss it with just a wave of the hand and try to pretend it didn’t matter. I am very proud of you and the effort it took to try to win that game. I’m really proud that you chose to stick your nose into the arena of competition. That takes courage. Many of your friends never do that out of fear. That effort has made you a better person even though we lost. That effort will make you stronger in the future. It will teach you to work hard in the face of adversity and to keep trying no matter what. It is what helps to make you a man. Learn to love that effort.

 

So now the next time you’re tempted to say “it’s just a game”, understand the difference and the damage you may be doing to that young Warrior. This is just a part of the process of learning how to love them correctly that each coach must go through.

 

 

The Games We Play

While other coaches are doodling with their X’s and O’s, I’m researching and dreaming up new games for the kids to play that will either develop their aggression ability or condition them or both. It will also allow them to have more fun while doing so which will bring them back for another season. Hopefully you can use some of these.

Hurricane

The circle represents the other players on the team.

Pick 2 teams. Team 1 chooses 3 players for offense, 2 blockers with blocking shields and 1 runner with the ball. Team 2 picks the defender. Alternate choosing offense and defense each turn.

The defender has 12 seconds to touch the runner. If he does, his team gets a point. If he does not, the other team gets a point. Play until all players have had a chance to participate. Losing team bearcrawls back to the water break area.

I have tried it without the shields. It gets too violent. We don’t really enforce blocks in the back. Also if the defender falls down, he is likely piled on and loses. The more the boys cheer the better it is. Of course we play music during this drill.

Deer Hunter

Mark off a square area at least 20 yds by 20 yds with cones or lines. The bigger it is the more running they have to do.

Pick 3-4 hunters. Equip them with balls to kill the deer with. They run after the deer killing them with the balls until you only have as many deer left in as you have hunters. These deer now become the hunters for the next round.

Variations-We sometimes have a gate for the deer to run out of after being killed. They run to a designated point and back and enter into the game again thru the gate…We use footballs because they sting a bit more when they hit. Since we have helmets on, headshots are legal.

I just came up with a new variation. Using pool noodles as the weapon to kill the deer. You have to get closer to make the kill. More chasing and running is done with this variation. The kids liked it too.

Sumo

We make a large circle of players. Start with the 2 weakest players. They sumo wrestle. If they are driven out of the circle or a part of their body touches the ground they lose. Winner stays on until you have one final player standing. Of course we play music for this game.

King of the Boards

Have two players face off and try to drive each other backwards. Declare a winner. Winner stays on. Start with the weakest players and work up to your King. Music is played. Bonus effect of this drill is that the players (and parents if they’re watching) know the pecking order on the team and that will cause you less questions about playing time in the future.

Rescue the Treasure

This drill is brand new but the kids loved it. Mark off 3 – 5 yd by 5 yd boxes with cones or lines. Place a guard with a blocking shield in each box. The “Rescuer” is placed at the front of the area. He has to get past all 3 castle guards, rescue the treasure (football) and escape back through the same 3 castle guards. Guards attempt to knock the rescuer out of the drill area but must stay in their own box.  If the Rescuer is knocked out of the castle walls, he loses and does 10 pushups. If he makes it back out of the castle, he wins and has no punishment. Rescuer goes to the back of the line. Rotation through the drill starts with the guard nearest the treasure. Players move to the outer wall until they become the rescuer.

I would recommend this drill be done as one station instead of a whole team drill. Just more time efficient that way.

We do 1 fun drill per day in the middle of the practice. It breaks up the grind of the rest of practice and injects a little more spirit into the kids. Have fun with them. Encourage them during the games. This helps build team spirit as well.

Shoulder Tackling vs Chest Plate Tackling

The good thing about blogs is that you just get to put your opinion out there and people can deal with as they may.

When I got into coaching football back in the eighties, we taught a type of shoulder tackling. When I played high school football, I tackled with my shoulders. It just felt natural. I started researching more about all aspects of coaching about 1998. No matter where I saw it taught whether at a clinic or in an article, chest plate tackling was what was being taught. So I got on board with all of the experts and started teaching it in about 2001. Questions always arose about how a small safety was going to tackle a large fullback with this technique among other questions. I argued that at least while he was being trampled, he had his head up. What I noticed about this technique was that no matter how hard you drilled it in practice almost no one ever executed it properly in a game. I noticed that while watching college and pro games that I almost never saw it executed properly. When I did see it executed properly it stood out in stark contrast to the other tackles being made. I also noticed what developed was that my players and others we played against started trusting their helmets too much and used their facemask as a weapon to tackle and block. Now mind you that they never heard that command from a coach even one time yet they did it consistently.

During this time I watched a high school player that I had taught to tackle when he was 8 yrs old and I had coached him for many years doing this as a Senior. He got a few bad concussions and it cut his senior season short. I started re-evaluating what I was teaching at this point.

My theory is that the players are lazy about the technique so they stay high as they are coming in to tackle instead of dropping their tail so they could explode up through the ballcarrier and so they hit him with their facemask instead of their chest. Add to this the ballcarrier has followed the same process and so he stays high as well and leads with his facemask. Now we have two ball players making head to head contact when neither coach ever intended that to be the case.

I think what the real problem with chest plate tackling is that it is completely unnatural. If I told someone who has never tackled anyone to go tackle that guy over there, he is going to tackle him with his shoulder. He is not going to rip up though the pits and tackle him with his chest.

While I was pondering this question in the off-season, I was emailing some good coaches that I know around the country about what they were doing. A few of them had gone to a version of shoulder tackling because they found chest plate tackling to be ineffective. You didn’t dare bring this subject up on a message board because anything but chest plate tackling was considered to be unsafe and you would be yelled down as being a heretic and a bad coach. I just wanted to teach my kids the safest and surest method there was. Also during this time I saw the movie “Invictus” which is a movie about the South African Rugby team. It hit me like a ton of bricks “if the safest way for them to tackle in rugby is with their shoulder and they don’t have helmets then it’s surely the safest way for us to tackle with helmets”. This was surely a big aha moment for me. I was back on track to where I wanted to be. I researched rugby tackling and starting teaching a version of it to my players. I still didn’t discuss it on message boards but I did in emails with others.

I really loved it when Pete Carroll put out the Hawk tackling video in 2014. I don’t know how many years it had been since I went back to shoulder tackling before this video came out but I could now come out of the closet and be a shoulder tackling enthusiast in public without repercussion because an expert had put his stamp of approval on it. I recommend watching that video and one called “Tackling Dummies Smarter” by Bobby Vernon if you’re interested in teaching the rugby style shoulder tackle. I won’t teach it to you here as they do a much better job than I could. They’re both on Youtube.

I have since purchased a few of the tackle rings and use them in practice as part of the whole program of teaching shoulder tackling. I really encourage you to do your own research on this subject. I just wanted to share my journey through it.

Barefoot Practice

I’m always talking about making the experience special for the players. Sometimes an opportunity that you didn’t expect happens and you have to just go with it or you might pass up a chance to make some memories for the kids. Just such an opportunity happened to my team this past season.

At our Saturday morning practices we do special teams first on the high school field then we go to a practice area, “over the hill” as it’s called to review the defensive game plan and rep offensive plays. On this Saturday morning, my QB forgot his spikes. I told him, well that sucks for you because you’ll have to practice barefoot. As we lined up to do kickoffs, I looked at his bare feet and imagined the other player’s spikes tearing them up. So I made a quick joke, or so I thought. “In support of Nathan and his predicament, let’s all go barefoot” I said. I really didn’t mean it. I got different responses. Some were crazy about the idea and the others…well, not so much. Then it hit me that it might actually be fun and I didn’t see any down side to it. We weren’t going to have an intense practice. Mostly review so I thought why not? So I told them all to take their socks and shoes off and put them on the sidelines. I did let the kickers keep their shoes on to do their kicking. The grass was a little wet and we got a few light showers during the practice. The boys slipped around in the wet grass and fell a few more times than they normally would have but all in all had a grand time.

So the next time God hands you an opportunity to make some memories for the kids, don’t be so fast to dismiss it. Don’t be that coach that always has to have it his way and keep grinding on the kids. Sometimes the best reason to do something is just because it is fun. The boys don’t need any more reason to do something. Why should you? Remember, it’s not about you.

10 years from now, they might forget the games they won or lost but they will always remember the barefoot practice.

Changing behavior from the inside out

If we want to change our inner self, we cannot do it by wishing it to be so. We have to actively pursue it. To correct an outward behavior we don’t like, we have to attack its source. That source is our heart. If our heart has taken a bad direction for a while, the only way to “fix” it is to give it a different direction to go in. We can’t get rid of a bad behavior by just trying to stop that behavior. We have to replace it with a good behavior. Once again, we have to change the heart first to go on this new path otherwise our efforts will be fruitless. We have to imagine the new behavior we want and then start practicing it just like we would any other skill we want to learn. We are apprenticing to Christ here and if you were apprenticing to a master of any skill, you would emulate them doing it until you master that skill. Jesus teaches us that in the example about washing the inside of the glass and that the outside will get clean in the process. (Matt 23:26)

Apprenticing is a long and arduous task. It does not happen overnight. We did not develop our bad attitudes overnight and they will not be transformed overnight. We must pull up beside our Master and ask him to guide us in this journey. He longs to complete this task in us so He will be glad to be there every step of the way.

If you’re angry with someone. Instead of thinking of all the things they’ve done to harm you, imagine Christ beside them and how He loves them. How would He reconcile this situation? First off, He wouldn’t be mad at them. He loves them when they do right and when they do wrong. That is the definition of grace. How can you extend this same grace to them? First forgive them for what they have done then do the most loving for them. Pray for them. Pray that they come to love and serve Christ in the way He wants them to. That is the best life for anybody so it must be for them too. You’ve now replaced bad intentions for good ones (with God’s help). Do this over and over for them and others.

If you lust for someone, imagine Christ in between the two of you. That makes it really hard to lust now with Him in the picture doesn’t it? Now pray that God will help you see this person as He does and love them as He does from the inside out not from the outside in as you have been doing.

When we apply this to coaching, we want to replace a bad behavior with a good one instead of just yelling at someone and telling them not to do that anymore. We must give them a positive behavior and drill it into them until it’s a habit.

If we want them to be respectful, we teach them how. All coaches will be referred to as Coach or Sir. Proper responses are yes sir, yes Coach _____. If they give a proper response then the relationship is as we want it and we can positively reinforce that in many ways. If they don’t give a proper response then they do pushups or some other form of punishment until the response is automatic. They must understand that our desire to change their behavior comes from a point of love otherwise it will be interpreted as meanness towards them. Remember to change behavior we must first change their heart so that the desire to do right lives there first. If we try to change just the behavior then we are imparting a type of legalism on them that Jesus warned the Pharisees about.

If we want them to not commit a holding penalty in a game then we need to teach them how to block without holding. Teach hand and shoulder placement without grasping the opponent’s jersey. Punish when they don’t achieve this and reward with praise when they do achieve this. So many coaches try to teach how to hold without getting caught and then are amazed when their guy gets called for holding. You taught him to hold so he did! Don’t be amazed when he gets caught. They have to intend not to hold without trying because that’s all they know. They only know the right way because that’s all they’ve been taught.

If we want our players to not jump offsides, we must teach them to focus while in their stances instead of telling them the negative “don’t jump”.

When trying to correct a negative behavior, first imagine that behavior as it is when it is positively exhibited then come up with a way to teach that and to drill it until they do it from the heart. This is real coaching and not just screaming out of frustration.

These thoughts come from my present study of “Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard.

Speaking at Glazier Clinic in Nashville

Just want to let everyone know that I will be speaking at the Glazier clinic in Nashville, TN on Feb. 11th. If you live near there, I would love to see you there. I will be presenting 2 sessions on the Doublewing offense, 1 session on strategies specific to youth football, and 2 more sessions on character development and how I coach my team. Check it out at Glazier.com. Youth coaches can attend Glazier clinics for $25.

Contract with Myself (for the players)

Sorry I haven’t been making many posts lately but it is football season and I’m busy coaching my team. This contract is something I’ve been mulling over for a while. It’s a new idea of mine and I have not done it in the past.  I’m going to give this out to the boys and discuss it with them. Help them understand it. They are 10-12 yrs old so it will probably be a new idea to them. I want them to fill it out and put it on the wall in their room to remind themselves of their goals and to make good decisions in life to help them live out those goals. My hope is that it will clarify a lot of choices that could lead them down the wrong path and cut that off early in the process. I just want to make them think about the consequences before they act.

Who is the man I want to be when I’m 25?

What values do I want to have?

Integrity        Character     Courage        Dependable Committed   Warrior

Honest           Responsible  Kind                Loving            Trustworthy

What education do I want?

College          High school              Dropout        Trade school

What job do I want?

Engineer       Architect       Supervisor    Plumber        Welder          Teacher         Military

Fedex Delivery man           Electrician     none              other skilled trade

Other –

Where do I want to live?

In a house I own     Renting          With Mom and Dad

Do I want to be married?   Yes   No

Do I want to have kids?    Yes      No

Do I want to be a Christian?        Yes      No

What kind of life do I want?

Drug addicted         Alcoholic       Normal

Now you know who you and what you want to be when you’re 25. These are goals you have in your life. Now you have to make plans to achieve those goals. Every time you’re faced with a choice in your life, you need to ask yourself “Which choice will help me achieve my goals and which choice to take me away from my goals?” Also to make plans, you need to get advice from people that will help you figure out how to get to your goals.

 

I will try to live the life that will help me achieve the goals I have chosen here.

Signature____________________________    Date____________________

Proof of God Storytime

I’ve already told you about the storytimes I do with my players so instead of just writing this one, I thought I’d share it with you by video. I do the Proof of God speech in 2 parts on the same night of practice. For one, I like to keep water breaks short and two, you only have their attention for a short amount of time. Watch and enjoy. I hope you decide to use it. Video is a little rough. Shot on a cell phone.

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.