In the spring of 2007 I was beginning to prepare for my new role as the varsity football offensive coordinator for the upcoming season. While preparing I met with the previous coordinator to discuss a few things. We discussed quite a few topics but the one I still recall today is our conversation on what players can and cannot handle. This week we’re going to look at what he and I both discussed and believe, which is that too many coaches limit their players.
Have you ever heard this before, “Well my kids can’t do this or run that?” I have, from plenty of coaches all over. What’s frustrating is that coaches automatically put a limit on what their team will achieve because they have limited belief in their players. I’ve coached at all three levels in high school, both in football and basketball, and one thing I’ve always done is coach each team as if they were a varsity team. Now, I’m not delusional as to what level the kids are playing on or are at, but I teach and coach them just as I would a varsity team. I did not limit what we did strategically based on their age or grade level. The most frustrating think is when coaches don’t even attempt to put something in or run it because, “We’re not at that level.” How do you know unless you try?
As coaches, no matter the level, we need to have a better mindset. While it’s true you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken poop, you do have a say in what the final product will end up like. The attitude coaches have will trickle down to the players. The kids are smart; they’ll know very early on whether or not the coach believes in them.
In order to be able to do these types of things coaches MUST spend time teaching the fundamentals. Whether it’s football or basketball, coaches should spend at least 30-45 each practice on fundamental skill development. By doing so the players will develop the needed foundation to run whatever offense and defense is being installed. Fundamental skill development will provide athletes the confidence needed to execute what they’re being asked to run.
It is also important to start small when implementing the offensive and defensive systems. Coaches should not attempt to put in the entire system at one time. It’s vital to begin small and sound, and then add to it as the season goes along. Too many coaches, especially at the youth levels, will attempt to put in the entire system without mastering the base concepts. Many times coaches will become frustrated with the lack of progress and then give up on it. The key is to give the kids what they can handle, build their confidence, and continually add to what they’ve been given.
Another key is to be creative. Unless the team is full of completely uncoordinated kids, there is bound to be something they can do well. The challenge of the coach is to find that and make it the strength. If the team can’t shoot worth a lick, then get up and press. If the team has no speed, then become a very physical team. No matter what, there is bound to be something that is controllable which the coach can turn into a team strength.
Lastly, coaches should make it fun! No matter the sport, the offense or defense, coaches should install gadget (trick plays) and actually run them. When they work in-game situations it helps build the confidence of the players, and the players’ confidence of the coach. Installing and using gadget plays is a fun and creative way to add to the foundation of what the team is running.
It drives me nuts when I hear coaches say, “We can’t run this because…” Yes, you can. Teach the fundamentals, start with a solid base, only give what they can handle at that time, and continually add to the base throughout the season. You’ll be amazed at what athletes at the middle school, lower-level high school, and varsity high school teams can do.
Don’t be one of those coaches who limit their players’ success because of the limitations you put on your own thinking, philosophy, and playbook.
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week and be an RGP today!