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4/13/2012 10:30:07 AM -
High School Football Head Coach Mistake #2

Sorry for the delay. Here's Mistake #2

Majoring in Minor S--t

Yes, I know this one is stolen from every self-help manual ever written, but getting caught up in small, meaningless bullshit is a problem every head coach I've ever worked with has gotten caught up with. Here's a story I don't think I've told yet here that illustrates my point:

When I first started coaching, I'd been away from football since my career ended, and I was asked to help out by a head coach I was good friends with. He'd known me for a long time, knew about my playing career, and was just starting to build a program at a high school that, historically, wasn't particularly successful in football. The whole place was a blank slate, and I essentially had the opportunity to go in there and build shit from scratch with whatever positions we decided I'd work with -- and since we didn't have a lot of coaches there at the time, the idea was that I'd start with what I knew and work with the running backs and the linebackers and handle the strength and conditioning program.

I was really excited about this. Even though I hadn't coached before, I've always been a really good logistical thinker when it comes to different methods of getting shit done, i.e., when I played, I was constantly refining my methods of doing everything, regardless of how I was coached, and I thought I'd figured out some really smart ways to do things that I could pass along.

We started with the offseason strength and conditioning, since it was around March or April when I first decided I wanted to do this. The idea was to have me come in and install a completely new program, get the kids going on it, and coach them up. I prepared for this like you would not believe, because I wanted to show this guy that I was prepared and that he'd done the right thing by bringing me in. I went to the school myself, took a notebook, and drew a diagram of the weight room -- which is actually pretty nice -- so I'd know precisely what was there. Then I found out how many kids would be participating, and I spent the next few days writing everything up as far as how I wanted to arrange things. Back then, I was a 100% (that famous gym in Columbus where Dave used to train but I don't know if we're allowed to mention anymore) guy. I trained like that, I lived and breathed it, and I practically wore my bands and chains to bed every night while dragging my sled and wearing my Chucks.

That's kind of apropos to nothing -- only to point out that no matter what you or I think of that mode of training for football players, it's 1000000000x better than anything these kids would have been getting. And yeah, the argument can still be made that it works. I sure as hell wouldn't argue too hard against it.

That notwithstanding, we agreed on a start date and time. Let's call it Monday at 3:00 sharp. Now, from my time in various careers and from my own experience of being coached, "Monday at 3:00" essentially means "Monday at 2:30." It means you're there a half hour early, you're prepared, you're focused, and shit is ready to go at the assigned time. I've kind of always been like that. The head coach told me he wanted to get the kids together, talk to them, and introduce me right before we got started, so in my head, I'm picturing the whole team together, two quick speeches about what they can expect, and then we're breaking down into groups so we can assess the kids and start the process in motion.

I walk into the office at 2:30, and the coaches were sitting around eating. The head coach was on the phone talking to someone. Time rolled by. 20 minutes later, he was still on the phone. The other coaches were watching film. I gestured like I was ready to get shit moving without him, but he told me to stay where I was and not do anything. 3:00 rolled around, the kids were milling all over the place outside acting like jackasses, the HC was still on the phone, and the other coaches were still watching film.

He finally got off the phone and started talking to the OC about something about ordering uniforms. He'd been on the phone with a rep from the uniform company talking about some stupid point that he wouldn't even need to address until July. Then, he and the OC proceeded to engage in an argument about it that went on for the next ten minutes while I sat there and watched film with the two other guys. Now it's like 3:20, we haven't done shit, I don't know what's going on, the kids are sitting around doing nothing, and absolutely nothing is getting done.

Finally, a good 30-40 minutes after we were supposed to start, he says, "Okay, let's go," and we walk into the weight room without saying anything to the kids, and he goes, "Okay, go ahead." This, without asking me what I wanted anyone to do, what I needed, where I needed people to be, etc. I had no time to brief this guy whatsoever on what was going to happen -- which was very ironic, because as it turned out, his practices are scripted virtually to the second, and he's the one who taught me the importance of attention to detail in positional drills and team practice.

But here we are at the very beginning of offseason training, and nobody has given me even a spare minute of time to plan out how this day was supposed to go. And, predictably, it was a complete clusterf--k. And who pays the price?

The assistant who doesn't get the resources and attention he needs to make his portion of practice productive and successful, but most importantly THE KIDS, who get a disorganized, half-assed effort from people whose attention is obviously focused elsewhere.

Again, I've never been a head coach, so I'm sure I don't know about all the shit (like uniform problems) that comes up on a daily basis, but what I believe should happen at times like this is an assessment of what's more important for the team RIGHT NOW. Not to blow my own horn too much, but here was something amazing happening. You had this ex-player and knowledgeable guy coming in, for free, and pledging to volunteer his time putting together something the school had never had before. What's more important to my program RIGHT NOW? Getting this guy off to a good start and getting the training program rolling? Or eating a sandwich and arguing with the OC about where a stripe is going to go in a uniform order you don't even have to make for another month? Which action is going to pay more dividends come November?

That's the takeaway here -- that ability to assess what's important and what's not. I'll also say that I have IMMENSE respect and regard for the coach in question. He did a GREAT job in rebuilding the program -- which eventually culminated in the team's first league championship in 30+ years within his third season of running the show. But that ability to get our priorities straight was something we all had to learn before that ball ever got rolling.

Angry Coach

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