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12/11/2012 11:39:35 AM -
Reflections on a great season, Part I

This year was the most satisfying and rewarding season I’ve had since I started coaching. It astonishes me at this point, but I’ve actually been doing this for well over a decade. For the past couple of years, that’s had me a little jaded, and acting like I already knew everything there was to know. I started this past year with an open mind, receptive to some new ideas, and things worked out amazingly—both for me and for our team. Here are some of the things I’ve found over the past year:

THE PROCESS: I’ve referenced Nick Saban a lot over the past couple of months, and there’s a reason for that. I sincerely believe our staff has found a “formula” for winning. We didn’t have a blue-chip star this year. Instead, we had a team—one I think we built, or at least profoundly influenced. Every team is different, and you can’t just take some cookie-cutter formula, apply it, and come out with a winning season, but after taking notes diligently and figuring out the benchmarks and milestones we needed to hit at certain points of the year, I think I’m as close as I’ve ever been to figuring out how to win consistently. I really think I could take this rebuilding system just about anywhere and win.

FINISH STRONG: This year, more than any other in my career, I learned that it’s okay to suck a little bit at the beginning of the season as long as you morph your team into the guys nobody wants to play by the end of the year. You don’t want to throw away games at the start of the year, but we looked at the first few games of this season as more of an extension of camp than anything else. That approach worked, because we went from being a bunch of f**k-ups to the team everyone in the league was afraid of by the end of the season.

CONDITIONING COUNTS: So does recovery. In today’s game, things are more dynamic than they were in the smashmouth era. You’re running more plays, and your kids are in action more than they used to be. I’m not saying the energy system requirements have changed all that much, but if you monitor their “conditioning” and recovery like a hawk, it’ll pay dividends. We outscored opponents in the fourth quarter this year by a ridiculous amount, and that gap widened even further toward the end of the season when we throttled back on everything.

LET THE KIDS IN ON YOUR MASTER PLAN: Talk to them. Let them know that even though they’re supposed to be winning, that the latter part of the season is where they’re supposed to be unbeatable. We took a lot of the pressure off of them by letting them know that every single week didn’t mean everything. We treated the first two games of the year almost like practices. This took the pressure off of them, and guess what? We blew both teams out. If you can frame the season for your team by explaining to them what they’re going to feel like and what they can expect at the end, they’ll gel a lot better and they’ll end up policing themselves in various ways.

YOU DON’T NEED TO OLYMPIC LIFT: You just don’t, although I’d never rule it out if I thought it was necessary. You can’t rule anything out on principle, but high school athletes will get far more out of jumps, throws, and sprints than they will from Olympic lifting. Yes, this is basic information that’s been said here a thousand times, but our kids made bigger jumps in their progress when we shit-canned the Olympic lifts they’d been doing—and that their trainers had them doing—when we got there.

FOCUS ON THE KIDS THAT MATTER: This is going to sound a little cold to some people, but if you’re a strength coach who actually knows what he’s doing, you can satisfy everyone on a 40-45 man team. Focus on your starters and delegate the training of everyone else to an assistant. This entire year, I had *MAYBE* twelve kids that I worked with on a regular one-on-one (group training with individual attention) basis. It’s that 80/20 principle at work. The more attention I focused on the kids that contributed, the more they contributed. What if one of them gets hurt and the replacement hasn’t been training properly? It’s the chance you have to take.

I think the biggest thing we did this year was to focus on the end game, keeping that in mind as the bigger picture. We didn’t get lost in the minutiae, and we didn’t dwell on all the little crap that went on from week to week. We kept locked in on what we wanted to happen at the end of the year, and we worked backward from there.




,
Angry Coach


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