ABOUT YOU – A TEAM BUILDING EXCERCISE

I wrote a book about the 2011 Football State Champions.  108 coaches from 42 states responded to my survey and interview.  I learned SO MUCH!  It is in the final publishing state with Coaches Choice, and will be available this Fall.  You can go here to read more about it.   Listen to my interview on High School Football America about this groundbreaking project.

As reported by more than 100 State Champion Head Coaches, one of the top ten characteristics of State Champion Football Programs is Team Chemistry.

What are YOU doing about Team Chemistry in your program this coming season?

Are you doing anything?  Some “old school coaches” think that coaches do not need to do anything, that Team Chemistry just happens naturally in the locker room and during practice.  I could not disagree any more with that philosophy.  I’ve only been a Head Football Coach at the Varsity level for eight years here in Southern California but one of the most important things I’ve learned in this short time is that YOU MUST DEVELOP TEAM CHEMISTRY as the Head Coach.  It doesn’t just happen.  

Here is an excercise that I have spent time doing in my Training Camps in August in the past.  I schedule an afternoon to do this towards the middle to end of camp.  A lot of programs aren’t doing two a days anymore.  But back when we would go two weeks of two a days, I would usually do this exercise on Tuesday or Wednesday of the second week, when I knew their bodies needed a bit of a rest.

TEAMBUILDING EXERCISE – ABOUT YOU WORKSHEET

Summary:

I’ve used this Teambuilding Exercise a few times over the years, and it is one of my favorite things to do to help build team chemistry.   Athletes fill out a questionnaire about another teammate.  That teammate will then read what has been written about them.  The purpose of this teambuilding exercise is for teammates to encourage and challenge the other members on their team.  This is an exercise which will build up the individual player’s morale, as well as the morale and chemistry of the team.

 

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Developing Team Chemistry is key to your success. If YOU don’t develop Team Chemistry, someone else will!

 

What you need:

  1.  Each player needs something to write with.
  2. You need copies of the TEAM BUILDING WORKSHEETS.  The number of copies will depend on how you decide to facilitate this exercise.

Steps:

  1. Decide how many “rounds” you want to do.  One round means that one player fills out the following worksheet for one teammate.  Two rounds means they fill one worksheet for two players, etc.
  2. Pass out one TEAM BUILDING WORKSHEET to each player for each round you want to do.
  3. Make sure that each player has something to write with.
  4. Decide how the players will choose who to write about.  You can make it totally random by having them pick names out of a hat.  You can pair them up beforehand.  Think critically of some way to facilitate this.

One way I’ve done this in the past is I wrote the name of each player on three TEAM BUILDING WORKSHEETS.   This meant that each player would fill out three worksheets.  I put them all in a one big box.  Each player came forward and picked out three sheets after I mixed them up.

5. Each player is going to answer questions about a teammate, and then that teammate will read what someone else has said about them.  They will stand up in front of the team and read however much of that TEAM BUILDING WORKSHEET you want them to.  For instance, have every kid stand up and read just their answer to question 9.

6. Pass out the TEAM BUILDING WORKSHEETS and begin.

 (Coaches, simply cut and paste the text below in to your own word document to create this document.)

TEAM BUILDING WORKSHEET – ABOUT YOU

1.     Three things I admire about you are:

a.

b.

c.

2.            One funny thing from this summer or last season I remember about you is:

3.            One quality you have that I wish I had:

4.            Thank you for:

5.            You need to work on __________________________________________________to be a better teammate off the field.

6.            You need to work on __________________________________________________to make us a better team on the field.

7.            You are a great teammate because:

8.             This season, I hope that you:

 

 

MY VISION FOR MY FOOTBALL PROGRAM

I wrote this vision for my football program in 2003, upon taking over as the Head Coach at Linfield Christian in Temecula, California.  I’ve been a Head Coach for eight years here in Southern California; this is the Vision that I’ve used to direct my football program.  It is important that you have a vision for your football program; that that vision is written and clearly explained to all of your stakeholders.

 

The vision for my football program is called “The Four Ps.”  The four Ps are: positive experience, player-centered environment, protection of health, and public perceptionThese four Ps are the focus of our coaching staff on an annual basis, and we constantly are brought back to them as a source of direction for us.  This vision has been created to hold up for all to see, to use as a measuring stick for our program.  The vision for our program is centered on our players first and foremost. 

This is my senior year at Fallbrook High School. Playing Fallbrook Warrior football is one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had in my life! I’m top row, fourth from left.

The players are the most important part of the program, and why we are coaching the sport and spending so much time investing in the lives of our student-athletes.           

Our vision of positive experience means that I want for each and every person that is a part of this program to enjoy their time as a part of the program because of the fun environment that the coaching staff has created.  This vision means that players enjoy being a part of the program; they look forward to being a part of the program.  Football is a tough sport that is not meant for everybody!  Football demands a lot of time, and a lot of dedication, much more so than many other sports because of the physical demands. 

Because football is inherently tough, it can be a grind to get through the season.  I want our players to have a positive experience.  I want them to be treated fairly so that their experience is positive.  This does not always happen because some kids are just not built to be football players.  They are either mentally or physically too weak to handle the demands.  However, I want for my program to be positive overall.  I want our equipment managers, our team doctor, stat people, etc. to have a positive experience as a part of the football program that I manage.

Creating a positive experience for your players is key! This was a positive experience for our kids, coming on to the field through a tunnel of our fans. I really love this picture from the 2010 season!

Varsity football players only have a few years of the entire life to play varsity football.

Mainly, it is for juniors and seniors.  Therefore, I want the program to be about the kids, not about me as the head coach, or my coaching staff.  The vision of having a player-centered environment means that the student-athlete should feel that they play the most important role of the program. The coaching staff should help to create a democratic type of setting so that players buy into the program because they believe in it because they know that the coaches believe in them. It is one big circle.  One way that I carry out this vision is by having a Player Committee.

This Player Committee is selected in January of each year and is made up of anywhere from four to eight players that meet with me on a regular basis.  The committee is selected by the players themselves, and is made up of kids from every grade in the program, not just seniors.  The goal of this committee is to be a voice from the players to the coaches.  They are simply a mouthpiece from the players to the coaches and from the coaches to the players.  They help to decide on what will be in the spirit pack for the year, the colors of the shirts, what color of cleats we will wear, etc.  They even help to develop the off season calendar and the requirements for participation in the off season in order to play football.  The reason that I have the player committee make these decisions is so that they will take complete ownership of the program, to create a player centered environment.     

Another part of the vision is called protection of health.  This means that the coaching staff needs to create a safe place to play what can be a violent contact sport. This starts with the proper training of coaches.  Our coaches are mandated to have certain certifications like American Red Cross First Aid and CPR training, and the National Federation of High Schools Coaching Certification.  This training helps to give our coaches a bigger picture of liability and professionalism.  Our coaches are also trained on a regular basis by attending clinics in the offseason to learn the best practices in our business.

Having the necessary equipment to keep our players healthy is key to fulfilling this part of the vision.  Our equipment is maintained every off season in an effort to remove any faulty helmets or shoulder pads from the inventory.  Helmets must meet a certain standard set forth on the national level.  We have recently created a Risk Management Plan that has been a great tool in helping us to provide the protection of health for our student-athletes.  Another piece of this vision is a safe playing surface. The coaching staff must always look out for the safety of the player when considering when and where to play.  Fields should be examined by the coaching staff before playing or practicing on them.  Next in line would be appropriate medical personnel available for our student-athletes and coaches.  I always want to have a Certified Athletic Trainer on my staff in an effort to give our players the best possible health care available.

Pregame meeting with my favorite people – the zebras! 2009 season

Finally, we come to the last P of the vision for this football program.  It represents public perception.  This means that we want for people in our community and the communities that we visit to have a positive view of my football program, and the school I’m working at.  When we walk away from our team meal before a game, I hope that the servers at that restaurant think to themselves “Wow, that was the most impressive group of high school football players that have ever been here.”  When we ride on a bus, I want for that bus driver to know that we are a great bunch of citizens.  I want him or her to have a positive view of our school because of how we acted on the bus.  The same goes for the fans of the teams that we play.  I don’t want them to be able to say that we were a cheap bunch of such and suches.  The vision is for our opponents to walk away from our game having had a positive experience playing our team.

LEADERSHIP ACADEMY SERIES Part 4

This Part 4 of the LEADERSHIP ACADEMY SERIES.  Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.  Part 3 is here.  This leadership series is courtesy of Coach Jesse German of Bear Creek High School, a 5A school in Lakewood, Colorado.  His twitter handle is@FBCoachGerman.

 

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LESSONS LEARNED FROM COACHING YOUR OWN SON

I traded some tweets with Coach Greg Patterson about him coaching his own son one day a few weeks ago.  It intrigued me.  My oldest son is 6 years old, just playing his first organized sport right now: t ball!!  It’s one of the highlights of my week, watching him play.  It takes everything within just to sit there and watch and enjoy!  The coach in me wants to give him more advice.  There is that internal struggle between coach and dad!!

I asked Coach Patterson to share some lessons with all of us coaches about his experience of coaching his own boy!  Thank you very much for taking the time to do this Coach, to share with “the brotherhood!”  I know this will help others.

 Coach Patterson spent this past season as the Head Football Coach, and is currently the Athletic Director at Sumiton Christian High School in Birmingham, Alabama.  You can follow him on Twitter @gregpatterson51.

 

1)      Honest communication with your son about your expectations for him on and off the field is a must.

It is imperative that we as coaches take the time to sit down with our children and explain in detail how you foresee the coach/parent relationship working on a daily basis. Hoping that they understand what we expect or desire without telling them is absurd. Trust me I made this mistake the first time around.  I stupidly used my son as an example, good and bad, way too often. It did not take long before he had his fill of being singled out and it erupted in an ugly display of emotion.

It is so much simpler to tell your child what you expect of them and have an open discussion about it. When I took the time to do this with my second son I discovered that he had goals and dreams that were much more lofty that my expectations. Once I discovered this we were able to work together and formulate some goals and processes that would help him accomplish his goals. Although his college football dream did not work out our experience working together was much more productive and rewarding than that I had with my oldest son.

 

2)      Give a trusted assistant (position coach) domain over handling your son’s punishment, if needed, unless it involves something that is always handled by the Head Coach.

This helps put a barrier between you and your child during a potentially volatile time. It’s much easier to leave the little stuff up to your assistants if possible. However, do not shy away from handling issues that you normally handle as a head coach. Simply stated, just be cautious in this area and don’t let emotions get carried away.

It’s difficult to handle punishment as coach and then turn right around and have to handle it at home as dad without the two encounters affecting one another. No matter how hard we try as coaches we carry our profession home with us. It seems to be even more true if you have a kid on the team, because then mom is somehow always able to sense when there is tension (lol).

 

Coach Greg Patterson and his son.

Coach Greg Patterson and his son.

 

3)      If you trust your assistant coaches’ evaluation of all the players on your team then you must also trust their evaluation of your son, good or bad.

You place your assistants in a position to evaluate and teach your players and report back to you with their recommendations. Don’t question/doubt their suggestions involving your child any more than you would another player. If you happen to be your son’s position coach it can become a bit more difficult. Trust your instinct and if you still honestly question your evaluation of your child then ask an assistant their opinion.

Review practice/game film with them if necessary. I almost short changed my youngest son this past year out of a starting position because I was skeptical – over critical – about his ability. Thank God for a solid staff that spoke up and told me I was wrong and that he needed to be playing. Side note – another reason your staff has to be men of integrity with the freedom to hold you accountable when needed.

 

4)      Make it very clear to your staff that you expect your son to be treated like the others as much as possible but it isn’t open season on him just because he is a coach’s kid. Your staff will follow your lead!

Believe it or not it is really easy to direct criticism at coach’s kids thinking that they will understand, all the while they take it very personal. I have realized that my sons’ have had a much different relationship with my staff than other players do.

I attribute this to the amount of time that they spent around the staff as young kids and then transitioning to becoming player. I have concluded that it is much easier for us as coaches to transition between different roles than it is for our kids. It has been my experience that the majority of coaches that struggle with this are younger coaches that do not have children of their own. It also became obvious to me that if I was willing to single out my own son to “vent on” in a team setting it opened the door for my assistants to follow suit.

TEAM CAPTAIN SURVEY AND RESULTS

Since I write a lot about coaching football and leadership on here, I receive a lot of inquires about how to deal with team captains.  So, I thought I would create a survey to see how coaches around the country handle the issue of team captains.

I put this survey out via Twitter only.  Thank you to the MANY coaches who retweeted this information.  We had 178 coaches take the survey over the course of the last two days, a great number!  THANK YOU COACHES!

This is part 1 of this survey results.  I will write more about thoughts about this survey at a later date.  I will also share more comments from the coaches directly.

Enjoy!

 

1. What level of football do you coach?

Junior High
4.0%
High School
75.8%
College
13.1%
Pro 0.0%
None, I’m answering this survey from another coach point of view
7.1%

 

2. How long have you been coaching?

0-5 years
27.6%
6-10 years
26.5%
11-15 years
19.4%
15+
26.5%

 

3. How many captains does your team have?

1 0.0%
2
13.5%
3
22.5%
4
53.9%
5
5.6%
6
4.5%

 

4. Who chooses your captains?

Players vote
18.3%
Coaching staff appoints
19.4%
Head coach appoints
8.6%
Players vote and coaches confirm or deny that vote
43.0%
Players and coaches both vote together
10.8%

 

5. Do you have the same captains all season or do you change captains every game or a mixture?

Same captains all season
66.0%
Change captains every game
9.3%
Some captains same all season but we do rotate some
25.8%

 

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6. Do you have a leadership training program in place to teach your captains leadership?

Yes
52.0%
No
48.0%

 

7. Do you have a formal process for removing a captain?

Yes
28.6%
No
71.4%

 

8. Have you ever had to remove a captain during the season?

Yes
30.6%
No
69.4%

 

9. Do you only allow seniors to be captains?

Yes
20.0%
No
80.0%

 

10.  Anything to add to this survey?

Normally nominate 2 Capt from O and D. Starting QB is normally 1 of the O capts but not always (ie when he’s a rookie we leave him to focus on the job). Captains usually identify themselves by actions and generally have been in the team for a few years proving their worth/candidacy to both coaches and team mates.

 

This is a cool survey. Thanks! – Coach Peck!

 

I try to meet with the captains at least once a month out of the season and twice a month in season for their input. This keeps problems that might be under the surface from becoming larger issues because they know they can come to the coaching staff.

THIS IS A GREAT IDEA!!  THIS IS WHY I USE A PLAYER COMMITTEE.  READ ABOUT MY PLAYER COMMITTEE HERE. COACH FORE

 

Captains are the cream of the crop on my team. They are players I can trust 100% to do whatever I need when I’m around, and when I’m not (locker room).

 

I think one thing of interest, worth polling, is coaches like myself, who do not happen to fully agree with the process of captains, or lack of leadership skills coaching/teaching etc. we happen to be on a staff, and at the mercy of the HC.

CONFRONT YOUR HEAD COACH ABOUT THIS.  I WOULD.  IF YOUR HEAD COACH CAN’T BE A TEAM PLAYER AND TAKE ADVICE FROM HIS ASSISTANTS ABOUT SOMETHING AS CRITICAL AS LEADERSHIP, I WOULD THINK AGAIN ABOUT COACHING FOR HIM. COACH FORE

Captains rotate each game. Every senior becomes a game captain once before we allow any senior to be a game captain twice.

 

When I started coaching, captains went out at the coin toss, but otherwise had no other clear expectations/responsibilities and no training. This past season, we started doing formal leadership development/training with our line leaders and are growing in establishing clearer expectations for captains & leaders.

EXCELLENT JOB COACH!!  ONGOING LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IS KEY.  PLUS, THAT STUFF WILL LAST PAST FRIDAY NIGHT! COACH FORE

Last season we did a program we called “Black Watch.” In order to be a candidate for captain you had to be a part of this group. To be in the group it required 3 letters of recommendation from teachers on campus, a 3.0 gpa, be a senior the following season (we started Black Watch at the start of the second semester). In order to stay in Black Watch you had to maintain a 3.0, have no unsatisfactory discipline reports on file for the year, and meet an attendance requirement for off-season weight lifting.

LOVE IT. GREAT JOB COACH.  WOULD LOVE TO PUT THIS INFORMATION ON MY BLOG HERE.  MANY, MANY MORE COACHES NEED TO START A LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT LIKE THIS. WOULD YOU MIND EMAILING ME ABOUT THIS AT COACH@COACHFORE.ORG IF YOU HAPPEN TO READ THIS? COACH FORE

Try to balance offense and defensive with at least a one great off season workout player who usually not a starter.

 

Positive leaders. Doesn’t have to be best player(s).

 

We select anywhere from 2-5, depending on the year. I let players vote, but I will add or subtract anyone I think needs to be. I try to have one underclass man as a captain. I couldn’t care less who goes out for the coin toss. Being a captain is about leading and serving teammates, not calling heads or tails.

YOU’RE RIGHT ON COACH!

Captains are overrated in my opinion. You want the best kids who are in the rotation to be captains. On a small team like basketball most everything is going to come from the coach. Captains should be there to manage some egos when the coach isn’t around.

 

Our coaches choise a captain from each class based on Experience, natural leadership, citizenship, reliability, courage in leading, accountability and commitment to the program, ream and coaches. 2 act as offensive captains during games and 2 defensive. As head coach I want my captains to solve problems and make their own decidions. I will help when necessary but I believe part of the growing process is problem solving.

 

They are voted on in mid-July and go through training prior to fall camp and regular meetings with me (HC) all season long.

 

Use it as a weekly motivational tool. We always have three senior captains each game, but then allow a underclassman earn his way to become a captain by either practicing hard all week or performing well in a game.

I DO THE SAME THING. 3 CAPTAINS GO OUT FOR COIN TOSS.  AT THE TEAM MEAL FOR GAME, WE ANNOUNCE A FOURTH KID WHO GETS TO REPRESENT HIS TEAM AS AN “HONORARY CAPTAIN” THAT WEEK.  THIS HELPS TO SERVE AS SOME GREAT MOTIVATION FOR KIDS TO WORK HARD AND BE A LEADER DURING THE WEEK.  IT COULD BE THE SAME GUY THREE TIMES A YEAR IF HE EARNS IT!  I’M NOT ONE OF THOSE GUYS WHO MAKES THINGS “FAIR” AND KEEPS TRACK OF IT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE GETS TO DO IT.  THIS AINT LITTLE LEAGUE WHERE EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY!  IT HAS AMAZED ME HOW JUST THIS ONE ACT OF BEING ABLE TO GO UP AND REPRESENT YOUR TEAM HAS REALLY HELPED KIDS.  THEIR PARENTS TELL ME HOW BIG OF A DEAL IT WAS TO THEM; TEACHERS WILL TELL ME THAT THEY SAW A DIFFERENCE IN THIS KID AFTERWARDS, ETC.  WE TRY TO MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT.  COACH FORE

Had a frosh captain this past year. He was QB. Best leader I’ve had

I APPLAUD YOU COACH. MOST COACHES WOULDN’T HAVE THE GUTS TO HAVE A FROSH AS A CAPTAIN. WHY WASTE A YEAR AND THE LEADERSHIP TALENT IF HE CAN?  COACH FORE

Every player goes through the same leadership program. I was involved with this program as a player. Coach emphasize the importance of being a leader(captain). He stated being voted a captain by your peers is the greatest honor you could receive as an athlete.

 

Weekly captains are decided on based on performance and leadership in prior game and practice that week.

 

Once a captain is selected they remain a captain until they graduate, this way leadership is maintained year round and adds continuity from season to season. Even though we have no specific leadership program for captains we do provide informal leadership training to all players.

I REALLY LIKE THIS IDEA OF KEEPING HIM ON AS CAPTAIN UNTIL GRADUATION!

 

 

 

OVERNIGHT CAMP SAMPLE SCHEDULE

Have you ever thought of having your boys all sleep on the floor in the gym for a few nights?  (Coaches too!)

We did this at my high school at Fallbrook High School back in the day.  What GREAT memories I have of that.  We would have camp in the gym one year, and then go to a university or college here in So Cal the next year.  So, every player gets two camps at colleges, and two camps in the gym.

Here is a sample 3 day, 2 night schedule I used back in 2010!  Nothing builds team chemistry like spending three days totally together in the middle of Training Camp in August!

Let me know if you have any questions about this at coach@coachfore.org.

THURSDAY AUG 19
12:45 PM Check In (Gym)
1:15 PM Distribute Gear (Parking lot)
2:30 PM Orientation Meeting
Team Goals/Indy Goals
3:00-3:30 PM Team Meeting/Film Work
4:00-6:30 PM Practice
7:00 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Chapel/Worship
8:15 PM Free Time
9:30 PM Lights Out

 

FRIDAY AUG 20
6:30 AM Breakfast
7:00 AM Devotion
7:30-9:15 AM Practice
9:15 AM Distribute Gear
11:00-12:45 PM Practice
1:00 PM Lunch
Free Time
3:15 PM Team Meeting/Film Work
4:00-5:45 PM Practice
6:00 PM Team Activity Off Campus
9:30 PM Lights Out

 

SATURDAY AUG 21
6:30 AM Father/Son Breakfast
7:00 AM Devotion
8:00-9:45 AM Practice
9:45 AM Free Time
11:00-12:45 PM Practice
1:00 PM Lunch
1:30 PM Free Time
4:30 PM Team Meeting/Film Work
5:00-6:45 Practice
7:00 PM Dinner – Chipotle in Gym
7:30 PM Break Camp/Parents Pick Up

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM #1 FOOTBALL TEAM IN NEVADA – BISHOP GORMAN

I set out on a journey last January to learn from the best of the best.  I wrote a book about the 2011 State Champions that is currently in production with Coaches Choice.

I interviewed more than 100 coaches about their State Champion success.   I’m continuing to gather information from State Champion Football Coaches.

Bishop Gorman High School from Las Vegas finished the season with a 13-1 record, and ranked #1 in the entire state!  

This was their FOURTH State Championship in a row!

Their Head Coach is Tony Sanchez; he was kind enough to give me some insight and opinions about his football program at Bishop Gorman, and what has helped to lead to his success!

State (NV) Rank: 1 

Maxpreps Xcellent 25 Rank: 15 

National Rank: 44

1. What is one piece of advice that you would give to a coach who wants to win a state championship and or raise their program to the level of yours?

The best advice I can give, is to stay true to who you are as a coach. Know your weakness and get better at them, know your strengths and get better at them. I think that discipline is key within the entirety of the program starting with the coaches to the players and constantly challenging your program to get better. Whether it be with a harder schedule or challenging assistants etc. whatever it may be continue to grow.

2. What kind of offense did you run?

I pro/ spread offense

3. What kind of defense did you run?

We are a 4-3 defense but will run a lot of 3-4 as well. Multiple defensive fronts, helps us to adjust to the type of offense we see.

4. Which special team of yours was the most valuable to you this year and why?

This year we had some special kids who could take it the distance, and did on our kick return and punt return team. It really gave us an advantage, even when they didn’t get the ball, team’s were kicking away from them, so it gave us really good field position.

5. Do you incorporate some type of character development program within your football program? If so, what program do you use?

We don’t have a specific program that we use. We hold our kids and coaches accountable in everything they do. Not only in the classroom but within the community as well.

6. Do you incorporate some type of leadership development program within your football program? If so, what program do you use?

Really we Just ask that our seniors really take on the leadership role as a group. They have to lead in a way that will make their fellow team mates follow them. They have to, and are demanded to lead by example.

7. What is the number one obstacle you face in building a Championship caliber football program in your community?

Getting the players , parents and administration to all buy in and believe in what we are doing. We have been so fortunate here at Gorman to have such a great support staff.

8. Who do you consider to be your main mentor in this profession and what about that coach do you try to emulate in your program?

There have been so many mentors and great people who I have had the privilege to meet along the way and still continue to do so. I try to take something away from every person that I’ve worked with or have been coached by whether that be a good thing or bad thing there has always been something positive that has come out of it.

9. What do you believe that your program does differently than the other teams in your league, conference and or state that allows your program to have such tremendous success?

I’m not sure what the other teams do or how they go about it and we have a lot of great programs that it’s obvious that they are doing a great job. We just concentrate on getting our selves better at everything we do. Coaches are being constantly evaluated along with the players. We spend a lot of time on the little things and how to fix them both on the field and off.

10. What do you consider to have been the single most important thing about your successful season this past year?

Work ethic

SAYING GOODBYE TO SENIORS – 3 TRADITIONS I LOVE

Football programs are built on traditions.  Certain programs do a great job with building tradition, and some don’t.  How does your program do?  Do you have tradition that exerts pride in your players and alumni?  I believe one key in retaining excitement year in and year out from your alumni and your community is building tradition.

My seniors at Capo Valley Christian, class of 2007. These kids won 2 games as sophs, none as juniors. In my first year with them, 2006, we won 5!! I wish I had been able to coach these kids all four of their years! Chris Wilhelm, 44, coached with me for three years after graduating. Great running backs coach.

Fallbrook High School where I played and started my coaching career had a few traditions that I really liked, and so I carried them with me to other schools I’ve coached at.  Two of these specific traditions are in regards to saying goodbye to your seniors, and honoring them in a way that says thank you for your dedication to our program, thank you for your commitment.

1.  “LAST FORTIES”

I don’t know when or how it started at Fallbrook, but the last 40s is one of the best traditions they had, and one of my favorites that I’ve carried on.  It’s something that my seniors have looked forward to.  It’s a great time for the kids to really reflect on the end of their high school football career.  It’s an emotional thing most of the time.  The more invested the kid is in the program, the more emotional this last 40 is for them.

How we do it:  during the last week of the regular season, on Wednesday of game week, we run 40 yard dashes for conditioning.  We run 40s every Wednesday for conditioning.  We don’t condition on Thursdays.

So, we have the seniors run their “last 40” which means that their conditioning for football is done.  (I don’t do conditioning during the playoffs because I’m a strong believer we should be where we need to be by then, and I like to do a bulk of conditioning by playing game speed during practice.)  This last 40 represents all of their hard work in the weight room and on the field running all of those springs, doing all of those drills to get ready for football, etc. coming to an end.

We make a tunnel with all of our underclassmen, coaches, and any parents that come out to celebrate this milestone.  We have the kids run from the goal line to the 40 yard line.  We line up the underclassmen, coaches, and fans every few yards on two sides to create the tunnel.  Then myself and usually the coordinators are at the 50 yard line to give the kids a big hug.

We let the kids do whatever they want for this 40.  Some kids walk it, some kids skip, some kids do a few cartwheels, but I would guess about 75% of them do the hardest sprint they can!  We like to give them that freedom to show their personality.  A lot of the linemen like to walk it, or sprint 20 and then jog.  That’s always kind of funny.  Sometimes the kids that know they are a little clumsy will trip on purpose, stuff like that.  It’s a great tradition!

2.  CARRYING OFF THE SENIORS

Senior Phil Wilhelm being carried off the field by froshie Sam Sukut, November 2010.

This is another tradition from Fallbrook High.  I don’t know how or why it started, but I like it.  At Fallbrook, our stadium was about 400 yards from the locker room, a long walk.

During the entire last week of the regular season, the underclassmen would have to carry off the seniors, all the way to the locker room.  Usually, two underclassmen would partner up to carry a senior.  Some seniors would make you carry them the whole way, and some just wanted you to carry them to their car, or just off the field to the track.  We had one kid, Bill Hernandez, who was 6’8″ 375!  Big dude!  It took three other linemen to carry him off.

Again, this is a tradition I’ve used every year as a head coach.  Luckily for my players, we were never too far from the locker room.  Less then 100 yards in both schools I’ve been at as a head coach.  So, I always liked to have our huddle at the end of practice on the far end of the field!

We also have them carry off the seniors after the game on Friday night.  Of course, it’s always a lot more fun when you win that game

3.  SAYING GOODBYE ONE ON ONE 

Defensive Line Coach Matt Cobb saying goodbye to a senior in 2010 at Capistrano Valley Christian.

After the last game, whenever that is, all of the underclassmen and coaching staff says good bye to the seniors one on one. I can’t remember when I started this tradition, but it’s probably my favorite of these three.

It’s the most emotional time of the year for the kids, because unfortunately I’ve never been on a team that won the Section Championship, so it either comes after the last regular season game if you know you aren’t going to the playoffs, or after your playoff loss.  Either way, it’s the end for the seniors.  No more football ever for most of them.

Saying thank you and goodbye to my center Shane Melzer at Capo Valley Christian, 2007.

We all gather in the end zone after the game for a short talk about the game.  Then, I have all of the seniors line up in their spots.  The way I line them up is four seniors on every 5 yard line.  So, on the goal line, there are four seniors – two on the numbers and two on the hashes.  Then on the 5 yard line, there are four seniors, two on the hashes, and two on the numbers.  You should be able to picture this.  We do as deep as we need to.

I then make a line of the underclassmen and coaching staff.  They start with one of the seniors on the numbers and then move across to the other three, and then move to the next line.  So, what you get is a snake of the underclassmen and staff working their way through all of the seniors one on one.  The underclassmen and coaches say thank you or whatever they want.  They speak first to the seniors, and then the senior can say something.  It’s private and personal.  Everyone usually hugs.

Josh Hector says goodbye to senior Reid Nelson. Josh is now at University of Oregon and Reid at Arizona.

For me personally, as the head coach, I’m always in tears.  You’ve usually spent four years with these kids and this is good bye to them as a player.  It’s an emotional time for everyone.
I encourage you to build tradition in your program.  Little things like these three ideas go a long way to build tradition, pride and a heritage the kids and community love.

BEING A GREAT TEAMMATE by Don Mattingly

I absolutely loved baseball back in the 80s when I was growing up.  Could probably name every starting lineup in the National League.  I grew up in San Diego County.  Can still name the starting lineup of the 84 Padres team that played in their first World Series.

Although he was an American Leaguer, I really loved Don Mattingly.  He was such a consistent hitter.  I came across this quote a long time ago and copied it right out of the magazine I was reading and have had it in my “Motivation” file ever since.  I’ve shared it with a bunch of my teams over the last decade.

Dave Winfield, Willie Randolph, Mattingly, Rickey Henderson, Dave Righetti

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A GREAT  T E A M M A T E!

Team sports are really difficult things.  Sometimes your team wins because of you, sometimes in spite of you and sometimes its like you’re not even there.  That’s the reality of the team game.  Then at one point in my career, something wonderful happened.  I don’t know why or how . . . but I came to understand what “team” meant. 

It meant that although I didn’t get a hit or make a great defensive play, I could impact the team in an incredible and consistent way.  I learned I could impact the team in an incredible and consistent way.  I learned I could impact my team by caring first and foremost about the team’s success and not my own.  I don’t mean by rooting for us like a typical fan.  Fans are fickle.  I mean CARE, really care about the team . . . about “US.”

I became less selfish, less lazy, less sensitive to negative comments.  When I gave up me, I became more.  I became a captain, a leader, a better person and I came to understand that life is a team game.  And you know what?  I’ve found most people aren’t team players.  They don’t realize that life is the only game in town.  Someone should tell them.  It has made all the difference in the world to me.

 – Don Mattingly, current Los Angeles Dodgers Manager and  former Yankee great