Your Purpose 4Q

Execution of purpose.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.”. Our parents, teachers, coaches, etc. have been telling us this little nugget of wisdom for years upon years, right? Well…it’s about as wrong as me watching the Olympic track & field competition and claiming I’m exercising.

Practice makes perfect ONLY if your practice goal is to be perfect. This means every repetition you perform—and skill development is ALL about repetition—must be done with a drive to improve. A drive to get just a little better each and every time.

We all go through the motions at times in our lives. It’s another slice of human nature. It’s just as easy to coast through practice as both a player and as a coach. This is particularly true as we approach the last third of a sports season and the routine gets…well, routine. As I said in the previous post, time is our biggest enemy. I think we can agree on that, don’t you?

THEN WHY DO WE COACHES WASTE SO MUCH TIME???!!!!

Sorry for shouting, but that wasting practice time thing is a pet peeve of mine. As a player, I hated the standing around doing nothing when there was a whole lot of talk happening and very little action. It drove me nuts back then and still drives me nuts as a 52-year-old.

Have your purpose. Have your plan. But most of all, have the drive and the ability to lead others toward the goal. A coach has to keep a practice session hopping. The average adult attention span (8 seconds) has now dipped below the average attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds). I could infer then that the hormone-driven teenage boy’s attention span would stand to pale in comparison to the goldfish. So if you are going to successfully deal with young athletes, you’d better plan on keeping things short and snappy.

Every season, every week, every day, every minute, every second need someone driving the bus in the right direction and at the right speed. THAT is another one of those unique characteristics of good coaches.

I am a firm believer in coaching fundamentals and drilling fundamentals. A technically sound player is a player you can depend on and build a team upon. There’s only one way to develop a technically sound player and that’s by working toward the goal of perfection with practice and repetition

In fact, you can even sneak this work in where the players don’t even realize they are working. During football practice, we used to do a 15-minute session at the start of practice with the kickers, long snappers, holders, and returners working on their skills. A good portion of the QBs, running backs, and receivers would be a part of this but very few linemen which left a big (both in sheer numbers and sheer size) part of the team watching.

Nobody likes to stand around and watch kickers kick, so we started this game where the linemen did a one-on-one pass drill. Coach Lane and I would be the quarterbacks, each with a line of lineman with us. The first guy in line would jump out and play defense and the second guy would be the receiver and run a pass route. The fifteen minutes would fly by. The Bubbas would really get into the competition, trying to score a reception on the offensive side or getting an interception or a pass breakup on the defensive end.

It was fun! The linemen would get the rare chance to touch the football, they would get a chance to talk trash and prove their skills in front of everyone. I also had fun slinging footballs in my best Kenny Stabler imitation.

But while all this was going on, nobody ever realized they were actually working. They worked on their footwork, they worked on their hand-fighting skills, and they learned how to establish leverage. I think anyone would agree those are all skills important to being a lineman. Also, they probably ran the equivalent of around a dozen or so sprints without complaint or without notice. In contrast, when we lined them up after practice to run a dozen sprints for conditioning, you should have heard the groaning and whining.

Bottom line: Execute your purpose and DON’T WASTE TIME.

In particular, don’t waste practice time. Maximize your purpose in your practice. Every single thing you do should be done for the purpose of getting better. There is no standing still in life or in sports. You are either getting better or going backward.

By the way, it’s too bad no video record exists of the quarterbacking skills of Coach Lane and myself. It was glorious. Not shabby for a couple offensive line coaches. Don’t laugh, I still have the sore arm to prove it…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There wasn’t a whole lot of executed purpose this night, but the picture with the Lane Brothers is one of my favorites and one of the few “action” shots I have.

Final Note: The “Your Purpose?” blog post began as a rant that grew and grew until it was beyond the scope of one post. It became a four post rant. Yowzers! But I’ve seen this problem of lack of purpose derail many teams and programs. Teams that I played on, teams I’ve coached, teams I’ve observed and teams I’ve been a fan of. It bugs the hell out of me, both in my own failures and observed failures. It seems so simple. It seems as simple as wearing pants before going out of the house. You wear pants when you leave the house, don’t you? Then why go “pantless” when you approach coaching?

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Your Purpose 3Q

Time.

We all fight it. We all struggle with it. It’s always moving and there never seems to be enough of it.

Double this sentiment for a sports coach. Time is our biggest enemy. Wasted time is a coach’s biggest regret. That is why we have to build a purpose of time into our greater purpose.

Okay, let’s say we want to win the football game against our rival next Friday night. We need to purpose our time properly. We need to develop a strategy that helps us achieve the vision. We watch scout film, both on our rivals past few games to determine how they approach a game and, just as important, our recent games to evaluate our mistakes. We need to organize and execute the practice preparation to get ready for the contest.  As you can see, every second matters.

Success is no accident or random occurrence.

Time is valuable. It is valuable to everyone. That is something I think we, as coaches, often fail miserably at. Kids have more legitimate time constraints now more than at any other time I can ever remember. Family responsibilities, church obligations, school obligations, extracurricular activities, work, hobbies, multiple sports commitments that demand time, especially in the summer.

As an effective leader working under today’s time constraints, you need to make the most of the time that you ask your players to commit. If you are going to ask them to come for summer conditioning every day at 6:30 AM, you damn well better send them home at 7:45-8:00 AM exhausted and drained so they feel like getting up a 6:30 AM was not a waste of their time. That responsibility is part of the unwritten trust contract I always felt was so important to establish between coach and player. We, as coaches, should be able to look the players in the eye after every practice or workout and say, “Today, I did not waste your time.”

Be able to fulfill that promise with a solid purpose of time day after day after day and you will have a team who will follow you to the ends of the earth. A team who will jump into the fire with you and compete with every fiber of their being. A team who will believe in your purpose and wrap themselves heart and soul with it. A team with complete trust in you as a coach; a trust that weaves its way through every member of the team.

  • THAT is the point of critical mass.
  • THAT is when the fun starts.
  • THAT is the magic of sports.

And it all starts with TIME.

Wooden_hourglass_3

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Your Purpose 2Q

“Great dreams aren’t just visions, they are visions coupled to strategies for making them real.” – Astro Teller, X (formerly Google X)

Early in my football coaching career, probably my second or third year, I did one of the most asinine things I ever did as a coach. It was the first week of summer conditioning. A good part of the CCCHS summer conditioning program was my baby. It was a huge responsibility. It was a responsibility I did not take lightly. It was my primary purpose.

I did the work. All year. Researched, read papers, visited K-State Strength Coach Rod Cole, watched videos, etc. ad nauseum to 99.99% of the population. I tried to put together the best program for our kids with the equipment we had or what could be scrounged up or made by the wizard-skills of Coach Lane. It was, a vision coupled with a strategy.

  • Our purpose was to physically hit the opponent like a cannon shot every, single play.
  • Our strategy was to develop the explosive power necessary to generate the force to hit the opponent hard every, single play. In a nutshell, F = ma.

So, the plan was set. We had a good start to the first week. The kids had listened well and picked up on the plan. Sure, there was whining and moaning and even some groaning, but if you’re a coach and you’re not getting some of that appropriately directed complaining, you may reevaluate how you are challenging your kids. I was feeling good. I was riding high.

We show up for the Thursday workout. 6:30 AM. We go through warm-ups. The kids come into the weight room, split off in their Bullets, Bricks, and Bubbas groups, and get to work. Next came the asinine, Coach Hays incident. It started with an innocent tap on my shoulder. I turn and there stands an innocent, young freshman holding a half-inch stack of dot-matrix printer paper and looking down at the ground to avoid all eye contact.

“Yes?” I ask the young man.

He pushes the stack of papers toward me and mutters, “My mom told me I need to do this workout.”

“Oh, really.”

“Yeah, she found it on the internet.”

I nod and take the papers. With the young man still standing there, I take one step forward and ceremoniously drop the internet-found road to athletic glory into the trash receptacle. I then address the bug-eyed, jaw dropped to his navel, freshman.

“Tell your mother where your workout ended up”

He had that distinct look of someone who was about to pee their pants.

“Also, tell her we know what we’re doing. Now go get to work.”

He released a slow sigh of relief, smiled, and joined his workout group. Not a word was heard on that issue again.

Take-home lesson:

  • Have a purpose that is backed up by a solid plan.
  • TRUST the plan.
  • SELL the plan to your people.

Also, don’t be a jackass in the process…unless it’s totally necessary.

Great dreams need a vision.

Plate

Note: That young freshman turned out a pretty damn good athlete in the long run—even without the collective intellect of internet weightlifting workouts. Excellent football player, state-caliber wrestler, all-around good (and ornery) guy, and very successful adult family man/businessman.

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Your Purpose?

“Dreams aren’t just visions, they’re visions coupled to strategies for making them real.” -Astro Teller

Purpose sounds like something so, so simple. It seems like common sense to have a defined purpose when one takes on an endeavor. Especially in a sports endeavor, you would think approaching that sport with a purpose and a systematic plan would come natural, right? It seems purpose should be one of the necessities of sports coaching, don’t you think?

Truth is, it’s not.

Wanting to win is not a purpose. Everybody wants to win. It’s human nature to want to succeed; it’s written in our DNA. But what sets coaches and programs apart from one another often starts with purpose. Effort and hard work are essential but without a purpose effort and work are wasted.

I used to see this lack of purpose, or more accurately a lack of defined purpose, quite often in the coaching world. There are two types of purposeful coaches. The first are the ones who just copy or borrow a purpose. You see this type a lot at coaching clinics. They hear a talk or see a workout or scheme program and take it lock, stock, and barrel back to their kids and try to make their kids fit into it.

The other type of purposeful coach—the ones I think are generally more successful in their programs—take the same information as the first type of coach but they pick, choose, and mold those ideas to fit their athletes. They know their purpose and know how to mesh information to support their purpose.

In high school sports, a coach must lead with a purpose. Every day and with everything you ask kids to do must be done for a reason. You can’t throw a blanket idea out there expecting the kids to see the purpose and commit to it. That is not what a leader does.

A leader leads.

A leader has a defined purpose.

A defined purpose that is custom fit for his or her athletes.

A purpose that gives the athletes the best chance at success. A purpose they also can envision. A purpose they willingly dedicate themselves to attain.

Everybody wants to win. They just need guidance and need to be shown the way.

The answer is not simply in a book. The answer is not simply in a purchased training program. The answer is not what Coach X does at X College.

The answer is defining a purpose that your people can buy into. A purpose that does not waste their time and not wasting kids’ time is VERY IMPORTANT in today’s culture. A coach is competing with all kinds of pretty damn fun and cool alternatives to working your ass off for three hours a day every day, you better make your time with them worth THEIR time.

Whatever the endeavor, if you’re not happy with the results you are getting, try redefining your PURPOSE. You and your people may find you like the results.

Rings

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Eyes On One Another

Everybody knows the basics of what a good sports coach does. Organization, planning, strategy, motivation, and discipline are just a few traits of a solid coach. There’s also one very important factor of a successful team that a coach can only sow the seed of. 

It’s the peer to peer drive to get better.

The standard the players hold each other to in getting better every day.

The accountability to do the job you are supposed to do, to be where you should be, and to make the team better by your presence.

It’s the individual push in a player’s mind to not let his teammates down.

But unless the players accept this seed the coach has planted and grow it, they will never reach their full potential.

The really great teams I’ve been around had this trait within their ranks. They got on each other’s case about missed assignments, missed workouts or missed efforts, and did it in a positive (well, as positive as high school boys can be) way. In short, the players needed to keep an eye on each other and realize others were keeping an eye on them.

Peer to peer drive is what makes great teams. They don’t allow each other to fail. They don’t allow each other to slide. They keep the standard high and they keep the train on the track.

It’s a thing of beauty when it is chugging down the rails, believe me. An ugly, chocolate-mess-that-never-even-gets-close-to-fulfilling-their-team-potential when it struggles down the track.

How does a coach sow the seeds?

Number one, almost everything you do needs to be done in an environment where the players can actually get their eyeballs on one another.

A single session for off-season workouts and conditioning sessions. Everybody needs to be there and everybody needs to see who is there doing the work, who is there slacking off, and who did not even show up. Players learn from these sessions who they can count on as teammates. All the frigging movie nights, dinners, campfire sing-alongs, are wasted time if the players don’t find out who they can count on when the caca hits the fan. When the going gets tough, who can I count on to get going with me?

Two. You have to set up an organization that allows the players to work out their issues while within a safe environment for everybody. This means feelings will get hurt, egos will get stomped into the ground, and kids may even argue or fight. The players need to work these things out without going overboard. They need to learn to develop trust with the people they will stand side-by-side with during competition.

Three. Give the players a sense of ownership. As a coach, you are the person in charge. No questions should ever be asked about who is the king of the castle. This should be established from day one, hour one, minute one. But the goal is to be the leader, not the dictator. Have a plan, have a philosophy but be willing to listen and incorporate input from the players who are actually out playing the game. If you’ve done your job right teaching them the game, they will be able to analyze problems and help with solutions. A sense of ownership goes a long way in team-building.

Whether you are a coach or a player, you can do the little things to help your squad live up to its potential.

Be reliable and demand reliability.

Be accountable and demand accountability.

Work hard and demand the same from your peers.

Do your job and demand others to do theirs.

Enjoy the game and enjoy playing with your peers.

Keep your eyes on the prize.

Keep your eyes on one another.

Unruh from scoreboard

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Trained Eye

“At Level I (certification), they told us we would be practicing and refining the basics for the rest of our career, but the truth of it is that I and many others had approached it looking for the step-by-step instructions that made us worthy of the title “Coach.” We came for our checklists and expected to leave with a certificate. But it doesn’t work like that. Because no amount of technical know-how can substitute for a seasoned coach’s eye. That’s what I was missing at my Level II: I was aiming too low.”      – Greg Woods,  SFG II-Certified Fitness & Training Coach

It is the eye that makes the difference. The eye which is developed through hours and hours upon hours of watching and learning. The Trained Eye as we often call it. The Coach’s Eye. Something that the most effective coaches have.

Something that the most effective coaches have.

Something ineffective coaches lack.

It is the ability to watch and see the correct movement. The ability to see the incorrect movement, diagnose the problem and take the proper corrective action. The ability to recognize and analyze the patterns of a skill or game is vital to success. It is gestalt psychology put into action that often separates skill level. Mastering the necessary patterns should be the goal of any training or coaching endeavor. This is what the Trained Eye is all about.

Hitting a baseball, for example, is a skill I like to think I have a pretty decent Coach’s Eye for (see Hitting Position: The Hosmer Breakdown post). This particular eye for hitting a baseball has been a 50-year work-in-progress. I’ve been a hitter since I was old enough to lift my Carl Yastrzemski-signed 28” Louisville Slugger wood bat above my shoulder. I had great coaches, brothers, and neighborhood baseball gang to lay the foundation of growing up a hitter.

I studied hitting by watching live games and batting practices and games on the TV and by hitting. Later as a coach, I became a disciple of front hand hitting and learned from observation, videos, books, and the old standby…trial and error. To make a long story short, my eye for coaching hitters took hours and hours upon hours. (And I’m still learning!)

Football offensive and defensive line coaching was no different. Neither was strength and conditioning coaching. The Coach’s Eye was necessary to teach proper footwork, body positioning, hand placement, and leverage. Knowing what these skills look like, knowing how to teach them effectively, and knowing how to correct them, are vital to success.

I often get strange looks while coaching hitting sessions or watching games when I make a comment about how a hitter is off-balance or a defensive end loses leverage and gives up a big play. What earns strange looks from these otherwise normal human beings? In these situations, I can see the pattern when others can’t. The spatial relationships of a swing at a low, outside fastball or weaknesses in a defensive front stand out when I watch them.

As the 2016 Olympics draw near, pay attention to the judging and coaching with the world-class athletes competing in Rio. Challenge yourself to try and see the patterns. To my untrained eye, all the gymnastics routines look pretty much the same—unless somebody falls. Finding the consistent patterns in these sport movements is tough to the casual observer. The difference between a gold medal and simply being there for the post-event party in the athlete’s village is often a whisker-thin-line only noticeable by the trained eye of a coach or a judge.

Not surprisingly, the Trained Eye goes beyond the realm of sport.

In science, trained eyes make great discoveries.

In art, trained eyes produce beautiful works.

In writing, stories get “easier” to create at a higher level of quality as the development of the Writer’s Eye improves.

Just about any skill or ability to teach any skill improves with hours and hours upon hours of development of the Eye.

Find your passion and get started on your own Trained Eye.

Iris_close-up

 

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A Look Back: Hell Week Friday

NOTE: This is a look in the rear view mirror at what we used to do for the first week of summer conditioning. It was dubbed “Hell Week” by participants. Friday…the final day of the first week. We’ve started the bodies on the road to becoming the explosive athletes we need to be in order to compete. We’ve started to thread in a team concept and give the kids an idea of what it takes to play Clay Center Tiger Football. And now it’s time to wrap up Week One and slingshot our way toward the season.

Friday of Hell Week was one of my favorite days of coaching football, especially in those years we were able to move the Friday Hell Week workout to our home field, the historic Otto Unruh Stadium. On Friday, we introduced the kids to the historic aspect of the program. We tried to make the kids aware they were part of something bigger and something greater. It is important for us to have a foot rooted in the past while the other moves forward. We also tried to make the kids aware of the role they have in the community and to appreciate the town that supports them like few other places on this earth.

Friday.  Finally the end of the week.  The attitudes and the energy are riding high.  Kids are working through the soreness and starting to feel like human beings again.  Friday.  This was a special day for me.  Tiger Tradition Day.  Until the admins told us we couldn’t use our stadium due to grounds-keeping concerns, we did the Hell Week Friday at Otto Unruh Stadium.  I think we lost something magical when we quit running this first Friday workout at the stadium.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have never asked the admins for permission to use stadium facility.  Shoot first and ask questions later.

Friday

Winning is not a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing.  You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do the right thing once in a while; you do things right all the time.  Winning is a habit.”         -Vince Lombardi

6:30 -6:40  Stretch Runs
6:40-7:30  Tiger Tradition

I.  FANS – Otto Unruh Stadium seats

A.  Expectations and community pride

1.  Fans, parents, relatives want to see you do well, everyone wants us to be successful.

2.  Strong community sense of pride in this school’s athletic programs.

10 Stair Sprints – sprint up, walk down.

B.  Entertainment and Social Importance

1.  Friday night in America – CC true to this mantra.

2.  Tiger Football is the show on Friday nights in this town.

Families, friends all gather to celebrate Tiger football…Let’s give them the best damn show EVERY Friday night.  Let’s let our families and friends to have something to BRAG about and be PROUD of.

5 minutes of stadium stairs

II. Tradition – Otto Unruh Stadium Sign
A.  100 years of Clay Center football
1.  836 games, 453-337-46 record, a .542 winning %
2. 63% of all teams had a winning record
3.  10 undefeated seasons

B.  Highlights and Dynasties
1. V.R. Vegades Era 1920-1926; 42-10-2, a .778 winning %, 1920 – 7-1 record

  • 1921 – 8-1 undefeated regular season. Lost to Topeka in playoffs.
  • 1922 – 7-1 Did not get scored on all season until last game, a 7-6 loss to Manhattan.  Beat Concordia 101-0.
  • 1923 – 6-1, No TD’s given up the entire season. Lost final game to Manhattan 6-3 but only gave up 2 FG’s.
  • 1924 – 6-1, only gave up 3 TD’s all season.

2.  C.A. Nelson Era 1930-1941; 69-27-13, a .670 winning %

  • 3 undefeated seasons.

3.  Otto Unruh Era, 1945-1966; 126-65-8, a .633 winning %

Won 3 Class A State Championships; Domination and consistent competitiveness in the CKL; Nationally published book “How to Coach Winning Football”.

  • 3 undefeated 9-0 seasons.
  •  1956 and 1957 teams went 18-0 and won 2 state titles.
  • 1963 team went 8-1 and won state championship.  Only loss of year was to Manhattan, 7-6, on a missed PAT.

4.  Larry Wiemers Era, 1977-1994; 114-71, a .616 winning%

  • Solid, consistent football over twenty years.1978, 1979, 1980 teams went 26-5.
    -2 District championships and 3 NCKL titles
  • 1980 team went 10-1, losing only to Andover in the regional final.
    -1983, 1984, 1985 teams went 25-8
    -Substate, district and bi-district titles.
  • 1993 team went 10-1
    -NCKL champs, district, bi-district, regional runner-up
    -Andover regional heartbreaker loss at Unruh Stadium.

100 yard flip hip sprint to north end.
100 yard bear crawl back.

III.  Hold the Rope

A.  This is OUR HOUSE, this is OUR TURF!  We will crank it up an extra notch at home.

B.  Where do you want to fit into the Tiger Tradition?  Who in this group is going to Hold the Rope?
Coach Lane reads Hold the Rope while 5 min. Chain Wall Sit across stadium wall.

IV.  Breakdown – 50 yard line
Imagine:  Friday night in Clay Center, America. Walk as team to north end zone.

100 yard sprint to touch the “Otto Unruh Stadium” sign.

 

Unruh from scoreboard

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