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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A Look Back: Hell Week Thursday

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. Thursday rolled around, our systems have been duly shocked and now it’s time to start the process of building a team attitude. Try to instill the importance of being the best you that you can be for the good of the team. Be part of the whole, not the whole part.

If there was an easier day to Hell Week, it had to be Thursday.  Speed work, low volume/high intensity, following our motto of getting faster by running fast,  then finishing the workout with agility cone runs.  The team building activity of having a blindfolded returning letter man being guided by underclassmen teammates through an obstacle course was a thing of beauty.  If, of course, you are the kind of person who considers a blindfolded, 250 lbs. offensive lineman (with a somewhat nasty disposition) trying to climb steps under the guidance of several scared-to-death-sophomores a thing of beauty.

Hell Week 2005

Thursday

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  Attitude and Self-Improvement

Attitude
1. “I’ll do it” instead of “I’ll try”
2.  Overcome the urge to quit or to not even try at all.

Self Improvement –identify weaknesses and improve

6:40-6:45  Stretch Runs

6:45-7:00  Sprint Ladder
10-4, 20-4, 40-2, 100-2   


7:00-7:15 Cut Circuit:  4 groups/4 flat cones per drill
1. Down and Backs – 3x
2. U-Turns – 3x Right and 3x left
3. Zig zags – 3x
4. Cut Drill – 3x down and 3x back

7:15 Hold the Rope – Freshman Read
Blindfold relay race.
Returning letterman blindfolded with team partners talking them through course.

Breakdown

Tigers 2006 runout

 

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A Look Back: Hell Week Tuesday & Wednesday

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. I had a local businessman tell me once that he knew when we had started summer conditioning each year because he’d see the boys walking around town like old men because they were so sore. I liked that. And in a couple weeks, the boys would start liking the athletic transformation their bodies would go through.

Tuesday of Hell Week was a day to actively recover from the shock of Monday.  Emphasis was put on warming up with our dynamic routine forcing oneself to obtain a full range of motion in the muscles.  Time to stretch out  the things we spent yesterday tightening up.  But don’t get confused thinking Tuesday was a vacation day.  It was simple, but it was hard.  Many kids this year still fondly remember the lunges up and down the hill at all possible angles.  The hill at Clay Center Community High School was (and still is) a real SOB.

Hell Week 2005

Tuesday

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  5 P’s  Purpose, Pride, Passion, Persistence, Performance

6:40-6:45  Stretch Runs

6:45-7:00  Hill Series (6 lines)
Runs- Forward and Back
Bear – Up and Down
Lunge Walk – Forward and Back, Diagonal Up & Down, Left and Right Across
Duck Walk – Forward, walk down

7:00-7:15  Four Corner Drill

7:15 Hold the Rope – Juniors Read
Team Cage Carry
1.  Seniors one lap.

2.  Returning lettermen, everyone else sits once then sit on cage.

3.  Whole Team

7:20  Abs – 50 Sit Ups

Breakdown

 

Wednesday of Hell Week, the day after the day after soreness is the worst.  Kids would be so sore they wouldn’t even be whining.  They would think it would be a somewhat easy day since we were repeating the body weight circuit.  That is how a teenage boy thinks, it HAS to be easier today than it was Monday, doesn’t it?  But, with the soreness being worked out,  it was just as hard.  Then the hammer comes down in the form off upper body plyometrics,  military push-ups, side to side push-ups, wheelbarrows, push-up walk, walk the plank and around the world push-ups.  Whoa, makes me hurt just thinking about it!

Hell Week 2005

Wednesday

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  Performance Triangle: Nutrition, Hydration and Rest

6:40-6:50  Stretch Runs

6:50-7:05  Body Weight Circuit

Jumping Jacks 50
Push-Ups 20
Crunch Series – 10 center, right, center, left, center
Lunges- 10 each leg
Navy Seals- 10
Sit-Ups- 20
Squat Jumps- 20
Push Ups Side to side- 10
Walk the Planks- 3 down and back
Split Lunge Jumps- 12
Crunch Series- 10 center, right, center, left, center
Squat and Touch- 15
Walkouts- 10
Sit Ups- 20
Around the Clock Lunges
Supermans- 2 x 30 seconds

7:05-7:15 Upper Body Plyos
1.  Military Push-ups, Side to Side Push-ups.
2.  Wheelbarrows, Push-up Walk
3.  Walk the Planks, Around the World Push-ups

7:15 Hold the Rope – Sophomores
Inverted Wall Hold

Breakdown

Tigers @ Royal Valley 2008

 

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A Look Back: Hell Week Monday

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. I always wanted to start the summer program as soon as possible after state track. Wait any longer and the high school kids slip into bad sleep and exercise habits that take ANOTHER full month to break. Another full month we are falling behind the competition. My belief was (and still is) that every day of training is vital and that one day wasted puts you three days behind.

Monday of Hell Week was designated as a “wake your body up” workout.  Not easy, but not too hard, just hard enough to make the kids conclude they needed to get to get in shape.  Below is the workout plan from 2005.  I think we had nine trash cans in the vicinity of the CCCHS gym and by the end of the second round of body weight circuit, they all had a young potential football player leaning over them.  Needless to say, the bodies were awake.

Hell Week 2005

Monday

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  Expectations
Make yourself better every day this summer…have fun and get better.
We need everyone to contribute in a positive fashion on and off field.
Find your niche and become great at what you do.

STAND TALL RULE
No bending over, sitting, leaning, kneeling…EVER
Bending over physically = Bending over mentally

6:40-6:50  Stretch Runs

6:50-7:05  Body Weight Circuit

Jumping Jacks 50
Push-Ups 20
Crunch Series – 10 center, right, center, left, center
Lunges- 10 each leg
Navy Seals- 10
Sit-Ups- 20
Squat Jumps- 20
Push Ups Side to side- 10
Walk the Planks- 3 down and back
Split Lunge Jumps- 12
Crunch Series- 10 center, right, center, left, center
Squat and Touch- 15
Walkouts- 10
Sit Ups- 20
Around the Clock Lunges
Supermans- 2 x 30 seconds

7:05-7:20 Agility Stations(~ 5min each.)
1.  Gate Drill
2.  5 Cone
3.  Full Moons/Half Moons
4.  5-10-5

7:20-7:30  Seniors- read “Hold the Rope”
Wall Sit 5 min.

cropped-tiger-huddle-20061.jpg

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The Greatest

Muhammad Ali has died. The Greatest is gone.

When I was a kid, I did not like Ali.

He scared me.

Ali was a brash and loud athlete. I was a quiet, shy kid-athlete. I didn’t understand him. Besides, he beat my boxing heroes Joe Frazier and the young George Foreman. Loud and boisterous beat stoic and quiet.

I’m sure there was also the religious aspect, Muslim. Which, as a young Catholic school kid, I had zero understanding of in the 1970’s. There was a political aspect, which, as a young, middle-class white kid on the fringe of a large, metropolitan area, I had very little understanding of.

It wasn’t until I saw an episode of my can’t-miss Saturday sports show hosted by Charlie Jones that my whole worldview on Muhammad Ali shifted. The majority of the show highlighted Ali’s training regimen. It was impressive. The amount of work and the intensity and focus on which he approached training converted me to a fan right there.

And of course, as the camera rolled so did Ali’s mouth. I barely noticed it.

For the first time, I saw Muhammad Ali for what he truly was—the greatest. The work it took on a daily basis to make his time in the ring appear completely effortless and natural as he floated  “like a butterfly and stung “like a bee”.

I saw a man doing 3000 sit-ups in a day before, during, and after sparring/running/speed bag/heavy bag work. About one-third of those being done on a trainer pounding on his torso with boxing gloves as he completed each rep. That image never left me.

Memories. Good and bad.

Memories of a day and a sport long gone.

Memories of Muhammad Ali.

The Greatest.

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