Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Depths

Depth is underrated. The value of having quality people in your program is fairly obvious—you need good players to succeed. The number ones on the depth chart are important, but as a coach or leader of a program, one cannot ignore the value of depth and numbers.

Depth in the kids who fill the backup role and must step in when called upon when the starter goes down. Depth in the kids who stand on the sidelines on game night, seemingly for the sole purpose as a show of force in uniform.

Depth is more important than that.

Depth makes a program successful.

A program needs the kids on the third and fourth string—the kids on the low end of the depth totem pole— to make everyone better. These players are the ones who make a program stronger and a lot more fun to be a part of. The “filler” players are the ones who push the kids above them on the depth chart to get better. The challenge, the competition, and the friendly rivalry are the “magic” which makes a team shine.

I used to enjoy working with the football scout team kids in practice. It wasn’t easy for these kids to learn the opponent’s offense and defense on the fly. It was a daily struggle for them to stir up within themselves the intensity and effort to give the first and second string players a quality look in our preparations. We called ourselves the “Black Dogs”. We took pride in what we did. We learned a lot of football running all those opponents schemes and plays.

I’d challenge them to push the other players as much as possible, even if it got a little chippy at times. Honestly, I didn’t mind an occasional scuffle or melee as these mostly occurred when the third string player made a first string player look bad on a play. Oddly enough, after these incidents, the starter usually attacked their practice with renewed effort.

Everybody gets better.

Every day.

You build successful programs from the ground up. You recruit quality depth. You plant the seed of possibility within these kids when they show up at your door. You cultivate their talent with as much, or more, effort as is put into developing your number ones. You give them a sense of importance and value. Everybody sees the intricately carved and beautifully decorated top of the totem pole, but people rarely pay attention to the bottom of the totem pole, which provides the foundation. If the foundation is weak and gives way, the whole thing falls apart.

It takes a special relationship between coaches and these kids on the lower half of the depth chart. A coach needs to make these kids feel like they are an important part of the program and demand effort from them every single practice, workout, and game. These kids don’t get much attention and the attention they get is mostly negative. A classmate poking fun at them for “riding the pine”. A parent chiding them for not being a starter. It’s a tough life for a Black Dog. That’s why a coach needs to be there to encourage and develop them as players.

Every day.

Everyone gets better.

I salute the Black Dogs of the world. I salute the kids who practice hard and work to make themselves and the team better on a daily basis. Without you, a team has no depth. Without you, a team has no foundation. Without you, a program crumbles.

Have patience. Keep working hard. Make your position a better place. And never forget the light at the end of the tunnel. Your time will come.

Next time you see the players at the lower end of the depth chart, give them a high five. Pat them on the back in appreciation for their efforts and cheer them on. THEY are the keys to a successful program. As the old saying goes, “A chain is as strong as its weakest link.”

A program is built from the ground up. Talent is forged from upward pressure and challenge from below.

Everyone contributes. Every day.

CC@Abilene2009

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Fully Formed

I had this recurring dream about showing up to the locker room one day and meeting the principal at the coach’s office door. No, I was not in trouble so this wasn’t the usual administrative nightmare which, in all actuality, was my coaching reality. In my dream, the principal is standing at the office door to introduce me to the strapping athlete at his side, who just happened to transfer to our school. A Brian Urlacher-type. Ready-made out of the box ready to step on the field and dominate.

Fully formed.

Ready to go.

But this never happened. Sure we had our share of kids transfer in, but none of them ever was a Division I caliber athlete.

The mythology of the transfer student.

The mythology of “fully formed” is just that…a myth.

Even in the writing game, nothing starts fully formed. An idea becomes a sentence, the sentence becomes a paragraph, the paragraphs become chapters, and the chapters become a draft. The draft is chopped up and reworked, and then polished to a shine. Next, trusted people read it, suggest changes, and the whole process repeats itself until the book is fully formed.

Hard work is the magic.

Nothing is fully formed out of the box.

When I was just starting out in coaching, I used to grump and griff around that the new kids coming into the program didn’t already know the things I wanted them to know. I’d get frustrated when the kids couldn’t do the things I thought they should do.

I was an idiot.

I would grumble out loud, but Mrs. Hays would point out, “If those kids already knew everything, they wouldn’t need to pay you now, would they?”

Thanks, Mrs. Hays.

I would point a finger at the developmental level coaches and Coach Lane, who taught freshman English class, would say, “I can’t expect 8th graders to come in knowing freshman English, I need to teach them freshman English.”

That’s why he was such a good head coach and mentor.

Everyone needs work. Everyone needs coaching and teaching.

Fully formed never just walks in the door.

Done right with a developmental approach, though, and fully formed can walk out your door.

Developing athletes is a sports coach’s #1 job. It truly is why they pay us.

Developing athletes is the key to success. Make the kids who walk through your door the best they can be. Help them realize their potential and their dreams.

Send them away at the end of their time with you as  fully formed as you can make them.

DB+Parallettes

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Everybody’s Undefeated

This is the time of the year where optimism in high school football rides higher than a Ray Guy punt.

Everybody is undefeated.

Every coach’s scheme is pure gold.

The pads are clean and arranged neatly in a squeaky-clean locker after checkout.

The freshly painted helmets shine like museum pieces, anxiously awaiting their seasonal baptism by that first contact scratch.

Mouthpieces are formed.

The practice fields have fresh lines painted over actual and real grass.

It’s almost time.

Excitement permeates the air while players, parents, and fans dream of the “What If’s”.

What about coaches?

Well, coaches are a different breed, or at least I know I was. These were the most nerve-wrecking days for me of the season. You can have the highest (or lowest) expectations for a group of kids, but you can never be sure of what you are going to get until you strap up the pads and turn it loose.

As a strength and conditioning coach, I worried about everything.

  • Did we develop them enough physically in the offseason?
  • Were they physically in shape and ready to perform?
  • Did we put them to the fire enough to develop their mental and emotional makeup to compete at the level we want to compete at?

As a defensive and offensive line coach, I agonized over the installation and planning schedules.

  • What do we need to learn? And when?
  • Where were my linemen on the developmental scale?
  • What did I need to do to help them get to where they wanted to be and where the team needed them to be?

Tough times.

Exciting times.

Anxious times.

As we put the pedal to the floor and drive toward the 2015 season, we need to temper our “What If” expectations and keep anchored sensibilities.

Be positive, enjoy the ride, and enjoy playing the game or watching your favorite players in action.

Just don’t forget…

Everyone is undefeated right now. In a month, that won’t be true. There will be winning and there will be losing. Either way, life will go on.

Good luck to all players, coaches, and their fans. Football 2015 is just around the corner.

Everybody’s undefeated.

Play hard and have fun.

Hard work is the magic.

 

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