Tag Archives: Football Coaching

Touch The Sign

When I was just starting out as a Rule 10 football coach at Clay Center Community High School back in the year 2000, I was a mild mannered, timid, and completely clueless football coa…SCREEECHHH.

Sorry boys for the stretch of the truth, please let me start again.

Okay, when I was just starting out as a Rule 10 football coach back in the year 2000, I was an excitable, raving lunatic, who was completely clueless as a football coach. There, I said it. Then something happened. I read the Blackie Book and I read Coach Otto Unruh’s book, HOW TO COACH WINNING FOOTBALL.

The Blackie Book is a compilation put together (and updated each year) by Coach Blackie Lane. It contains virtually the entire historic record of high school football in Clay Center. It is an incredible piece of history and if you haven’t seen it, you should make the effort.

HOW TO COACH WINNING FOOTBALL by the long time Clay Center and Bethel College head coach is a valuable slice of wisdom, both in the schematic football knowledge of the day and in the timeless methodology of coaching young boys into young men.

I read these two documents and became transformed by the tradition of football in our town. I realized what a heavy responsibility fell on one who coaches in this program and I vowed not to be a disappointment. I worked and read, and read and worked. I research and studied football coaching, football theory, especially offensive and defensive line play. But most of all, I studied strength and conditioning.

We aren’t big in CC, we aren’t exceedingly fast, and never really have been. But tradition holds these truths; we play hard, we hit hard, and we come after you every play of every game.

Tiger Tradition.

Another thing we started doing back around 2002 (or one of those years) was having each player touch the Otto Unruh Stadium sign at the south end of the stadium prior to pregame introductions. Fans may or may not have ever noticed this, but they still do it.

I don’t coach anymore, mostly because of the excitable, raving lunatic descriptors I used earlier in this post. Out of curiosity, though, I asked a couple current players if they knew why they “Touch the Sign” before home games. They did not know, but they were eager to find out. So, here is the reason you touch that sign, boys.

We “Touch The Sign” before we take the field for home games at Otto Unruh Stadium as a tribute to all those who played Clay Center Football before us.

We pledge with that one touch we will play with honor, courage, intensity, and sportsmanship on our home field and in front of our community.

We promise we will leave the Clay Center mark on our opponent in defeat and in victory. They will know by their battered and tired bodies they played the Clay Center Tigers.

We play for 100+ years of Clay Center football:

  • 836 games, 453-337-46 record, a .542 winning %
  • 63% of all teams had a winning record
  • 10 undefeated seasons

We play for the early Clay Center 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 % and 3 undefeated seasons.

We play for the Otto Unruh Era:

  • 1945-1966; 126-65-8, a .633 winning %
  • Won 3 Class A State Championships
  • 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.

We play for the Larry Wiemers Era:

  • 1977-1994; 114-71, a .616 winning%
  • 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

So, gentlemen, there’s the story behind why you Touch the Sign. Good luck and NEVER forget,

There is no #TigerFamily without #TigerTradition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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The Whole Alphabet

I was (am) a developmental coach. It’s what I do, teach the basics, build the fundamentals, and show kids how to compete. To me, the development of athletes is the core job of a sports coach.

In fact, for about any endeavor which requires training or supervision of people, the development of resources (people) is vital to a successful organization. Teachers develop kids; senior scientists take young scientists under their wing and show them what they know. Artists, writers, welders, mechanics all do the same, help develop the young or fledgling talent that comes knocking at the door.

Like I said, I am a developmental coach. The goal is to build a player from the ground up. Start with a fundamental foundation of physical movement skills and lay the bricks onto the foundation one at a time until a complete player begins to form.

Brick by brick we get better.

A coach can never emphasize enough the importance of the learning the playbook in football and baseball. We can work the fundamentals until we are blue in the face, but if the athlete fails to do the mental work necessary to burn the plays and responsibilities in their head, we are not going to be successful.

Below is one of my standard (and favorite) things to say to the young JV football or baseball players in order to get across the importance of studying and learning the plays to the point they become second nature.  

“The playbook is like the alphabet. If you learn all the letters, you can make any word you want. The world becomes wide open to you. If all you learn is A, B, and C, then the only word you can make is ‘CAB’.  You’ve severely limited yourself. And people, you can’t get very far in life when all you have in the arsenal is ‘CAB’.”

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Coach Hays Rant: Summertime!

Summer conditioning time is coming around the mountain, boys and girls. Time for a few Coach Hays rants to get the ball rolling. Of all the things about coaching high school sports I could miss, the sidelines, the dugout, the practices, etc., the one one thing I miss (besides the kids) is summer conditioning. I don’t think too many summer programs across the state did things the way we did back then. Every minute of summer had to be intense, focused, and productive.

Iron

Why?

  • The professional teams draft the cream of the crop and then develop them.
  • College programs recruit the best they can find and then develop them.
  • High school programs (except for the few private schools) take what walks through your door and then drive and push them to develop into the best they can be.

We had to do things different. We didn’t have big kids, we didn’t have fast kids, and we had very few superstar raw talents. We had to work our butts off. We had to maximize what we had, which was tough, hard working kids. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade our kids for anything, though I wish we could have had their 22 year-old bodies when they were 17. Late bloomers.

Rings

I miss it. I miss the groans and moans at 6:30 AM. I miss the energy of 50 kids working hard. I miss pushing them to do things the right way, every time. I loved it and I did it every day from June to mid-August for nine summers for a whopping cumulative salary of $0.00. Best job I ever had.

I will always be extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish with the resources we were allocated and the meager school support. I am proud to have achieved the results we did through the incredible effort, the desire to improve, and the high level of buy-in from the kids.

Plate

Man, alive! It gets me excited just thinking about it. Get busy, Kids of Summer 2013. Take advantage of your opportunities. Get in touch if you have a question or need some help. I’ll be glad to help if you have something you want to work on.

Hard work is the magic.

Here’s a little something to roll around in your head until the next rant on “Easy”:

The Coach Hays High School Sports Roles

The Athlete – Show up everyday with the desire and effort to get better.

The Coach – Show up everyday with the desire and the plan to make athletes better.

The Parent – Be your athlete’s biggest fan and supporter.

The Official/Umpire – Please be patient and take into account that Coach Hays is an idiot.

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The Bullfighters of the Defensive Line

A defensive lineman’s job is simple; protect your gap and create chaos. If it is a run play, attack your gap and make the play. If the run play goes away from you, attack your gap and pursue flat down the line to make the play if the runner cuts back. If the play is a pass play, then rush your gap, contain the quarterback in the pocket and get one hand up to cut the quarterback’s field of vision.

The weapons of a defensive lineman are his feet and his hands. Good footwork off the snap of the football puts the d-lineman’s hips squarely into his gap and in position to defend his piece of turf. The body follows the feet is a fundamental we stressed in everything. The hands skills, which we called the quick draw/lockout, allow the d-lineman to keep the blocker away from his body. Keeping clean allows him to be an effective defender, not a player getting run down the field by the offensive blockers. Whoever wins the battle of the body in the football trenches usually has the greatest amount of success.  The ability to legally use one’s hands to lockout and shed blockers is about the only advantage the defensive lineman is given, so he must use his hands effectively as well as his feet.

In the effective defensive line scheme, the defensive lineman must command a double team by the offensive lineman. We taught the defensive lineman to hold their ground and not give a single, teeny-tiny inch of their turf to a double team block. We taught them to make a wall and/or a pile in the offense’s intended running lanes at the line of scrimmage to disrupt their rhythm. If the offense had to double team our defensive lineman on every play, it allowed our linebackers to move unabated to make plays. If the offense chose to man block our defensive lineman, we taught our kids to take advantage and dominate the game. Our d-line goal was NEVER to get beat one on one.

One of our biggest challenges for the  defensive line comes when facing the power offense teams. In our experience, it was the teams that ran the Double Wing offense and the Double Tight Wishbone Belly offense. Contrary to popular football belief, these compressed formation offenses are not boring “3 yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy offenses. They are both big play offenses, capable of scoring from anywhere and everywhere on the football field at virtually any time the defense makes a mistake.

These teams are usually aggressive, athletic, physical and relentless in their approach and attitude. As a defense against these teams, we must knew we had to match the offense’s aggressiveness; we must match their athleticism and physicality, and we must be as, or more, relentless. What we want to do as a defense is eliminate their big play capability and stop them cold at the line of scrimmage or force the offense to methodically move down the field in a “3 yard and a cloud of dust” manner. It was absolutely vital that the defensive line made a wall and forced piles of humanity in the running lanes. We wanted to test their patience and force them out of their comfort zone and rhythm. We knew if we executed on each and every play of the game, it became a battle of will and patience. And honestly, I would have taken our kids in a battle of will and patience anytime and anyplace, against any opponent.

Of course, we had to work on these skills all season in order to reach proficiency. Footwork, quick draws, and lockouts were drilled daily. But, when it came time to play the power running teams, we have to ramp up our skills in making walls and forming piles at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, this isn’t a skill learned through talk or only through hitting dummies. This is a skill learned through contact and challenge and repetition. It is a mental skill as much as a physical skill. Nobody in their right mind really wants to fire off the ball, drive their shoulder pad through the offensive lineman’s thigh pad while punching up and out with the butt of their hands to only end up at the bottom of a pile of humanity every single play. But, that is what we had to do, so we came up with the Bullfights. The Bullfights were one of my favorite drills of all time. We incorporated into the weekly defensive line preparation for the weeks where the defensive line had to up our game.

Bullfights

We place six  2” x 6” board about four to five foot long on the ground parallel to each other around five yards apart. The defensive linemen would match up in pairs of “similar’s”, or guys of similar size, age, aggressiveness, etc. One partner would line up in a three or four point stance, straddling the board at one end, while the other partner would do the same at the other end.  The pair would almost line up helmet to helmet in their stances to avoid a high velocity collision or to give advantage to the quicker lineman. On the whistle, the two would fire off the line and struggle for position and leverage while keeping one foot rooted on either side of the board. The goal was to drive the opponent either back off the board length or force the opponent to lose foot contact on both sides of the board.

We’d drill about 10 reps of this with the partner and then we would match up for an elimination tournament. The same basic setup and rules, except with the winners of each round move on while the losers had to work their way up a consolation bracket. In the end, there were only two remaining bullfighters slated for the finals.  Always fun, always exciting and always drove home the point of how we needed to play our defensive line position.

I wish I had a video of one of these competitions. They were so much fun. Making piles of humanity at the line of scrimmage…I do miss that horribly!

OLE’

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The Crap Quotes

Warning: This post is rated PG-13 for language.

Language. Communication. Coaching. Teaching.
When one is coaching teenage boys, these four points listed above can become a challenge. Kids have well-honed BS meters; they know when an adult is being sincere and when they are blowing smoke at them. They want to hear the answers and they want confidence out of their leaders. They want to be taught the Wingbuster Defense with the confidence that there is no way the opponent can move the ball against it, even though, in reality, the coach has no idea if his hair-brained idea will actually work.
On this front, I can honestly say I learned a couple very important things about kids during my time as a coach:

  • First, you have to earn respect.
  • Second, you have to command respect.
  • Third, you have to find a way to understand each other; let the kids be the kids and the coach be the coach.
  • Fourth, kids want challenge, they want the discipline and limits, and most of all, they want direction.

Sometimes, in order to establish these four things, it meant crossing the line on proper and civil use of the English language. I probably spent way too much time over that line back in the day. Probably a mistake, but what the heck, it was me. Anyway, it was all about speaking simply and in a manner that commanded their attention day in and day out. Like I used to say, “I wouldn’t survive a week in France speaking Portuguese all day.”
A few weeks ago, I started thinking about the stupid things I used to say. I realized many of those stupid things contained the word “crap”, or various, increasingly vulgar derivatives of the word. So, here is a small list of some of the stupid (and sometimes stupid-funny) things I’ve said in the past containing “crap”. And, contrary to the opinion of one ex-athlete, who upon learning I was making this list, this is not going to be novel length work.

The Crap Quotes

“Kick the crap out of them”

“I don’t give a crap who your parents are or where you come from. I give a crap about what you do and how you work.”

“Oh, you’re tired? I don’t give a crap!”

“You’re sore? I don’t give a crap!”

“Stop everything! Okay. Stand with your feet out as far as you can. Now, bend your head down between your legs as far as you can. Hold it.  Alright now stand up quickly and pull your heads out of your asses.”

To the freshman every year:
“You know who gives a crap about what you did last year across the street at the middle school? Nobody. Nobody, except maybe your mommy and your daddy. What matters is what you do from NOW through the next three years.”

“Don’t let someone sell you a bucket of crap by telling you it’s chocolate.”

“You know what I liked about that last play you guys just ran? Nothing. Nothing at all; it was pure crap.”

“You feeling okay this morning? You look like you must have gotten your money’s worth at the Crap Buffet last night.”

“Relax, son. You’re so nervous you couldn’t crap a mustard seed right now.”

Looking back one thing is certain, I am such an idiot.

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The Wingbuster Story: Part 3

So, the research is done and the planning is done, now it’s time to go to work. It is time to try and convince 60 young men that if they pay attention, if they listen, if they work their tails off and if they stick together as one, they can beat this challenge.

But, they are teenage boys.  So, I know we have to sell this thing to the kids to get them to buy in hook, line and sinker. For this I turn to the expertise of Coach Paul Lane. Up to this point in my football coaching career, I went from an idiot with a football strength and conditioning book to a football coach who, under the tutelage of Coach Lane, could now walk and chew gum at the same time. One thing I learned from him on getting the boys to buy in to something is to come up with a cool name. I thought and thought of names. The Mustang? No, not the right ring to it. Dam the Double Wing? Nope, too hokey.  Bust-A-Wing? No, too 80’s break dance. Wing Stopper? Not bad, but Wing Stopper needed go talk to the 80’s break dance name. Bust-A-Wing Stopper? Hey, that’s closer. Wing…wing…wing…WINGBUSTER! Houston, we had a name! And a good name it was, too. The kids bought into it, the coaches bought into it. Now time to go to work.

Prep Week

Monday – Show team a video mash up of the double wing running over us in the past. Let the kids see the formation and see the basic offensive plays run at their very best. I wanted the video to scare them; use it to get their attention. I gave a short powerpoint on the WingBuster to introduced everyone’s alignment and assignment, then I talked animatedly about how we were going to shut this offense down. After the presentation, we went out for practice where the focus was on defending the Toss, the basic play in the double wing offense.

Tuesday – The focus was on teaching and getting repetitions on the proper physical techniques at each position. D-Line driving through blocker’s thigh pad to make a pile of humanity, D-Ends attacking a spot 1.5 yards behind offensive tackle, inside linebackers reading wing motion and being a wrecking ball to fill hole, the outside linebackers reading their wing and sifting and the deep corners reading their TE window then reacting to pass or run. The main plays we worked on Tuesday were the counter plays off the Toss, the Reverse and the Spin.

Wednesday – More repetitions on technique. Talk about oddball motions, flat motion for Buck Sweep; quick, long motion for fullback runs and play action passes.  More full speed team reps against scout team offense than technique reps.

Thursday – Review all plays in scout script. Hold back on contact, but try to keep full speed reaction repetitions against scout offense. Talk and ask questions and yell and scream and threaten to get everyone  focused on our EVERY MAN DOING THEIR JOB EVERY PLAY philosophy.

Check back for Part 4 finale, the Friday under the lights experience and my absolute coach-love for those underclassmen scout team offensive players, the true heroes of the success of the Wingbuster defense.

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Sharing is Caring: Football Version

Coaching freshman football with Coach Eric Burks was so much fun. He was the perfect guru for a novice coach, like I was, to start coaching with.  EB was the head freshman coach and coached offense; I was the freshman assistant and did the defense. His offense was simple and effective, but his real talent was connecting with the players.

The kids used to love that he called our best offensive play, 34 Power, “Bread and Butter”. EB told the kids “Bread and Butter” play is the one “go to” play everyone trusted and could execute in dire situations. 34 Power was ours for dang sure. Last summer, at a couple of wedding for kids who played on those teams, I could still walk up to the majority of those players ten years later and say, “Bread and Butter” which to a man would respond, “34 Power.”  Folks, in the coaching world, that is staying power.

Freshman boys are not the most responsible or most aware beings on the planet. I know this is a shock to parents, but it is true. We actually made a list we posted in the locker room to remind freshman football players of the equipment they would need to practice or play. Helmet, shoulder pads, pants, shoes, etc. etc. etc. all essential equipment to play organized football all had a reminder so the young man would not forget.

One Monday at a freshman road game, we unload the bus, dress out in the locker room, and get ready to take the field for warm-ups. At the very last minute, one player walks up to us two coaches and reports the obvious. “Coach, I forgot my pants.”

“Uhhh. Really? I couldn’t tell.” was the official coach reply.

Player number two slides up. “Uh, Coach. I forgot my shoes.”

Coach Burks lays into a soap box rant about responsibility, etc. He tells the two players to sit down and shut up, he will deal with them later, then we go out for warmups.  EB is po’d during warm-ups. Toward the end of team period, right before we go back into locker room for final meeting before the game, he breaks out a huge smile and elbows me in the ribs.  “Watch this” , he says as the team jogs to the locker room.

Coach Burks addresses the team. “Player One, you have shoes, right?”

“Yes.”

“Player Two, you have pants, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, then Player One, you will wear the pants and shoes while playing the first half. Player Two, you will wear the pants and shoes and get to play the second half. Any questions?”

“Nope.” They say collectively and join the team breakdown huddle.

“Let’s get after it then, boys! One, Two, Three…”

“Tigers!” The team yells and runs onto the field.

As I walk with Coach Burks across the field to the sideline, I say, “You, my friend are a freaking genius.”

We had to deal with a couple upset parents, but after explaining the situation, they just shook their heads and walked off. I think we won, maybe we didn’t. Who cares, though, this far down the road? In the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter much because what I will always remember most are the lessons I learned on that fall autumn day:

1. Sharing is caring and a beautiful thing (unless one player has pants that fit his 6’2 frame and the other player who must wear the same pair of pants is 5′ 6″).

2. Sometimes one player plus one player does indeed equal only one player.

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