Tag Archives: Football

Fill the Bottle

Your football season is over earlier than everyone thought it would be. A disappointing last loss. These things happen. Only one team per division finishes the season with a significant victory. One. Other than that, the rest of the players and coaches feel the stinging venom of defeat.

For high school football seniors, this pain is sharp. 95% of them will never play football again. 100% will never enjoy the camaraderie and pure joy of playing with their hometown peers, for hometown coaches, in front of hometown fans. Football for the few who are fortunate enough to move on to play collegiately will find it becomes more like a job and the innocence of the game fades.

The emotional aspect of a senior playing his final high school football game may seem petty in importance, but I’ve consoled many 6′ 3″, 250 pound linemen as they sobbed uncontrollably after they lost that final game and the reality of the end hits them like a ton of bricks. For many of these kids, it is the first time they have experienced loss at this level of emotion.

For the underclassman and for the coaching staff, that final loss also hurts. You are done. After a year of planning and working and practicing and playing, there are no more opportunities until next season. There is a let down and probably a sense of failure. If the season went better than expected, there’s a consolation of hope. If the season fell below expectations, there’s often a firestorm of distraction.

What comes next?

Coaches and returners need to collect all the disappointment and the sting of failure. They need to collect the venom, that poison which burns your pride/your attitude/your confidence, bottle it up, and then seal it tight with a stopper.

Why?

Because you want to keep that bad taste around as a reminder of how bad this feels right after that final loss. You want to save that feeling to drive you through the next 365 days of preparation for next season.

Coaches need place that bottle of nasty feelings onto their desk to fuel a deep, top to bottom, and HONEST analysis of every aspect of the program. From the daily approach and philosophy, to tweaking the offensive and defensive schemes to best fit the returning roster, all the way to implementing the strength and conditioning programs necessary to physically, mentally, and emotionally develop each player so they will be ready to fill those defined roles to the next season.

Returning players, you have the toughest role. You can’t just forget how bad you feel right now. You can’t forget the pain and disappointment eating away at you after this last loss. You will, though. You are young and you have the ability to turn your back on the reality of what just happen and assume a rosy outlook to the future.

Believe me, you do. In a couple of weeks you will move forward to the next thing which crosses your path. That’s why you NEED this bottle of nastiness more than anyone. You need to pull that bottle down every day, uncork the bottle, and drink one drop.

Every day, without fail.

You need to feel that drop of disappointment burn as it makes its way to your gut and reminds you of that moment when your season came screeching to a halt. You need that drop to remind you to work harder and to realize changes must be made.

That daily dose of a reminder will help you:

  • Get out of bed and to the weight room on the days you feel like sleeping in.
  • Work harder than everybody else.
  • Accept your role and do it to the best of your ability.
  • Be a leader, every day and in every way.
  • Develop into a player willing and able to carry the team on your shoulders.

Never give up and never give in to the disappointment of loss. Approach everything with purpose, pride, and passion fueled from fire of that pain which follows the final loss of the year. The loss pain you probably feel in your gut right now.

To the coaches and players whose football season is finished for the 2014, thank you for your efforts this season. Learn from this past year, rethink everything you are doing, and attack next season with a new energy starting right now.

Get better, one day at a time.

Get better, one painful memory sip at a time.

Everybody gets better, every day.

(Coaches included.)

small-round-glass-bottles-with-corks-8-5-oz-pack-of-12-5

 

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Draft Day 2014: 50 Reasons

50 Reasons to Like NFL Draft Day

Joy
Despair
Excitement
Tension
Elation
Anxiety
The Commissioner
The Jets Fans
War Room
GMs
Head Coaches
Phone calls
On the clock
Upside
Downside
Good feet
Strong arm
Potential
Hands
Attitude
Contract
Boom
Bust
Deal-breaking
Trade-making
Career-making
Competing
Expert Analysis
Video
Tape
40-Time
Combine
Numbers
Potential
Risk
The #1 Jersey
Team Cap
Family
Friends
Agents
NYC
Suits
Bling
Style
Limo
Fans
Bench Press
Pro Day
Dreams
Realities

WilsonFootball

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Take the Field

I’ve given a few inspirational talks in my life in and around sporting activities. I’ve also heard many from other coaches and from movies, etc. But none is more emotionally charged than this scene from the movie We Are Marshall. It is virtually perfect; it says everything about team and effort and tradition and leaving your mark that I would ever want to say. Even after watching and listening more times than I can keep track of, it still gives me chills and makes me want to break out the shillelagh and go to work.

Happy Football Friday Night in America.

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Blocking the Veer With Your Best Friends

“Hey, Ned.”

“Hello, Mel.”

“Yo, Vic.”

“How’s it going out there, Opie?”

If you’ve read this blog in the past, you had a pretty good idea how stupid I can be. That said, here’s one I’m extra proud of. When you coach, one of the most important (and most difficult) things you have to do is get everyone on the same page. Doesn’t sound that hard, does it? Now, consider you are dealing with high energy, hormone-driven, attention-span-of -duck, teenage boys and the difficulty level rockets through the stratosphere.

A veer-based run game is an explosive, quick hitting scheme and can be a potent offensive weapon.  With veer principles, two level one defenders are left unblocked to be read by the quarterback.   The first level one unblocked defender is the dive read and the second level one unblocked defender is the option read.   The offensive linemen aligned on the two read defenders release to seal level two defenders, creating running lanes for the backs.

In case you don’t understand a word of the previous few sentences, here it is in a nutshell. The offensive lineman need to be smart. Not ACT/SAT, Ivy League smarts, but football smarts. And part of this football smarts is…having everyone on the same page as to what we are trying to do and how we are going to do it.  So, as a coach, you must develop a language everyone, from the ACT 32 composite kid to the kid whose best grade in junior English is 32%,  can wrap their heads around. 

The first year we went to a veer-based offense, we used schemes and rules based on identifying read men from their defensive alignment technique when blocking each of our three veer running plays, the midline veer, inside veer and outside veer.  During that first season, we ran into problems adjusting to the multiple defensive fronts we saw on a weekly basis (or even within a single game) which forced confusion at the line of scrimmage. 

Since the key for blocking success with the veer offense is to get off the ball fast and aggressive, the confusion created when identifying read men against multiple defensive fronts often led to our offensive lineman playing timid, which slowed down our entire play.  As a result, we did not move the ball as well as we would have wanted and we were forced into developing a new system of veer blocking. 

So we went with our Best Friends. But, first a little football basics.

We came up with the gap read veer (GRV) blocking principles which simplified the schemes allowing for continuity of this simplicity throughout multiple defensive fronts and continuity through the midline, inside and outside veer plays.

Gap Read Veer Basics

 The GRV is a combination of the no-mesh mesh technique and a clear/cloudy read of the target gap by the QB.  A speed attack from the dive back into the target hole is necessary.  The goal is to get the dive back 1-2 yards into the line of scrimmage before the defense has a chance to react.

The dive back targets the call hole, 0 or 1 for midline, 2 or 3 for inside veer and 4 or 5 for outside veer (Table 1).  The dive back attacks the target hole full speed expecting the ball.  If he gets it, he tucks and runs, looking to cut out, stay on path or cut back.  If he does not get the ball, the dive back tucks and collides with the defender to sell the fake.

The QB opens to the hole and steps into the line of scrimmage.  He has the ball extended with both hands with his eyes on the read gap (Read Gap = gap directly outside the hole target of the dive back).  If the read gap is open (clear), he gives the ball to the dive and continues on with the fake.  If the read gap is closed (cloudy), he pulls the ball and explodes into and down the line of scrimmage to the option read man.

So, here come the problem of communication. Everyone, when they get to the line of scrimmage, needs to be on the same page as to who the read men are.

We felt it necessary to establish simplicity and consistency in our system which identifies defensive read men.  We wanted a system based on our offensive structure rather than the old system which was based on a defensive alignment structure that could change when the defense changed.

Within our GRV structure, after our linemen get to the line of scrimmage, each lineman verbally identifies the defensive lineman that will ultimately help them determine who the dive and option read defenders are.  What they call the read men doesn’t matter as long as everyone understands what the names stand for and how they need to use it. We designate or identify the defensive lineman with our “BEST FRIEND” names:

  • Center – Called and identified “NED”. The defensive line defender aligned anywhere on the center.  This man will never be a read man.
  • Guards – Called and identified “MEL”. The first defensive line defender outside A gap. This man will be the dive read on Midline.
  • Tackles – Call and identified “VIC”. The first defensive line defender outside B gap. This man is the dive read on Inside Veer.
  • Tight End – Call and identified “OPIE”. The first defensive line defender outside C gap. This man will be the dive read on Outside Veer.

If a lineman felt he could block a defender one on one, he called his friend “ELMO”

If the lineman felt he needed double team help, he called out his friend, “OSCAR”

We also had our friends for lineman pull blocking:

  • COWBOY – Center pulls
  • TODD – Tackle pulls outside
  • GOD – Guard pulls outside
  • SAM – Backside guard pulls
  • GUS – Both guards pull
  • SAW – Both baskside guard and tackle pulls

Our offensive lineman had ALOT of friends!

TABLE 1.

 

 

Dive Target

Hole

QB Gap Read

Release Man

(Dive Read)

Combo

Block

Option Read Man

Midline

Right

0 – Center’s Right Foot

A

1st DL on or outside A gap

DL inside A gap

2nd DL on or outside A gap

Midline

Left

1 – Center’s Left Foot

A

1st DL on or outside A gap

DL inside A gap

2nd DL on or outside A gap

Inside Veer Right

2 – Right Guard’s Crack

B

1st DL on or outside B gap

DL inside B gap

2nd DL on or outside B gap

Inside Veer Left

3 – Left Guard’s Crack

B

1st DL on or outside B gap

DL inside B gap

2nd DL on or outside B gap

Outside Veer Right

4 – Right Tackle’s Crack

C

1st DL on or outside C gap

DL inside C gap

2nd DL on or outside C gap

Outside Veer Left

5 – Left Tackle’s Crack

C

1st DL on or outside C gap

DL inside C gap

2nd DL on or outside C gap

So once we had everyone identified, then we blocked with this simple rule set. General Veer Blocking Rules

                        RELEASE – COMBO – SEAL – CLIMB – ESCORT

Play Side Offensive Linemen

  • Release – An inside release or outside release, whichever is most efficient, around the read man.  Attack and seal a level 2 linebacker.
  • Combo – Double team the first defensive lineman inside the read gap to drive him off the line of scrimmage and seal defenders in order to create a running lane.
  • Seal – Stretch step and cut or seal the 2nd defensive lineman inside the read gap.

            Backside Offensive Linemen

  • Climb – Stretch step and climb to seal play side gap or move up to a level 2 linebacker.
  • Escort – Last man on the backside of play. Sprint downfield to block safety or deep backside pursuit.  Escort the RB into the end zone on a breakaway run.

A veer-based run game can be a potent offensive weapon to attack a defense using an explosive, quick-hitting run scheme.  The key to success in the veer is for the offensive line to get off the ball fast and aggressive.  Confusion at the line of scrimmage will force offensive lineman to play timid and slow down the offense.  For us, the gap read veer blocking principles and the naming of our “Friends” simplified our blocking schemes. 

From an offensive line point of view, the GRV Friends blocking system allowed us to approach the veer package of midline, inside veer and outside veer as one play with different target holes instead of three plays with three blocking schemes.  This concept dramatically simplified the mental aspect for our lineman and was a big part of our success running the football.

 Don’t you agree, NED, MEL, VIC, and OPIE?

(Author’s “Ha ha ha, that’s stupid funny” Note:

I just recalled a story about our blocking friends that cracked me up. We were playing our rival, Marysville, and one of the lineman who also played defensive line came to the sidelines and said, “Coach Hays, Marysville is so f!@#$-ing stupid. Their o-line is calling stupid stuff like ‘San Antonio’ and ‘Fort Worth’.”

I looked at the young man. “Seriously? You’re calling Marysville ‘f!@#$-ing stupid’ and WE’RE the ones who are yelling Sesame Street characters out there?”)

  

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Giants

When I was a boy, they were men
Giants playing on fields of green
Filling dreams with hope
Opening the world of possibility

Now as a man, the giants are boys
Young warriors entitled with spoils
Filling dreams with memory
Reminding me of the possibility

WilsonFootball

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Game Of Tears: September 14, 2001

It was Football Friday Night in America. Maybe it shouldn’t have been. Believe me, it was hotly debated before the decision was made to move forward with the week’s scheduled games. This was no ordinary Football Friday Night, this was the Football Friday Night a mere 80 hours after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. It was also only one of two times I’d been brought to tears associated with a football game, either as a coach or a player.

CONTACT/S: 30 Exhibition -ACP

In the grand scheme of things, football is not life. Sure there are ups and downs, wins and losses, injuries and triumphs all associated with this great game. Even so, I’ve never really felt the need to cry over a sport, even one I am so passionate about. But on that night, September 14, 2001, standing on a football field in my homeland of Wyandotte County, KS, tears streamed down my face from the emotion of that awful week in American history.

The powers that be in the state decided to go ahead and play the scheduled games that Friday. I don’t envy the people who made that decision; it had to be a difficult one to say the least. But we needed to move forward, we needed to establish a normalcy in our own backyards. We needed  to find some way to accept the inexplicable tragedy and restore some means of logic into our lives.

At Tuesday practice the evening of the tragic events, all I remember is that we were shell-shocked. I don’t recall much from that afternoon except trying to establish some sort of normal practice within the quagmire of shock. And these poor teenage boys asked question after question of which there were no answers to.

After we watched the horrific images on television, we tried to cope with the unimaginable event as best we could for the next two days. America was attacked on its own soil by terrorist. As hard as it was, we tried to keep this on the periphery and keep a football focus in order to give the kids a place to escape the tragedy, if only for a few hours.

Friday came. Game day. We made a two and a half hour bus trip to Kansas City Piper High School. The normal pre-game preparations ensued as game time crept closer. I was looking forward to this trip because this game was in Wyandotte County. I was born and raised in Wyandotte County, it is in my blood. It is a tough-minded place that produced tough-minded people. The whole Kansas City family was there and my own family made the trip also. I felt a great sense of pride coming home coaching the visiting team against a school I really hadn’t liked since the misguided days of my youth.

Both teams lined up before the game in the middle of the football field. Uniform color did not matter one bit as the kids and coaches and officials stood together for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks. So there I stood in silence, the soil of my homeland holding me onto a planet tipping wildly out of control, questions and chaos threatening to punt me into the stratosphere of despair.

The moment of silence seemed to last forever and a day. There was nothing but stillness and quiet. No whispers and no jokes from even the most immature of teenage boys. No noise from the large crowds gathered, the traffic seemed to freeze in time and even the sun dove for the horizon in hues of orange across the cloud-tinged blue sky. Solemn. The very meaning of the word.

Then the National Anthem began and I think everyone within a ten mile radius of the stadium sang the Star Spangled Banner that night. It was beautiful. It was meaningful. Of the hundreds of times I’ve sang it in school and the thousands of times I’ve heard it at various events, it has never really hit an emotional string. But, this time, on Piper High School Field, mere days after terrorists attempted to destroy the very heart and soul of America, the national anthem hit home.

We sang it loud and we sang it poorly. Nobody cared. We were united. When we hit the last three lines, I think the true spirit, emotion, and meaning of the Star Spangled Banner flooded across me for the first time ever.

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

I understood. The meaning was crystal clear. Our flag was still here, our country was still here, and it would take more than an act of terrorism to squash our spirit. The flood of emotions pent-up all week flowed down my cheeks in the tears. The horror, the sadness, the loss, the pain, and the total helplessness dripped with each salty tear from my eye.

I wasn’t sure whether it was right to play those games on the Friday night until that moment. It was the right thing to do. By moving forward with these sporting events it not only provided a distraction away from 24 hours of news coverage, it gave a reason for Americans to congregate and spend time with their community. It gave us a chance to begin the healing process.

We won more than a football game that night. We, as a group, learned to persevere and to move forward.

God Bless America!

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Ray Lewis

“If tomorrow wasn’t promised, what would you give today?”

Here is a little video inspiration in honor of the upcoming retirement of Ray Lewis.

When he was at University of Miami and early in his NFL career, I wasn’t a fan of Ray Lewis or many of his Hurricane compadres. I held utmost respect for the way he played the game, though. He changed the game and practically single-handily killed the traditional college football option game with his speed and tenacity, but I wasn’t a fan of how many of the ‘Canes carried themselves in life.

After some early ups and downs off the field, Ray Lewis changed. Besides becoming the most dominant NFL defensive player of his era, Ray became a leader. With this metamorphosis, I became a huge fan of his.

Ray Lewis, to me, has become an example of how we men can grow and change into better human beings. The video of his inspirational locker room speech to the Stanford Cardinal basketball team is the perfect example of Ray’s leadership and core beliefs.

Thank you, Ray Lewis, for an exceptional NFL career. Congratulations on your retirement. Many of us fans look forward to what the future holds for you as a father, retired athlete, and life mentor to young players everywhere.

 “Effort is between you and you.”

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