Saturday, May 24, 2014

Coaching Tip: # 1

Worldwide, there are, have been, and will continue to be numerous excellent male and female coaches whose efforts and errors have helped pave the way for sports fans to enjoy thrilling moments of triumph, suffer through painful losses, or even endure the dreaded tie game.

Bill Walsh, the late, great, innovative and legendary high school, collegiate and professional football coach deeply and truly believed that coaches have to be flexible to be successful over any substantial length of time.

Walsh lived, breathed, preached, taught and thrived upon his own football teams' tight execution of his bold systems that forced opponents to alter their own personalities on the gridiron. Walsh wanted his opponents to be very uncomfortable in their attempts to defend his unique systems, and by design -- Walsh wanted to force all opponents into a more iffy and adaptive type of position -- so that Walsh's own football teams could execute his own specific and desired style of play -- which during the time of his coaching tenure was considered very contrarian, as compared to most of the opponents that his teams played.

And, as a transition into my first Coaching Tip piece...the late, great and legendary University of Notre Dame Head Football Coach, Knute Rockne said, “Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.”

At every level of football, youth, high school, college and pro, innovative coaches are pushing the game forward to the benefit of us all...players, coaches and fans.

Therefore, it is with great humility and respect for my peers that I begin this open-ended series of “Coaching Tips” (in no particular order), as gleaned so far during my 25-years of coaching football at the high school and NCAA levels.

Whether you are a sports fan, a coach at any level of the game, a player, or a professor, I hope you find these series of tips useful, interesting, and/or informative…


“Identify Your Weaknesses as a Coach and Turn Them into Your Strengths”

I’ve never met one person that truly enjoys admitting their weaknesses to other people.

However, as a coach, once you've learned to admit your weaknesses and are willing to absorb something totally new, it liberates your mind and allows you to become the pupil once again – your mind reverts to being that thirsty sponge reborn again, seeking valuable nourishment in the form of fresh ideas and innovative methods that can help to creatively solve complex problems.

In Just One Case in Point: prior to our creation and implementation of the A-11 Offense in 2007 at Piedmont, I had already coached football for 21-years, but I was not a fan of the Shotgun formation at all, nor that much of the Spread offense. In fact, I had only used the Shotgun formation one-time prior to the 2007 season.

However, after admitting that a coaching weakness of mine was in not having had used the Shotgun formation before, I decided to jump into the fire with both feet and went for it.

Bluntly put, it was a very unpleasant and uncomfortable coaching experience to endure at the beginning of those harsh lessons being learned, especially when our team began the 2007 season with a poor record of 0 – 2, it would have been very easy to end that Shotgun/A-11 experiment, and get back to something that I was much more comfortable with.

But together, the coaching staff and I saw glimmers of hope upon diligent review of the game video, and we always kept in mind the best interests of our team; which was the entire reason we decided to try something new like the Shotgun/A-11 system...the simple fact that our team’s personnel was ideally suited for such a unique plan of Super-Spread offensive attack.

*In fact, we had TWO Quarterbacks aligned in our Shotgun/A-11 system during the ENTIRE 2007 season. Yes it is true, we played the whole season with Two Starting Quarterbacks set-up in the Shotgun formation in the A-11 system, because that was the best fit of the personnel we had that year.

And then during the third game of that 2007 season, our Piedmont team “clicked” and they took full ownership of the Shotgun/A-11 system we employed, and they never looked back. The team rattled off seven straight wins, finished the regular season with a record of 7 – 3, and earned a trip to the California state football playoffs. It turned out to be an incredibly successful season full of exciting and dramatic moments for the team.

In retrospect, what would have happened if we had never attempted to try something totally new, or if we had merely decided to scrap the entire mission after opening the 2007 season with those two losses before our Shotgun/A-11 system had been given the proper amount of time to mature, or totally fail?

It is OK to attempt something new, give it your best shot and fail. Yes, it hurts big time, but it's OK. As coaches, we are striving to win every game, every year, but when we do our best and we fail, it stings bad, but it does happen.

Fortunately in 2007, we tried something brand new and gave it every ounce of energy and grit we had. And, because of the hard work and commitment from the assistant coaches and the players, together we turned our weaknesses into the actual strengths of our team, and it turned out very well.

That very risky approach with the Dual Quarterbacks in the Shotgun/A-11 system paid big dividends for our team. But then afterwards, beginning in 2008, it caused an exciting and innovative ripple effect nationwide as Hundreds of coaches began creating and implementing their own versions of A-11 concepts to help their team...truly remarkable.

In 2008, we adjusted the Shotgun/A-11 system into a more traditional set, using One QB and One RB in the backfield and we earned much success. Also, we watched with great appreciation and satisfaction as other football teams around the nation unveiled their own wildly creative A-11 concepts with record-breaking success.

In 2009, we successfully blended A-11 concepts into traditional football jersey-numbering rules, further establishing the A-11 system as another example of football innovation helping to advance the game into its exciting future.

And now as of today, thousands of football coaches and players have downloaded all of the free A-11 Offense concepts playbooks, manuals and videos, and several million people have watched A-11 videos or read about it. Furthermore, many of those innovative football coaches have also shared their new strategies with us.

It's really good to try something new, to Go For It...and to see what happens.

My advice, is to take a look in the mirror and evaluate your coaching weaknesses, be honest with yourself. Then, after you've identified the areas that you need to work on, take the time to educate yourself and to learn from other coaches whose demonstrated strengths happen to reside in the areas of your weaknesses.

Turn your weaknesses into your strengths, learn from others in the process of doing so, and if you succeed, then take the time to share with other coaches what you have learned along the way.