AFM Subscribers Ask...with Wisconsin-Whitewater's Lance Leipoldby: Lance Leipold
© July 2008
Taking over for his former college coach Bob Berezowitz last fall, Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Lance Leipold led the Warhawks to their first Division III National Championship. After losing to Mount Union in the title game in both 2005 and 2006, UW-W proved the third time is the charm as they upset Mount Union in their third straight meeting, 31-21. In the process, Leipold became only the second first-year coach to ever win a D-III National Championship. Leipold’s coaching career also began at UW-W. He coached quarterbacks in 1987 and wide receivers in 1988. He later served as Berezowitz’s offensive coordinator before becoming an offensive graduate assistant at Wisconsin-Madison. Leipold then coached at Nebraska-Omaha, moved to Nebraska-Lincoln and then back to UN-Omaha where he was associate head coach and offensive coordinator, 2004-2006. Coach Leipold answers your questions.
Q. What is the best contributing factor in your practices that sets you aside from other programs and what do you do as it relates to special team commitment and practice that makes your program stand out? Dan Kratzer, Head Coach, South Dakota School of Mines. AFM subscriber since 2002.
The early feedback we got was when we changed the practice tempo; that is, we kept things moving with fast-paced drills and scrimmages. And we made practice seem more like the concept of game-like conditions. The seniors, looking back on it, told the coaches that it was a major benefit to the program and helped prepare the entire team for both the regular season and our playoff run. As it relates to special teams, it is a major part of each and every practice. It’s the first part of our daily practice and we treat it like every other phase of the game.
Q. I feel that the single most important ingredient to a winning team is team chemistry. On the collegiate level, what do you do as a coach to promote team unity? Gary Chilcoat, Assistant Coach, Deep Run High School, Glen Allen, VA. AFM subscriber since 2000.
We had 23 seniors on last fall’s team when we won the National Championship and they played a major part in leadership. As a team, we got involved in a number of fund-raisers and community projects. We also had cookouts and bowling competitions to help team unity. Our Strength Coach Lee Munger set up a point system among teams competing in the off-season in the weight room which helped the level of competition. We wanted our team’s involvement to be total: academic, athletic, and community-related.
Q. I believe the game is won in Monday-Thursday practices and just played on Friday night. How do you get your kids to practice with enthusiasm and to push themselves Monday-Thursday and also during camp before the games actually start? Joe Wright, Head Coach, Tekonsha High School, MI. AFM subscriber since 2003.
Keeping an upbeat practice tempo is one way. Another is keeping the drills and practices fresh with new wrinkles. We’ve been fortunate to play 15 games each of the last three years so we’re got to keep the kids fresh as well as motivated. Later in the season we’ll take our shoulder pads off on Thursdays and have the players in shorts more often to keep that freshness. We may shorten up different team segments of our practices as the season goes on. We really want to have our guys mentally fresh – as well as physically fresh – as the season wears on.
Q. We run the Wing-T from the Shotgun. One of the things I was considering was a Pistol look where in our one-back sets we would align the FB behind the QB. In your opinion, what additional advantage would this give us over the defense and could that limit the effectiveness of our traps? Would this be a 'good fit' with what we are doing? Bart Miller, Offensive Coordinator, Trinity High School, Camp Hill, PA. AFM subscriber since 2006.
By modifying concepts in your offense it clearly adds to your potential for big plays and can create more fits for your opponent’s defensive coordinator. We’ve run the Pistol and having the tailback lined up behind the quarterback in certain situations, if run correctly, has to confuse the defense, especially if you’re a Shotgun/Wing-T team. Our offensive line coach, Steve Dinkel does a great job with our O-line in mixing and matching protections and blocking so that we have a diverse look in our one or two-back zone scheme, our power running game or when we use the Pistol offense.
Q. As a first year head coach at UW-W, what was the biggest obstacle you had in getting the players accustomed to your coaching style vs. the previous staff? How did you maintain a high intensity as well as motivation for the athletes throughout the season and playoffs? Corby Milleson, Offensive Coordinator, Wichita Northwest High School, KS. AFM subscriber since 2004.
The majority of the coaching staff stayed in place once I became head coach. There were no drastic changes to our offensive and defensive schemes and I think the biggest thing was building trust. Jim Zebrowski, our Offensive Coordinator, blended our current philosophy with the past where there were modifications to the offense but no major changes.
We had an extraordinary group of seniors that, going into the season, wanted to get back to the title game. It helped motivate all of us as both coaches and players. Former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez also spoke to our players and told us the most important thing in playing a road playoff game was not to be intimidated by the helmets of your opponent. It helped us as well as the fact that we had been there before. That experience helped us not get caught up in the other non-game activities.