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AFM Magazine

Coach to Coach – Summer Session

by: Bryon Hamilton
Head Coach, Foothill High School, Palo Cedro (CA)
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Using the summer months to organize and articulate your coaching philosophies and methods.

Being a head football coach is a job that requires a multitude of skills. The coach that is successful over a long period of time has learned to master the art of the “tions” – motivation, delegation, innovation, articulation, dedication – all the while maintaining the most important element – passion. In order to become efficient in all of these areas, a head coach must know and be able to articulate his vision, philosophies and methods with those who work with him and for those who play for him.

One of the most important and useful tools that I have implemented as a head coach is the writing of my coaching handbook. My current handbook has taken me years to construct. Not just years of writing and revising, but years of gathering coaching axioms, philosophies, methods and principles from respected coaches from every sport, level and area of the country. The treasure chest of material that I now possess is a compilation of knowledge that continues to grow each year. Over the next two issues I want to share some of these treasures with you. There is not enough time or space to give you the material in its entirety. Therefore, I will pick out samples of the content to share. My handbook is approximately 60 pages in length and its purpose is to clearly define the goals, expectations, job description and coaching philosophies of our program and everyone that is associated with it. My desire is that you can find aspects of it that may help you and your staff in the pursuit of clearly defining your program.

Area 1: Defining your program through a mission statement

The following is the mission statement that I wrote almost 10 years ago at Foothill High School. As a head coach, I use these principles to guide every aspect of our program. Our mission statement is the first thing that I cover in our coaches’ manual. I think it is vital that you have a clear and concise mission statement that helps guide you in your quest to achieve what you desire within your football program.

Our Mission Statement:

Will never compromise our integrity for short-term success. We will always do things the right way and be an example of what is good about sports and football. Above all, our coaches and student athletes will be coaches and athletes of character and integrity.

Will create an atmosphere and environment that will guide our players to become successful people. Their involvement in our program will be a positive influence in all aspects of their life.

Will provide an opportunity for each athlete to become better students through academic support and the stressing of academic excellence. This is part of our philosophy of having a championship mentality in everything we do.

Will help each player reach their full athletic potential. Everyone in our program will work tirelessly to ensure that our players will have the opportunity to be their very best. Our work ethic will be a testament to our goal of winning championships.

Will build relationships with and among our players to ensure that upon graduation they will always be a welcomed and esteemed part of our football family.

The Foothill High School football program will follow established procedures and programs that will help us to be successful in each of these areas. Our mission statement is our roadmap. It says nothing about playing time or individual athletic achievement. What it does say is that we have a vision for our football program and, more importantly, for those people who are a part of it.

Area 2: Learning From the Greats

I think it is important that our staff has the opportunity to learn from some of the great coaches. I encourage our coaches to read. One of the best books that I encourage our coaches to read is the Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. I found this book to be a very impactful influence on my coaching career. As a coach, I study the successes and failures of those who are willing to share their knowledge with me. The following Lombardi Rules are included in my handbook. These concise and poignant axioms come from one of the greatest coaches to every roam the sacred acre.

The Lombardi Rules

25 Key Rules on Teaching, Coaching, and Learning

1. Ask yourself tough questions.

2. Look the truth straight on.

3. Play to your strengths.

4. Write your character.

5. Think big picture.

6. Be committed.

7. Work harder than everybody else.

8. Be prepared to sacrifice.

9. Be mentally tough.

10. Balance humility and pride.

11. Lead with integrity.

12. Build team spirit.

13. Explain why.

14. Strike the balance.

15. Build confidence.

16. Use your mission.

17. Know your stuff.

18. Demand autonomy.

19. Respect legitimate authority.

20. Act, don’t react.

21. Keep it simple.

22. Chase perfection.

23. Tailor your motivation.

24. Motivate by degrees.

25. Focus on fundamentals.
Area 3: Defining Each Coach’s Role

It is important that those who are working with you in the role of assistant coach know what you, as the head coach, expect. I find that it is easier to get ahead of the curve by articulating these expectations rather than addressing situations that are not in line with your philosophies after they occur. The following is a list of the expectations as they are defined in the coaches handbook. Many of these were expressed to me by Jerry Campbell, a great coach in California.

Expectations of an Assistant Football Coach

“A good coach makes better players out of borderline athletes and often makes good players out of mediocre ones. A good coach emphasizes their abilities – enables them to make the most of their latent talents – gives them the best chance for success by putting the right player in the right place.” (Robert Zuppke, University of Illinois Head Coach, 1913-1941).

1.  Always Coach The three T’s:

2. Never turn your head to behavior that does not represent our program in the very best way. Use possible negative situations to teach and mold our players into great men of character and integrity.

3. It is the athlete’s responsibility to please the coach and not the coach’s place to please the players. Our job as coaches is to run a top-flight program that will lead to continued success. As coaches, we have an obligation to run a disciplined program that will be successful in the long run. To do anything else is unfair to the athletes who want to win at Foothill High School.

4. Get to know your players. Visit with your players and discuss things outside of the football realm. This will allow you to know what makes them tick and what they are like as people, not just players. This will be expected

5. Help keep the football field, locker room and field house clean. This is our home.

6. Do not be the first to leave the area. Pitch in as there’s always something to do. Check in with the coordinators or head coach before leaving.

7. Don’t expect anything less than your best effort in every aspect of the football program.

8. Don’t leave the locker rooms unsupervised when our athletes are still inside.

9. Don’t keep score. Coaches must take pride in their assigned responsibilities.

10. Coaches will be expected to be on time for all staff meetings and practices, unless you have notified the head coach of a problem. Follow the fifteen-minute rule (arrive 15 minutes prior to start time).  If we expect our athletes to follow this rule then we as coaches need to follow it also.

11. Be a positive role model on and off the field.

12. Sell the program when possible and defend the program when necessary.

13. Do everything you can do to develop a winning attitude in all phases of your life.

14. Study and work hard to make yourself a great coach. Educational growth is a must for any coach in order to maintain, sustain and develop new innovative ways of coaching, new teaching techniques, and better ways to improve teaching.

15. Be professional in attitude, responses, work and personal appearance.

16. Never give up on a player. He can always change and likely will if given the chance by you.

17. Be positive and never doubt that we will be successful.

18. Be loyal to the program. If you have problems with the head coach or any of our other coaches, please keep your comments in house. They don’t belong out in the community.

19. Be creative and have the ability to think on your own and apply gained knowledge of the game.

20. Focus on the details. Don’t get complacent as the season goes on. Don’t let the little things slide in the discipline of our players; this will lead to bad habits.

21. Be organized and have a plan for everything.

22. Do not choose favorites. Work with every player on the squad.

23. Utilize instruction time before and after practice. As a rule of thumb use the “15 minute rule”. If I arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled meeting time, then I’m on time. If I arrive 10 minutes early, I’m 5 minutes late. If I arrive 5 minutes early then I’m 10 minutes late. And, if I arrive on the scheduled time, then my players are waiting for you.

24. Don’t just tell an athlete what he is doing wrong, show him how to correct it. This builds credibility.

25. Stay alert for players with injuries or heat problems. Refer to trainer.

26. Strive to make your group the best on the field, take pride in your work.
27. Do not experiment with drills during practice, have your work thought out, and make sure it fits the scheme.

28. Always strive to improve your individual position technique that you are teaching your athletes.

29. Never lose your poise or confidence, coach those things that you know how to fix.

30. As a position coach, expect to be talked to if something avoidable goes wrong.

31. Our practices must be organized. Talk in meetings, not on the field. Repetition is the most important key, repetition instills learning. Don’t hold clinics on the field.

32. Pay strict attention to the scheduled time segments. Wear a watch to practice, take a whistle to the practice field and don’t forget your practice schedule.

33. Don’t relax during any segment. All segments are very important, or they would not be included.

34. Breed confidence into our team. We must be physical and must be able to stand back-to-back in crunch time.

35. Gain the respect of your players. Don’t demand respect - you must earn it.

36. Coach our players all year long, “talk football”. Encourage them to “hang around the field house”, to work on a position specialty skill, and to work in the weight room.

37. Stress the importance of classroom demeanor, doing well in class, staying current on all classroom assignments and homework. Character in the classroom is key.

38. If you get tired, pray for strength, because as a staff we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Here is an example of the job description list that each coach in our program receives in his coaching manual.

Defensive Coordinator; Linebacker Coach:

 Defensive Coordinator Duties:
 6th period early outs and position meetings.

 Assist head coach with everyday assistant coaching duties and responsibilities during in-season and off-season.

 Responsible for the execution of all defensive staff assignments as issued by head coach.

 Call defense from field on game night according to game plan established.

 Coordinate defensive staff assignments at both levels. Responsible for defensive goal boards, defensive staff organization, defensive techniques that the head coach expects from the defense and must take and receive suggestions and direction if asked for by the head coach.

 Responsible for defensive scouting reports, due on Sunday evening. Assistant coaches are expected to help, but the scouting report is the DC’s responsibility.

 Construct all opponent scout run game illustrated cards.

 Provide head coach defensive practice schedule daily during the season.

 Provide head coach with daily installation scripts during the season.

 Breakdown opponent’s game video.

 Responsible for defensive playbook and its implementation with defensive coaches at all levels.

 Responsible for issuing athletic grades checks for Varsity and JV.

 Assist with equipment inventory and its distribution and pick-up.

 Assist with spring football.

 Assist with end of season banquet.

 Responsible for end zone camera transport and setup. Also responsible for uploading the end zone camera film onto huddle. This must be done by Saturday AM.

In the next issue I will share with you the other segments dealing with subjects such as the players and their parents. I will share with you how I develop practice schedules and how to organize your game day and halftime responsibilities. 


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