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July 2012

July 2012

Play Like a Champion

by: John Gallup
Editor and Publisher
© July 2012

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When the upcoming high school football season gets underway, there will be over 15,000 coaches and teams that, at least on paper, have a chance to win their state championship. By the season’s conclusion, roughly 340 will have raised the championship trophy. There will be teams that will be celebrating the latest in a string of many championships and others that will be claiming the title for the first time in school history. There will be veteran coaches for whom winning is expected and first-time coaches who produced results no one anticipated.

Even with the wide variety of programs that will be etched onto their state’s championship trophies in 2012, from the smallest school in Alaska to the largest school in Texas, all teams and their coaches will share the exhilaration of winning, the pride of accomplishment and the satisfaction of knowing that their hard work and dedication helped them achieve their goal.

At AFM, we believe that examining the success of other coaches and other teams is perhaps the best way that you can improve your program. If you are one of the 98% of high school teams that did not win a state title in 2011, we think you can learn something from those who did.

That’s why, in this month’s issue, we’re presenting the results of our survey of head coaches of 2011 state champion teams. In addition to some very revealing facts and figures about the coaches and their teams, we’ve also included profiles of five champion coaches with their observations about what it took to lead their schools to titles last season.

We first started surveying state champion coaches in 2004 – asking them questions about themselves, their teams and their styles of play. While there is no magic formula that says a coach must have so many years of experience, so many returning seniors or run such and such an offense to win a championship, several common themes emerged in comments from coaches who responded to our survey and those we interviewed. If one comment we received could sum up what so many coaches said about the key ingredient to a championship and what it meant, it would be this from Coach Pat Rice of Waunakee High School in Wisconsin, who said,”It was the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work. It marked the end of a journey for this group of young men – and what a journey it was.”

If you’re prepared to commit yourself, your staff and your players to hard work now in the pre-season and throughout the 2012 football season itself, this might be the year that you and your team raise that state championship trophy. If you do, we’ll ask you about it next year.

Safety First

While winning a championship is goal shared by all coaches, we believe that the number one priority of every coach at every level must be the safety and well-being of their players. Fortunately, we know from our research that the vast majority of coaches share our viewpoint.

It is particularly important today that coaches have information about how to protect players’ safety and have resources that can lead to coaching practices and techniques that will decrease, if not eliminate, serious player injuries.

That’s why, in this issue, we’re launching our Safety First campaign to make football a safer game. We believe that safer football is better football, and it’s our goal to help coaches do everything they can to ensure that player risks and injuries are minimized.

This month’s feature shows how three coaches teach safer tackling technique. As you head into fall practices, we think that the most important thing you can teach your athletes is how to be an effective tackler without using the head.

Look for Safety First articles in every upcoming issue of AFM and keep an eye out for our new Safety First web site section that will be part of

                        John Gallup
                        Editor & Publisher


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