Endings & New Beginnings…

At St Johnsbury Academy, we are in the final days of school.  Senior capstones are behind us and finals are only a week away.  On June 4, we will graduate 14 seniors from our undefeated state championship team.  On June 11, we will begin our summer Organized Team Activities (OTAs).  In Vermont, we have the good fortune of not having too many restrictions on our summer schedule.  We train 3 nights a week (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday) for six weeks.  I know it is a lot to ask but we believe that giving players and families weekends and Fridays off, makes it more palatable.  We do not make OTAs mandatory, although our players and their parents understand that the work we do in the summer is what allows us to win in the fall.  As we have said for the 5 years I have been at the Academy, “games are not won on weekends in the fall”.

We also structure every session of the week to be different to keep our players interested.  Mondays are Power days in the weight room followed by OLine practice.  Tuesdays are Speed days on the field followed by 7v7 practice.  Thursdays are Strength days in the weight room followed by 7v7 practice.

We will work our Stance, Steps, Visual Targets and Strike Points at every one of our 6 OLine practices, then do a specific scheme (Zone, Dart, Pin & Pull, Slide, Boot, Sprint) each week.  During the 7v7 practices, we will install a different passing play each night and work our Match Zone coverage concepts vs that play.

At the end of the 6 weeks, we host our weeklong minicamp culminating with our 7v7 tournament and OLine challenge.  Last year we welcomed 10 teams from Vermont and New Hampshire to our campus for the event.  When the event is over, we give our players and their families 2 weeks off before we report to training camp.  Every one of our families knows the first 2 weeks in August are their time for vacation.  By providing families with the weekends off and scheduled vacation time, we get great parental support throughout the summer months and strong attendance at OTAs and camp.

This has allowed us to change our motto from “games are not won on weekends in the fall” to “championships are not won on weekends in the fall.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Marv Levy or Bud Grant

 

2018-05-10 Levy Grant Combo1How do you perceive Marv Levy and Bud Grant?
As coaches, it is important to realize that we can impact the outcome of games but we cannot control them.  Thus, we cannot let the results of games or seasons define us as coaches or individuals.  During the month of May, I will be recognized at two banquets with Coach of the Year Awards after winning the 2017 Vermont Division I State Football Championship.

Such recognition and reputation can be a fickle thing. We were a play away from me joining Marv Levy (Buffalo Bills) and Bud Grant (Minnesota Vikings) as head coaches who regularly took their teams to championship games but could not win them.  We had earned our way into the championship game in 2014 and 2016 but came up short in both.  In 2017, we relinquished a comfortable halftime lead and had to make a stop late to win the game.  We made our stand on the 11-yard line, with 11 seconds to go, to win the game.  We made the stop… and I am elected Coach of the Year.  If we did not make that stop, I would have lost 3 state championships in 4 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m both flattered and thankful to be recognized by my fellow coaches. I’m thankful we had such a tremendous group of dedicated players, coaches, families, and a community who supported us. But I’m most thankful this game and this school give me the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes and gives me the opportunity to pay forward the investments so many great coaches made in me. Super Bowl wins or not, my guess is Marv Levy and Bud Grant might say the same thing.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Oklahoma

2018-05-03 PodCastI received an email from a coach in Oklahoma last week who had heard one of my podcasts on USA Football.  He was intrigued by the cultural changes we made at St Johnsbury Academy turning a perennial underachiever into a team competing in the Vermont Division I state championship game three of the past four years.  He went on to inform me that he had just been offered the head coaching position of a team that had 0 wins in 2017 and then requested a conference call to discuss his next steps.

After discussing several of the changes we implemented centered around increased self-image and performance standards, we turned our focus to the limited amount of contact we have at practice.  I informed him that on our run to a state championship, we only had two varsity players miss a total of two games due to injury.  We had a running back get a grade one AC separation in his shoulder by landing on the ball while being tackled during our 4-minute offense win in week 3, and we had a lineman miss our first-round playoff game with a mild concussion he received during our last regular season game.  We had NO practice injuries this year.  We never go live and never tackle in practice and we were a very good tackling team.  He was intrigued when I informed him that we only dress in full pads on Tuesdays of game week.  There is no need to wear all your gear when you do not go live and it allows you to practice and play at a much faster pace.

He shared his struggle with the mentality of players, parents and area coaches who insist that they need to go live in every practice and include Oklahoma drill 2018-05-03 head collisionstating that the drill is named after their state for a reason.  This coach recognizes the futility of running drills that benefit only the biggest and strongest players while driving away kids who are not initially prepared for such collisions as they are introduced to the sport.

I suggested such an abrupt change in philosophy might also be a catalyst accelerating his teams’ recognition of a fresh start. I look forward to working with this coach as he changes the culture of his program and hopefully his area of Oklahoma.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Draft Your Own Team

“You’re on the clock!”

With the NFL draft being the dominant topic on sports talk radio, consider running your own draft with your coaches of your players.  For the past several years, I have tasked our coaches to create their own draft order of our players.  They are asked to create their personal “best available” list based on our roster.    It is always interesting to see how their lists compare with mine.  It will also reveal where you and your staff perceive to have positional strengths and weaknesses.

Once we have a collective draft order, we plug them into offensive and defensive positions.  Last year, during our undefeated Division I state championship run, we had 5 offensive linemen in our top 12.  This year, we do not have 5 OLs in our top 20.  That is a concern that needs to be addressed heading into our summer training.

It is every coaches’ objective to get the best 11 on the field.  This exercise will help you accomplish that goal.  You may find that you have 2 QBs in your top 11.  Make one a WR or RB.  If you have two Tight Ends in the top 11, put in a double tight or H back formation.  If you have no TEs, go with open end formations.

This is a fun staff activity that may open your eyes to something you had not already seen.

On another note, readers may recall my January trip to the USA Football National Conference in Orlando where I was fortunate to share some time with the extraordinary crew from USA Football (www.usafootball.com) and contribute to their Coaches Academy video series. My video on “Building a Culture,” is now live and available at USA Football.

2018-04-26 Rich at USA Football
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

 

If You Don’t Have a Mentor, Find One!

 

I have been blessed to have worked with great coaches in my career who have shown me the right way to do things.  Even after coaching for more than 30 years, I will still consult my mentors from time to time when I am in need of advice or direction.  One of my greatest sources of pride is when I receive calls, emails or texts from former players soliciting advice on something in their lives or with their teams.  Years of speaking at clinics and producing instructional videos have given me the opportunity to be a resource for coaches from all over the country.  Being a resource for others is one of the most rewarding parts of our profession.  I regularly send information and schedule calls or visits with coaches to discuss schemes, concepts, culture, or model something we have done in our program.  If there is something I can help you with, do not hesitate in contacting me.

Finding a  mentor might seem like a daunting task, but it need not be. Odds are you have people in your life with the potential to help you grow personally or professionally.  Think about the aspects of life, work, or a program element you’d like to improve and ask yourself who seems to be doing those things well? Ask them to get a cup of coffee, go for a run, or get on a call and relay their perspective on the topic and some of the lessons they’ve learned. Open-ended questions beginning with “What, Why, and How?” often open the door to perspectives you might not otherwise expect.

Another suggestion this time of year is to find a local college team and get their spring practice schedule.  Most programs are very open to high school coaches visiting their practices, sitting in on staff and player meetings, talking with strength staff and observing practice and game video.  These visits could turn into a member of that college staff being a mentor to you.Although I know many great coaches who take advantage of this regularly, it is far too often I talk to a coach who has never visited a college practice.   The football community’s willingness to share is one of the most valuable aspects of the game. Coaches and staffs commonly open practices, schemes, video libraries, and other resources. Take advantage of the open door and willingness of others in our profession to share knowledge, and when the opportunity presents, do the same for others.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Coach Every Minute of Practice

Time is our most precious non-renewable resource…

One of my biggest pet peeves in coaching is something I observe far too often.  Coaches who do not coach every minute of practice.   In my role as an assistant athletic director, I get the opportunity to observe a lot of practices in a wide variety of sports, during the winter and spring seasons.  Everyone is now doing some type of dynamic warm-up and static stretch cool down, but not everyone takes the time to coach it.  Coaches seem to use that warm-up time to converse about the practice schedule, which should have been finalized long before, or they play catch with each other.  During post-practice stretch, they review the practice that is not yet over.  This sends a clear message…Warm up exercises and stretches are not important.  That festers into players thinking that some parts of practice are important while others are not.  Every minute of practice time is precious. As coaches, we are privileged to be in leadership roles, and our personal example is the single best leadership tool in the kit.

If it is worth doing it, it is worth doing it right.  Coach the proper biomechanics.  If an ankle is supposed to be dorsiflexed, see that every athlete is doing that on every rep.  This will demonstrate to your athletes that attention to detail and strict performance standards are critical to your team.  Further, you expect their best effort in everything they do all the time. If you expect their best effort, you’d better be giving them yours!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Alercio OLine Clinic… A View From The Trenches!

This week’s post comes from a guest contributor, Jim Feely, who shares his perspectives on our successful offensive line clinic held at the Hun School of Princeton on March 25th. Jim is a former player and long time colleague of mine who has seen the Alercio OLine Clinic evolve over the years. He’s followed the OLineskills Blog and when he asked to contribute, I was happy to oblige.

Take it away Jim!

2018-04-04 Alercio Oline Clinic overview

 

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of teaching O-Line skills to high school and youth linemen at the 17th annual Rich Alercio O-Line Clinic. I have been coaching at this clinic since its inception when I was still the center and captain of The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Coach Alercio was my Offensive Coordinator and OL Coach.

With over 200 participants from NJ and NY, this year’s Alercio OL Clinic was as successful as ever. The athletes received group instruction, directly followed by drills, progressing from individual techniques to group installation. The clinic teaches the fundamentals of stances, footwork, and hand/body placement for both run and pass blocking. It truly was a beautiful thing to see that many young linemen come together on a cold Sun morning in March to work and get better at their craft!

The techniques and skills that Coach Alercio teaches were essential to my growth into an All-Conference lineman while at TCNJ, and have been for numerous other linemen who have worked with Coach Alercio. I too taught these techniques as a former OL coach with Kean University and as a coach/scout with the National Underclassmen Combine.

I am now available for individual or small group OL training.  If any of you coaches are in the North/Central NJ area (I’m based in Union County) and would like to have your lineman trained in these OL skills and techniques during the spring or summer, please have them (or their parents) contact me at JFeeley77@yahoo.com.  Training sessions can also be requested via the CoachUp app or website (it is like Uber for private/group sport specific training).

I look forward to potentially working with some of your players and lets always remember that the OL scores every touchdown!

Yours truly,

Jim Feely
OLine Specialist

Thanks Jim. We appreciate your perspectives and all you’ve contributed to the Alercio Oline Clinic, and more importantly to the lives of student-athletes over the years.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!