I 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 stating 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!