Start – Stop – Continue

I recently viewed a video on “Glazier Drive” titled “Start, Stop and Continue,” by Coach Bolden from Cincinnati, Ohio.  After seeing his win-loss record and number of league championships over the past 20 years you might think his off-season evaluation process would be Continue, Continue and Continue!  I imagine his long-term success is due in large part to his willingness to evaluate and change.  

Just because something made you successful in decades ago does not mean it will lead to equal success today.  What you did with your 6’3″ quarterback one year may not work as well with your 5’9″ QB.  When your offensive line averages 250+, your Man and Zone schemes will have greater success than when you average less than 225 up front.  Those 225lbs guys would benefit from the double teams, angles, and pulls in Gap schemes.  

The ever changing trends in football, strength training and society drive winning coaches to change and stay current.  Over the next two weeks, during the time between our off-season training program and the start of our summer organized team activities, we will place everything we do (and are thinking of doing) on an Excel spreadsheet in one of three columns:  Start, Stop and Continue. We will assess each and give consideration to our forecast depth chart, and upcoming rule changes, and/or conditions affecting our players or the game next fall. While we strive to reinforce success, we must also assess our processes, methods, and goals against evolving circumstances and conditions. Many recall companies like Blockbuster, K-Mart, and Sears who failed to adapt to changing conditions and appear to have fallen victim to “always doing it that way.” (Even in the face of an evolving playing field.) Fresh looks, perspectives, and approaches require a staff to “Start, Stop, and Continue.”

Special Note:

I recently had two videos added to the Glazier Drive.  One is on our Screen Pass Options.  The other on our Curl-Fault Middle Read drop-back pass.  To view a snippet of the SPO presentation, click here: Coach Alercio talks SPOs I hope it inspires someone to run our SPO package the way Coach Bolden inspired me to categorize every aspect of our program.

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

New Hires & New Perspectives

This week, I had my first meeting with a newly hired assistant coach on our staff.  He brings a dozen years of high school and college coaching experience from schools in the mid-west.  While he seemed excited to join our staff and learn what we have done to achieve our past successes, I am equally thrilled to hear what he knows and to have him share with our staff what he has learned during his tenure.  

New plays and new ways of thinking.

Some advice for head coaches hiring assistants and for that matter everyone in leadership hiring anyone to their staff:  Do not surround yourself with sycophants.  Obsequious assistant coaches may be good for a head coach’s ego, but they offer little value to a program.  There is a saying, “if we are all of the same opinion then there is no need for all of us to be here.”  Surround yourself with assistants who will offer their thoughts and challenge yours.

While it’s common for interviews to include questions about an applicant’s “strengths and weaknesses,” as leaders it’s often more important to know your own than to listen to an applicant offer platitudes about “working too hard,” or “being a perfectionist.” Particularly after a leader has developed some tenure and a reservoir of experience, knowing your weaknesses helps you hire to fill them.

Be the best you are at what you do, and reinforce your core strengths while hiring to fill gaps in capabilities. In a stadium, where you sit determines what you see… Perspectives matter. As leaders we don’t need someone sitting over our shoulder with the same view and perspective. We need those whose strengths, views, and perspectives differ if we are to truly build complementary staffs, and ultimately teams.

We have stated in previous blogs that together our team is always stronger than any one individual. The same applies to our staff.

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

Measurables & Immeasurables…

In previous years, we have shared blogs of a practice our staff does of drafting the players on our team in the order we would choose them if we were picking teams.  We do it around the time of the NFL Draft.  The post-draft staff discussions are always interesting as reasons are shared as to why one coach ranked a player so much higher than another.  

Measurables & Immeasurables…

It is not uncommon for coaches in our draft or executives in the NFL draft to get caught up in the “measurables”.  College coaches do it as well in the recruiting process.  Quarterbacks need to be 6′ 3″ or taller and offensive linemen need to be at least 6′ 4″.  The athletic test know as “The Combine” tests players in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump, bench press, broad jump, shuttle, and three cone drill.   Coaches have rows and columns of “measurables” yet some players find ways to surprise. Personally, I became a fan of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers when I saw their offensive success with a 5′ 9″ Center.  As a former 5′ 9″ college Center, I have an appreciation for overcoming those stereotypes and delivering above cursory expectations.

While the NFL draft and the college recruiting process affords coaches the luxury of being picky in player selection, high school football does not offer such indulgences.  We coach the boys who live in our town and try to put the best 11 on the field regardless of their size. As my high school defensive coordinator, Ed Heffernan used to say, “do not prejudice a player based on his size.” 

A “higher maxim” found in 1 Samuel 16:7 teaches us, “…the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Others seem to echo similar sentiments as in Admiral William H McCraven’s famous University of Texas commencement speech stating: “if you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart.”  Unfortunately, the NFL has yet to find a way to track heart size as a measurable. While I claim to be no better at measuring heart, I would like to emphasize the importance in a high school coaches’ role in leading, guiding, teaching, and mentoring our student athletes to build as big a heart as bench press or squat. When adversity finds our players later in life (as it finds us all), adversity never checks the tangibles. Our athletes’ hearts are measured in resilience, endurance, and perseverance. As coaches, our charge is to help them do more than they thought possible, so that some day when tested by adversity, they will find themselves equal to that task (Combine or no combine!)

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

Learning, Sharing, & The Alercio OLine Clinic Recap

I always look forward to my Offensive line clinics to teach and share with others what I have spent a lifetime learning from my colleagues and mentors.  And I always wind-up learning something as well. 

Between clinic sessions, I reconnected with long-time friend Mike Kuchar, Co-Founder/Senior Research Manager X&O Labs | A Research Company for Football Coaches (xandolabs.com).  Mike and I became friends when he was a senior writer with American Football Monthly and interviewed me for a piece he titled Developing A Dominating Run Blocking Technique.  In it, I shared my Heel-to-Toe Philosophy on the secret of man blocking technique. 

In that publication in 2008, Mike references an interview he did with legendary coach Bobby Bowden who shared the following coaching advice:  ask plenty of questions, learn to be loyal, and focus on the fundamentals.   Mike followed up Coach Bowden’s advice to focus on the fundamentals by doing the technical piece with me.  He felt that too much emphasis was placed on scheme and that the HOW in coaching was often neglected.   He went on to state that it is not what you know but what your kids know and that is what makes the difference.  It is how you teach the fundamentals that gets them better.  While the heel-to-toe philosophy is the secret to dominating man blocking technique, the secret to the success of the Alercio OLine Clinics and all the teams I have coached lies with Coach Bowden’s advice:  Focus on the Fundamentals.

Mike continues to be a pioneer in the industry of connecting coaches to coaches and coaches to information.  Although he has direct access to every top football coach in the country, he continues to come to my OLine Clinics every year.  Mike is a self-described football addict and rarely misses the opportunity to learn more and teach others. 

When Mike and I spoke at the clinic, he asked how I was blocking the backside of Power.  Coincidentally, I just had the same conversation with my former college teammate, Bill Furlong, who was also in attendance at the clinic.  After sharing my thoughts, Mike shared a new technique with me he called Shuffle Reach.   After speaking with Mike about it, reading his article in xandolabs on it, and reviewing our Power cut ups, we will be implementing his technique this summer.  I came to teach and wound-up learning.  Mike came to learn and wound-up teaching.  That is the beauty of our profession.  Always learning and always sharing.

Take a look at some of the amazing student athletes who joined us at the Alercio Oline Clinic this spring:

Together we focused on fundamentals, shared insights and understanding, and clarified the importance of teamwork, interdependence, and the sacrifices linemen across the country make for the good of their team, and love of the game!

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

The “I Test”

When most coaches here “I Test,” they’re more likely to think “Eye Test.” Not like the Optometrist or Optician, but rather their own discerning eye. An eye that helps a coach compare a potential player against years of accumulated context and understanding of the characteristics of a successful student athlete. For example, just by the “eye test,” DaVonta Smith, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is 6’1″and (generously) 175Lbs. Many coaches “eyes” wouldn’t have picked him to be the Division I All-Star he turned out to be. While his case brings to mind the adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” I’d like to focus on a different kind of “I Test.”

I recently listened to a podcast with Joanne Mccallie,  the only Division I women’s basketball coach to lead two different programs to 30-win seasons with three National Championship game appearances, and she earned National Coach of the Year in 2005. Coach talked about what she referred to as “The I Test,” she teaches her teams.

Regardless of sport, Coaches help players achieve more than they believed they could achieve on their own. Coach Mccallie’s “I Test” is a great example of a philosophy underpinning student athlete success, and is one I’ll look to impart to the Hilltopper Football team this summer and fall.

Coach Mccallie’s “I test” consists of three “I’s” and establishes a quick pattern to focus players’ (and coaches’) attention:

INTENSITY– Am I focused and dedicated to being the best I can mentally and physically be in this very instant?

INTELLIGENCE– Am I being thoughtful, applying all I’ve learned, practiced, and making good decisions to help my team achieve our goals?

IMMEDIACY– Am I playing in the now, focused on this instant, and avoiding distractions of past mistakes or things pulling me away from my team and our purpose?

The three “I’s” of Coach Mccallie’s “I Test” offer a quick check whether making decisions in practice, on game day, or in life.  Sometimes, we all need to step back and assess our perspective, decisions, and actions. “The I Test,” offers a quick and focused assessment of where we are versus where we want to be.

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

The Score Takes Care of Itself

Alercio OLine Clinic Brochure

Legendary coach Bill Walsh had a saying, a philosophy, “the score takes care of itself”.  As you have read in earlier blogs, we embrace a philosophy that “games are not won on weekends in the Fall”.  Those players and coaches who attend Alercio OLine Clinics months before they will ever play a game truly embrace these philosophies.

I am always impressed with the hundreds of players and scores of coaches who travel far and wide to brave the weather on a field rimmed with mounds of snow as we usually host our clinics in March.  The forecast for this year’s New Jersey  Clinic at the Hun School of Princeton is 78 and Sunny.  A far cry from what we are accustomed to.  

As Spring shakes off winter’s cold renewing the Mid-Atlantic, and we all shake off a year of isolation, I look forward to returning to my home state, coaching my clinic for the 20th year, seeing so many coaching friends, reconnecting with former players and teammates and to working with the young men who so selflessly give of themselves for the betterment of their teams by honing their OLine Skills.  Click the Brochure and register today!

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

Today & Tomorrow

In her song “Greatest Love of All,” Whitney Houston sang “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” 

Alercio OLine Clinic Brochure

That is particularly true when it comes to high school football.  Unlike college football where you can go out and recruit the players for size, speed, skill, or position, in high school, coaches develop the student athletes resident in one’s community.  The children in community youth programs are the future of your high school program.  To borrow a phrase, “Teach them well and they will lead the way.”

At the Alercio OLine Clinics, we provide college level instruction to high school players; but every year we have several schools that bring their 7th and 8th grade players.  Coincidentally, those teams who involve their youth players always turn out to be the top ranked teams in their state.  

Not only do those young players benefit from learning proper techniques and schemes of offensive line play, but they do so alongside their heroes, the upperclassmen on the varsity team they want to emulate and hope to someday be.  All under the watchful eyes of their future high school coaches.  

As leaders, teachers, mentors, and coaches, we set expectations, develop cultures, and a belief in something bigger than any one of us. I encourage coaches to invest in their program’s future by sharing our brochure with local youth coaches, players, and parents.  Let these young athletes train alongside the varsity and JV players and reinforce to them how important they are to the future of your program. In much the same way we build confidence, commitment, and optimism about the Fall of ’21, including youth program participants today, plants seeds of optimism for many Falls to come.  

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

SELFLESS

The tactics, techniques, and procedures of OLine Skills are learned physical traits.  Steps, visual targets, strike points, angles, leverage, and demeanor all need to be learned, trained, and practiced to have success at the position.  But it is the inherent trait of being selfless that makes the position and the men who play it truly special.  We close every Alercio OLine Clinic discussing this topic.

Offensive linemen are servants who facilitate the success of others.  Linemen find pleasure in helping others achieve success, and then celebrate that success together.  When our QB, Jake Cady, was named Gatorade Player of the Year, it was our offensive linemen who celebrated. Though Jake’s name may have been on the certificate,  it was as much the linemen’s award and their happiness was their reward.

When our local paper asked me to describe each of our players who made the Vermont Shrine team with one word.  I used Dominant to describe one, Versatile for another and Selfless to describe my son Shane. Shane later let me know he was disappointed with the adjective compared to the others. It wasn’t until his first day of training camp of the inaugural football season at the University of New England when he saw on Coach Lichten’s presentation on the traits of successful teams and successful teammates, the top trait of a Nor’easter football player: “SELFLESS.”

If you are looking to create a winning culture on your team, in your organization, at your school or within your company, you need everyone to be more like offensive linemen. It’s truly amazing what we can accomplish when we elevate the good of the team above self.

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

20th Anniversary Alercio OLine Clinic

Over 5,000 players from NJ, NY, PA, MD, VT, NH, CT have attended Alercio OLine Clinics since the inaugural clinic at The College of New Jersey on Sunday, March 17 2002.  This year’s clinic, at The Hun School of Princeton on Sunday, May 2, marks the 20th year we have hosted an Alercio OLine Clinic in New Jersey.

While I would like to take credit for the idea, it all started with a suggestion by Jim Meert, who was the head coach at Hunterdon Central HS at the time.  During a recruiting visit in December of 2001, while talking OLine play, he suggested I run an offensive line clinic for players noting most high schools do not have a qualified offensive line coach and the job often falls on the head coach. He followed by suggesting I host clinics in the Spring and not in the summer like most other player camps.  Lastly, he suggested I invite the high school coaches to attend as my guests and observe the techniques, drills and schemes taught.  It turns out Jim was a visionary.  We had 333 players participate in our first OLine Clinic under the watchful eyes of dozens of their coaches. 

March 17, 2002 was a great day for me professionally, but few knew the personal hardship I was experiencing that day.  My father, who got me started as a football player by hosting a youth football camp along with NJ coaching legend Al Saner, had passed away only two days before that first OLine Clinic.  Knowing how proud I was making him, was what got me through that day. In many preceding blog posts I’ve mentioned how much I’ve benefited from so many coaches who took the time to invest in me and help me grow. As fortunate as I consider myself in those circumstances, no gift compares to the love, encouragement, and confidence my father gave me. I work hard to make him proud every day but on those special days, give my OLine Clinics a little extra enthusiasm in his honor.    

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time! 

Alercio Spreads the Love for O-Line Play!

Tom Haley of the Rutland Herald graciously offered permission to reprint his March 30th article here:

East Stroudburg University football will conjure up memories for some Mount Anthony Union High school football fans. It was at the Pennsylvania school that MAU graduate Dennis Mailhot made a big splash, leading the team in receptions three straight years, 1988-1990.

Coach Alercio Teaching, & Coaching O-Line Techniques

It was also where St. Johnsbury Academy head football coach Rich Alercio began his love affair with offensive line play.

Alercio arrived at East Stroudsburg just after Mailhot left. While on the Warriors staff he soaked up the teachings on line play from fellow coach Jim Pry.

Pry had caught his love for offensive line play from Jim McNally. If you look up offensive line play, Jim McNally’s picture should appear there.

“Jim McNally is the offensive line guru. He is the offensive line coach’s coach,” Alercio said.

McNally went to coach at Marshall just after the 1970 plane crash that took the lives of the entire Marshall football team. It was there that Pry became exposed to McNally’s instruction.

Alercio and Pry drove from East Stroudsburg to Cincinnati to spend some time with McNally, soaking up all they could about the intricacies of coaching offensive linemen.

McNally had a lengthy coaching career in the NFL that included stints as the offensive line coach with the Bengals, Panthers, Giants and Bills.

There is a misconception about offensive line play, Alercio said. Many people see it simply as a big guys hammering on one another. It gets lost in the beauty and grace of the wide open game that has evolved featuring quarterbacks and receivers.

“Line play is probably the most technical aspect of football,” Alercio said.

Alercio has written scores of articles on offensive line play for various publications. He has also authored a “20-something-page” manual on the subject.

His latest offering will be three one-day clinics on offensive line play to be available this summer at three locations in Vermont. They will be in conjunction with Chris Redding’s Passing Academy. Those sessions will be on July 11 in Rutland, July 18 in Burlington and July 25 in St. Johnsbury.

The Passing Academy will focus on the physical and mental skills of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs with position specific coaching.

Alercio approached Redding about adding a lineman component because he felt instruction for the linemen was needed more than ever after they were the ones left out of high school football in 2020 with Vermont’s 7-on-7 touch football format.

“The timing is perfect. They have gone a year without line play,” Alercio said.

“Selfishly, I think the O-line clinic is really needed now. Linemen are a dying breed. There were so many schools that had linemen opt out (last fall.) I am hoping they see the O-line clinic as their welcomed return.”

There is a lot going on with football this summer in the state. The first annual 7-on-7 passing tournament will be held at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester on July 10. The Vermont All-Star Football Camp returns July 12-16 in Rutland with another in the Burlington area.

Redding has taken over the football camp from Chadde Wolf and Alercio sees Redding as someone who possesses the marketing savvy to breathe new life into the camps.

“He is in tune with all the things that we need to do,” Alercio said.

There are also high hopes that the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, the annual high school senior all-star game against New Hampshire, will return on Aug. 7 to Castleton University’s Dave Wolk Stadium. The game was a not held in 2020 for the first time since the inaugural game in 1954.

Alercio was scheduled to be the Vermont Shrine coach in 2020 and was asked if he wanted to assume the role in 2021.

He declined.

“I didn’t feel the same attachment to it,” Alercio said.

“I felt we had a great group of kids last year.”

It also would have enabled him to close out his son Trey’s high school career together in Shrine camp.

“I did not want to take it from someone who had a great relationship with the players on the team and really wanted to do it,” he said.

Instead of preparing for the Shrine Bowl, Alercio will be getting ready to present his O-line clinics, spreading the gospel for the part of the game that has fascinated him since meeting Jim Pry in 1991.

2021 Alercio O-Line Clinic will be held at the Hun School near Princeton, NJ on Sunday May 2nd. Brochures and registration will be available at Olineskills.com, on Facebook, and via email.

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 supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!