Season of Giving and a New Year…

November is the month for Thanksgiving.  December is the Season of Giving… Giving is the secret to success in life and football.2019-01-03

This post marks the start of my third year writing this blog and I hope it’s given you as much as it’s given me. Thanks for following along over the last 24 months, and if you’re new, thanks as well for joining the journey.

In a social media-soaked world often highlighting consumption, greed, and near instant gratification, I think it’s important to begin the New Year focused on others. While attending the AFCA convention 20 years ago, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Zig Ziglar.  He entertained and inspired a room of 1,000 coaches for over an hour; but there was one line he said that has stuck with me for the past two decades, “You can have everything you want in life if you start by giving others what they want.”  Soon after, I began using the Eugene Sue quote, “The hand that gives, gathers.”

Arm yourself with these two quotes as you enter the New Year.  Do not focus on what you want.   We all want to win a state championship.  We all want to go undefeated.  But that cannot be your focus.  Success in coaching comes from providing your players with what they want.

To know what your players want, you need to understand the Millennial Generation who make up today’s teams.  If you are coaching your players the way you were coached, I feel confident in saying that you are not giving them what they want (or candidly, what they need.)

Today’s generation of football players is team oriented.  They want to be a part of something and they want to understand the big picture.  While pride in belonging remains consistent, the Millennial generation’s respect must be earned.  My generation gave deference to the position of coach and respect, at times, out of fear.  This generation of kids often raised by helicopter parents does not share the same degree of deference, respect or fear for positions of authority common to earlier cohorts.  They tend to trust individuals over institutions.  To quote a Marine Corps General and close friend, they (today’s generation) do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.  Today’s players want to be part of a team that is challenging but fair, and builds traits of confidence and self-reliance. A team with a culture of character, and aspirations of confident achievement.

Give them what they want, and you very well may get what you want.

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 and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

One More Thought on Canadian Football

This week’s blog comes in response to last week’s2018-12-20 Canadian Football Logo II post about my trip to Canada.  Frank Francisco, long-time friend, colleague, avid olineskills blog reader, and author provides his feedback:

Coach Alercio,

To get an idea of the true impact that Canada had on the growth of our American football,  I would refer you to an excellent history of the game (he (the author) said with tongue in cheek),  Evolution of the Game. Page 5, the Boston Game mentions the influence the Canadians had on Harvard as they began to formulate their version of the game.   Page 7, Harvard- McGill speaks to the first Canadian-US games between Harvard and McGill.  

In all seriousness after doing the research for my book, I came to the conclusion that the Canadian/Harvard version of the game (often called The Boston Game) is much closer to our present game of football than was the Rutgers-Princeton contests of 1869, widely considered to be the birth of college football.   We often hear coaches refer to Canadian football as “a version of the American game”.  The Canadians, if they wished may have just as strong a statement in referring to our game as being “a version of the Canadian game.” 

Thanks for the perspective and insights Frank! Whichever game one considers the birth of football as we know it today, I’m thankful for my association with the game, the people I’ve encountered and the lessons I’ve learned since I first put on the cleats and helmet four decades ago. Teambuilding brings out the best in us regardless which side of the border the game originated.

One last thought this week as the Christmas Holiday will pass before I post the next installment: Whatever Holiday, event, or sentiment you celebrate this time of year, please take the time to share your thoughts, feelings, appreciation for the many gifts you’ve received this season, this year, and over a lifetime. Savor time with family and friends… and consider your intentions for 2019; a new season for us all.

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 and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Canadian Football…It’s not that different!

I made a recent visit north of the border to 2018-12-13 Canada FootballBishops University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada with one of our international players looking to play college football in the US or Canada.  Here in St Johnsbury, we are only about 45 minutes from the Canadian border, and folks in this area like to make the joke that “It’s like another country up there.”  It may be another country, but we quickly discovered football is football.

During the visit, our player, who is from Finland and whose father is from Africa, met with the head coach whose parents immigrated to Canada from Egypt.  Joining us was the defensive coordinator who though he played his college football at Central Michigan, his family came to Canada from Haiti. It was truly a multicultural group.  Since I was the only person in the room not fluent in multiple languages, I was happy to hear that both classes and sports at Bishops are taught in English.

After touring their very impressive campus and athletic facilities, we sat down with the defensive coordinator to discuss their philosophy and schemes.  Other than the 12th “X & O” on the board, there was nothing different from any conversation happening in any coach’s office in the States.   Over lunch, we discussed the similar issues of coaching the millennial generation, dealing with the impact of social media, changing a losing culture into a winning program, and the impact coaches have on our players lives both while we have them, and beyond.

It may be “like another country up there,” but football is football and coaching our sport, building teams, and cultivating young leaders is the same no matter where you are, where you are from, or what language you speak.

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 and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!


2018-12-06 Rich Speaker's PictureI was privileged to be invited back to present at USA Football’s National Coaches Conference in Orlando, FL. early next year. USA Football’s National Conference is the largest annual gathering of U.S. high school and youth football coaches and administrators. As I’ve mentioned on the blog previously, it is a privilege to be a member of the football coaching community, and I amazed every year by coaches’ willingness to share ideas, schemes, and philosophies. Though we may compete tooth and nail on game day, this fraternity has for decades found ways to extend hospitality and wisdom regardless of the level of play.

USA Football’s conference is a premier education and networking opportunity for administrators and coaches to gain insight on best practices, innovation, and smarter play. More than 1,500 football leaders attended the event in 2018, including international participants from Canada, Mexico, Scotland, and Sweden.

Attendees have gained insight from leaders across football, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dungy, Bill Polian, and Mike Singletary; Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis; XFL Commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck; and Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy.

It would be difficult to conceive of a small business owner receiving counsel and mentorship from a Fortune 100 CEO, yet Coaches and staffs at ranked NCAA Division 1 schools regularly open their playbooks, film rooms, and practice sessions to help junior high, high school and other college coaches broaden their knowledge and understanding of the game. Somewhere along the way, each member of this fraternity was a beginner or novice and we’ve all benefited from a culture of sharing and learning. I’m privileged to present at a conference like USA Football’s and hope to do for others what so many did (and still do) for me.

USA Football’s conference dives deep on every aspect of the game and affords attendees the opportunity to specialize on topics most important to them. I present on our offensive scheme and describe both concepts like using tempo and pace to our advantage during a game, as well as the nuances of our run-pass options, blocking schemes, and teaching young athletes to make split-second tactical decisions mid-play.

At the same time, I’m often struck by some of the side-bar conversations I encounter. While there are plenty of X’s & O’s to be discussed, coaches approach topics like culture and character with equal fervor, and it’s not uncommon to hear heartfelt conversations about how coaches support athletes and families contending with personal challenges off the football field.

I look forward to posting pictures and sharing some of this year’s lessons learned upon my return from Orlando. In the meantime, I wanted to share this news and wish you all well as thoughts turn from gear inventories and end of season statistics to Holiday preparations.

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 and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Halftime Adjustments

If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting….

If you are achieving desired outcomes, maintain your course.  If not, adjustments need to be made.  This is true for every aspect of life as well as in football games. 2018-11-29 Halftime adjustments3

Halftime provides coaches an opportunity to make those adjustments.  Our defensive staff takes a great deal of pride in their meticulous preparation for games, but sometimes teams just don’t do what you prepared for or they add something that your players have not been trained to defend.  Our defensive staff at St Johnsbury Academy has done an outstanding job of making adjustments at halftime and communicating them to our players in a manner that allows them to rapidly and successfully implement those changes with great success.

During our recent Vermont North v South Senior Bowl, playing under rules heavily favoring the offense, the North squad, coached by our coaching staff and a few coaches from another area school, scored with 1 second left in the first half and went into the locker room up 35-28.    We were in need of some adjustments to stop a few plays our opponents were having success with.  We discussed adjustments as a staff, communicated them to our players, even demonstrated them in the gym, then went out and executed them.  The result…we held the South squad to only one second-half touchdown on a drive that was aided by two 15-yard penalties.  Final score, 56-35 in favor of the North.

Football games allow for a scheduled time to evaluate success.  The scoreboard and first half statistics provide a clear picture for you to measure whether you are achieving objectives.  Measuring success in life is often not so clear.

The measure of success in life is not your job title, size of your house, or car you drive. You need to define success with what holds real meaning in your life. For me, it’s relationships and making a difference in people’s lives.  I don’t say this to suggest yours should be the same as mine, but rather to show I have priorities and think we all should take stock of what is important to us.

In my opinion, chasing material things, even when they are successfully acquired, do not necessarily lead happiness.  Disappointment will inevitably come when the newness wears off.   I firmly believe making an impact on lives and having good relationships at work and in personal life are the greatest measures of success.  If you are not achieving your goals and objectives, make adjustments now and don’t wait until halftime. Unlike a football game, our lives don’t offer a clock on the scoreboard.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What this coach is thankful for…

  1. A wife who loves, supports, and encourages me to do what I do while she takes care of everything else and loves me along the way.
  2. A supportive administration who understand the important role athletics plays in the development of our students.
  3. Loyal assistant coaches who do all that is asked of them and more without ever concerning themselves with who gets the credit.  (And they deserve a lot of the credit!)
  4. Committed players who understand games, and championships, are not won on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in the Fall.
  5. Former players who gave of themselves on and off the fields to create memories to last a lifetime and build a legacy of what it means to be a teammate.
  6. Teammates who are now life-long friends with bonds forged on the gridiron decades ago and yet ready to respond over hundreds of miles as quick as a referee’s whistle.
  7. A community who embraces its team, student-athletes, and school
  8. The opportunity to be part of this team
  9. The teachers, coaches, and mentors who invested in me and lit a fire for me to first be worthy, and second, to pay forward investments in others.
  10. The privilege of leadership, and the opportunity to build a culture returning student-athletes to our society who are better citizens for having shared the experience.

And last but not least, for God’s grace… His gifts reflect His love for us, and the challenges He lays before us remind us of His belief in our strength.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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 and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Only 1 Week to Build a Team…

I have the honor of coaching the North Squad in Vermont’s North v South Senior Bowl.  We have four practices to prepare 44 players, representing 16 schools, to play a game at the end of the week.  More important than teaching X&Os, is teaching these all-stars to work together as a team.  While four practices is hardly enough time sow the seeds of team culture carefully cultivated over 12 months… the concepts underpinning our success are the same.2018-11-15 Teamwork

We strive to build a common vision of our goals, common understanding of our circumstances, common values of trust, dignity, and respect, and a common belief in our likelihood of success.

Teambuilding starts with and is continually reinforced by communication.  We have established both verbal and visual communication systems among and between all position groups.  We believe if we share common situational awareness, and a common vision of success, we can make individual decisions consistent with our collective goals and objectives for success.

On offense, our Line and Tight End verbally communicate blocking schemes, the number of linebackers in the box, combination blocks and who is pulling. (There is nothing worse as an OLine Coach than watching two linemen pulling from opposite sides and smashing into each other.

Our receivers are using non-verbal communication to signal blocking responsibilities on our Bubble and Smoke screens.

The QB and RB are communicating play direction and point of attack based on defensive front alignment.

On defense, our Inside Linebackers communicate front alignment to the Defensive Linemen.

Inside Linebackers also communicate the alignment of the #3 receiver and whether or not they need to “Banjo” him in match zone coverage.

The Inside Linebackers will also communicate with the Outside Linebackers if the #2 receiver is aligned inside of the Outside Linebacker.  They will “Bracket” the receiver to the Running Back in their match zone coverage.

The Outside Linebackers will also communicate with the Cornerbacks to make a “China” call when there is a concern of a Rub or Pick between the #1 and #2 receivers.

The Free Safety is responsible to make coverage checks to see that we are properly aligned to 2×2 and 3×1 formations.

Maybe more than you want to know, and truth be told many readers of this Blog will not dive into the Xs & Os described above, but we all have families, businesses, friends, and others who “Team Together” for projects large and small.

Good communication is the key to any relationship and building a team is about building relationships.   It will be even more important since this week’s weather forecast for 5+ inches of snow looks to turn our 4 practices into only 3.

Best of luck building your teams for the short or long haul.

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 and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!