Building Teams & Leading Teammates

(Photo by Paul Hayes)Continuing the conversation on my recent trip to Phoenix…

The second of the four courses we produced with USA Football at the Arizona Cardinal’s Training Center was entitled Leadership and Team Building.

If we really step back and take a look at our coaching roles in the lives of our student athletes, developing young men and women of character, ethics, and morals and reinforcing their potential to contribute to society after they hang up the helmet and cleats is really our greatest mission. We help shape character traits so our athletes can be leaders both on and off the field.

We begin our discussion of leadership by quoting three of our past presidents…

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things.  He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”  President Ronald Reagan

“Leadership is the ability to decide what is to be done, and then get others to want to do it.”   President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“A leader is a person who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do, and like it.”   President Harry S. Truman

2017-07-25 Presidents

All of our presidents agree that leadership is about getting others involved to get the task accomplished. All would likely agree leadership is, and should be treated as a privilege. Given the privilege to lead, one should consider two key concepts: Deference versus Respect.

We recognize there are significant differences between Respect and Deference.  Deference is a reverent and considerate attitude towards someone because of their position (principal, athletic director, coach), but Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone because of their abilities, qualities or achievements.  In a nutshell, deference is given; but respect is earned. As coaches, we’re given a whistle, clipboard, and the authority to run the team, but the deference our athletes, parents, faculty, and community offer only goes so far. Every single day, through our words, actions, and decisions, we earn, cultivate, and maintain the respect of those very same people. In doing so, we model behaviors we hope our players will want to emulate. We must be ever mindful of our example, and understand all the hard work poured into earning respect can be destroyed in seconds.

2017-07-25 leading-multiple-generationsThen we focused on understanding the millennial generation we now coach. Generations are shaped by the circumstances and philosophies surrounding their upbringing.  If you are a Baby Boomer, you were likely shaped by the prosperity of the Post War Years and the Civil Rights Movement and raised by a working dad and stay at home mom.  If you are used to coaching Generation X who were shaped by the Cold War and raised as latch key kids with two working parents. You may not understand today’s generation without taking a step back and considering the view from their perspective. The Millennial generation are shaped by the events of 9/11 and the War on Terror.  Many of them spent their early childhood in daycare and are now raised by helicopter parents. Their goals and aspirations are shaped by their experiences, and as leaders, we need to understand how those factors affect perspective and motivations if we are to help them maximize their potential and performance.

2017-07-25 indisputable laws of teamwork

The conversation continues with John Maxwell’s “17 Undisputable Laws of Teamwork.”  Discussing them in depth, we looked at how they apply to today’s football teams.  Next, we borrowed from a US Marine Corps discussion on team building. I’ve had the privilege of sharing firsthand how the Marine Corps builds a team we know as “The Few and The Proud…” turns out the very same process, tenets, and values they use are just as applicable in building a winning football team.  2017-07-25 Marines-the-few-the-proud-EGABoth a Marine Corps unit and a high school football team go through the phases of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.  Nobody trains teams like the Marines, and by studying their model, we can reinforce our coaching success.

We conclude the course by understanding the differences between team building and hazing and focus on the negative impact hazing and bullying can have on your team, your school and your career.

I believe leadership is a privilege. As coaches, we have a fleeting moment to have a positive impact on the lives of our student athletes. It’s critical we seize the opportunity, set a good example, and cultivate young leaders for our team, and for our future.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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!

Welcome Back!

Welcome back!

2017-07-19 USA Football and Az Cardinals

It was a great experience working with USA Football at the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility last week.  We arrived at the facility shortly after 8AM and after a brief orientation began shooting the four video courses for USA Football Coach Academy.

In the next four weeks, I will share some of the information covered in the courses beginning with Setting Target Outcomes.

2017-07-11 dart-targets

Using the term Target Outcomes in place of goals allows athletes to visualize the target they are aiming for and allows them to make adjustments when the target is missed.  We begin by discussing how we create a Shared Vision for your players, team and program.  Understand that a SHARED vision cannot be YOUR vision.  We discuss how soliciting the input of players and coaches creates “buy in” and commitment in determining the vision.  We complement Target Outcomes with Creating Performance Standards for the program, players, offense, defense, special teams and position groups so that everyone in the program understands expectations.

2017-07-11 check list

Then we discuss the importance of goal setting, why goals fail and why people don’t set them.  We share different types of goals: short-term, long-term, process and performance.  We note that goals should always be stated positively and not worded negatively.  For example: earn at least one first down on every offensive possession, rather than stating NO three and outs.  We addressed the step-by-step process of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting to see that goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.  The course concludes with the importance of Monitoring Progress Towards Goals.  Tracking progress for starters and non-starters, veterans and rookies shows all players that you care about their progress.  Tracking also ensures that the goals stay relevant.  Lastly, it exposes any change in training needs.

After videotaping the first three courses, we took a lunch break and had an all-you-can-eat buffet in the Cardinal’s offensive lineman meeting room.  How ironic.

2017-07-19 AZ Lineman

At the conclusion of production, I got to enjoy downtown Tempe, even though the temperature hit 110 degrees. The next day, I received the dreaded travel news…your flight is cancelled and your being rerouted.  When life serves you lemons, make lemonade.  The change in travel plans allowed me the opportunity to visit Arizona State University to tour their football complex, athletic training room, strength & conditioning facility and arena.

Although I spent most of my last night in a Chicago airport on a layover, missed a night sleep and did not get home until 6AM, it was a great experience I hope to repeat with USA Football.

Additionally, I look forward to sharing more about the programs I recorded for USA Football’s Coaches Academy over the next few weeks. Like the Target Outcomes discussion mentioned above, I’m excited to share the other programs and look forward to hearing your ideas about team building, goals, measures of effectiveness as well as some more detailed discussions of X’s and O’s!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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!

Road Trip: USA Football, Phoenix, AZ

2017-07-11 Road Trip

I am excited to be participating in USA Football’s Course Content Productions.  On Tuesday, July 11, I’m flying to Phoenix to produce four courses in the Arizona Cardinals Training Facility.

The first presentation will be on Setting Target Outcomes.  We will cover sharing a vision, creating position group performance standards, goal setting with SMART goals and monitoring progress toward goals.

2017-07-11 dart-targets

The next presentation is entitled Post Game Evaluations and Next Week.  It will cover grading your players, awards and recognition, analyzing data, self-scouting, setting up and breaking tendencies, adjusting for injuries and depth issues and progression of offense over the season.

2017-08-01 scouting Preps

The third course is Leadership & Team Building.  We will define what it is to be a leader, discuss understanding the millennial generation, the laws of teamwork, the four phases of Team building and the concerns of hazing and bullying.

2017-07-11 team building

The last course is on RPOs (Run Pass Options).  We will discuss the history of this concept of taking advantage of the conflict player, the concerns that negatively effect the execution of the scheme, how to solve those concerns and how to take advantage of this concept with a Screen Pass Option.

Quads Y Over RPO


I look forward to telling you how the presentations went, discussing the material, and telling you about the interesting members of the coaching fraternity I meet upon my return.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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!


Tips for Summer Training Success Part II

This week we tried to bring Part II of our Summer Training Series with another guest contribution from Coach Adrian Guyer, CSCS, USAW-2, CSAC. I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to have Coach Guyer’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and support. I’m confident it will pay off throughout the summer and into the Fall season!

While I’ve been a coach for several decades, I’m pretty new to the blogging space and after further consideration, the formatting, videos, and content on do a better job than I can here of conveying the content.


You can read more, help yourself and help your team improve at and review summer training tips from this article at

I look forward to letting you all know how our OTAs and Coach Guyer’s strength and conditioning program support our development this summer.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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!


Strength & Conditioning Follow Up!

As a follow-up to our previous blogs about hiring a qualified person to handle your Strength & Conditioning… Once you do, let them do their job!

I recently attended our state NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) clinic.  One of the presenters shared some great information but also shared something troubling.  He informed us that his head football coach told him that he needed to accomplish three goals:

1) Increase the player’s bench press max. 

2) Increase their squat max. 

3) Make them look good getting off the bus. 

He accomplished those three goals, but then shared the team has only won seven games over the past three seasons…

It is great to increase your bench and squat and doing so will likely make you look better getting off the bus, but that does not necessarily translate into wins on the field.

2017-06-19 bench & squat

The job of a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist is not to turn your players in to power lifters or bodybuilders but rather to make them better football players. Your job as coach is to effectively communicate the goals you’ve established for your team, and to help your strength and conditioning coach help you, by adding a “purpose.” If your S&C Coach understand “the why,” behind your goals, he or she can make decisions along the way to reinforce your success.

The goals of our strength and conditioning program have little to do with the aforementioned goals.

Our goals are as follows:

  • Decrease injuries,
  • Increase Rate of Force Development (Acceleration)
  • Increase Rate of Force Acceptance (Deceleration)
  • Increase mobility
  • Increase Power (Work / Time)

The purpose of our program is to build healthy, resilient teammates who are faster, stronger, more powerful, and more confident in themselves and their teammates. With an understanding of both the goals and purpose, we’re better able to discuss the program plan, implementation, and measures of performance/success.

Note that we focus on Power rather than strength.  We have no interest in seeing our players take 4 seconds to put up “three plates” (315 lbs) on their bench press.  We would much rather see our players bench “two plates” (225 lbs) in less than 1 second after a 2 second eccentric contraction and a 1 second hold.  

If you are unable to get a CSCS to work with your program and you, like so many other football coaches, are thrust into the position of Strength & Conditioning Coach at your school, please get certified. (read more bout certification here:                                                 2016-06-19 CSCS Logo

If you do not have the time to study for 3-6 months and take the CSCS test, consider taking one or both of the following classes and receiving their certification:

  • USA Weightlifting Level 1
  • NSCA Essential Foundations of Coaching Lifts. 

Both will make you a better Strength Coach and reduce liability in the unfortunate event of a weight room related injury.

Thanks for the questions and compliments on last week’s blog. One thing to note, last week I included the link to Coach Guyer’s website ( but should have included a link to his version of the guest post which can be found here:

As always, thanks for following us and participating in this journey!  Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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.

Tips for Summer Training Success

Thanks for all the great feedback on last week’s blog about preparing for summer Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and the value of a strength and conditioning coach. Building on last week’s success we have a guest post from Coach Adrian Guyer CSCS, USAW-2, CSAC. Coach Guyer brings an extensive athletic background coupled with over a decade of training experience. He’s been an invaluable colleague and helps both teams and individuals excel in their fitness and conditioning goals.


With Coach Guyer’s guidance, this summer our training program will have:

  1. A focused plan of attack- We’ll apply specific exercises, techniques and philosophies to individual and team goals.
  2. We’ll stay “Consistent” in execution, and measure success. Valuable progress takes both work and time.
  3. We’ll plan in time to recover and refuel. The body is an amazing thing and with the right balance of exercise, recovery and refueling, can exhibit extraordinary success!

Coach Guyer has more great info available at his website

I look forward to letting you all know how our OTAs and Coach Guyer’s strength and conditioning program support our development this summer.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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.

Summer OTAs: Winning Begins Here…

As the school-year comes to an end, our focus turns to summer Organized Team Activities (OTAs).  Although we have made numerous changes to our program in the past 4 years, nothing has made more of an impact on our success than the physical development of our players.  We tell our players, “games are not won on Fall Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in front of thousands of people…  They are won in the off-season when nobody is watching…”

2017-06-06 Agilities
Our student athletes begin training 3 days a week the week after graduation.  On Mondays, we work speed development (acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, lateral movement, as well as linear speed) followed by a 7v7 practice.  On Tuesdays, we work strength then have an OLine practice.  We have another strength training session and 7v7 practice on Thursdays.  We do not want to compete with weekend family plans and summer baseball or AAU basketball so we intentionally avoid Friday and Saturday.

What we do and how we do it is even more important than that we do it.  In college, you have a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS); A luxury frequently unaffordable at most high schools.  CSCS are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes with the primary goal of improving athletic performance.  If you don’t have one, find one in your area and recruit him/her to get involved with your athletes.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know enough to do it just because you get in the gym 3-4 days a week.

I came to that epiphany this winter when I was invited to join a round-table discussion of Strength Coaches at Burke Mountain Academy.  BMA is the premier alpine ski academy in North America.  Their strength coach, Darrell Gray, has become a friend and is a valuable resource. Also in attendance were strength coaches from the US Ski Team, the Philadelphia Eagles, Sherbrooke University in Canada, and a local coach who owns a training facility nearby.  I was awed by the scientific approach and level of detail each coach incorporated into their training.  It was far beyond my level of understanding.  I was with them when they addressed incorporating unilateral and bilateral lifts and movements in the sagittal, transverse and frontal planes.  They started to lose me when they discussed Rates of Perceived Exhaustion (RPE) and Undulation, and completely lost me when they shifted to Block vs conjugate periodization training!

2017-06-06 strength and conditioning
Even if I found block vs conjugate periodization training daunting, I’m perceptive enough to recognize a need for experts when I see one. We’re fortunate to have an all-star supporting the Hilltoppers when we start on June 12: Adrian Guyer CSCS, USAW 2, CSAC of XIP Training Systems, will implement our summer program and instruct our players on their warm up, speed training and strength program.  It seems the more letters after their name, the more qualified they are to create and instruct your program, but we’re equally lucky to have a professional who cares deeply about our team’s success and players’ development.

Over the next few weeks we will go into more detail on our athletic performance training, our OLine practices and our 7v7 preparation. We’ll conduct camps, clinics, host and participate in 7v7 competitions, and have fun working hard together. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, exchanging ideas, and preparing for all the new season brings.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, 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.