Paying It Forward

Leadership is about setting a personal example (on and off the field!)

2019-01-28 gatorade player articleSt Johnsbury Academy quarterback, Jake Cady, was a star on the football field and is a star in the community.  After his record-setting senior season which saw him pass for 3,350 yards 2019-01-28 cady 2and 36 touchdowns and run for 645 yards and 15 touchdowns, he was named as Vermont’s Gatorade Player of the Year.  That award comes with a $1,000 prize to be donated to a non-profit.  Jake chose to donate his prize money to the St Johnsbury Recreation Department for the creation of a youth flag football program that will be open to players in grades three and four.

While participation numbers in tackle football are declining nationwide, the number of children ages six to 12 playing flag football has increased by 38 percent over the past three years.  St Johnsbury Youth Flag Football will follow USA Football’s development model of instilling solid fundamentals, developing better players, providing multiple entry points and game options, and create developmentally appropriate skill instruction.  By teaching the game in a fun and engaging way, we can more effectively meet players’ developmental needs based on their individual stages of growth and development.

I’ve written a number of blog posts commenting on team culture and the importance of leadership on and off the field. Of the willingness to sacrifice and importance of putting the team ahead of oneself. If we build the culture we aspire to and create the true sense of team we’ve worked and hoped for, we produce student-athletes who exemplify the character traits necessary for success on and off the field. There’s no doubt this young man brings extraordinary talent to any team he chooses to contribute to and our players, staff, and school are proud of all he’s accomplished. It’s been a privilege to see him grow as a player, student, and leader.

2019-01-28 cady 1Jake benefited from participating in youth athletics and the impact those programs, teammates, and coaches had on his life.  Now he is investing in the next generation.  Maybe one of these kids will become the next scholarship quarterback and Gatorade Player of the Year.

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!

OLine Clinic Follow Up

If people think you are crazy for driving 6 hours to attend a 1 day clinic, they think you are even crazier when you leave in the middle of a winter storm dumping two feet of snow….

The only downside was missing the championship games on TV but thanks to satellite radio, we were able to listen to every play.  The plus side was being able to drive 3 hours on Interstate 91 without seeing another car!

The clinic began with Coach Fred Stengel introducing me and promoting my OLine Clinic at the Hun School on March 24.  Fred is a true “OLine Guy” and loves to attend my clinics.  Although he has coached with great success for decades at the highest level of high school football, he continues to seek opportunities to learn.  He also referenced the number of times he has called me to discuss a protection scheme or how to block a certain play.  I love to discuss X&Os and am honored when true Pros like Coach Stengel choose to call and pick my brain.  The greatest thing about our profession, 2nd only to the impact we have on so many young lives, is the universal willingness to share our knowledge with each other.

I chose to share the emphasis we place on Feet, 2019-01-24 oline clinic photoEyes,  and Hands in Run Blocking with our Heel-Toe philosophy, Visual Targets, and Strike Points. I was lucky to have our defensive coordinator volunteer for the long drive and to stand in as my demonstration assistant.  Apparently, the audience got quite a kick out of how physical I got with him in demonstrating the strike points, but he and I both share an appreciation for enthusiasm!

The impressive list of speakers continued with Nunzio Campanile from Rutgers stepping in at the last minute and excelling while discussing 5-man pass protection.  Bob Surace, Princeton, followed with game planning against top D-Lines and shared some great ideas on how to pass protect or run read vs the DL you just can’t block 1-on-1.

I then took advantage of the lunch break to meet up with my son who attends college at FDU-Florham Park in NJ but unfortunately did not get back in time to see Villanova’s Sean Devine speak on Game planning to attack the 3-3 Stack, but my DC did a great job in sharing the information on the long drive home.  I will follow up with Sean to see if he is willing to share the information.

Brian Gabriel, Monmouth University, also discussed point pass protection & blocking overload blitzes. Again, each of these coaches willingly shared their time and talent with the same community that so generously invested in them. Such a philosophy of giving makes me proud to be part of the coaching fraternity

The last thing I asked John Lovett, our DC, and my travel companion, as we pulled on to campus was “was it worth it? (Drive…time…snow?)”  His answer was an emphatic “yes!”  It was for me as well.  The clinic was a great opportunity to learn and share information, a chance to see so many coaching friends that I do not see often enough, to spend some time with my son, and to share some quality windshield time in 1-on-1 conversation with a loyal assistant coach and a very good friend.

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!

O Line Guys

When I tell most people that I drive from 2019-01-17 o line clinic driveVermont to New Jersey every Martin Luther King Day to attend an Offensive Line Clinic, they think I am crazy.  When I tell OLine guys, it makes perfect sense.   They know where I am going and why I go.   For 20 years, legendary NJ high school football coach Fred Stengel, has hosted an offensive line clinic on MLK Day and I have attended most all of them.  If you are an OLine Guy in the northeast, you are in Bergen, NJ on MLK Day.  It is almost a rite of passage to be an OLine guy much like me driving from East Stroudsbury, PA to Cincinnati OH in the summer of 1992 to attend the C.O.O.L. Clinic.

When I think back on the great OLine coaches I have listened to and learned from at Fred’s clinic, I am honored that Coach Stengel continues to invite me back to present.  I look forward to gathering with my long-time coaching friends, to sharing the techniques that have allowed my players and teams to have so much success and to learning from the other presenter and side conversations throughout the day.

I usually make the trip solo.  Who else in their right mind would make the 6 hour drive to attend a 1-day football clinic?  This year, I will bring my defensive coordinator who wants to begin learning OLine play from some of the best OLine guys in the region.  He will also serve as my demonstration assistant as I clinic on the steps, visual targets and strike points we use in our run blocks.

Any success I have had in my career is a direct result of those great OLine guys who have spent time teaching me.  I relish the opportunity to pay it forward on MLK Day in Bergen NJ and at my Alercio OLine Clinics at the Hun School of Princeton on Sunday, March 24 and St Johnsbury Academy, Sunday, April 7.  Get your brochure here: 2019 OLine Clinic

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!

A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime…

Earlier this week, one of my former players suffered the loss of his father.  When I reached out with my condolences, he informed me that his father and I were two of the most influential people in his life. Later that week, I ran into a young man I coached for only a week in the Vermont North v South Senior Bowl.  He greeted me with a hug as if we had a relationship spanning years rather than days. 

In both instances, I felt waves of gratitude. Gratitude certainly for the sentiments these young men expressed, gratitude for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of others, and even more so for the opportunity to pay forward the investment my coaches made in me. It is said, “People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I think one can assume we as coaches come into the lives of our players for similar intervals. Whether for years, weeks or only one day, don’t take for granted the impact you are having on another person’s life. I’d be willing to bet you like me, are the beneficiary of those who cared enough to help along the way. Be worthy and pay it forward.

Looking ahead in 2019:

Sundays March 24 and April 7 allow me the opportunity to positively impact hundreds of young men at Alercio OLine Clinics.  For 18 years we have taught over 5,000 young men the “skills” associated with the most selfless position in all of sport. 

We remind them that the true “skill” players in football are the offensive linemen. Running, throwing, catching, and tackling come naturally.  Run and pass blocking techniques must be learned, trained, and mastered.  

I am also honored by the scores of coaches in attendance who trust me with teaching their players the techniques and schemes that have made our teams and players so successful.  Many of these conference and state championship coaches return year-after-year with their players and assistant coaches.  

I look forward to returning to The Hun School of Princeton on Sunday, March 24, to seeing my fellow coaches and to working with their players and am excited to host our first clinic at St Johnsbury Academy in Vermont on Sunday, April 7.  

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!

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!