Alercio OLine Clinic Teams Up!

Alercio OLine Clinics partners with Vermont All-Star Football Camps to bring offensive line training to each of their three 1-Day Passing Academies in Rutland (July 11th), South Burlington (July 18th) and now St Johnsbury (July 25th), Vermont. 

The Passing Academy will focus on the development of mental and physical skills of QB, RB, WR, TE, LB and DB.   The event will include position specific drills coached by college coaches, position specialists and local high school coaches.  There will be footwork development, position mechanics, agility and speed training along with the X’s & O’s of the position, 1-on-1 competitions and 7v7 games. 

The Alercio OLine Clinic will teach the true “Skill Players” in football the learned physical tasks that allow linemen of any size to achieve both individual and team success.  Run and pass blocking techniques and schemes will be taught with an emphasis on footwork, visual targets and strike points.  

To register for either the OLine or Passing Academy portions of the clinic, click here: REGISTRATION

I am also finalizing a date in May for our 20th New Jersey Alercio OLine Clinic at the Hun School of Princeton.  More details to follow.   

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! 

Follow Up Q&A

After sharing 10 Rapid Fire Game Planning Ideas and hearing my fellow panelists share theirs during last week’s Glazier Zoom Clinic, there was a Q&A session.  The coaches in attendance asked the three most common questions I hear as a high school football coach: 

  • How do you change a culture? 
  • How do you deal with parents? 
  • What do you do for team building?

You change a culture by increasing the level of expectation and the demands on the players.  Set your standards high, and hold them; those who are committed will remain.  Those who are not will weed themselves out.  Do not fret over those who leave.  Better they leave in July than October.  Let those who remain know you believe in them. Then make them believe in you by showing them your tireless commitment to their preparation.  

Parents want to be involved.  Let them.  Give them something non-football related they can control and take it off of your plate.  Our parents take turns hosting Thursday night team dinners throughout the season.  After every home game, they organize a post-game tailgate in our reserved parking lot feeding all of the players and coaches.  On gameday, they sell player pins (headshots of players on a pin) to raise money for our year-end banquet.  These are all very important events to our program that our parents organize and lead allowing me to focus on preparing the team.

We do a team building event on the second day of training camp when we are only allowed a single practice and no walk-thru.  Doing it early allows the new players to have a fun introduction to our program before things become more demanding in the coming days.  When we have had a sponsor, we have taken the team bowling.  When we don’t, we have gone to a lake or had coaches bring in yard games like cornhole, can jam, washer toss, and spikeball then let the kids play and compete.   We do not organize the games.  We let the players take the lead.  

Through a life in football beginning as a player in the 1970s, I have seen what has worked and what has failed.  These are a few things that we have implemented with success and I am always eager to share with fellow coaches.

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! 

Rapid Fire Game Preparations!

On Thursday, March 11 at 7:00pm EST, I will be one of three panelists in a Glazier Clinic Zoom webinar entitled 30 Rapid-Fire Game Planning Ideas.  I look forward to joining Coaches Dante Jones of Early College High School in Dover, DE and Victor Floyd from Chester High School in Chester, SC.  Each of us is responsible to share 10 ideas and are allotted 1 minute to discuss each topic.  With a rule that no panelist is allowed to repeat another coaches’ game planning idea, attendees are assured to leave the webinar with 30 different ideas they can implement into their game planning this Fall.  

I will share how we use self-scouting to determine our scripts, how we use analytics to both create our gameday call sheet and allocate practice time during the week, how we scout and prepare for opponents, our countdown to kickoff and how we make road games as similar as possible to home games to mention a few.  I will be prepared to share at least 15 ideas in case another panelist addresses a few of my top 10.  While I am excited to share my 10 ideas with coaches from all over the world, I am equally enthusiastic about leaving the webinar with 20 new ideas from my fellow panelists. 

While Spring is still more than a month away here in Vermont, Coaches across the country are starting anew, building hope, and energizing their programs with thoughts of the Fall of ’21. Collaborations like this one add energy and excitement to the possibilities inherent in the fresh starts Spring brings to 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 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! 

Inspiration Comes In Many Forms

Our players enthusiastically returned to the gym this week after Winter break and like usual I joined them for their training session in our Racquet & Fitness Center that is also open to the public.   While working out alongside one of our Senior WR/DBs who is training for Lacrosse season, I was also realizing the workout was kicking my butt and I almost turned to him and said “it sucks getting old.”  But I held my tongue… 

As The New Day Begins, What Inspires Us To Be Our Best?

A moment later, Jim entered the room.

Jim is an 80 year old member of our fitness center and a “regular.”  Jim suffers from Multiple Myeloma Cancer.  From what I understand, his cancer affects the white blood cells in the bone marrow leaving him with debilitating pain in the bones of his spine.  It is managed with Chemotherapy which not only leaves him in pain but physically exhausted.  As I recognized he was really struggling walking into the room, I went up to ask how he was doing and why he wasn’t resting.  He replied, “gotta get my workout in!”  I told Jim what I was just about to say to that player and thanked Jim for inspiring me.

Jim is a military veteran and a former athlete.  I trust the officers and coaches who mentored him, also inspired him to have such an indomitable spirit.  While we prepare our athletes in the off-season for the games they will play next fall, we also prepare them for the lives they will lead and the impact they will have on others.  I pray I am able to inspire our players the way Jim’s mentors inspired him, and the way he inspires me.  

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! 

Rest and Recover!

Break week should be a break.  With the increased focus schools now have on students and their mental health, schools schedule break weeks throughout the year to decrease stress levels and allow students to recuperate mentally before returning to the classroom.  I have never understood the teacher who assigns a project for their students to complete during break week, undermining the very purpose of the week.  

The same thinking applies to student-athletes and their athletic performance training.  Well planned and executed exercise programs intentionally stress muscle groups and individual muscles in order to stimulate recovery and growth. Regularly scheduled breaks in a strength training regimen are good for recovery and ultimately, mental and physical health.  The law of reversibility, during a detraining period of only one week, will not come into play.  The athlete who worked so hard for the past 6 weeks to get his deadlift 3 rep max to 385 will still be able to perform that lift after a one-week break.  Just like the math student who solved the algebraic equation correctly during his midterm prior to break can still solve the problem after break week.  

We think of our athletic performance training schedule as a football game.  From the time we return from Holiday break until Winter break is the 1st quarter.  From Winter to Spring break is the 2nd quarter.  Spring break to graduation is the 3rd quarter and Summer is the 4th quarter.  After each quarter of a football game there is a break.  A time for players to catch their breath, to hydrate and to refocus. On several occasions we talked about the importance of “Half-time adjustments” and breaks from training give the body a similar opportunity to assess and adjust. No football coach would ever elect to go from the opening kickoff to the final play with no scheduled breaks.  Players would burnout, performance levels would decline and goals would be harder to achieve.  Take advantage of the breaks and come back as a stronger, more motivated student and athlete.

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! 

Offseason Assessments; What Gets Measured, Gets Done!

As we discussed in last week’s blog post, (Hilltopper’s Train Heroic”) we assess every player through a combine test at the beginning of training camp; but we also test them in a variety of lifts throughout our training season.  Just as in the classroom, we teach before testing. Our strength coach and I are certified Olympic weightlifting coaches through USA Weightlifting, and I would encourage anyone interested in teaching the Olympic lifts to earn a certification. Learning and teaching lifts correctly maximizes both athletic performance and athletes’ safety. 

The techniques for all of these lifts have been taught to the players through a teaching progression at the start of the season and reinforced during in-season training. We believe the Hang Clean and the dumbbell 1 arm Snatch and Jerk enable our athletes to train the benefits of functional power through the extension of the ankles, knees and hips known in O-Lifts as “Triple Extension” while doing so safely. 

We test the week before Winter break, the week before Spring break and the last week before graduation week.  This week is our first testing week. The tests give us a baseline for younger players allowing us to measure growth through future tests.  Tests also allow us to compare results by position group, year in school, veterans and rookies, starters and non-starters.  The results will also identify weaknesses and allow us to alter program design as we phase through the off-season’s natural breaks

Testing in athletic performance training is as important as testing in the classroom.  Academic testing measures learning progress, evaluates the effectiveness of curriculum, and provides both student and teacher with feedback to see that they are on course to achieve their goals. Strength testing provides the same information.  Testing only once or twice a year is akin to a teacher only giving a final exam.

Weekly Training Schedule

We do a 1 Rep Max for the Olympic lifts since the athletes are not lifting very heavy weights (relatively speaking).  We do a 3 Rep Max for the Power lifts to use a lighter weight and minimize risk of injury. Over the years we’ve seen players who commit to the program realize solid progress and subsequently reinforce personal motivation as well as encouraging teammates to do the same.

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! 

Hilltoppers Train Heroic!

In an earlier blog post (“Far From Bright Lights,” 16 Jan), we shared the expectations of our players and the point system we use to track their participation through the Winter and Spring seasons.  We ask those who play another sport to attend that team’s practices as well as strength train for football at least once a week.  Those who do not play another sport are expected to train three times a week.  We post player workouts and track them in the “Train Heroic” app.  

Also mentioned in the earlier blog, those who comply earn a point for themselves and concurrently, a point for the team. Each week of the training season represents a game week for the coming Fall season (Intra-squad scrimmage all the way to the State Championship game).  The total number of team points earned during the week determines whether we win that week’s game.  

The number of points we need to score, as a team, is 24.  Not because it is a certain percentage of our total roster.  Not because it is the number of points we need to score in a regular-season game to win.  But rather as we have shared in other blogs, we hold ourselves to a standard of making evidence-based decisions. 

To that end, on Day 1 of training camp, we will put every player through our combine test measuring them in Speed, Agility, Quickness, Power, Strength, Fitness and Muscular endurance.  Maximum score is 160 points.  During previously successful seasons, we have had an average of 24 players score 100 or more points.  We need an average of 24 players demonstrating their commitment to our training program and the results of maximizing their genetic potential through athletic performance training. In addition to the score, time spent together reinforcing one another’s commitment to personal growth also reinforces commitment to the team and our culture.

Our players know the number we need and encourage each other to help the team reach the score and achieve the win, but we do not fret over those who choose not to.  We give everyone equal opportunity and encouragement and recognize such a commitment may be too much for many of them.  As the saying goes, “I’d rather 10 Lions than 100 Sheep”.  We are looking for 24 Lions.

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! 

Perspectives on Mentorship

I recently read a social media group post from a coach who stated he played offensive line in high school then began coaching right after high school and that he knows a lot about offensive line.  My first thought was “oh no…”  But then I read on as he also relayed, he is now looking for a mentor to learn more about offensive line play.  To that I say, “Alleluia!” 

Those who went before us have the potential to offer hard won wisdom if we will commit to the mentor relationship.

Certainly playing this great game and being influenced by coaches can naturally lead to a desire to stay close to it and look for the opportunity to pass on to others the benefits enjoyed as a player. However, where you sit determines what you see… If you only played high school football and then began coaching right away, you most likely still have a great deal to learn. Your “view” is based on your experience and as a player, it’s often a narrow one. Finding a mentor, (the right mentor!), can have an enormous impact on your career. Perspective, experience, opportunities, and often an understanding of the second and third order effects of decisions or circumstances you may be considering are all potential benefits of a mentor relationship.

I have been blessed to have been coached by and to have coached with some great men who have taught me much about life and football.  If you were not so fortunate, find someone who is an expert and seek their assistance as a mentor. Be candid about your interests, but be equally so about your commitment to the relationship with a mentor and your willingness to pay forward the investment your mentor offers you. Then, as you learn to view the game and its nuances from their perspective, start copying what they do.  Fashion Designer Yohji Yamamoto  is credited with saying, “Start copying what you love. Copy, copy, copy, copy. At the end of the copy you will find yourself.”    

When New Jersey football coaching legend Warren Wolf once put his arm around me and said, “Rich, you are a young George DeLeone” it was most likely the result of how much time I spent observing and copying Coach DeLeone.  When American Football Monthly named me a Guru of offensive line play in the Northeast, it was the result of my studying under my mentor Jim Pry who was similarly mentored by the guru of all offensive line coaches, Jim McNally.  

The time spent listening to, learning from, and observing men like Coach DeLeone, Coach Pry, Coach McNally and Coach Flood, (who is now the OLine Coach at Texas), formulated how I teach.  Now, I appreciate and take great care of any opportunity I have to reinforce the investments of these great men by stepping in where I can and helping other coaches.  

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! 

Building and Sharing Wisdom

As professional development opportunities for football coaches go virtual, I’m concerned some coaches will believe watching a video clip of a play or listening to a pre-recorded presentation will enable them implement and successfully coach the play they just “learned.”  To quote French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom.” The key component of wisdom is experience.  Experiences can be shared in live presentations and often spill out into hotel lobbies, on fields interacting with players and coaches, or in offices on whiteboards.  

Our eyes can deceive us… The play a coach views once in a recording was run successfully against the most ideal defense.  When researching a play, we need to see the Good, the Bad and the Ugly… To see it against 3 down and 4 down, versus Zone and Man, with 1 High and 2 High, versus 5 and 6 man pressures.  Video clips in live presentations will likely skew to the optimal as well, but multiple coaches asking multiple questions: (e.g.  how to block the play against 4i Defensive Tackles, when Linebackers walk up in the A gaps, versus a defense that drops eight…) offers the greatest opportunity to clarify and confirm understanding and expectations.  

If there is something you see online and would like to install,  email the coach with your questions.  Try to set up a Zoom meeting as a follow up.  Learn what he has learned. Knowledge is knowing.  Wisdom is so much more…  It is not enough to diagram and know the rules of a play.  You need to understand the intricacies of the play and how they may be impacted by defensive adjustments.  Wisdom involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding, as well as a tolerance for the uncertainties one is likely to encounter.

If you have any questions about any of the things I have online, I would look forward to the discussion.  Feel free to reach out, and please offer to share something of your own as well.

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 Starts and Extraordinary Examples

The third Monday of January is the day we honor the life of a man who fought for racial justice and equality and dreamed of a color-blind world free from segregation.  While we have come a long was as a nation since Dr. King shared his dream; the recent social unrest reminds us of how far we still must go.

The Team Reminds Us of Who and What We Can Become.
(Photo by Paul Hayes)

The third Monday of January also marks the start of the football clinic season and my annual trip to Bergen County NJ for the honor of speaking at Fred Stengel’s annual offensive line coach’s clinic. Regrettably, for the first time in over 20 years, Coach Stengel’s clinic will not happen.  Nor will so many others.  I am hopeful that invitations I had to speak at the 2021 New England Nike Clinic, Glazier Clinics, and the Big New England Clinic will be extended to me again in 2022.  As I have said in other blogs, one of the greatest things about our profession is the willingness of coaches to share their knowledge with others.  While I love to speak and share those things that have brought our program success, I find equal joy in learning from other coaches.

The game of football and the young people we coach are ever changing and we, as coaches, must adapt to those changes and stay current to have continued success and to better relate to this generation of players.  We must have open minds that are accepting of new ideas and better ways of doing things.  To have an open mind, we must possess the virtue of humility.  Arrogance leads to a closed mind and the belief that we are already in possession of everything worth knowing. If I’ve learned anything in more than 30 years of coaching, it’s actually how much I still have left to learn! 

While Glazier, Nike and Big New England have all gone virtual, I remain optimistic the vaccine coupled with herd immunity will allow the Vermont Football Coaches Clinic and the Alercio OLine Clinics, usually scheduled in March, to be hosted live in May.  I am ever hopeful the coming months will allow us to gather as coaches to share ideas with open minds for the betterment of our players, teams, and the game of football. Opportunities to learn and share excite me and re-kindle the optimism and promise of the new season and all we can achieve together. In his “I have a dream” speech, when Dr. King said, “We as a people, will get to the promised land…” I think he was speaking of the hope and potential for all to achieve the best of themselves, and the best of society. While my aspirations for the team pales in comparison to Dr. King’s monumental task and achievements, I feel fortunate to have his example to emulate and guide from as we begin again to strive to be our best as players, coaches, and teammates.

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!