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! 

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! 

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! 

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!