New Hires & New Perspectives

This week, I had my first meeting with a newly hired assistant coach on our staff.  He brings a dozen years of high school and college coaching experience from schools in the mid-west.  While he seemed excited to join our staff and learn what we have done to achieve our past successes, I am equally thrilled to hear what he knows and to have him share with our staff what he has learned during his tenure.  

New plays and new ways of thinking.

Some advice for head coaches hiring assistants and for that matter everyone in leadership hiring anyone to their staff:  Do not surround yourself with sycophants.  Obsequious assistant coaches may be good for a head coach’s ego, but they offer little value to a program.  There is a saying, “if we are all of the same opinion then there is no need for all of us to be here.”  Surround yourself with assistants who will offer their thoughts and challenge yours.

While it’s common for interviews to include questions about an applicant’s “strengths and weaknesses,” as leaders it’s often more important to know your own than to listen to an applicant offer platitudes about “working too hard,” or “being a perfectionist.” Particularly after a leader has developed some tenure and a reservoir of experience, knowing your weaknesses helps you hire to fill them.

Be the best you are at what you do, and reinforce your core strengths while hiring to fill gaps in capabilities. In a stadium, where you sit determines what you see… Perspectives matter. As leaders we don’t need someone sitting over our shoulder with the same view and perspective. We need those whose strengths, views, and perspectives differ if we are to truly build complementary staffs, and ultimately teams.

We have stated in previous blogs that together our team is always stronger than any one individual. The same applies to our staff.

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! 

Measurables & Immeasurables…

In previous years, we have shared blogs of a practice our staff does of drafting the players on our team in the order we would choose them if we were picking teams.  We do it around the time of the NFL Draft.  The post-draft staff discussions are always interesting as reasons are shared as to why one coach ranked a player so much higher than another.  

Measurables & Immeasurables…

It is not uncommon for coaches in our draft or executives in the NFL draft to get caught up in the “measurables”.  College coaches do it as well in the recruiting process.  Quarterbacks need to be 6′ 3″ or taller and offensive linemen need to be at least 6′ 4″.  The athletic test know as “The Combine” tests players in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump, bench press, broad jump, shuttle, and three cone drill.   Coaches have rows and columns of “measurables” yet some players find ways to surprise. Personally, I became a fan of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers when I saw their offensive success with a 5′ 9″ Center.  As a former 5′ 9″ college Center, I have an appreciation for overcoming those stereotypes and delivering above cursory expectations.

While the NFL draft and the college recruiting process affords coaches the luxury of being picky in player selection, high school football does not offer such indulgences.  We coach the boys who live in our town and try to put the best 11 on the field regardless of their size. As my high school defensive coordinator, Ed Heffernan used to say, “do not prejudice a player based on his size.” 

A “higher maxim” found in 1 Samuel 16:7 teaches us, “…the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Others seem to echo similar sentiments as in Admiral William H McCraven’s famous University of Texas commencement speech stating: “if you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart.”  Unfortunately, the NFL has yet to find a way to track heart size as a measurable. While I claim to be no better at measuring heart, I would like to emphasize the importance in a high school coaches’ role in leading, guiding, teaching, and mentoring our student athletes to build as big a heart as bench press or squat. When adversity finds our players later in life (as it finds us all), adversity never checks the tangibles. Our athletes’ hearts are measured in resilience, endurance, and perseverance. As coaches, our charge is to help them do more than they thought possible, so that some day when tested by adversity, they will find themselves equal to that task (Combine or no combine!)

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! 

The “I Test”

When most coaches here “I Test,” they’re more likely to think “Eye Test.” Not like the Optometrist or Optician, but rather their own discerning eye. An eye that helps a coach compare a potential player against years of accumulated context and understanding of the characteristics of a successful student athlete. For example, just by the “eye test,” DaVonta Smith, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner is 6’1″and (generously) 175Lbs. Many coaches “eyes” wouldn’t have picked him to be the Division I All-Star he turned out to be. While his case brings to mind the adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” I’d like to focus on a different kind of “I Test.”

I recently listened to a podcast with Joanne Mccallie,  the only Division I women’s basketball coach to lead two different programs to 30-win seasons with three National Championship game appearances, and she earned National Coach of the Year in 2005. Coach talked about what she referred to as “The I Test,” she teaches her teams.

Regardless of sport, Coaches help players achieve more than they believed they could achieve on their own. Coach Mccallie’s “I Test” is a great example of a philosophy underpinning student athlete success, and is one I’ll look to impart to the Hilltopper Football team this summer and fall.

Coach Mccallie’s “I test” consists of three “I’s” and establishes a quick pattern to focus players’ (and coaches’) attention:

INTENSITY– Am I focused and dedicated to being the best I can mentally and physically be in this very instant?

INTELLIGENCE– Am I being thoughtful, applying all I’ve learned, practiced, and making good decisions to help my team achieve our goals?

IMMEDIACY– Am I playing in the now, focused on this instant, and avoiding distractions of past mistakes or things pulling me away from my team and our purpose?

The three “I’s” of Coach Mccallie’s “I Test” offer a quick check whether making decisions in practice, on game day, or in life.  Sometimes, we all need to step back and assess our perspective, decisions, and actions. “The I Test,” offers a quick and focused assessment of where we are versus where we want to be.

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! 

The Score Takes Care of Itself

Alercio OLine Clinic Brochure

Legendary coach Bill Walsh had a saying, a philosophy, “the score takes care of itself”.  As you have read in earlier blogs, we embrace a philosophy that “games are not won on weekends in the Fall”.  Those players and coaches who attend Alercio OLine Clinics months before they will ever play a game truly embrace these philosophies.

I am always impressed with the hundreds of players and scores of coaches who travel far and wide to brave the weather on a field rimmed with mounds of snow as we usually host our clinics in March.  The forecast for this year’s New Jersey  Clinic at the Hun School of Princeton is 78 and Sunny.  A far cry from what we are accustomed to.  

As Spring shakes off winter’s cold renewing the Mid-Atlantic, and we all shake off a year of isolation, I look forward to returning to my home state, coaching my clinic for the 20th year, seeing so many coaching friends, reconnecting with former players and teammates and to working with the young men who so selflessly give of themselves for the betterment of their teams by honing their OLine Skills.  Click the Brochure and register today!

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! 

Today & Tomorrow

In her song “Greatest Love of All,” Whitney Houston sang “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” 

Alercio OLine Clinic Brochure

That is particularly true when it comes to high school football.  Unlike college football where you can go out and recruit the players for size, speed, skill, or position, in high school, coaches develop the student athletes resident in one’s community.  The children in community youth programs are the future of your high school program.  To borrow a phrase, “Teach them well and they will lead the way.”

At the Alercio OLine Clinics, we provide college level instruction to high school players; but every year we have several schools that bring their 7th and 8th grade players.  Coincidentally, those teams who involve their youth players always turn out to be the top ranked teams in their state.  

Not only do those young players benefit from learning proper techniques and schemes of offensive line play, but they do so alongside their heroes, the upperclassmen on the varsity team they want to emulate and hope to someday be.  All under the watchful eyes of their future high school coaches.  

As leaders, teachers, mentors, and coaches, we set expectations, develop cultures, and a belief in something bigger than any one of us. I encourage coaches to invest in their program’s future by sharing our brochure with local youth coaches, players, and parents.  Let these young athletes train alongside the varsity and JV players and reinforce to them how important they are to the future of your program. In much the same way we build confidence, commitment, and optimism about the Fall of ’21, including youth program participants today, plants seeds of optimism for many Falls to come.  

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! 

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!