Alotta FISH!

“That is a lot of FISH, Coach”

I have heard the term “GOAT” used to refer to someone as the “Greatest Of All Time,” but it was not until this weekend, when I received a text from our former headmaster and now assistant coach, following our win last weekend, using the acronym FISH to describe things as First In School History.  

The following is his list of FISH:

  1. Two father-son duos win a championship (Tom and John Lovett, Rich and Jake Alercio)
  2. Coach has won a championship with all three sons (Shane and Trey as players in 2017, Jake as a coach in 2020)
  3. Championship game win on Fairbanks Field. (Championship games are usually played on neutral sites)
  4. 7-on-7 Championship.  
  5. Beating our rivals, Lyndon Institute, twice in a season.

In a pregame speech just prior to our first game this season I told our players, “This would be an historical season; remembered for generations to come.”  They would always be known as “the team who played through the pandemic.” That much we knew… But I asked them, “how do you want to be remembered? What are you willing to commit to? What do you pledge to yourselves and your teammates? And how will you measure yourselves against your commitment and pledge?”

Throughout the season I saw young men, (and for the first time, young women) demonstrate their commitment to each other, to the team, and to becoming something worth more than an asterisk about a pandemic. As the 2020 Hilltopper story arced across the season, we encountered challenges and rebounded in the face of adversity. When circumstances tried to pull us apart, we saw cohesion and interdependence pull us back together… This past weekend, we wrote the final chapter of the story. This resilient team of Hilltoppers, led through these challenging times by our three seniors, will always be known as the 2020 Northeast Regional Champions.

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!

Determining Best Plays

Last week, we discussed simplifying your offense to focus only on your best plays (the ones that bring you joy).  But how do you objectively determine your best plays?  We use a combination of Mean, Median, and Mode along with an Efficiency Percentage to give each play a Value.  That value determines the return on investment of each play.

We start by placing the yards gained for every play in a spreadsheet.  Then we determine a Mean by adding up the total yards gained by a play divided by the total number of times it was called.  We then put the yards gained for a play in ascending order to find the Median value.  The Median is the middle value of the yards earned by each play when listed lowest to highest.  While in ascending order, we look for a Mode.  A Mode is the value that occurs most often.  We then add the Mean, Median, and Mode together and divide by three to get what we consider the true Average yards a play produces.  Note: sometimes there is no Mode or there are several Modes.  In those cases, we do not include a Mode average and just add the Mean and Median then divide by two.

The reason we use all three (Mean, Median, Mode) is that most plays do not have a large enough sample size to determine a reliable Mean. (You may recall the old maxim, “The larger the sample, the truer the mean.”)  A play yielding one really long gain or loss will skew the average when there is not a significant sample size.

The Efficiency Percentage is determined by taking the total number of plays that were efficient, divided by the total number of times the play was called then multiplying by 100.  A play is considered efficient when it yields 4 yards, a first down or a touchdown.

Lastly, we add the true Average and the Efficiency Percentage to get a Value.  The higher the Value, the better the return on investment for the time it takes to install the play.   We are looking for Values of 80 or higher.  For example, A play with a 5-yard average and is efficient 3 out of 4 times (75%) would have a Value of 80.    The chart shown here lists the values of our Running Plays from 2019.  Some gave us great joy.  Others need to be reevaluated.  There is no time to teach all nine plays this year.

2020-07-16 PlayEfficiencyAssessment

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!

Strong Legs Run That Weak Legs May Walk

That is the motto of every Shrine Football Game. 2020-06-04 Trey's Shrine Game The Vermont – New Hampshire Shrine committee is working hard to see that the 67th Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game will be played on August 1.  Seventy-six of the top graduated high school seniors from New Hampshire and Vermont will square off in the annual football game where the real winners are the Children in the Shrine Hospitals.  Shrine Hospitals provide care for children up to the age of 18 with special health care needs.

Please consider supporting the game and Shrine Hospitals by visiting our son Trey’s First Giving Page.  (Or click on his picture here) If it doesn’t present when you click the link, go to firstgiving.com type Trey Alercio in the search bar then click Search.  Click on Trey Alercio’s Page then click on the green Donate button.  Any support is greatly appreciated.

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!

Seek The Good

It is difficult not feeling sorry for yourself these days.  Especially for those of us dealing with high school students.  Schools are closed, meals and health services are no longer accessible, friends are in self-quarantine, classes are online, sports seasons are canceled, proms and graduations are threatened.  These are difficult times.

But my concerns were put into perspective today when I was exiting our school’s publicly accessible fitness center.  An elderly couple I had never seen before was coming in.  I thought it odd that with all the social distancing they would enter an often crowed space, especially at their age.

So I stopped and asked, “how I could help them?”  The reply, “we were just hoping we could come in and get warm.”  We welcomed them into our lobby and gave each of them a hot cup of coffee.

Though we easily find ourselves consumed by the uncertainty around us, and may unfortunately only have the stressors of the day sensationalized and amplified by myriad channels, I was reminded today, of the importance of doing for others. Part of our teambuilding culture is to put the good of the team (quite literally the good of others) ahead of our own interests.

A welcoming smile, a warm lobby, and a hot cup of coffee in and of themselves may not be much, but we found a way to give others something to be grateful for amidst the stressors of the day. In moments such as these, the cacophony of a 24hr news cycle, staccato of social media feeds, and a world where toilet paper and milk disappear from supermarket shelves fade away and afford us the opportunity to give some time, some attention, and some relief to others.

As I say to my team quite often, (and you may have read a few times on this blog), “The hand that gives, gathers.” These are difficult times but be thankful for your many blessings and look for opportunities to help others be thankful for theirs.

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!

Reflecting and Giving Thanks

This week, I share a Facebook post from the mother of one of our senior offensive linemen who suffered a tragic loss in their family a year ago.  I paused before posting because one could easily jump to the conclusion, I’m taking the opportunity to “toot my own horn.” In fact, I’m simply trying to reinforce the very best football has to offer. If in some small way through the lessons I hope to share on and off the field, as well as here on the blog, I even slightly inspire someone to lead, teach, and coach the way my coaches inspired me, it will be worth all the effort. So please forgive the laudatory comments and realize the mother of this senior student-athlete perfectly captures what is so good about football, the culture it can create in a community, and the impact it has on the lives of the players.

I attended my son’s football banquet on Sunday night. For those of us with graduating seniors, this year is bittersweet and full of emotion. It is a year of “lasts.” Football, in particular, is extremely hard to let go of not only for Lane but for me as well. Many of these boys have played together for 8 or more years and during that time a family was formed. No other sport any of my children have participated in has fostered the type of relationship among the parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. the way that football has. I am very grateful for the support of this ‘football family” during the most difficult time in my family’s life. Many of us joke, “our social lives are over now that football is done…”

My friend attended the banquet with me. When we got home I asked him what he thought of it. He said he thought it was great. He enjoyed hearing all of the speeches about the boys but he was surprised as he thought there would be an ovation at the end for Coach Rich Alercio. “After all,” he said, “he’s the heart of the team.”

He is right. You, Coach Alercio, were thanked throughout the evening by different individuals but you were not lauded to the extent you deserve. Because of you and the team of coaches you have picked I am confident my son will go forward a better person, — a better man. I wholeheartedly believe the choices he will make, the paths he will take will be forever influenced by the impact you have had on him.

You had high expectations – expected no less than his best both on and off the field. You have his best interest at heart. You have been tough when Lane needed you to be tough, and you have held him up when he needed it most.

I truly thank you for your dedication, your time, and the brotherhood you have nurtured among all these young men.

 I am humbled by such kind words, and by the privilege to contribute to the lives of our student-athletes. I share these words here in hopes of showing you what’s possible… If a high school coach from a small town in Vermont can positively impact the lives of those around him, so can you. We all share such opportunities and I hope you’ll make the most of them.

Though Thanksgiving has recently passed and the 2019 football season has come to an end, I want to relay my thanks and gratitude for all we’ve shared this season, and for the privilege to start it all over again as we look ahead to 2020. Games aren’t won on Fridays and Saturdays in the Fall… Let’s get back at it!

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 Game”

This weekend marks the 115th playing of “The Game.”

St Johnsbury Academy vs. Lyndon Institute is one of the oldest football rivalries in the country. The entire week, on the Academy campus, is named “Spirit Week.” Hallways are decorated, skits to be performed at the pep rally are practiced, and floats for Friday night’s parade are built. The week brings our diverse community together in celebration of our school spirit.

2019-10-17 Tradition Never Graduates

We kick off the weekend with a pep rally on Friday during the last two periods of the school day. The rally includes traditional cheers lead by our cheer team, skits performed by each class, a musical performance by the Academy’s administrative team, the naming of the royal court (Homecoming Queen/King, Princess/Prince, Duchess/Duke) and speeches by the football captains and head coach. After practice, teams, the royal court, students, floats, and the St Johnsbury Fire Department line up for the parade along Main Street.

As the parade returns to campus, the bonfire is lit. Once the flames are out, everyone in our community is invited to the school cafeteria for a pizza party. The night ends with an alumnus social at the St Johnsbury Elks Lodge where stories, myths, and legends of past games are told, and truths are occasionally stretched…

One thing never stretched is the pride in belonging to a community, team, or family where traditions, culture, and commitment to something bigger than self is still alive and well.

To quote one of my closest friends after he saw a picture of my son Shane two years ago riding in the back of a convertible as the Homecoming Prince with the rest of the parade behind him, “that is the best of small-town USA.”

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!

Norming Our Team

Playing on the turf of a Division I football stadium 2019-06-27 UMass 7v& Tourneyversus a team from national power Bergen Catholic in our first game of the UMass 7v7 tournament was more than our newly formed team was ready for.  But it was just what we needed.  As the day went on, we witnessed our team go from the Storming Stage of Tuckman’s Phases of Team Development to the Norming Stage.

The Hilltoppers began to perform with lowered anxiety, became more engaged, more supportive of each other and communicated at a higher level.  The energy level of the entire team increased dramatically as we competed from game to game.  There was an emergence of team harmony that we had not yet seen in this group of young men.

When we think about the characteristics of a team working through the Norming Phase we look for:

  • Increasing Interdependence
  • Role awareness
  • Contextual decision making
  • Employing measures of effectiveness to reinforce progress & success
  • Commitment & Unity

Leadership roles became clearly defined as did positions on the depth chart.  Players began to make decisions not just in relation to the defensive scheme or offensive formation, but in context with, and in relation to each other. In doing so, they demonstrate more and more interdependence and by doing so, reinforce commitment and unity.

During our discussion of the “Forming” stage, we talked about the importance of challenging but attainable goals individuals could accomplish in order to build momentum and reinforce success. As we work through a phase like “Norming,” we see the scope of challenges grow to a competition like a 7v7 tournament where success is predicated on cooperation and the realization no one can win by themselves.

We have two more weeks to prepare for our next 7v7 at Spaulding high school in Vermont.  The venue will not be nearly as imposing nor will the opponent, but it will allow our team another opportunity to bring us closer to the Performing Stage.

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!

Jimmies & Joes…

There is an old saying in football, “it is not the Xs & Os, it’s the Jimmies and Joes”.  If your Jimmies & Joes are better than your opponents’, you’ll likely to win most games.

2019-04-18 Xs & Os vs Jim & Joe

That is why, over the past three months, I traveled to Bergen County NJ, Princeton NJ, Mystic CT, Windsor CT, Biddeford ME, and Orlando FL to attend clinics, conferences, and spring practices.  

In the NFL, you can draft better players.  In college football, you can recruit better players.  In high school, you have to coach the Jimmys and Joes who go to your school and you have to make them better than the Jimmys and Joes walking the halls of the schools on your schedule.  

The drills, techniques, and schemes we learned at Glazier and Nike Clinics, the USA Football Conference, and UNE practice will help us to make our players better.  We appreciate those coaches who were so willing to share what they do with us so that we can share it with our players and make them better Jimmys and Joes!

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 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 richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

Draft Your Own Team

“You’re on the clock!”

With the NFL draft being the dominant topic on sports talk radio, consider running your own draft with your coaches of your players.  For the past several years, I have tasked our coaches to create their own draft order of our players.  They are asked to create their personal “best available” list based on our roster.    It is always interesting to see how their lists compare with mine.  It will also reveal where you and your staff perceive to have positional strengths and weaknesses.

Once we have a collective draft order, we plug them into offensive and defensive positions.  Last year, during our undefeated Division I state championship run, we had 5 offensive linemen in our top 12.  This year, we do not have 5 OLs in our top 20.  That is a concern that needs to be addressed heading into our summer training.

It is every coaches’ objective to get the best 11 on the field.  This exercise will help you accomplish that goal.  You may find that you have 2 QBs in your top 11.  Make one a WR or RB.  If you have two Tight Ends in the top 11, put in a double tight or H back formation.  If you have no TEs, go with open end formations.

This is a fun staff activity that may open your eyes to something you had not already seen.

On another note, readers may recall my January trip to the USA Football National Conference in Orlando where I was fortunate to share some time with the extraordinary crew from USA Football (www.usafootball.com) and contribute to their Coaches Academy video series. My video on “Building a Culture,” is now live and available at USA Football.

2018-04-26 Rich at USA Football
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 your time!