“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!

 

Coaches Are Teachers…

2018-03-07 coaching_at_the_blackboard
Coaches are teachers, but what is teaching?  Perhaps I can offer a football analogy.  Consider the teacher to be the quarterback, the information the ball and the student the receiver.  In order for the teacher to be successful, the information needs to be passed AND received in such a way the receiver has the ability to do something with it.
Though a coach may pass the information, it is not what you as the coach can do that matters. It is what you can get your players to do. While the pass and catch analogy works fine in basic concept, there is actually a far greater task at hand. With eleven players on the field at any one time, we have to teach, coach, train, and mentor our players on BOTH their individual assignments and the roles and responsibilities of the players on their left and right. When players begin to grasp how each role complements another, and how together teammates are stronger than any could be alone, the team builds cohesion and interdependence.
Now back to the quarterback analogy… As Spring approaches and we as coaches consider the task ahead of us, we clearly have to “throw a lot of passes,” teaching our players their roles and responsibilities. We only return one starter from our championship offensive line, and none of his fellow starters this year will be seniors. With 30 years experience coaching this great game, I have enough plays to fill a high school full of chalkboards. My staff and I could be “throwing passes” all spring… However, 30 years experience has also taught me the importance of focusing on fundamentals, establishing a solid foundation of understanding, and cultivating a culture of interdependence. Prioritizing the “passes we throw” (lessons we teach), will make all the difference if we are to defend our state championship. I look forward to the journey of our 2018 season and am thankful for the opportunity to share it here with you.
Please join us Sunday, March 25, at the 17th Annual Alercio OLine Clinic 2018 NJ OLine Clinic Brochurewhere more than 300 linemen and coaches will focus on the fundamentals and teach all of the run and pass techniques and schemes your players need for success. The Alercio OLine Clinic will prepare your players for “the passes you throw” at them this Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Click on the brochure image to the right to get your Alercio Oline Clinic application, fill it out, send it in with your tuition, and join us at the Hun School of Princeton on March 25, 2018. Early bird rates are still available and will again discount individual tuition for teams sending five (5) or more players. As in the past, Coaches may attend for free.

Although this is a non-contact camp, we recognize that there is the risk of concussion with the sport of football.  For education materials on concussions please visit the USA Football at www.usafootball.com 
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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!

MLK O-Line Clinic Re-Cap

As stated in last week’s blog, this was my third year presenting at Fred Stengel’s Martin Luther King Day OLine Clinic.  I look forward to the annual pilgrimage for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, I love reconnecting with the coaches in my home state whom I just do not see often enough.  Next, I truly enjoy any opportunity to share those things that have made our program successful.  I have been very fortunate to learn from some great coaches and only hope that I can play a small part in the success of another coach’s career or team.  Lastly, I am always looking to learn and stay current in our profession.

The trip from St Johnsbury VT to Bergen NJ to attend was made easier thanks to some very entertaining football games on Sunday.  I caught the first quarter of the first game in Vermont and the last quarter of the last game in NJ and was entertained by radio on the 320 miles in between.  Tom McCarthy was the play-by-play guy for Westwood One’s presentation of the Steelers/Jaguars game.  Interestingly, Tom was the radio guy who covered our games when I was the OC at Trenton State College.  He has come a long way and is very deserving.  His broadcast was tremendous.

The clinic the next day was just as good.  It opened with Tim Allen, University of Pittsburgh, sharing their Shovel Pass and Jet Sweep.   He shared some creative ways they are doing both.  While many of us are running Shovel to a running back or H Back, they are also running it to an attached Tight End.  On their Jet Sweep, they are running it as an influence.  While running Jet Sweep to the right, only the right Tackle is blocking for Jet Sweep.  All other OLs are going to the left.

2018-01-18 Bergen Clinic

After my presentation on our Slide Protection, AJ Blazek, Rutgers University, shared his year-round development play for their offensive linemen.  He breaks the off-season up into 4 quarters that each have clear objectives for developing his OLs both physically and mentally.

Between speakers, Geoff Collins, Head Coach at Temple University, gave an unscheduled, brief but moving talk on his relationship with a former player.  Bill Tierney played on the great Bergen Catholic teams in the early 90s before going to Fordham where he had Coach Collins as a position coach.  In Bill’s junior season, he collapsed on the field during pre-game and never recovered.  I recruited and coached several of Bill’s teammates at Trenton State College/The College of New Jersey and remember their struggles in dealing with his loss.

The last speaker before the lunch break was Temple’s OLine Coach, Chris Wiesehan who gave a detailed presentation on coordinating the OLine and Running back in Mid Zone Stretch along with all of the blocking scenarios upfront on that play.

As much as I would have loved to stay for Princeton University’s Andrew Aurich’s talk on Gap Schemes and the Wing-T influence in the Pin & Pull Sweep Play, I took advantage of the lunch break to get on the road for a long trip back to Vermont.  But I did leave with some great ideas that I will incorporate in our program during Spring Ball.   I look forward to returning to the Garden State in February for the Atlantic City Glazier Clinic then again on March 25 at the Hun School for my 17th Annual OLine Clinic, and I hope to see many of my old friends again.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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!