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! 

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!

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!

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!