Ripples In Time…

“We never know how what we say, do, or think today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.”  A life-long friend and high school teammate recently shared that quote when I told him about a former player’s recent visit.  This player’s four years as a Hilltopper coincided with the most successful stretch in our long and proud football history.  We earned our way into three state championship games, winning one of them, and made it to the state semifinals the other year. 

However, the young man who visited wasn’t the star quarterback, a team-leading lineman, or dominating linebacker. In fact, he never started a game. He made the most of his opportunity to play late in games when the outcome was often already determined. Yet, he felt something significant about his place on the team, his pride in belonging, and the opportunity to contribute.

After a few minutes of small talk, he said, “Coach, there’s a reason for this visit. There’s something I want to give you.” He reached into his pocket to reveal a patch and two challenge coins.  Then proudly shared he had become a United States Marine, and the patch and coins were from his new team; the Helicopter Squadron that flies the President on “Marine One.” 

He went on to relay he initially did not want to play football as a freshman, but his mom made him. Despite his reluctance, he found teammates and a culture instilling pride in being part of something special. He felt “strength in numbers,” as the team overcame deficits or rallied to lift the motivation of a struggling teammate. He closed by saying “he owes who he is today to his high school football coaches and teammates who gave him both the courage to become a football player, and the confidence to become a Marine.”  I am so very thankful for his visit, for his mom’s understanding that the rewards of the game: the lessons about oneself and one’s team are worthy of the sacrifice whether one plays all 48 minutes or only four. 

As my long-time friend went on to say, “In hindsight, we see the incredible impact sports had on our lives and the lives of our teammates. We learn as young men the leadership and mentorship of a good coach is life-changing.” He went on to say, “But we have no idea how many of these stories exist… and in a world so frequently dominated by divisiveness and acrimony, isn’t that potential for good, just incredible?” 

It warms my heart to know that there is one story such as this, and I trust there are many more.    

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! 

Athletic Performance Training Starts the New Year!

The first order of business for every new year is the implementation of the athletic performance training program.   When our players return to school next week, all those not playing a winter sport are expected to train Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with our athletic performance coach.  

The philosophy of our program is that athletes train movements, not muscles.  We do not break up our workouts into Legs, Chest & Tris, Back & Bis.  We train the entire body at every workout with multi-joint ground-based movements, core stabilizers, squat derivations, hip hinges, vertical or horizontal presses, and vertical or horizontal pulls.

We start with ground-based multi-joint movements: Snatch, Cleans, or Jerks.  Because of the complexity of the Snatch, we modify it by using a 1-arm Dumbbell Snatch.  We superset each of those Olympic lifts with a core stabilization exercise such as planks, dead-bugs, bird-dogs, Paloff presses, etc.  

In our next lifting block, we superset a squat movement (back or front squat, hex-bar deadlift, forward, backward, or walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, etc) with a vertical or horizontal press (barbell or dumbbell bench, incline or push press). 

Our last lifting block is a hip hinge lift (barbell deadlift, 1-leg or 2-leg Romanian deadlifts) coupled with a vertical or horizontal pull (pull-ups, chin-ups, barbell, or dumbbell rows). 

We encourage our players to do 30 minutes of cardio on Tuesdays and a sprint workout on Thursdays.  All of their workouts are in an app called Train Heroic where they can record their weights, reps, times, and other information pertinent to their training so that we can track their progress through the winter months.

We want to be sure the training our players are doing translates to increased athletic performance on the field and not just to them looking better in the mirror. While there are obvious benefits to training in the off-season, perhaps the best one of all is getting those players who are not on a Winter team back together with their “brothers” and giving them something positive to do after a long Christmas break.

Speaking of returning after Christmas Break, it was five years and nearly 230 blog posts ago (around New Year’s 2017) that we started Olineskills.com. Whether you’re new to the site or have been along for the entire ride, I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to entertain conversations about the game I love and have dedicated more than 40 years to playing and coaching. I look forward to all 2022 brings to us, and hope you and yours enjoyed the Holidays, and are excited about the New Year, new teams, new challenges, and new victories!

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!  

Presents Vs. Presence

Both words sound alike to me, but for many, they are drastically different.  This year, as you gather with your colleagues, community, friends, and family, try to be thoughtful about these words and their meanings.  Instead of focusing all your attention on what “presents” you may give or get, consider giving the gift of your “presence.”  Whether the soundtrack for “It’s a Wonderful Life” or the background for the “Ball Drop” on New Year’s Eve, “Auld Lang Syne” reminds us to recall special memories of relationships and occasions we cherish.

Those memories are born from attention and presence. Bring your full self to every conversation, handshake, or hug.  Forget about yesterday.  Stop thinking about tomorrow.  Put your phone away.  Know that every day is a gift and enjoy the moment for the moment’s sake. What your family and friends really want for Christmas is YOU. 

Your presence is the greatest gift you can give your loved ones.  Take in every sight, sound, and smell of Christmas whenever, wherever, and with whomever you gather. You may just find the gift of your presence to those you love, may also be the greatest gift you give to yourself.  Merry Christmas.

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!  

Changing Seasons…

One of the things a college football coach quickly learns is the office he occupies, the chair and desk where he spends countless hours… even the locker he hangs his coat in, are not his (or hers). Those resources belong to the school, and you are given the privilege to occupy/employ them as long as the school permits.  

As high school football coaches, we also learn the players are not “ours.”  When your season is over, they become basketball players, wrestlers, indoor track athletes or pursue other opportunities.  Student-Athletes who do not play a winter sport, often shift their focus to preparing for Spring sports like baseball, lacrosse, Track & Field, or other interests.

Just like that office, desk, and chair, the players are not yours either.  They (the players) all belong to the school and are led, guided, and directed by others after the football season concludes.  While we would like to see them keep up with football-specific strength training programs and know if they did, they would be better prepared for next Fall, we have to leave training up to their in-season coach.  If that coach does not understand the value of athletic performance training, speak to your athletic director.  It is her/his job to ensure all coaches in the department are doing what is best for the athletes regardless of what sport they play, what season it is, or who their coach is at the time.  Do not discourage the football player from being a multisport athlete because you think that is what is best for your program.  In fact, as we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, most athletes (and ultimately most teams) benefit from the complementary skills and lessons learned in other sports. As coaches concerned about the overall growth, potential, and wellbeing of those in our charge, it is our obligation to help develop the “whole person.”  

Playing other sports allow athletes to develop different muscle groups and movement patterns, avoid burn-out with the intense emphasis on only one sport, develop different skills that can be applied from one sport to the other, and increase socialization by having another peer group and further evolve the elements of character we’ve discussed this Fall.  Lastly, go see them play.  Encourage their success whether on the court, mat, or track, or in other endeavors like drama, debate, or music. Let them know they are important to you all year, not just in the Fall.

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 Leader in Every Locker, Week 14; Endurance

The 14th and final leadership trait in our series A Leader in Every Locker is Endurance.  Endurance is mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, adversity, and hardship.  This quality allows one to withstand physical and emotional discomfort, pain, and distress while persevering to achieve a goal, objective, or desired outcome. 

Endurance; A Riveting Story!

(Many years ago) When I was a player, coaches often quoted the legendary  Vince Lombardi who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” When I was speaking at a Nike Coach of the Year Football Clinic several years ago, I attended a session presented by a United States Marine Corps Captain who shared a complementary phrase that I have embraced ever since: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” 

Football is a game of mental and physical adversity and stress.  Either can be a lot to bear, but the combination is even more daunting. Hot or cold, tired and sore, bruised and sometimes bloodied, combines with mental and emotional pressures to perform against a determined foe, and an unrelenting clock. This is the type of mental and physical pain players who lead by example, must endure to stay on the field of play and contribute to the good of the team.  It must be noted if a player sustains an injury, they must be evaluated by a certified athletic trainer before their status is assessed determining their ability to return to play. We try hard to help our athletes make a distinction between pain and injury and would rather err on the side of caution and safety.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about the ways team sports “inoculate” student-athletes against fear, loss, and adversity. From both my own experience, and from decades of witnessing others encountering circumstances requiring “endurance” and the willingness to push through the “uncomfortableness” of physical, mental, and emotional stress, it’s clear a little “uncomfortableness” now, seeds the ability to endure more later in life. I have a close friend who gave me Alfred Lansing’s book “Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage,” which recounts Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition and their 24 months locked in an ice flow, battered by the Southern Ocean, and yet undaunted, they endured returning to England without any loss of life.

Football is said to be a game of inches.  Those inches are earned by the team who finds a way to give one more try, one more ounce of strength, and who (after every possible consideration) admits defeat last.  The game is often won by those who persevere one run, block, tackle, or catch longer than their opponents. The game of life requires endurance 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! 

A Leader In Every Locker, Week 11; Courage

Courage is a mental quality recognizing the fear of physical injury and danger or the emotional fear of criticism and humiliation, yet courage enables one to proceed in the face of danger or concern with calmness and resolve.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the recognition of its existence, and the willingness to take decisive action in spite of it. Note: The Hero and the Coward feel the same feelings, the distinction between the two is the decisions and actions one takes despite the fear.

This past weekend our entire team faced the fear of criticism and perhaps humiliation as we played one of America’s oldest high school football rivalries. The 116th playing of “The Game” between St Johnsbury Academy and Lyndon Institute; a rivalry reaching back to 1894. In the past 6 seasons, the Academy has accumulated a comfortable 388 to 48 scoring margin winning those six games by an average of 55-7. No Academy team wants to be the one to end the winning streak. This year the Vikings brought in a talented team, bigger and stronger than ours, but we were able to come out on top 31-14 in a game actually far closer than the score reflects.


During the game, we had several players returning from injuries having missed the previous game and multiple practices. While they were all medically cleared to play, each faced understandable concerns of being reinjured or whether their performance would be worthy of the trust of their teammates. Despite their fears, they played well and contributed to our victory.


We also had several physical mismatches on the line of scrimmage. Our 176 lbs Sophomore Left Guard, who lives in Lyndon but chose to attend the Academy, faced a 300 lbs Senior Defensive Tackle all game. Knowing the opponent was bigger, stronger, more experienced, and understanding the threat of harm, our Sophomore Guard showed great resolve to do his personal best, utilize the techniques he has been taught, and relied on communication with his fellow offensive linemen to get help when needed.

Undoubtedly we will all face situations in life calling for courage. Sometimes physical, sometimes moral… The physical actions of first responders and our military are often top of mind, but many also show the courage of compassion while helping a friend or colleague in need, or the courage of conviction while taking a stand on moral issues where opinions significantly differ. Athletics offer student-athletes opportunities for small inoculations against fear (physical or moral) and helps prove their resilience, increasing self-confidence, reinforcing the importance of discipline and sacrifice, and ultimately readying them for much of what may lie ahead.

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 Leader In Every Locker; Week 4, Initiative

In week 4 of our 14 week series of a Leader in Every Locker, we focus on the leadership trait: Initiative

We define initiative as taking action in the absence of immediate guidance or direction.  If we share a common understanding of our goals and objectives, and regularly communicate to share and balance situational awareness, we should be able to make decisions independently and arrive at the collectively desired outcome. Initiative becomes all the more important as time compresses and stress increases.

Once the play is called and the teams align, it falls upon the players to make decisions and appropriate communication to execute the play.  There are no coaches on the field on gameday.  Initiative is particularly important in the early weeks of the season when we have little or no quality video of our opponents to prepare our players.  Offensive linemen will see unexpected fronts causing them to communicate changes to blocking schemes.  Receivers will see Safety rotations requiring them to convert routes.  Defensive fronts will see unbalanced lines causing them to adjust ensuring all gaps are accounted for.  Defensive Backs and Linebackers will see empty sets forcing them to ensure all receivers are covered. And Quarterbacks will see defenders out of position or receivers uncovered and must change and communicate the play. These actions must occur in near real time and with the knowledge opponents are attempting to deceive us (or at least mask their intent). 

With only 3 timeouts per half, coaches cannot use one every time an opponent shows something new.  Tying in previous traits/themes, we as coaches (as well as teammates on the field) depend (Dependability) on players to assess a situation, make good decisions (Judgement) and to take action in the absence of further guidance or clarification (Initiative).

Life demands the same… Successful people, regardless of role, have a bias for action and are willing to exercise the initiative to seize fleeting opportunities. It’s unlikely every decision or action taken will turn out perfectly, but the old adage, “a good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed later” certainly applies.

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 Leader In Every Locker, Week 3: Dependability

As we wrap up training camp and prepare for our season opener on the road against rival Hartford High School, (who we lost to in the 2016 state championship game but defeated in the 2017 title game), we will rely heavily on our week #3 leadership trait: Dependability. 

Together, We Achieve More!

We define dependability as the certainty one will accomplish what they are tasked to do or said they would do.  This quality allows a coach to assign a task or role to a team member with the understanding that it will be accomplished with minimum supervision.  

Football is a game of “interdependence.”  Each of us depends on our teammates to do their job, complete their assignment, and make good decisions. Linemen make good blocks, quarterbacks make good decisions and deliver well thrown balls. Linebackers slip from head to shoulder, deliver a blow, wrap arms, and make good tackles. Running Backs secure the ball…

If you are dependable, coaches and teammates can focus on their respective responsibilities and trust your work will be done.  The team is always stronger when teammates consistently demonstrate their dependability. 

Dependability matters on and off the field. We depend on one another to abide by traffic laws… We depend on one another to do what they said they would do… we depend on husbands, wives, friends, parents, and children…

We depend on our teammates…

When we recognize our dependence on others, and we trust our teammates, partners, families, and friends to do their part, we’re free to focus… to accomplish… and to achieve.

When we focus, accomplish, and achieve as part of a greater good, we all benefit, and in depending on one another, we prove ourselves worthy of trust while accomplishing more than we ever thought possible alone.  

If everyone can be depended on to perform their assigned tasks, we stand a much better chance of leaving White River Junction with a successful outcome.

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 Leader In Every Locker

As Training Camp opens this week, we roll out our leadership program entitled “A Leader in Every Locker.”  The purpose of the program is to highlight aspects of leadership, culture, and character underpinning success on and off the football field.  It presumes Leadership can be both taught and learned, and emphasizes every player on the team has a leadership role and responsibility.  Those who accept their role will make the team better while learning leadership lessons extending well beyond football and high school.

Our program draws heavily on the tenets of one of the most successful leadership institutions with which I am familiar, the United States Marine Corps. For nearly 250 years, the Marine Corp has taught selflessness, and servant leadership as expressed in one’s personal example. In collaboration with a few Marines who also happen to be very close friends, we’ve tailored some of the foundations of the Marine Corps’ program to suit our players and circumstances. Rest assured, I take very few liberties with such a proven program, and often merely substitute “player” or “teammate” for “Marine” where appropriate in the program’s context.

First, let’s settle on the definition of leadership… While Webster may only cite “The ability to lead,” I like (and will teach) the Marine Corps’ definition: “The combination of intellect, interpersonal skills, and character that enables an individual to guide a group of people to successfully accomplish a goal or objective.”  

It seems to me as a coach (or teacher, or mentor, etc.), that’s exactly the kind of young man (or lady) we as coaches aspire to help recognize their full potential.

Doubling down on the importance of “character,” and the elemental aspect of “character traits” underpinning the foundation of individual and collective success, we will (weekly) step through each of the next 14 weeks of the season, (taking us from Week 1 of Training Camp through the playoffs), focusing on one of each of the Marine Corps’ 14 leadership traits.  

We begin week 1 with “Justice” encouraging all players regardless of grade, level of experience, or years in our program to offer recognition and positive reinforcement of good performance, decision making, and teamwork. We also ask them (players and coaches) to provide constructive criticism or corrective action offered thoughtfully, impartially, and oriented on performance, actions, or decisions, and to do so without personal attacks. (Your block, tackle, catch, throw, route, decision, etc… (i.e. performance) may not have been very good, but we will not criticize one another as a a person.)

As we approach the topic of justice on the field, off the field, and in our community, we’ll have abundant opportunities to have pre- or post-practice, as well as in-meeting discussions with players about situations of justice or injustice, discussing elements handled well or those that could have been handled better. In doing so, we hope to help our players and staff develop a reservoir of examples from which they can draw when faced with circumstances warranting justice moving forward.  

I claim no stake in perfection of character. We all grow and learn while recognizing our imperfections. However, we can aspire together to be better and realize our potential. We welcome your perspectives and participation in this conversation. The more diversity of thought on character and character traits, the more we all benefit.

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! 

Competition Returns!

Hilltopper Teammates and Coaches

Thank you to Chris Redding of Vermont All-Star Football Camps and Tom McCoy, head coach at Burr & Burton Academy, for hosting the Inaugural Vermont All-Star Football 7v7 Tournament.  Congratulations to Mount Anthony Union High School and Coach Chad Gordon on taking home the championship.  We were able to find a way to get a win in Game #1 vs Mt Anthony before they went on a tear winning their next 5 games including knocking us out in the semi finals.  

Join us Sunday, July 25 at St Johnsbury Academy for the Vermont All-Star Football Camps Passing Academy and Alercio OLine Clinic

Now, I look forward to working with Chris Redding to host the Vermont All-Star Football Camps Passing Academy and Alercio OLine Clinic on Sunday, July 25 at St Johnsbury Academy.  I was excited to meet linemen from Mt Anthony and Burr & Burton who shared how eager they are to make the trip to STJ to hone their OLine Skills.  I am also thrilled to bring college coaches and position specialists to the Northeast Kingdom to work with all position players.  

The Math and Science teachers of those attending the Alercio OLine Clinic will appreciate how we set and maintain optimal geometric angles in the ankle, knee, hip and elbows in run blocking and the leg angles used in pass blocking.  They will also be happy to know that we incorporate Newton’s Third Law that for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.  We call it Ground Force Reaction as we time our run punch with the grounding of our second step and pass strike with the grounding of our third. Lastly, we’re not shy about teaching “Inertia” either. A pass rusher will continue on his path (to sack the quarterback) unless acted upon by another force; ideally an Offensive Lineman imparting a vector of sufficient force and direction to change the rusher’s predetermined course!

Competitive and instructional opportunities like these are commonplace in many states but are a rarity in Vermont, especially in the Northeast Kingdom. To take advantage of this opportunity, visit https://www.vtfootballcamps.com/events/vermont-all-star-passing-academy/

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!