Camp Reflections

Last week was our week-long Youth Football Camp.  Our Defensive Coordinator, John Lovett, does all the planning and orchestrating of the camp, and does a tremendous job making football fun for the kids.  Below is an email I received from him recapping the week:

I wanted to write to you and give you a couple observations from another successful youth camp. First, I was incredibly happy the campers were so excited to experience the weight room and our speed and agility training. Numerous campers cited learning to increase speed, strength, and agility was their favorite part. It really hit home with them that both our coaches and players believe the mantra “games are not won on Friday nights in the fall, rather they are won with each rep in the summer.”  

Coach John Lovett with Campers Emma & Liam

A funny consequence of this success was echoed in a comment from Emma (John’s daughter) as I left for OTAs (Organized Team Activities with our High School players) on Monday night. She said, “Daddy have fun at your happy place.” I told her I would certainly make the most of the OTA but asked her what made her call it my “happy place?” She told me that Coach Alercio said, “the weight room was our collective happy place.”

All three of my children are excited to be included in the benefits of athletic performance training, and I have your authentic love of the process and our players’ belief in your program to thank for that. It is incredible that with all the games and fun we program into camp the youth in our area are more excited about the promise of success earned through hard work.

My second observation is followed by a sincere thank you. As you know, this was Emma’s first year at camp. She has made sure I know that although she does not wish to play football in the future, she does hope to do football camp each year. She is so proud of her athletic improvement and it’s amazing to see the confidence she has gained. She is equally proud of proving she can do everything the boys can. She commented her favorite part of camp was that no one (neither coaches nor fellow campers) treated her like a girl. When I asked her what that meant, she let me know each drill had an expectation that was the same for everyone. She was coached to do things right (without accommodation), and expectations of her were the same as everyone else. Her campmates also made sure to include and encourage her just like anyone other teammate. She was asked to move and make contact, to do everything everyone else did, and she was coached based on a standard rather than her gender.

Like the camper who had just moved to the area and showed up in tears but left with a smile on his face, or the time taken to talk to campers about attitude as much as aptitude, camp has given my daughter a gift. Equity is a gift that escapes so many in our communities and I am proud to be part of a program that creates equity not through accommodation for one, but in creating expectation and inclusion for all. I am so proud of my daughter, and I am so proud of Hilltopper football.

My Sincerest Thank you,

John Lovett  

I’m thrilled to hear both John and Emma’s perspectives on this year’s Youth Camp. I remain convinced culture and consistency underpin successful teams regardless of pursuit. It’s our privilege to offer area youth their first taste of Hilltopper Culture and I’m even more encouraged by the way they responded.

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! 

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! 

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 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! 

Building and Sharing Wisdom

As professional development opportunities for football coaches go virtual, I’m concerned some coaches will believe watching a video clip of a play or listening to a pre-recorded presentation will enable them implement and successfully coach the play they just “learned.”  To quote French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we cannot be wise with other men’s wisdom.” The key component of wisdom is experience.  Experiences can be shared in live presentations and often spill out into hotel lobbies, on fields interacting with players and coaches, or in offices on whiteboards.  

Our eyes can deceive us… The play a coach views once in a recording was run successfully against the most ideal defense.  When researching a play, we need to see the Good, the Bad and the Ugly… To see it against 3 down and 4 down, versus Zone and Man, with 1 High and 2 High, versus 5 and 6 man pressures.  Video clips in live presentations will likely skew to the optimal as well, but multiple coaches asking multiple questions: (e.g.  how to block the play against 4i Defensive Tackles, when Linebackers walk up in the A gaps, versus a defense that drops eight…) offers the greatest opportunity to clarify and confirm understanding and expectations.  

If there is something you see online and would like to install,  email the coach with your questions.  Try to set up a Zoom meeting as a follow up.  Learn what he has learned. Knowledge is knowing.  Wisdom is so much more…  It is not enough to diagram and know the rules of a play.  You need to understand the intricacies of the play and how they may be impacted by defensive adjustments.  Wisdom involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding, as well as a tolerance for the uncertainties one is likely to encounter.

If you have any questions about any of the things I have online, I would look forward to the discussion.  Feel free to reach out, and please offer to share something of your own 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! 

Yet Another Change In Perspective

The COVID environment we’ve all endured has changed many perspectives over the last seven months. As I noted in earlier blogs, some for the better… some for the worse… But it’s been our specified intent to seek the good and find the benefits of new experiences and perspectives. One distinct change from my perspective is after coaching boys for more than thirty years, I’m now coaching girls as well.

Given this change, I felt a need to better understand how to coach the opposite sex.  While the expectation to adhere to the performance standards of our culture remain the same regardless, I recognize communication (both verbal and non-verbal) may indeed be different.  I have learned over three decades you cannot coach Generation Z the way you coached Millennials.  Nor can us Generation Xers coach the way we were coached by Baby Boomers.  

The key to coaching is communication. To effectively communicate with players you need to understand their differences.  In doing some research on the topic, I found some excerpts from the book “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen.   She states, “boys focus their communication on independence, self-reliance, and the avoidance of failure, while girls focused on connection, preserving intimacy, and avoiding isolation.”   She goes on to state, “female athletes generally respond better when you avoid yelling and ask them for their input, while male athletes often respond well to motivational yelling or concise demands from a coach.  Lastly, Tannen states that while the content of what you say may be the same, the way you deliver the message can make all the difference.  That was just the advice that I needed to read.  

Similar themes are echoed by Anson Dorrance, Hall of Fame head coach of the UNC Chapel Hill Women’s soccer team. Coach Dorrance has led the lady Tarheels to 21 of the 31 NCAA Championships ever awarded, and has amassed more than 800 wins, (a >90% winning percentage!) Coach Dorrance is very candid about the early lessons he learned transitioning from coaching young men to coaching young women. While concepts of common vision, values, understanding, and goals remain the same in developing team culture, Coach Dorrance helped me understand how differences in communication styles, humility, and perception are better tools for building trust, cohesion, and interdependence.

I’ve commented before how our role as coaches is to build teams, win games, and develop quality citizens who will graduate and contribute to our community. While there are many aspects of the COVID environment I have found frustrating, another silver lining has been learning how to create opportunity and serve the young women on our team who will contribute equally to our success and go on to be leaders in our communities 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 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!