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!

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!

The Score Takes Care of Itself…

Santa left a great read for me under the tree this year, Bill Walsh’s book The Score Takes 2018-01-04 Bill Walsh Score Takes Care of ItselfCare of Itself.  As a Glazier and Nike speaker for the past 20 years, I have had the pleasure of listening to some of the greats in our profession speak, but no one was more impressive than Bill Walsh.  Hundreds of coaches sat motionless hanging on his every word for an hour.

Coach Walsh’s message that day at the AFCA national convention, and the theme of his book hold true on the field and in life.  He believed that if you did everything right throughout the year the final score of games would be in your favor.  5 years ago when we started cultivating the St Johnsbury program’s culture, the philosophy we shared with our players 5 years ago at St Johnsbury Academy could have come right of the pages of Coach Walsh’s book: “games are not won on weekends in the fall”.

In my most recent blog, we went into great detail on end of season staff duties and the details of auditing your staff.  Now we turn our focus on planning our schedule for 2018. We “begin with the end in mind,” planning opportunities and events to develop our coaches and players, while reinforcing the St Johnsbury culture throughout the year.  A list of dates and events follow as part of the plan to get us from New Years to game 1.

Jan 5 – Olympic Weightlifting Clinic for players and coaches hosted by US Senior International Coach Chris Polakowski.

Jan 6-7 – USA Olympic Weightlifting level I Certification Course for coaches

Jan 9 – Begin Winter athletic performance program.

Jan 15 – I speak at Championship Football Clinic, Bergen NJ on Slide Protection.  Prior to presenting at Clinics, I present to our staff.  It serves as practice for me and a development opportunity for them.

Jan 27 – I speak at the USA Football National Conference on all the plays we run out of our Dart/Counter scheme.

Feb 4 – Host a Super Bowl party for players and staff.  End it at halftime.  The next day is a school day.

Feb 19-22 – Staff meetings in preparation for Spring Practices.

Feb 24 – I speak at the Atlantic City Glazier Clinic in 3 “Chalk War” sessions of our Spread Offense vs 3-4, 4-2-5 and 3-3 Stack defenses.

Mar 5-9 – Spring Practices

Mar 12 – Begin Spring athletic performance program

Mar 16-17 Vermont Interscholastic Football League Meetings and Clinic.

March 25 – 17th Annual Alercio OLine Clinic at The Hun School of Princeton NJ

June 11 – Begin Summer athletic performance program.  Mondays: Strength & OLine practice.  Tuesdays: Speed & 7v7 Practice, Thursdays: Strength & 7v7 Practice.

June 25-29 – Youth Football Camp taught by Staff and Senior Players.

July 14 – Northeast 7v7 Tournament, Exeter NH.

July 21 – Northeast Kingdom 7v7 Tournament and Strongman Competition, St Johnsbury VT.

July 23-26 – Mini Camp

July 30-Aug 10 – Off.  Football families know this is the time to schedule vacations.

Aug 12 – Meet the Coaches.  Players and parents meet the football coaching staff.

Aug 13 – Training Camp Begins

I’ll continue to reinforce opportunities to converse face to face as dates draw closer. I really enjoy engaging with coaches, players, and other readers of the blog (as well as followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!)  I’d be happy to come to visit with your staff at the clinics mentioned above or meet at your school.

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!

Auditing Your Coaching Staff

Auditing Your Coaching Staff

In a recent blog post, we discussed End of Season Duties.  They include collecting equipment, doing inventory for loss or damage, scheduling reconditioning, hosting player meetings, establishing your “wants and needs” list for next season, scheduling a date for your banquet, creating the off-season strength & conditioning program, identifying professional development opportunities, doing video analysis of the past season, scheduling dates for Spring Ball, and most importantly thanking the many contributors who all aided in our program’s success.  The last duty prior to getting the next season kicked off is the auditing of our coaching staff.

We have two priorities in regard to our coaching staff.  One is that they are happy in their role and two is that they are productive in their role.  We break up our coaching assignments into five categories: Administrative, Coaching, Gameday, Practice and Video.  Below are roles for head and assistant coaches. For the sake of this article, let’s assume I’m discussing a small to medium sized high school staff where coaches address multiple roles across offense, defense, and special teams. Larger programs may have the luxury (or necessity) of specializing in smaller position groups on one side of the line of scrimmage. Nonetheless, one should apply the same principles of auditing more specialized roles as well.

2017-12-19 Coaching Roles for AuditTable 1: Coaching Roles Worksheet

After all other End-of-season duties have been completed, we meet with each coach individually to review each assignment and get discuss if it is the best use of their talents and something they enjoy doing. Most of the conversation follows the path of “What are we doing well?” and “What do you think we can do better?” I suggest applying those questions from several perspectives:

  • What are we as a team doing well, and what can we do better?
  • What are you as a coach doing well, and what can you do better?
  • What am I as a head coach doing well, and what can I do better?

Perspectives matter: “Where you sit determines what you see.” The minor shifts in perspective posed by phrasing the same question in slightly different ways has the potential to open a much broader view of your coaches, your staff, and your team.

While the tasks and responsibilities outlined in the assignment table are tangible touch points for a specific role, there are also other considerations common across the staff. We are all responsible for leading, teaching, and mentoring those in our care. From a leadership perspective, we discuss each coach’s personal example; both on and off the field. It’s our responsibility to model the character and behavior we hope to cultivate in our players, and to feed the culture, beliefs, and values of our team. Let me emphasize, I don’t expect Sainthood or perfection. We are all human and all make mistakes. I try to set and convey expectations for character and personal example in order to better serve our athletes and team. If we are to grow as leaders, and if I am to realize my goal of helping assistant coaches maximize their potential, we should consider leadership performance as well as the categories highlighted in Table 1. Assessing both tangible and intangible aspects of performance helps clarify and confirm expectations and understanding, ultimately guiding both staff members and our team to future success.

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!

Thanksgiving… & Next Steps…

2017-11-26 St J State Champs

Having gone 11-0, winning a State Championship, and contributing to the lives of such wonderful young men, I’m thankful for so many things this year. I’d also like to thank you who have followed the blog and our team over a journey we began shortly after Thanksgiving 2016. The outpouring of support from the students, faculty, administrators, and the local community has been extraordinary. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the love and support of my wife, and the utter joy of sharing this season with my sons. All year long we’ve worked hard to be worthy in the eyes of those who invested in us and at the same time, worthy of our individual and collective investments as players, coaches, and teammates. At it’s best, football teaches us dedication, loyalty, commitment, courage, and integrity; individual elements of character amplified by the team. Elements leaving indelible marks on our hearts, and win or lose, ultimately contributing to success later in life.

Having taken a few moments to savor the success of the 2017 season and to be genuinely grateful for the individual and collective successes, challenges, and contributions to our championship, it’s time to move on and think about next steps.

End of Season Duties

We just completed the perfect season, undefeated state champions.  As a staff, we worked 15 hour days 7 days-a-week for 3 months.  Now it is all over.  What do we do now?

Equipment.  Collect all equipment.  Check for loss or damage.  Inventory your equipment to determine needs for next year.  Schedule reconditioning of hard gear.

Meetings.  Schedule 10-15 minute, 1-on-1 meetings with every player.  Get their feedback on the season, their role on the team, and their relationship with their position coaches.  Then discuss their future in the program.   Where do they see themselves next year?  Tell them where you see them.  Convey your belief in their ability to contribute, and set expectations for their contributions. Find out what their plans are for the winter season.  Discuss future plans for outgoing seniors… college, vocation, military.  Then schedule meetings with your assistant coaches to review their roles.   See if they are happy in their role and if their family is happy in the program.  Get their feedback on the past season and their input on plans for next season. Lastly, prepare a “wants and needs” list then schedule a meeting with your athletic director or head of school.  The “needs” should be those things to keep your program where you are.  The “wants” are those things that can bring your program to the next level.

Celebrate.  Nail down a banquet date to celebrate the successes of the past season.  11-0 or 0-11, there are things to be grateful for, don’t let them go unrecognized. Determine award recipients to honor those deserving players.  Make a list of the peripheral people in your program you need to invite and publicly thank…Training staff, Chain gang, Grounds Crew, Booth crew, local media, administrators, boosters and coaches’ wives. Though they may not feel they are the core of your team, make sure they know we couldn’t do it without them.

Athletic Performance.  Work with a certified strength and conditioning specialist to create an off-season workout program maximizing athletic performance not just increasing a player’s 1 rep max.  If you do not have better players, make your players better.

Professional development.  Seek opportunities for yourself and your staff.  Visit colleges and/or attend clinics.  Identify those things you are interested in bringing to your program next season and research those who do it well.

Video analysis.  Perform a self-scout and statistical analysis of your plays, formations, motions, fronts, blitzes, coverages.  If it did not work, get rid of it.  If it did, build upon it, and as my Marine Corps friends say, “reinforce success!”

Next season.  Prepare your depth chart for Spring Ball.  Consider moving players to get the best players on the field in the most complementary roles.  Have a plan to bring in your incoming 8th-grade class and set expectations for leadership responsibilities across each of the returning class cohorts: every player’s personal example matters!

Enjoy the Holidays and some well-earned downtime, and again, thanks for joining us on this journey. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

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!