Assume Nothing

Coaching

Monday nights are for #HogFBChat Twitter meetings.

A big group of Offensive Line coaches sit around and share ideas. It’s fun to see other coaches I’ve worked with contributing, and hundreds I’ve never met … discussing how to get better.

Tonight, I joined a few coaches in a conversation I’m passionate about: teaching.

Rewind: I think about my high school football coach a lot, even almost 20 years later.

Coach Flynn helped me LEARN the game.

It helped that there were zero expectations – no one in my family ever played.

Outside of me, I’m sure no one thought I would really make it through the season, let alone go on to play on the USA Football national team 10 years later.

Being a girl learning the game also worked in my favor, because in addition to the lack of expectations and pressures most players face, I had no ego. I found out day one that I didn’t know any of the things I thought I knew …. so I asked a million questions.

I literally was in the coaches’ office most days after practice and looking back on it now, Coach Flynn deserved an extra stipend just for answering my questions.

Spending time with players teaching is a huge investment in their development … especially since you have approximately one million things to do at all times as a coach.

What Coach Flynn, my teammates, and coaches over the years did for me was communicate all the details. I’m now firmly in the camp of people who believe life (and football) is conquering the small things.

Tonight I commented on the thread below during #HogFBChat … and I feel very strongly that my inexperience early on is now an asset as a coach. I don’t assume or expect the kids to walk in the door with the football IQ we want. I just want to make sure they leave us with one.

My best advice for coaching younger players:

  • Never assume your players know what you say, or what you want. You’ll both always be frustrated. Show them, tell them, repeat.
  • Never talk down to your players or assume that the JV / freshmen / 8th graders shouldn’t learn something because it’s “for the varsity.” Those kids are your future varsity … and you might need them sooner than either of you thinks.
  • If you show players how knowing more will directly help them improve or prepare to be more successful … they might want to be better students of the game.
  • Get sub-varsity kids access to film. Grade it, scout it, teach them how to watch it. This pays dividends in the long run. Hudl makes it so easy.
  • Keep the teaching (and you talking) short and focused. Pick the most important keys and build on them as you go along.
  • Create an environment where curiosity is valued. Young players hate looking stupid and will rarely ask questions. Lots of times, they might not even be sure where to start.
  • If you don’t know an answer … find out. Never guess.

Here’s to us all being better coaches, mentors and teachers every day.

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The Back Story

Building the Business

As a kid, I strongly considered careers as an oceanographer, veterinarian, inventor, writer and President.

In college, I pursued sports journalism, planned to become a lawyer, and then redirected to the path of an athletic director in graduate school.

I became none of those things.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve worked for a major nonprofit. I lead a team of fearless, talented communicators, and travel to work behind-the-scenes at the largest golf events in the industry.

It’s not a huge surprise I work in sports; I always loved them and their process (max effort + hard work = success).

I am, however, stunned that I also get to work in football.

I grew up on Hayden Fry, black + gold, Big Ten rivalries and the inside zone. My first name partly comes from a bid to the Rose Bowl.

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I played football my senior year in high school to see if I could, and because I absolutely loved the game. I ended up becoming the first girl to earn a varsity letter, but I was by no means a good player at that time. The experience changed my life in many fundamental ways, but I never dreamed I would do anything with it past graduation.

I was wrong there too.

I played with a women’s semi-pro team in college and when I was hired full-time in my nonprofit role, I moved a thousand miles from home and tried out for a dynasty women’s semipro team in Atlanta. It took me a year to earn a starting role, but I was thrilled to play for a great team.

Three seasons later, two pivotal things happened: I was selected to be the starting center for the first USA Football Women’s National Team and I met David Wagner (below, center).

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Karma maybe helped me out with the latter: I was donating cases of sunscreen to Coach Wagner’s football program and we started talking ball. I was leaving for Team USA training camp in a week, and he told me to follow up with him when I returned.

I had an incredible experience on the national team, meeting 44 other women from across the country who loved the game equally. They were ballers on the field and in their ‘real’ jobs, though that two weeks was our chance to live the life we never dreamed was possible: as full-time football players.

Most of us left behind hectic lives as moms, professionals, students, wives / partners, community leaders … but at camp, we practiced twice a day, ate, learned the playbook, studied film, bonded as a team, and, despite our desire not to miss a moment, slept. We dominated in Sweden, accumulated more than 200 points in three games, gave up only 1.5 rushing yards / carry on defense, and won gold medals.

trophy

When I came back, I met up with Coach Wagner, shared videos of the World Championships and was stunned when he offered me a coaching job.

There’s more to all of those stories, but I’ve never been more floored. It’s still a lifetime highlight.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work for, or with, Coach Wagner at three high schools. Each time he’s changed jobs, he’s helped me get a job too.

I’m now at a school with coaches, players, families and fans I love, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve never worked harder, and it’s motivating.

In fact, my story blurs here as I reach a professional crossroads. I love football and would love even more to make it my full-time career.

I hate to predict my next step, because historically I’m not much of a fortune teller. Here’s what I know:

  • I want to start my own business.
  • I love coaching.
  • I love football.

Scoop & Roar is my attempt to blend the three and see where it goes. Email me if you want to talk about how we can work together or if I can help you with events, graphic design, fundraising, strategy, PR or marketing.

In my journalism days, my challenge was to tell a great story.

I can’t wait to see how this one ends.

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