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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Lessons in Gratitude

Gratitude Improves Attitude, More than Football

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In October, I spoke during a morning character education class about gratitude and why I’m grateful to coach (catch up on the story in my post about this website).

At the end of class, I asked the players to write a thank-you note to someone who has influenced their lives, and include what the opportunity to play football has meant to them.

Early this week, I picked these notes up and am again moved by their contents.

 

We absolutely must stay focused on the critical developmental role we have in our players’ lives — as coaches, and as a community. Here are just a few of the most powerful player sentiments:

“I’m the first one in my family to play football. I will remember all the coaches. Each has impacted me in some way – I don’t think I can ever pay them back, other than becoming the football player and the man they hope I will be.”

“Without football, I feel like I would be with the wrong people, going down the wrong road in life. This team is my life.”

“What I love about the game is that I can escape from everything. I go through a lot, and the few hours I have of football makes me forget everything else.”

“Football is a release. It give me a chance to leave all my problems behind, and to just go have fun. This team has given me more than I imagined I would ever receive. It has given me a family I can trust, and that means so much to me.”

“Playing football this year has given me an experience I didn’t have before in my life. I’ve never felt so close to a group of people in my life – where we grew together to better ourselves.”

Feel free to use the idea to get to know your players better, or by making cards available to help players spread the love by giving cards to teachers, parents, supporters, program sponsors, other coaches.

In my experience, sharing our gratitude can be our most powerful opportunity to connect.

(On that note …. Email me if you need help with a thank-you note template. Pro tip: print on heavy cardstock and cut with a paper cutter. No need to buy retail cards, and you can do something great for your community while continuing to build programs that support life skills and a closer family culture.)

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