Guest Football Coaching Blog Post
It’s early October and for football coaches like us that means one thing: life is crazy. It doesn’t matter if you’re undefeated, can’t buy a win, or anywhere in between, your life is crazy right now. The stress can be overwhelming and the hours are exhausting. We are all dealing with a million tasks and millions of pressures and if we aren’t careful we’re going to find ourselves in a dark corner of our homes in the fetal position. Therefore, I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage each of you to maintain a positive balance between your crazy obsession with coaching and the rest of your lives. Here are five ideas I have for maintaining your sanity and thriving on and off the field during the season.
Idea #1: See the Big Picture
Typically, when we get overwhelmed it’s because we’ve turned a good thing into an ultimate thing. As coaches this happens when we turn football (a good thing) into an ultimate thing. This season, this team, this game; regardless of how they turn out; don’t define you. Who you are and what you are all about (your ultimate purpose) is infinitely bigger than the outcomes of games and seasons. As a faithful Christian, I believe my ultimate purpose is found in God. You may or may not agree with my Christian beliefs, but I’m sure you recognize that your identity is much bigger than your win/loss record. Never lose sight of that.
On a similar note, it’s always helpful in the middle of the season to remind yourself to coach in the present the way you want to be remembered in the future. Part of seeing the big picture is keeping the end in mind. As football coaches we are masters of preparing during the week for the game on the weekend. We say stuff like “They way you practice is the way you are going to play.” So ask yourself if the way you are coaching now jives with the way you want to be remembered.
Idea #2: Take Care of Your People
Who do I have in mind when I say “your people”? I mean those people who will love you and be by your side regardless of whether you’re 10-0 or 0-10. “Your people” might include your wife, your kids, your pastor, your best friends, other coaches on staff, your parents, your siblings, etc.
Take care of your people. What do I mean by “take care”? I mean don’t neglect your relationship with these people just because it’s football season. Make time for them.
During the football season there are five or six places you’ll find me. Three or four of them are directly related to spending time with my people. Whether it’s “date night” with my wife, spending time with friends or emailing/texting/calling my parents and brother you will often find me “taking care of my people.” Admittedly, this is an area I need to work on. Of all my ideas this is the one I could stand to grow the most in and in light of how busy your schedules are I’m sure many of you would have the same criticism of yourself. What’s done is done. Start taking better care of your people today.
Idea #3: Take Care of Yourself
Coaching, as you know, is a very demanding and stressful profession. It demands our commitment. It can consume us and when it does it often takes a toll on our health. As coaches we’re always on the go which means we are often grabbing meals on the run. Too often these meals are full of empty calories and contain very few essential nutrients. At the same time we aren’t spending much time working out and keeping our heart healthy. All of this is a recipe for disaster.
Do yourself a favor and make a commitment to eating healthier and working out. Pack healthy snacks and lunches and be sure to get 3-5 cardio workouts in per week. My wife works in the athletic department at the University of Nebraska and she will tell you the vast majority of the coaches on staff find a way to cram cardio workouts into their jammed packed schedules. Bo Pelini is an avid runner. The man runs like he might die if he doesn’t…well, maybe he would…he’s definitely dealing with a lot right now.
This year I have been determined to do a better job taking caring of myself. To pull it off I’ve had to be a lot more organized and plan ahead even more than normal, but it’s been awesome. Eating right and working out has dramatically impacted my energy levels, my disposition, and my confidence in my ability to keep up with my schedule.
Idea #4: Teach Yourself to be Efficient
The best way to start becoming more efficient is start asking yourself “Why am I doing this?” If you’re an inefficient person you’ll answer that question with “I have no idea” a lot. Several years ago I became really focused on evaluating the intentionality of my actions. My goal was to be more and more intentional with every moment of my day. I soon realized that I was doing a lot of things just because “that’s what coaches do” or because I had been taught to do them.
For example, as the offensive coordinator I used to take meticulous statistics on the tendencies of the defense we were playing that week. I’d record fronts and blitzes and personnel, etc. Why did I do that? Because “that’s what coaches do”, right? Every stud coach knows the tendencies of his opponent. You know what I realized? Very few of the meticulous stats I was spending hours collecting actually impacted the way I called the game. I never thought to myself, “It’s 2nd and medium that means they tend to bring the Mike in the B-gap unless they’re in a 3-4 which means I am going to run ‘Open 919 Flip Y-Choice.’” That’s just not how it went down. As a result I now focus my attention on a very limited number of tendencies that actually impact how I will call the game.
Idea #5: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, Make the Wheel More Simple
Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to fix problems in the way your team is playing by completely throwing things out and starting from scratch. Sometimes when losing starts to become as routine as breathing or when expectations related to winning are weighing down on us we start to think crazy things like “Forget that stupid right return. 10 years ago we did this wedge return and it worked great. We’re putting that in tomorrow!”
Don’t do that. That’s how good coaches think in the off-season. During the season good coaches recognize there’s a problem and create/identify ways to either simplify the current concepts or teach it in unique more easily understood ways. Whole sale changes are attempted and worked through when the pressure of win and losses aren’t on the immediate horizon. Don’t try them during the season.
Don’t Just Survive, Thrive
We all became football coaches because we wanted to pass our love for the greatest team sport on to the next generation of men. This sport is about so much more than Xs and Os and winning and losing. It’s one of the last great ways to make men out of boys. The point I’m making here is that being a football coach is one of the most important jobs in America. We can’t afford to simply survive the season. We must strive to thrive! The future of our nation depends upon us doing our jobs well.
Hopefully, the ideas I have shared will help you thrive. This list of ideas certainly isn’t perfect and I am sure there are many more out there. What are some other ways we go beyond simply surviving and thrive during the season?