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Monday, October 16, 2017

On the Same Side.... Fighting for Football

One of the best things we have done in our program over the past 20 years has been our freshman/JV conference. We find schools similar in size to ours and play freshman/JV doubleheaders on Monday night. We started this at Mason County when my good friend Dan Gooch, then the head coach at Montgomery County, suggested it.  The quarters are very short, but it allows our kids to get quality reps against kids the most like them. These conference games are a key component in the development of our players. Obviously, player development is a priority for our program.

Over the past couple years, it has been a struggle for many of the teams in our conference and surrounding area to field a freshmen team. Although our record was not very good, we are excited that we began the season with 22 freshmen and have kept those guys together. We are also excited because our current 8th graders will be another strong group of freshmen.  In 2017, it is a huge accomplishment to field a freshmen team, even though several of their games this year had to be played against teams that included some upperclassmen. 

All of the coaches in our conference are committed to fielding freshmen teams next season. It will be rough and there may be nights that we can only play JV games, but we will all do our absolute best to play freshmen games. 

If we want to keep our freshmen, we have to have freshmen teams and freshmen games. When we give up on that, our numbers will decline.

In many ways, even though our conference teams are opponents on the field, we all share a common goal and interest.... to keep the game of football alive & healthy in our area for the kids in our schools. We all believe that football can make a large & positive impact in the development of young men and in the overall school culture.  I am the football coach at Mercer County. It is in the best interest of Mercer County football that Boyle, Lincoln, Anderson, Franklin & Western Hills are able to field freshmen and JV teams.  

You won't find me wearing a Rebel(Boyle County) football sweatshirt, but we need those guys!

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Coach Donald Smith had a great idea for our team and it has been very good for us.

Last Friday, he gave all of our guys an assignment, coaches include. Everyone had to write down why they played or coached football. All assignments were due on Tuesday. After practice the last three days, different groups of players and coaches have shared their "Why". It became a powerful time for our players.

Through this assignment, our players have learned more about themselves, each other, and their coaches. It has also helped all of them appreciate the opportunity to play football, and especially play football for the Titans.

I would recommend this for all teams. We often forget the "Why" and we forget to appreciate and enjoy the time we have together, playing football. Great job Coach Smith and Thank you!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Inseason Prep planning.... after the game on Friday....GO!!

Our Mason staff preparing for  the state quarterfinals in November of 2013. Photo by Zack Klemme

Last Sunday, 8/6, was my last day off either until the season ends or we might possibly get one day during our open week. Beginning this weekend, the grind of game preparation has begun. Eat your Wheaties and get to work.

This plan has evolved from the days of my Dad's Sunday night meetings in his basement office at our house.  Those meetings were so well-established, one Sunday night, the opposing staff showed up to get the game plan!

As soon as the game is over on Friday night, we will view the video, individually as a staff. Some time over the weekend, position coaches will share Hudl notes with their position.

I try to be very efficient with my time. When watching the game video, if something did not work, I find out why. The answer to those questions will drive my team preparation for the week. And, of course, the things that we are good at doing will become more important. By the time I go to bed on Friday night, I want to be 100% done with that game, win or lose. If I can get in bed by 2 AM, that is a very efficient night.

In the morning, I will begin working on our opponent. I want to get their base defense and best personnel. I also gather down & distance information, as well as information in regards to the area of the field. Once that information is gathered, I will put together a playlist on Hudl which will serve as the scouting report for that defense.  Hudl notes are a big part of this scouting report. I really enjoy being done with paper scouting reports. Those were not as efficient or as visually effective as seeing the video.

At this point, I will begin to gameplan based on the scouting report. I will then do a self scout of our offense using Hudl. My objective is to mesh the gameplan with an effort to break tendencies AND add formations our opponent has never seen or rarely seen.

From lunch time until Sunday morning, I will start to put together the script of plays. We also have down & distance scripted, situations, defensive fronts/personnel to attack, etc. Basically, what ever fits our opponent and our team at that point in the season.  We will have any where from 30 to 40 base plays scripted. This script allows us to be very multiple in our sets. I would like for opposing defensive coordinators to have at least 50 formations to break down when they prepare for us.

On Sunday our staff comes in and we review the previous game. We make gameplan adjustments for all 3 phases of the game, discuss  personnel, etc. It is also a time for our staff to get stuff off their chest.  It is not unusual for there to be some significant disagreement & arguing.  But, that is why the foundation always must be that you build your staff with great people. We always work through it and come up with a plan, together.

We will plan practice that week and script every offensive period. It takes more effort for the DC to script all of the defense and he works that out as needed on  a daily basis.

On Sunday, we should be done between 5 & 7 most weeks. In 2017, we are making our Sunday meeting window from 2-5 pm.  We all have been doing this for a long time. If we can't get it done by 5 pm on Sunday, we are struggling.

And, that is another important point.... I NEVER meet just to have a meeting. They are short & efficient. These guys are husbands, fathers & teachers. They are professionals. We get our work done and go home. Some staffs like to hang out and talk all day, and pretend they are working hard. I can't stand that model for coaching HS football.  That is a great way to alienate a coach's wife. Do that enough, and you are looking for coaches, and they won't be as good as the ones that just quit.

The heavy work load on the weekend is driven by the fact that on Monday morning, our staff is back in the classroom and teaching. Our teaching job comes first and we need to excel in the classroom. But, my Monday morning, all of the plan is in place and we should be ready to go.

Bill Walsh said to make every important decision that can be made before game time, in a calm, thoughtful process/setting.  We try to make 100% of those types of decisions well before the game. That process has served us well over the past 20+ years.  I also find that I ENJOY football practice and games much more the better I am prepared.  Football is fun and anything I can do to keep it that way, I try to do it.

I hope this can help a coach, staff, and even the family of a coach as the season gets started in 2017.  Friday nights are almost here. Enjoy them!

PS- I took my little girl to college today. Very tough.  For an old football coach, there is nothing like your little girl. There have been many Saturdays after a loss, especially when she was little, that she was the only one that could put a smile on my face.  I am really glad that I spent as much time with her at home as I could. I never cut corners on the job, but I also never wasted time I could be with her, her mom & my boys.  Coaches....keep first things first this fall.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ownership... our dilemma, our solution, our TEAM

 Mercer County Practice Field.... 5:45 am
A few years ago at Mason County, our district began faculty meetings every Wednesday that would start at 2 pm and go to 4 pm. That meant that our kids would be released early from school and we would not be able to practice until at least 4:15. We couldn't have those guys unsupervised.  It was also very hot.

I told our guys they had a choice. They could practice before school every Wednesday at 6:30 am, or, we would have to go in the evening at 8 pm to avoid the heat and Wednesday night church. I thought the best choice was 6:30 am. But, I also knew that if I walked in and told everyone we WILL practice at 6:30 am, there would be significant pushback and it would not be well-received.   I had to be willing to go with the 8 pm practices if that is what the players chose.

They chose the 6:30 am practices...and it became their favorite practice of the week. They enjoyed getting it done and the extra 12 hours of recovery. The temperature was much cooler. It was "cool" to practice under the lights until the sun came up each morning.

Wednesday morning at Mason County, November 2013.....20 degrees
Several years later when the school ended those teacher meetings, our kids still wanted to stick with the Wednesday morning practices and we did so.

This past week at Mercer County, we had to adjust practice times due to teacher meetings. This time, our player council and staff met to discuss our options. As a group, we chose to go with 6 am practice times. Mercer is a larger county geographically than Mason and it was going to be a major adjustment for our kids. But, they did great. The 6 am practices were our best practices of the week. And, I think our council and staff made the best decision.

Once again, had I decreed that practice would be at 6 am, it would not have gone well.

As a leader or coach, next time you are facing a tough issue or need to make a major adjustment, try to include your staff and players in the decision. You can still say what you think is best. But, listening & learning makes you a better and more successful coach.  There is a good chance that someone in the room may have a better idea. And, even if your idea is the best one, this process leads to substantially more support and "buy-in" as opposed to forcing your will on everyone else.

Being a head coach has been different than I expected.  There is much less telling people what to do and much more listening than I anticipated.  The more ownership  our staff and players have in our team, the better we will be....and I need to remember that in 2017!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

One Dad & Two Words

I just dropped off Trosper for his first scrimmage of the season. He will be an 8th grader and play QB for his team this fall.

I told him to remember two words....HAVE FUN. I also told him I will not be coaching him this fall. He has a bunch of coaches, but only one dad. I am going to enjoy being his dad. The next four years I will coach him in HS. There will be plenty of opportunities to correct mistakes and get after him as needed. 

Right now, I don't have to do that. He really does have a very good group of outstanding coaches. These guys can handle Trosper and I will stay out of the way while they do it. I am really thankful for his coaches. 

To all the KIDS getting ready to start playing football..... HAVE FUN.

To all the Dads..... be Dad!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pr1de shorts....earned, not purchased

Getting ready to distribute Pr1de shorts to the guys that have EARNED them this summer. This is a great tradition that I copied from Coach Randy Reese and the Paris Greyhounds. Thank you to Larry Harris who got me going on this when we were both at Paris. In some programs, guys bring in cash and buy their gear. In our program, those items are earned. 
PS- If Jeff Reese, Larry or Chris Haney want to come run with us Tuesday night, we will give you a chance to EARN Pr1de shorts one more time! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Friday Night Under the Lights Camp

One of the best things we have done in our program over the last 20 plus years is host our Friday Night Under the Lights Football Camp.

Our first three camps (two at Paris, one at Mason) were all day on a Friday.  It was hot. I realized that all I was getting accomplished was convincing the kids that football was hard and hot. In 1997, we moved our camp to under the lights on a Friday night. Our numbers immediately improved and the kids had alot more fun escaping the heat.

Over the years, there have been a couple times we went over 100. This year, we were in the low 90s. 

We divide the camp in two. Kids under 9 do an overall football skill camp. Kids 10 and up go with the HS coaches and players and practice their position.  We also introduce strength & speed training. In 2017 we even had yoga!  We have some fun stations at the end followed by Titan Football (ultimate frisbee style). Through the night, campers also will participate in a Punt, Pass & Kick contest and we award the prizes at the end of camp. 

Farmers National Bank sponsors the camp and that helps with t-shirt expenses. Our bowl sponsor, Little Caesar's, provided pizza as part of their bowl sponsorship.

Kids have a bunch of choices these days. Football is still a GREAT game, but we have to work harder to get the message out there. Friday Night under the lights football camp has been a very effective way to get kids excited about football!