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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Titan Football..... Turf.... an Indoor, Full Scale, Practice facility

By adding this "turf" to the top, we will now be able to have a full scale football practice in the complex. The bulk of the project was paid for with football sponsorship money. Since ALL athletes will benefit and be able to use this area, Coach Smith used a small portion of bowl money to help us with the project. Thank you Coach Smith! 

The way this will work....this new top area will be split between two position groups. RBs & LBs on one end, OL & DL on the other end. WRs & DBs will be down on the main turf. When we go to team periods, we will go down to the main turf.





This is a great day for Titan Football and ALL Titan athletes!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Exit Interviews- getting to know your kids and seeing your program from their perspective



I got started with Exit Interviews today. It gives our kids a chance to say what is on their mind and also a chance for me to talk one on one with every single member of the team. Obviously that is tough to do inseason on a consistent basis.

Overall the feedback has been positive. Probably the most positive piece so far is that several have said that the way I can help them get better is give them access to the complex for individual workouts. That makes me believe our investment in the top level, additional turf area will help our kids reach their goals. I also like the idea that they want to work on their own to improve. Most of the GREAT players I have coached over the years were guys that went way above and beyond working on their own. One Christmas Eve, Chris Lofton showed up at the house wanting the key to the weightroom. I didn't have it because Dustin Grutza had beat him to it!

This desire to work on their own is hopefully a sign that our culture is moving more in the direction we want it to be.

The exit interviews give me a good insight into what our kids like and don't like about our program. And, when the same things keep coming up that are negative, we do make adjustments. I am always thankful for the opportunity to make corrections before we begin losing kids.

If any other coaches would send me their exit interviews, I am always trying to tweak what we do.  I like what we do, but we can always find ways to do it better.  If you have some good exit interview questions, please send them to me at david.buchanan@mercer.kyschools.us.

Year 26.... plenty of Bad & Ugly, but much more Good, especially at the End.

Year 26 as a head coach was unlike any other. I am use to our teams playing their best football in November. But, this season was different because our September and October were so rough.

I love our kids, but practice for most of the preseason and regular season was a struggle. We fell into a cycle. They loafed. I yelled. We ran. Not good at all. To make it worse, we were hit with some rough injuries, losing 4 starters that played alot on both sides of the ball in September in one ballgame. Even the ones that were still playing were hampered by injuries. And, we were hit with a bunch of illness as well. It was brutal. The 2017 regular season was not fun. Fortunately, November was much more enjoyable.


When we walked off the field after losing on 10/13, we were at a low point and facing our open week.  We were not tough and we were not playing well.



I credit our staff for doing a great  job of planning our practices during the open week. Our assistants were precise in pinpointing the skills that needed improvement and then designing the drill work to make us better.  Instead of taking out our frustrations on the kids, our coaches simply coached to make them better and continued to hold them accountable. But, it was a POSITIVE week. It was not run our kids into the ground, who were already struggling, and were facing a very good Boyle County team in week 10 who would eventually be the state champions in 3A.



Another positive of the open week was it gave us a chance to work on a formation we had never used before. I have never seen anyone use it. It was very different. We had trips to one side, a center and two linemen on the ball, and two linemen split opposite of trips with a WR. We were in the shotgun with one running back. We were trying to create space for our skilled athletes and help our linemen with pass protection. And, Boyle County is extremely well-coached. The set allowed us to negate some of their coaching and preparation because it was so different. Although we didn't win the game, we were able to make it 7-7 early. We did some good things in a loss that helped our kids going forward. And, that set became a big part of our game plans going into November.   


We struggled stopping the run most of the season. But, beginning with the 2nd half of our 1st round playoff game, we began to play significantly better stopping the run. As an entire team, we began to play some really good football, reaching the state quarterfinals. 

 When the season ended, only 10 points separated us from the 4A State Champion, Franklin-Simpson. They defeated Collins by 4 points, who defeated us by 6 points the week before. On October 13th, Franklin-Simpson & Collins would have both put a running clock on us.... easily. The improvement our kids made in such a short time was incredible and it became one of my best experiences, ever, as a HS football coach.  Our kids and assistant coaches did a phenomenal job keeping the wheels on and making us a very good football team.


Going forward, I have to figure out a better way to navigate the early part of the season. I did a terrible job for our kids. We had no energy/juice in September. I have some ideas and we will work through those as a staff.


I also have to figure out a better way to navigate injuries and illness. Those are part of the game.  It is my job to figure that part out. There were many Friday nights that we looked like we had not practiced. That is because we had so many guys that had missed so many practice reps. It was not their fault they had been sick or hurt and not practiced. But, it was my fault for not coming up with better answers. I do believe if we can navigate the early part of the season better, that will help with the injuries as well.


Another change going forward is that I must be more deliberate in building the right culture. Previously, if you hired good men as assistant coaches and ran your program the right way, culture took care of itself. That is no longer true. We will take some steps as a team, involving our kids, including our incoming freshmen, to build the culture we want. I would not say we have a bad culture. But, there is alot of room for improvement.

A very tangible change / improvement is that we are going to "turf" an area in the top of the complex that will be 8 yards wide and 100 feet long. This area, combined with the turf we already have in the complex, will allow us to have a full scale indoor practice facility. We will have RBs/LBs on one end upstairs, OL/DL on the other end upstairs, and the WRs/DBs down on the main turf. Team offense and defense will be on the main turf.  I am excited about what this addition will mean to our kids and program.  Our offseason drill work will be enhanced and we will be able to have much more productive practices when we must stay indoors.


After we lost in the quarterfinals, the two weeks leading up to the state championship games were brutal. Those days get tougher every year. The only way I could cope with the fact that we were not playing was either spend time with my family or work to make our program better. The Saturday after our Quarterfinal loss (which came down to the last play of the game), Trosper, John Combs & I made the trip to South Bend for the Notre Dame - Navy game. It was our 7th year in a row for that trip and it has become one of the best things we do.  But, when I got up Sunday morning and there was no game plan to prepare, staff meeting, etc. ... it hit me like a ton of bricks that our season was over. I am a horrible loser and I hate it now more than ever. But, I am better at handling it on the inside and not allowing it to take such a terrible toll on my family, especially the greatest wife a football coach could have in Stephanie.


In fact, I asked Stephanie if she was up for 26 more years of coaching football. I would be 78. Her response was , "Sure!"  

I am still learning. One reason I want to keep coaching football is that I have been around the game my entire life and it is by far my best shot at being good at something. The maintenance guys at Mason County told me nothing else was in my brain because all it had in it was football. I have no hobbies.... unless football is both my hobby and my job. 

Coach Floro allowed me to speak at our Middle School banquet today. I suggested Christmas gift ideas for those young men.... Why We Can't Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. & Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Dr. King's book explains that the only way to truly lead and bring about change is to change the way people think and what they have in their heart. Viktor Frankl's book helps us understand that no one can take away our freedom to choose our attitude, our reaction to our circumstances, and most importantly, our freedom to serve others.  If we want to have a great culture and achieve at a high level, we have to THINK differently.

As I spoke today, I got a little wound up, and somewhat loud. Some of Trosper's teammates wondered why I was mad! Some even told him,  "Your dad needs to be a preacher." He explained to those guys, my dad is not mad, but he is excited and that is when he starts getting loud.

 I am thankful that I am already excited about Year 27.  

Thank you Arpan Dixit of the Harrodsburg Herald for the photos!


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My 3 Bosses.... pay attention to how you treat others

Spencer Tatum, Donald Smith, Dennis Davis
As you walk along the path of your life, you might want to pay attention to how you treat others.  My three bosses are currently, Donald Smith (Athletic Director), Spencer Tatum (Principal) & Dennis Davis (Superintendent) .

In 1982 when I was a senior at Mercer County HS, the freshman tailback at Harrodsburg HS broke off a long run at the end of the game. That would be Donald. In 1987 I coached the quarterbacks at Mercer County HS and the freshman team. Since we didn't have many coaches, our manager went to the away freshman games with me.  It was fine because he was more responsible than me. That would be Spencer. And, my senior quarterback that season was Dennis.

I had no idea 30 plus years ago  that these guys would someday be my boss.  

An additional blessing is I have been fortunate to coach their sons!

Spencer, Donald, & Dennis have remained good friends of mine over all these years and I am really glad they are my bosses now.  It is also a great life lesson.... on a daily basis, do we treat others the way they deserve to be treated?  You might want to be careful. You may be talking to someone who will be your boss someday! 


Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Party for the football team....We are still kids





Today we had our annual Halloween Party for the football team. I started this a few years ago when I was still at Mason County. Our team meeting starts 5 minutes early on Monday, the week of Halloween. Every kid gets one piece of Halloween candy (tight budget) and we watch this video:

Today the candy of choice was a Tootsie Pop. I like the old fashioned peanut butter candy, but you have to watch it with all the allergies in the 21st century.

October is a great month of football.  Halloween is a fun holiday that fits well with the game of football, especially on a cool, dark, windy Friday night.   Halloween has some large, scary, hairy, weird characters..... have you ever been in a football locker room... or worse.... the coaches' office!?  

Of course, I enjoy being around those characters and that has been true my entire life. 

The party lasts five minutes. Then, we are moving on to preparing for our next opponent. It doesn't take long, but I think it is a good thing for our team and kids. We are going into the playoffs and need to make the most of the opportunity. I think a good reminder of how much we enjoy being together and our times together as a team is a subconscious incentive to practice and play well. And, even if it doesn't provide that incentive, it is ok for all of us to be kids for just 5 minutes. The time for these guys to be kids is running out when you hit October, especially your seniors. If we can make that time last just a little bit longer, it is worth doing.  

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

Why



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!