Buy a copy of Black Shoes & White Shoestrings here

Buy copy of Black Shoes & White Shoestrings here!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Clinics in the 21st Century

When I was a little kid, a recurring event on the calendar every winter was that my Dad would be gone a few days to THE clinic. I think the first clinics were the Kodak Coach of the Year Clinics that he attended in the early 70s.  Usually, he attended that clinic and one that would be hosted by the University of Kentucky during their spring practice.

When I was a young coach, I was excited to finally attend THE clinic which was held annually at the Galt House in Louisville. 

Coach Gruneisen, a Louisville native, always took us to Bearno's when I was on his staff at Paris HS when we would attend the Galt House clinic. We continued the tradition @ Paris & Mason Co., eating lunch there on Friday when the clinic began.

Many of the big names in college football would speak at that clinic.  And, in my Dad's era, if you were not attending THE clinic, you were not serious about football and coaching.

Coaches still attend those clinics. And, the Galt House Clinic is still a prominent & quality clinic. But, clinics have exploded across the country. You can find one every weekend. There is still value in attending those clinics. 

Another option has evolved because of technology..... the online clinic.  Over the past few years, I have really enjoyed Gridiron StrategiesAmerican Football MonthlyX & O Labs, and now First Down Playbook.  The first two are more like a conventional clinic. X & O Labs offer an extra level of depth over a wide range of topics. First Down Playbook is, the best I can describe, a huge and manageable data bank of college and NFL plays.

The amount of information they offer is overwhelming. The sites are a bargain for the content you receive. And, as my children get older and have a multitude of events, attending a clinic gets tougher every year. Add in Emma's birthday (2/10), Stephanie's birthday (2/15) & Valentine's Day..... February clinic attendance some year's, depending on how the calendar hits, might be what we called at Mason County a "rookie husband mistake."

Bottom line.... if a coach wants to learn and get better, there are a multitude of options. And, I still probably get the most benefit by visiting other programs, their staffs, and watching their practices and workouts.

I will miss attending the Galt House clinic this year. But, I won't miss the snoring that shook the room back in 1987. I never could figure out how a freight train got on the 10th floor of a hotel. 😃

Leadership Development.... trying something new

For 26 years as a head football coach, I believed that the culture of our football program would be strong because we had a quality staff of assistant coaches and we ran our program the right way. In 2017, I realized that was no longer enough. And, as I talked to other long time head coaches, they shared some of the same things over the past few weeks.

I still think your staff and running your program are the foundation to have a strong culture, but I am also convinced it takes a more deliberate effort to get the leadership needed in your program in the 21st century.

The last two weeks, two different groups of players have come to our home to eat together and then discuss Jon Gordon & Mike Smith's book, You Win in the Locker Room First.

After eating, I give the group an overview of why we are meeting.... although our team is made up of good people and we have a good culture, it is not where we want it and where it needs to be for us to be the best.  Leadership has been a deficiency that must be corrected.

We begin by picking out passages from the book and specifically highlighting the one day at at time/process approach, and an in depth look at the leadership models early in the book (Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, Ray Lewis).

Then we divide the book into sections and have smaller groups read those sections. After reading, each group discusses their section. Finally, each group presents to the larger group what they found that will make our team better. We will then compile that and use that information to help us focus on being that culture and being those types of leaders each day.

Tonight was our 3rd session and we will have one more group. All of the sessions have gone well. Our guys WANT  a great culture and they WANT better leadership for our team. One day at a time, I believe we will get where we want to be. And, we will do it together.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Recruit Night- recruiting football players in the 21st century

In the 21st century, how do you recruit guys to your football program?

We started recruit night at Mason County HS and have continued it here at Mercer County HS. One of the driving forces for me was my belief that if I could get the parents with my assistant coaches, they would want those men coaching their son. 

We model this after how colleges will do recruiting weekends. We invite the families for a small meal of appetizers and we include 3 tickets to the basketball game that evening, which should be one of the best games of the season.

In early January, we send these postcards to prospective 8th graders that will be freshmen in the upcoming season:
front of post card

back of post card

We will also have our coaches call to follow up and invite the kids and their families. Once we get them there, here is our itinerary:

Overall, this has been an effective way to get kids introduced to our program and get them going in HS football. We host it on a Friday Night and call it their first Friday Night of HS football.

If you have ideas to recruit kids to play HS football, please send me your ideas to

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Offseason Day #1 : A good investment already paying off

Change of Direction Tag- An idea we stole from the Bluebirds

This past December we made the decision to put a high grade indoor/outdoor "turf" on the top level of the complex. The plan was to use the top level and split it into two areas. One area would be for running backs & linebackers. The other area would be for offensive and defensive linemen.  The main turf, original turf on the 1st level would be for wide receivers, quarterbacks & defensive backs.
This time last year, all 57 guys would have been in this space.

Today was our first day back in school and we didn't waste anytime in working to get better. We had our 1st Perfection workout of the offseason and it went great!  The extra space really made a difference.... to the point that I feel really stupid that we didn't figure out a way to get this done earlier. To be fair, we didn't have the money. But, thanks to our field sign and game sponsors, we were able to finally pull it off. And, I am glad we got it done quick. It was great to have it available on the first day of the 2018 offseason.
Running Backs- top level turf

We still have a long way to go and alot of room for improvement. But, we have no excuses for not being the best we can be.

Linemen- top level turf

For a little more information on Perfection workouts, go to : Perfection Workouts 2016

Linemen- top level turf

Also, great job here by Raegan Long with our social media: Titan Blake Russell on Perfection Workout #1 !

Linemen- top level turf

Tackling Rings- Improving Technique without contact

Tackling Rings- Improving Technique in the offseason

Monday, January 1, 2018

A gift so great.... I never thought it was even possible

Robert Allen Yankey, #11,  playing Quarterback at Greensburg

My Dad's first game as a head football coach was leading the Boyle County Rebels at Greensburg HS versus the Dragons, August 29th, 1969. I was 4 years old and made the trip.  The Rebels did not win a game in 1967 or 1968. 

The Rebels defeated the Dragons that night 14-6. I was so excited I couldn't sleep. Only 4 years old, my mom let me stay up until my Dad got home. I will always remember that game and that night.

The 1969 team went on to finish the season 9-1-1, a huge turn around from going winless two seasons in a row. It was one of the happiest times for my Dad and our family.

Tonight, Lee Glasscock, a senior on that 1969 team, gave me a dvd copy of that game.  I never dreamed I could have a video of my Dad's first game as a head coach. Now I have it thanks to Lee.

2018 is off to a great start. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas... Happy Birthday to the Ultimate Leader

What are the characteristics of a great leader?
I have spent the last few months writing about great people and football coaches. I have learned a lot from those guys. But, my ultimate role model for coaching never played a down of football and never carried a whistle.
I will acknowledge there are many different models for leadership. For me, the 10th chapter of John’s gospel is the best blueprint for the right leadership model and that ultimate leader is Jesus Christ.
When I was growing up, one of my dad’s books I read frequently was Wes Neal’s The Handbook on Coaching Perfection. The purpose of the book is to explain how Jesus would coach a team and how a Christian should coach a team. It seems hard to believe now, but when my dad was growing up, he asked my grandmother, is it possible to be a football coach and a Christian?
In 2014, there are over two billion Christians in the world. At the time of his crucifixion, Jesus had 11 living disciples. They were terrified.
How did 11 cowards grow into two billion people? They saw the living Christ after the crucifixion. But, it was a lot more than just that he rose from the dead, it was that he did it for them.
In the 10th chapter of John, it says the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. I don’t know about you, but I am compelled to follow leaders that put my best interest and the interest of others ahead of their own. Those leaders motivate me to give my all and to give my very best effort.
Self-centered leaders, and I have been around a bunch of them, usually motivate through fear and intimidation. And that can work, but usually only in the short term and often the end is a crash and burn. I can tell you this, it doesn’t work well with me or the guys I work with.
As a leader, it is great that you put your people first. But, the leader has to be competent and capable. Christianity falls apart if there is no resurrection. It would have meant that Jesus had great intentions, but that is where it would end.
But human leaders are not perfect. How is a human leader able to follow this model? Even a competent and capable leader will make a ton of mistakes.
Surprisingly, the Christ-like leader has a lot of freedom. That freedom comes from phrases like the following:
“I am sorry.”
“I was wrong.”
“Your way is better than my way.”
“You know more about this than I do.”
“I could have handled that better.”
I have had to say those phrases often over the past 22 years as a head coach. If you never say those things as a leader, you have no credibility.
Everyone that follows you know you are not perfect. To pretend otherwise is foolish.
I can follow someone who will admit when they are wrong. If they can’t do that or won’t do it, they are not a good leader and following them would be a poor decision.
In 1 John 4:19, it says, “We love each other because he loved us first.”
It reminds me of Coach Sharpe on that mountain in the summer of 1986. For your team to love each other, he said, “You love them first!”
Can you lead without loving the people you lead? You can. I have seen it done but I don’t believe it’s the best way.
I don’t think it is the route to go for sustained success. I don’t want to lead that way.
Chuck Smith, Larry French, Steele Harmon, Bill Arnsparger, Vince Lombardi, Blanton Collier, even my own dad have been great men, coaches and role models for me. The list is much longer but it wasn’t a guy in black shoes and white shoestrings that had the best blueprint for being a high school football coach.
It was ultimately a carpenter from Nazareth that knew what was best to do when there is a whistle hanging around your neck.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Getting Tougher.... Playing Hard

Former Harrodsburg HS Legendary Coach, Alvis Johnson, presenting the Titan Captain Awards named in his honor. Coach Johnson is the Patriarch of football in our community. He constantly does things behind the scenes, everyday, helping people that no one sees. Truly a great man and inspiration.

We had a joint MS & HS staff meeting this week that was very productive. Most staffs I talk to want to make their kids tougher and play harder. Here are some thoughts on that subject. If you have other ideas, please email me at

Organizational Purpose: To pursue excellence each day and in every detail to build a championship caliber program and mentally tough young men of the highest character, discipline and determination.

General Responsibilities:
-  Be loyal to the school, program, head coach, administration, players, and other coaches in our program (5-12).
-  Complaints, concerns and criticisms should be handled behind closed doors with the VARSITY or MS HEAD COACH.
-  Assist head coach in off-season as available and as needed.

How to make our kids tougher:
1-      Model toughness for our kids.
2-      Design your drills so that they have a fast tempo and players get as many reps as possible. Make drills demanding. Football is a tough game to play. If it is played properly, it should develop toughness.
3-      Demand, expect, & hold them accountable for running to the ball every snap in Team Defense & Perimeter Defense.
4-      Expect them to be able to line up properly, play fast, & execute our offense. Time the periods & hold them accountable for not running the plays in the set time.
5-      Demand good body language when they are tired.
6-      One on one isolation in the middle of Team Periods, Inside Drill, etc. Use sparingly to maximize effectiveness.
7-      WIN Drill & 3rd Down Drill
8-      Coach them to be better football players. The better they become as football players, the more confidence they will have, the more success they will have on the field, and the tougher they will be.

How to make our kids play hard:
1-      Make sure the kids know you care about them. In general, kids play hard for a coach that cares about them.
DWS……#1 love hard & #2 coaches hard. #2 is not effective without the first.

2-      The kids will know you care about them by spending TIME with them OUTSIDE of football and talking about things important to them OTHER than football. (same as your kids @ home)
A.     Pick a different player to walk back from practice each day. Have a conversation.
B.     Talk to them at school, and as much as possible, stuff outside of football.
C.     Be creative. Many coaches miss this piece then wonder….”Why I am I not effective?” or worse, blame the kids.

3-      Sometimes you still need to coach effort. Use the same ideas for making guys tougher.

Football coaches historically take for granted their drill work, think it is the best it can be, etc. Constantly evaluate & tweak your drill work. Make it as demanding and precise as you can.  PREPARE for practice.  Think through what you will do. Don’t wing it or take it for granted.

Stay the course. We are on the right track. Invest little to no time and energy into those that are against us, that don’t believe in what we are doing.  That is a waste of our time.

Focus on helping our kids and program get better, ONE day at a time. Work to become a better coach, ONE day at a time. The rest is noise. Ignore it.