Creating Off Season Competition

Our Off Seasons flat out SUCK.

Since I have been at my current school (3 years) our off season’s have never been what I have wanted them to be.  Every year I feel I get more organized and improve my knowledge in S&C yet none of it matters if I can’t get the kids to buy in to it.

Every game we lost this past season I 100% contribute to our lack of dedication to the weight room.

I tried to get the kids here, tried to beg them here, but so many were content with just starting that it didn’t matter.  Couldn’t really hold a kid out for not showing up because his back up didn’t show up either.  Through January we were having the same terrible results for our off season workouts… 10-12 kids a day after school is not getting it cut when you have a school of 2,000 and you know you will end up with at least 30 kids on both varsity and JV when the season starts.  What the heck are those other 50-60 kids doing who aren’t showing up??!!!

I got tired of it, I was fed up, frustrated, and ready to just give up.

I finally did something I should have done long ago.  I held a meeting, advertised it to the kids for over a week, told them it was mandatory and the most important meeting in school history.

I laid out a point/reward system for them and told them what was required to play football for me in 2013.

First I laid out the fact that attendance was taken daily and I would post it at the end of each week.  To play football, at any level in 2013 a player would have to attend 75% of workouts between now and spring ball.
Each player would be given 1 point a day for showing up to our workouts.  Any one involved in a spring sport would get 1 point per day as long as they were in that sport.  I stay in the weight room until 6:00 every night.  So if a baseball or volleyball player gets out at 5:30, they can run down to the weight room and get at least their core lifts in with me.  If they do this they get 2 points for the day.

I also declared that every football player who wasn’t doing a spring sport was now on the track team.  No negotiations, no excuses if you want to play football you are on the track team.

I sat down with the track coach to coordinate our practice structure but basically every OL/DL was now a thrower, every skill player now a runner.

Runners would do track then lift after with me.  Throwers would life with me first then go throw or run.  He handles all the speed work, I handle all the lifting.  You can do all the SAQ work you want, I have never seen kids improve their raw speed and conditioning more than after a full season of running track.

Now that we had a point system, and a minimum percentage of points needed we just needed to really add a level of competition to it.

Our current Junior (going to be senior) class is in my mind selfish and lazy.  There has been a lack of leadership in their grade level.  To help I picked 6 of these future seniors to be “Captains” of mini teams, and I divided every kid interested in football in to one of these 6 teams.  I’m hoping that be forcing these kids into a leadership role they will start to become the leaders we need them to be for the 2013 season.  Each of them started a year ago, and talent wise should be our best guys in 2013 they just need the right discipline.

Intrinsic motivation or doing the right thing are not good enough motivators for today’s kids, and the kids on my football team.  I needed a carrot to dangle to spark their interest in this new football program I am trying to establish so along with the points and small teams I came up with an award system

For the team with the most combined points:  Captain gets their home jersey, any cleats they can dream up, spirit pack.  The entire team will get a special t shirt that no other person can buy or win.

The captains have a lot of incentive to push their team members to be at practice so they can win their prizes.

I also want the other players to have something to shoot for (other than hitting 75% so they can make the team) so I am buying cleats for the top 2 point scorers in our program.

Our attendance has blossomed, we now have over 60 kids a day at track and workouts, as well as another 5-10 per day who come lift after baseball or volleyball.  We are 2 full weeks in to the program right now and the kids have really bought in.  The captains are on their teammates for missing (because they want to win) and players really want to show up and earn their points.  I have kids asking me 3x a day if they made sure I checked them off for lifting that day because they want to get every point.

Each week I have posted the individual and team point results in our weight room and on my classroom door and they have really gotten in to the competition aspect of it.

I have made it a big point to not only not record excuses of any kind, I do not even listen to them.  A few players have given me this excuse or that excuse and I say you gotta do what you gotta do, if you don’t hit 75% you are not playing football.  Our biggest Rival is Pittsburg HS.  So when a kid gives any excuse  for something whether at school or at practice I pull my cell phone out, pretend to dial up Pittsburg HS… and repeat the excuse… so I might say something like…
“Hey pitt, Johnny wants to see his GF after school today… can you take it easy on him in November? Please? oh wait… you don’t care??? You’re still gonna tee off on him? Ok I’ll let him know”  The no excuses attitude is a major point of emphasis I am trying to push across.

The only thing I am not sure on is when I am going to have the “cut off date” or deadline for when players have to reach a certain point total.

I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, and trust me I never really bought in to a point system.  I thought it was something for the rich schools and that our kids would go on the same as before but I can’t express how big our turn around has been and I feel good about our future as long as we can keep this up.

Blocking Progression

Often times we coaches (myself included) get so caught up in schemes, wrinkles, adding new things, the defense we are facing, but we fail to address the most important thing of all … fundamentals.
I know I am guilty, as I am sure many are across the world, as the season goes on you start having more team time, and less individual time.  The quality of your indy work diminishes and I know throughout this season I kept feeling like we just weren’t getting better week to week, or over the course of the season.

I had the pleasure of hearing a number of great speakers this weekend at the San Francisco (really Concord my home town) Glazier Clinic.  The best of which was former YV and Clovis East Coach, and current Clayton Valley HC Tim Murphy.

He is a widely known DW guru.  This year he switched to a shotgun DW and had even more success.  Blew everyone away, won our section for Division II and came up 1 play short of winning the right to represent NorCal in the state playoffs.  Oh by the way he didn’t even get hired until the middle of spring ball.

Anyway he is an awesome coach and I got to check out a bunch of his presentations over the weekend.  His team came to my camp last summer and I knew they would be good.  They’re coming again this year and it will be awesome to have them.

Anyway back to the point, he gave a great talk on his blocking progression.
What I was most happy about was the fact that what I taught this past year was really almost identical to the way he taught it.  I have seen some of his earlier videos so I was close to doing things his way.

This technique for an on block is the foundation for everything they do, and a great phrase he said was “a block is a block”
this was in reference to a coach asking about different techniques for different blocks… this progression is the basis, the difference between blocks just comes from stepping at different angles, and working your head to a certain side.

I am going to go through the entire blocking progression below:

I started my blocking progression like most do, stance, first step, second step.  However Murphy actually teaches his progression from the fit position and works backwards.

1. They start teaching everything from the “fit” position.  Good pad level, back at a 45 degree angle.  Hands locked on shoulder pads, thumbs up, elbows in.  Good bend angles in hips, knees and ankles.  One important point is that he has the scout defender hold the blockers elbows in.  This is to help reinforce the elbows in for the blocker.  Keeping elbows in is a more powerful position than you are in when the elbows are flared up/out.

2.  The next step is to start from the “load” position.  The blocker will have a flat back with their arms loaded or cocked back.  Their hands are somewhere between their mid thigh and hip. On command the player will step and deliver a blow with the knife or base of the hand and get into that fit position… the hit and back have to be at a 45 degree angle… can’t go straight up.  45 degrees is the most powerful angle and we want to make contact on that 45 degree angle with great pad level.

3.  The 3rd part of the progression is to begin from the stance.  The stance should be with a flat back.  On command they will take their first step and load the hands.  Important points… he teaches keeping the off hand in a 3 pt stance to be down near the down hand.  “fist by the wrist”  This is to keep the load even on both sides.  They must keep a flat back when they freeze after their load step.  He will sometimes have a kid stand over the with their hand 2 inches above their back in their stance.  On the load step if their back touches the hand the kid knows he has risen too high.
> then comes the 2nd step and delivering the punch on the 45 degree angle
> this gets us into our fit
from there we will start the final step: Drive

4. they start in a perfect fit and on command they drive the scout defender pounding the entire foot into the ground, weight on inside of foot.
command is “fit” > player gets into perfect fit
“show me” > player twists defender to show coach his grip on shoulder pads, thumbs up elbows in
“drive” > player begins pounding feet driving down the field
“lockout” > player violently bench presses to finish the block… back goes flat again, finishing him to the ground (only get this perfect block a few times a game but practice it anyway)

They will work this step by step progression and from there go to 50% speed putting all the steps together
from 50% they go to 90%
Finally 100% all out on the drive block

They also practice drills they call “Stick Like Glue Series”

Sidewinder drill – drive block (can adjust % of effort) scout guy begins snaking side to side as he is driven back.  Blocker has to work his feet to stay on the block and not get out of control.

Spin Drill – drive block, scout defender chooses a direction to spin, blocker has to redirect and stay on the block

Pop up Drill – drive block, defender throws blocker down onto ground, pop up and continue to block, repeat

He teaches a solid progression and maximizes what his players can do.  His OL was SMALL, but they ran the heck out of the ball.

They work this progression relentlessly.  At our Summer camp, when the other teams were repping team stuff in their independent practice time, his guys were working progression over and over.

He said he works the progression every week, all year long, even 5 weeks deep into the playoffs.

This progression is not solely for the OL.  He makes every player on the team do this, including his QBs.  Every player has to learn how to block and to be a great blocker in his offense.