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I received a message from a young coach in his first year as an offensive coordinator. He was looking for advice to be successful in his first year.
Here is my message to him, but I wanted to share it on this site as well as it may help someone else. I’d like to note first that I’ve developed these ideas both through trial and error, and from studying and talking to other coaches.
1. Offensive Coordinator doesn’t mean “offensive guru.” Others may want to believe you are one, but be humble and realize most of what you do has been learned through hard work and probably from others. Always thank your mentors and give them appropriate credit.
2. Coordinate does mean “bring together.” Work well with your coaches and players. Give them input and listen. Empower them and help them take ownership in what all of you are doing together.
3. Be organized. Everything starts with organization. This is one of your primary roles as a coordinator. Organize your coaching materials, meeting times, video time, walk thrus and practices for maximum efficiency. Don’t just wing it. Be sure every position coach has a schedule and a script, and a watch and a whistle. Maximum efficiency and effectiveness is your objective.
4. Be very mindful of your practice reps. When you have decided on the plays that are in your game plan, make sure you can give those plays enough reps in practice. If you can’t get them reps then take the plays out of your game plan.
5. What many teams do are very similar. If talent is near equal then attention to detail wins. Do the little things right. Your players and coaches need to understand the importance of this. Almost is not good enough.
6. Your job is not to trick the defense, it is to out execute them. Emphasize execution over finding a new scheme. Run your stuff until it becomes second nature and your players understand what adjustments they need to make to be successful.
7. Outwork your opponent, but be sure you are always looking to work smarter. Find efficiency in your work habits and you will find effectiveness. I know too many coaches who will watch film until 3am and not be effective. It’s not just about how well you know it, it’s about how well your players know it. It’s about finding balance in your life as well; get out of the office and spend time with your family.
8. Prepare your players for the situations you will face and have clear objectives for those situations. If you are faced with a two minute situation that requires a field goal and your QB is taking low percentage shots into the end zone, it’s not his fault if it’s never been practiced. Don’t make assumptions that your players will understand what to do in every situation. Teach them what you want. This goes back to organization and planning. If you want it done in a game, then make sure it is practiced. When I was coaching high school we worked a “fair catch for a free kick” situation every week. It’s a rare situation, but our players knew exactly what to do if we ended up in that situation. Have a check list of all the situations you want your players to be able to perform and be sure they are practiced.
9. Be a great teacher. Understand how players develop. They first need to learn what to do. Next they need to know how to do it, and finally they will work towards doing it aggressively. Build your teaching, practice and drills accordingly. You can’t skip a step. Being a great teacher means being able to utilize all resources, technology, and time in order to maximize your effectiveness.
For more in how players learn go here.
For methods to maximize learning, click here.
10. If you are taking over in a situation that has been successful, remember it’s easier for one person to adapt (you) than it is for the rest of the team and coaches. It will be rare that you have a situation to start from scratch. Either way you will be able to put your signature on it and move things in a direction which you see fit. Starting from scratch makes every player in your system a freshmen. In some situations this is necessary and appropriate. Spend time up front understanding your situation and what positives from the past you can build on. For more on creating an offensive system click here.
The next generation of coaches is more tech savvy. There are advantages that can be gained from using technology to teach your systems. 101+ Pro Style Pistol Plays is an example of how technology can be used to present information to multiple learning styles in a very dynamic way. It’s also full of offensive concepts and ideas that can be implemented in any offensive system not just the pistol. It’s a great resource for any offensive coach. Get it from the iBookstore here. This fall it will also be available on the Mac as the iBookstore comes to the Mac.
The following resources are helpful in presenting your systems in ways that will maximize learning for your players:
In August, American Football Monthly will have an article on coaching methods borrowed from classroom teaching. Look for an online supplement as well.
If this is your first year in coaching or as an offensive coordinator I wish you the best of luck. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.