Set the Tone

With the season approaching, I will be spending much less time sharing X&O’s on this website, but I will turn the focus to some of the messages, motivational material and leadership we share with our coaching staff and players every week.  The X&O’s will probably be short posts, but I will continue to share info.

As most of you head into your final weekend off before “civilian life” is over, I wanted to share an idea that I have used with setting the tone for my players throughout my career whether that has been as a position coach, coordinator or head coach.  I always wanted a very focused message that set the tone for the season.  It’s something I have always spent a few weeks leading up to the season putting together as I evaluated where we were and what it would take to beat each team on our schedule.  For a few seasons at one of my head coaching jobs, I would get the team in a circle at the very beginning of the first official practice. I would start by talking about what they had done up to this point to prove they were worthy to be standing out there as part of the team.  Then I would shift focus to each opponent talking about them one by one with each week having a short word or phrase representing the theme or what it would take for us to be successful.

As a staff we had done our work evaluating both ourselves and our opponents in the off season.  We knew what it would take each week.  For example, our first opponent was an old local rival who had been off of our schedule for a long time.  I talked about the rivalry and how it would be a fight.  Week one would be a battle of wills, but the most disciplined team would win.  They were very athletic, but a disciplined team could out-play their athleticism.  I finished with, “if you have the DISCIPLINE to beat ____ take a step forward.”  Every player took a step forward.

This type of short message progressed each week with the players taking a step forward with each opponent.

Progressing through to an inferior opponent in the middle of the season, I talked about FOCUS.  We needed to remain focused on our jobs and not worry about how good or bad an opponent was. Again, the players took a step forward when they were asked if they could be FOCUSED.

By the 10th step they were all bunched together in the middle.  I made the point that we needed to step up each week of our journey, but we had to do it exactly like we were then, TOGETHER.

The team was fired up, and we got a break and went into our practice.  It was just ten minutes or so, but we set the tone for the entire season.  We weren’t done with that exercise though.  It was something we referred back to each week.  The word or phrase that we gave for each week was the theme for that week.  Week 1 was DISCIPLINE.  That word appeared on the front of the scouting report and was the message for the first team meeting of the week and reiterated throughout the week.  I usually would tie it into my pregame speech.

Each season after, we had some variation to this exercise in order to keep it fresh and to set the tone for the season.  Whatever your position is as a coach, it’s important to set the expectations and provide an environment for your players to practice and play with enthusiasm.  It can be done in a meeting, on the field, or through an exercise like I explained in this post, but getting off to a great start is important.

Set the tone for 2013 on Monday! Good luck with your season!

Pick up a great resource and reference for the 2013 season. 101 Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays for the iPad is loaded with video, diagrams, and ideas that are useful in any offense.  Get it here:


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