This video clip from a Clint Eastwood movie called “Heartbreak Ridge” emphasizes the attention to detail required for excellence. The sergeant is teaching his rag-tag group of marines to be a team and to have attention to detail by making them look like a unit and wearing the same t-shirt. The punishment when they don’t get it right is to strip them off and run without them.
Teaching attention to detail and accountability to each other is something that can be done both on and off the field. As players are learning early in the season, it isn’t always tangible on the field immediately, but as a coach you can create some teachable moments off the field that will enhance what you are teaching on the field.
I was in charge of a program that had a beautiful football facility. The players appreciated it, but I wanted them to take more pride in what they were doing, and I wanted to reinforce that the little things were always important for excellence.
To do this we instituted a policy in which their lockers would be uniform in how they left their equipment in their locker each day. Everything would have a place. It started with a brief meeting explaining and showing how they would leave their lockers each day. We took pictures of a locker set up correctly and posted them in each row. I let the players know that I would inspect the locker room before I left each day, and if even one piece of equipment in one locker was out of place, everyone would be held accountable with extra conditioning. They were to look out for each other and take care of each other. If they saw something wasn’t right, they needed to step up and make sure it was corrected. If a stranger walked into the locker room and saw it, we would expect them to say, “Winners live here.”
When asked why they would all be punished for one person’s mistake the reply was that was because it works the same way on the field. For example, if you are supposed to take a six inch step because it keeps your power base and balance, but you take a 12 inch step and get knocked off balance and someone penetrates in the gap and makes a tackle for a loss on a critical fourth and one with the game on the line, then we all pay for the lack of attention to detail.
Furthermore, we needed to make sure that in the field we all had an eye for detail just like we would in the locker room. We all needed to be attentive to every little technique and assignment. Having all if their eyes along with the coaches would help make us better. They could both learn from what others were doing in their reps as well as coach each other if something wasn’t perfect.
Our locker room was simply a way of showing that we were going to be a discipline team that paid attention to the little things.
Good luck as you work to build your team during camp.
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