The Pre Game Speech

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Hollywood loves to dramatize the pre game speech and make is so much of the stereotype of who we are as coaches.  While, the movies overvalue the pre game speech, it is a great opportunity to send your team out of the locker  room with a positive mentality and focus.

There are many games where grabbing an early lead and building momentum are necessary for a positive result.  If your team needs a pre game speech to leave the locker room excited, then you should review how you are building up your week.  As one of my former assistants explained to our players, “Game day is like a crescendo.  The week starts out low key and we build to the crescendo on game day.  Emotional, focus and intensity needs to build along the way.”  If you wait for the emotion, focus, and intensity to happen three minutes before kick off, it will dissipate very quickly.

The thought process on what the team needs to be working towards during the week as far as a specific focus needs to be communicated when the game plan is delivered.  Some coaches like to have a theme or focus for the week.  That should be something that is worked into the pre game speech.

You don’t need to have some big, dramatic speech.  In fact, if you do it right, even a short message delivered with some emotion will be reflected with emotion by your team.  The point is you have worked them to that crescendo.

A positive message is always important.  I used the following guidelines in constructing pre game speeches:

1.  Always be clear and concise.  If you have to explain some reference or story, use a meeting during the week to preface what you may refer to later.  They don’t need to be using their brain power to figure out what historical reference or story you are speaking about.  The story told earlier in the week and referred to throughout helps you to be concise and more effective when it’s time to speak to the players before kickoff.  In my very first game as a head coach I used this approach.  The previous coach left unexpectedly and the players loved him.  He used to like to show them parts of the movie “Braveheart” and refer to William Wallace often.  In our time after the pre game meal and before we had meetings, we showed our players a movie and let them relax.  I put on the ending of “Braveheart.”  At this particular away game, there was a long walk to the field.  We reviewed last minute instructions inside the locker room, and made the walk to the end zone.  Borrowing a line from the movie, I looked at the group silently, trying to catch each of their eyes as they waited for me to say something.  Then I said, “You have bled with Coach Frank, now bleed with me.”  Their was an eruption of emotion, teary eyes, and they charged the field and played with such a passion winning 53-0 over an opponent who was about equal to them. The momentum we started the game with stayed at a high level for 48 minutes.

2.  Separate the emotional part of the message from any reminders or instructions.  Any reminders belong up front.  Finish with the emotional part.

3.  Consider having some routine to finish with.  In my second head coaching job, we developed this routine.  When I addressed the team they would have there helmets off and eyes up.  After I finished, our routine was to put the helmets on, snap them up, and wish their teammates well.  I’d simple say, “Now let’s get those helmets on and go get ’em.” Though we didn’t say “strength and honor,” this idea was developed from a scene in “Gladiator.”

Even with a big emotional end to my talk, we would finish the same way, putting our helmets on shaking hands, and wishing other good luck. Then the captains would lead them out.  Having a routine like this will signal the end of your talk and not make it feel like you always need some ending that will make them want to charge out the door.

4.  Rehearse what you want to say.  Often I would write notes throughout the week, construct a few paragraphs to speak to the team about, and find a place on my own a few hours before the game to put my thoughts together and go over it in my head.  I even had one coach who was assigned to listen and give me feedback.

5.  If you have props, make sure they are set up and they will work how you want.  I had one talk where (back in the day of VHS) I wanted to throw a VHS tape against the wall and have it break into pieces.  My assistant removed every screw that held the cassette together and taped it lightly so that the effect would be pieces of the cassette everywhere.  It worked well.  On the flip side, there was a local coach who had a helmet painted like the opponent’s. His plan was to hit it with a sledge hammer and have it break.  He didn’t test his plan.  The sledge hammer bounced back at him, hit him in the head, and knocked him out.  He didn’t coach the first half.

6. ALWAYS BE POSITIVE!  This was my cardinal rule in my pre game speech.  Reference to a previous loss or even revenge for a previous season loss would never be a part of the speech.  We wanted positive emotion.  Anything that might put their minds on something negative or something that could cause doubt was eliminated.  Everything was positive.

Have fun with the pre game speech. It pales in comparison to the work and preparation that you put in during the week, but a positive message never hurts your team.

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There is Greatness All Around You – Use It

I received a nice note today from a coach who I talked ball with and shared some game film with this past off season.  In the note he included a page by two-time Olympic medalist, pole vaulter, Bob Richards.

He highlighted the last paragraph:

Great people will share, and that is what made George Allen one of the greatest football coaches in the world.  Great people will tell you their secrets.  Look for them, call them on the phone or buy their books.  Go where they are, get around them, talk to them.  It is easy to be great when you get around great people.

I think that quote says it all.  I’ve learned this game from great coaches who were willing to share their knowledge with me.  I feel privileged to be able to do this for other people in return.  I think that’s one of the best parts of being in the coaching fraternity.

Thank you to all of those who have shared with me over the years. Please remember to pass on what you learn to other coaches so that this remains a great game.

…and if you are looking to read a book and learn more, check out my iBook here.

Incrementalism…little things make a difference

During camp, our seniors make a short presentation to the team about any topic of their choice. The main idea is that they share something that will have a positive impact on the team. One of the most memorable for me over the last five years was by one of our defensive lineman. He hasn’t had the best of luck in his career. He’s had to battle back through a knee surgery at the beginning of last season and work hard to be able to play his senior year.

He shared a concept he learned in his internship this past summer. The concept is “incrementalism.” Incrementalism is making changes by degrees or in small steps. Addison, our senior tackle, pointed out to the team that finding just a small way to improve each moment will add up to big improvement over time. I’m sure that approach helped him in his recovery. It’s hard to see progress some times in those situations because the recovery seems so slow.

The same certainly applies on the field. We work to perfect our plays and techniques everyday, but perfection doesn’t come at once. It’s working those drills over and over focusing on getting the exact technique needed to be successful. The small improvements each day get us to where we want to be.

This idea popped back into my thoughts this past Friday at a high school game while I was talking with someone who runs a scouting service. He said that most high school teams really don’t get good until about week four. I can see some truth in that statement. It does take time to really get good at those schemes and concepts that were installed in August. The daily repetition and attention to detail really start to separate the good teams from the average or bad teams.

Incrementalism is the key to success. The teams that can stay focused and keep getting better at the little things within what they installed in camp will be the ones who compete for a championship. Those the get bored and try to find success through making big changes in scheme or constantly going back to the drawing board during the season are usually doomed to fail.

Ultimately, getting players to understand this concept will help them both on the field and in life.

Here are some quotes that relate to this idea:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
― Mother Teresa

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
― Confucius

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
― Abraham Lincoln

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
― Winston Churchill

Good luck this week. Keep moving forward!

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Keep grinding, but interject fun

Camp is always a grind, and when it occurs simultaneously with the beginning of classes, there is always the danger of having an unfocused practice.  After a tough weekend of practices, our players were feeling the grind of camp.  The first day of classes has typically been a day where our practices haven’t been as crisp.  We decided to help combat that by adding some fun and pranking one of our sophomore quarterbacks.  We set him up by me pulling him out of a team meeting and while he was out explaining to the players what we would do in the first play of period 14.  We borrowed this one from UNC who did the same thing in their camp.  We involved all 160 members of our team.  The results are below.

Every now and then, we need to do something to lighten things up.  It might be in the week leading up to a big game when tensions are high.  It could be during the grind of preseason camp.  As a coach, you need to be cognizant of what your team needs.  This short interjection of some humor made practice fly, and we had the best first day of classes practice since I have been here.

Pete Carroll is the master of pranking his team.  Here is one involving Will Ferrell.

Even the usually serious and intense Bo Pellini pulled a prank on his team.

Good luck this season.  Have fun!


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:

O,D & Special Teams Objectives That Promote the Team Concept



Many of us list objectives for each of our units and review those with the team following the game.  At BW we do it a little differently.  Our head coach John Snell realized in his time as an assistant that the pride that each unit took in accomplishing their objectives many times turned into finger pointing.  If it wasn’t explicit, it seemed to at least be an implicit understanding that, “We did our job, but you didn’t do yours.”  This kind of attitude causes tension within the team and staff and ultimately fractures the team concept.

To remedy this, a team objectives system was put into place, and each unit evaluates what we refer to as “efficiencies”  on their own.  The chart above shows each one of the team goals, and the performance of offense, defense and special teams is factored into each one.

The first one is Win.  This is easily evaluated, and is the most important objective.

Next is Takeaways/Turnovers.  We factor in not only fumbles and interceptions, but also three-and-outs.  Four three-and-outs count as a give away for our offense or a takeaway our defense. Special teams turnovers factor in as well.  When we total up our takeaways vs. the opponent’s takeaways, we want to come out on top.

Fewer penalties is pretty self explanatory.  We want less total penalty yards than the opponent.

Field Position Battle involves calculating the average starting field position for both ourselves and the opponent.  We want to have a better starting field position than our opponent.

Big Plays encompasses many different things that can happen on offense, defense and special teams.  They include a gain of pass of 20+ yards, special teams TD, 2-pt play, blocked kick, tackle for loss or sack, TD, game winner, punt inside the 10, onside kick recovery, INT, fumble recovery, stopped fake kicks, execute a fake kick, punt over 50 yards, 40 yard field goal, 20+ yard return, 10+ yard run, kick off downed inside 20.  Any one of these counts for both us and our opponent.  When we calculate big plays of each team, we need to have more in order to accomplish this objective.

Scoring Zone Efficiency.  We want our Red Zone (20 and in) scoring efficiency to be better.  We calculate this by number of drives inside the red zone that scored divided by total number of drives into the red zone.

Outgain Opponent.  We calculate total net yards which includes rushing, passing , and returns for each team.

Compete for Four Quarters is the only subjective category we have.  As a staff we evaluate whether we felt our team competed for the entire game.  This includes any opportunity that the second team may have had.  What we are guarding against that is regardless of score we never see our team ease up.

These have been great tools for us to evaluate how we are doing as a team.  We always take the opportunity to grade individuals and units, but those don’t get presented in the framework of reaching an objective.  Again, the team concept is very important to us, and we always want to shoulder responsibility for the win or the loss together.

Hopefully this idea sparks some thought on how you can continue to build a tight knit team.  Good luck!


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:



Defining Discipline


As coaches. the more we can define the different qualities we want to see in our players and our team, the better the chances of them  being able to adopt those characteristics and perform up to the expectations we set for them.  Many times we throw out terms that are intangibles.  We assume that they understand the intangible, but we take for granted that their definition may be different than ours.

It is pretty safe to assume that our players understand that discipline is something that leads to success.  What they view as discipline may vary.  Merriam-Webster defines it as

1.  training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
2.  orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.
The dictionary definition, doesn’t exactly point to the specifics.  We need to be detailed in exactly what that pattern of behavior is.  Part of it is being detailed in what we want on the field whether that is their assignment or technique.  If we want to see something happen on the field, we must coach it.  I described a fun exercise we used for installing some of our sideline procedures and expectations and specific examples of the enthusiasm and engagement we want out of our players on game day here.  This would be and example of an orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior. Being specific in all aspects of what we want is a big part of instilling discipline.  Performance to an expectation cannot be expected if standards are not set.  Furthermore, the standards must be evaluated and both correct and incorrect behavior or performance need to be addressed (corrected, molded, and perfected).
In general though, I want my players to understand that my generic definition that they must apply to all of the different things they are expected to perfect is that discipline is intense listening and focused action.
Intense Listening
Whether it is in a classroom type of meeting, on the field instruction, or post practice meeting, players are expected to listen intensely.  In the classroom part of that falls on me as a teacher/coach to use methods that keep them engaged and on the edge of their seats.  For some detailed “on edge” coaching techniques, click here.  The other part is on them.  I expect them to have their eyes up or to be taking detailed notes.  They should ask questions if something isn’t clear. On the field, they should always be listening.  We talk to them about mental reps, but part of that is hearing the instruction and correction that the player performing the drill or rep is receiving.  It’s not time to talk or socialize when it’s not their turn.  If they fail in the same way as a previous player, they were not listening well enough.  The last is in post practice meetings.  As a coach I know they are tired at that point, so I make it a point to be concise and share only the most important observations of practice that I need them to understand so they are better the next time.  I also set the expectation that eyes are up and all other activity stops.  That means don’t be taking tape off or unsnapping or unbuckling pads. Intensely listen to the message.
Focused Action
Focused action  is doing exactly what you are supposed to do in the manner you are supposed to do it.  Again, as the coach I better be as detailed as possible in setting those performance guidelines.  I also need to constantly evaluate and correct.  Being specific in the language I use is important.  I should be able to say a word or phrase that I have taught the players which will cue them to exactly what the error was, and exactly what I want.  “Catch the ball” isn’t specific enough.  They know that.  “Eyes” helps them understand that the error was they moved their eyes too early or didn’t follow the ball in.
Intense listening and focused action will help a player be more cognizant of what they need to do to show discipline.  As I pointed out, as coaches we have a huge role in discipline as well.  It comes not from being a “drill sergeant”, but rather from being a great teacher.
I hope this perspective helps you help your players this 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:

Thought for the day…Attitude must be married to Effort


The above sign is in our quarterback manual.  It’s something I originally saw in the Ball State team room when Brady Hoke was there as the head coach.These are valuable words because it puts the focus not just on a mindset , but action.

Blame no one. It starts with an internal focus.  When something doesn’t go right, it doesn’t start with placing blame, it should be a chance to reflect and understand what you can do better because you can always do something better.  Blame has no place in a team setting.  Blame for a team failure is something that needs to be shouldered together.  Placing blame on others, whether done by the coach or player, fractures the team concept.

Expect nothing.  As a player or coach you want to have a positive mindset that you will win.  However, don’t expect the other team to come in and lay down for you.  No matter how bad they are, they are going to fight.  Welcome the challenge of competition.  Don’t expect the calls to go your way.  Officials will make mistakes.  They may even have biases.  Don’t expect the ball to bounce the right way or the breaks of the game to go in your favor.  You need to keep working and put yourself in a position to deserve to win.

Do something.  Positive thoughts and words are a great start, but without action they are nothing.  Effort must always be married to attitude.  Without effort all the positive words ini the world are useless.  Work harder; work smarter; do whatever it takes to gain the advantage.  It’s all about taking actions every opportunity you have to improve.  It will build incrementally and propel you towards your goal.

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:</a

Levels of Commitment

Levels of team commitment

Levels of team commitment

The image above is another great tool and visual to help your team grasp the level of commitment needed for success.  Our tight ends coach, Pete Peterson shared this with us.  He was given this tool by a high school coach at Delaware Valley High School.  That coach adapted it from what he saw Al Golden present.

This is like the “Commitment Continuum” and “Leadership Ladder.”  It gives a visual representation to the players that the players can use as self evaluation, and it certainly is a great talking point with players on what the need to start doing to get themselves to the next level.

There are so many things that we do to build leadership and commitment in our programs.  I think the best ones are those that can help your players with tangible evidence based on their actions rather than by just what they say.  It’s easy for guys to act “rah-rah” but actions always speak louder than words. Action-based leadership is lasting and strong.

I included a Powerpoint file with this in case you would like to adapt it for use with your team.

Good luck in your preparations for the 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:


Get vocal…teaching your players to be vocal leaders


I’m sure most of you have some great leaders by example that you can point out all of the time. The challenge is getting great vocal leadership from your team as well. In meetings with my players over the years, many of them would point out, “I’m kind of quiet, but I’m a leader by example.”

Unfortunately, in this game and in life, that is never enough. In order to be successful, a team must communicate. Most importantly, they must understand how to communicate with each other.

I decided to give them three simple ways to be more vocal and I posted a simple visual reminder. I presented it not as a way to be a leader, but as a way to be a great teammate. The three ways to be a great teammate are:
1. Recognize a teammate’s effort or performance. When your teammate does something well, speak up and show your appreciation because when your teammates do well it impacts you as a member.
2. Help a teammate improve. If a player sees his teammate do something incorrect, he should let him know what he saw and if he understands the proper way, he should coach him. Teammates need to serve each other.
3. Challenge a teammate to do his best. This can be before a rep or play. “Let’s go Joe, I know you’ve got this!” Or it can be after a play, “You’re better than that, Joe!” Or “You need to step up. I know you can give more.”

Always Positive…whatever message the player communicates to his teammate, it should be done in a positive way. As a coach you want to create a positive environment of communication.

Good luck developing your team as you continue through camp.

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:

“Honking” Practice…Teaching that everyone has a role in leadership


The following information was taken from this website, but you can find it in multiple places on the internet.

This is one of my favorite pieces to share with my players in talking about leadership and how everyone has a role in leading the team.  I turned this into a practice segment in my first year as a head coach, and used it to teach our team sideline expectations, celebrations expectations, and how to stay engaged in the game.  Below is the piece followed by how I turned this into a powerful exercise for the team to understand and apply the lesson directly to their work on the field and in the weight room.

I’d like to mention that a recent post by Jeff Floyd reminded me of this.  Read it here:  Motivation and Coaching Study.  Coach Floyd’s pst further illustrates some of the “science” and effectiveness of how enthusiasm and support help performance.

Why Geese Fly in a V-Formation:

Every fall thousands of geese fly from Canada to the southern part of the United States to escape the bitterly cold Canadian winter.  As soon as a flock of geese take flight from Canadian waters they quickly form a v-shape flying pattern, with one rotating goose in the center lead and all the other geese trailing behind in two close lines.

Wildlife scientists have conducted extensive studies to determine why geese and other migratory birds always fly in a distinctive v-formation.  They found some fascinating results:

1. When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the goose flying behind it.  Consequently, by flying together in a v-formation, scientists estimate that the whole flock can fly about 70% farther with the same amount of energy than if each goose flew alone.  Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in formation. When people work together harmoniously on teams, sharing common values and a common destination, they all arrive at the destination quicker and easier, because they are lifted up by the energy and enthusiasm of one another.

2. When a goose drops out of the v-formation it quickly discovers that it requires a great deal more effort and energy to fly.  Consequently, that goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from flying together. Sometimes people playing on teams will drop out of the group and try to accomplish goals on their own.  However, like the geese, they usually discover that they miss the synergy and energy that comes when they are an active part of a cohesive team moving toward their destination, and want to return to the group.

3. Geese rotate leadership. When the goose flying in the front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese who follow behind the leader.  Consequently, when the lead goose gets tired, it drops out of the front position and moves to the rear of the formation, where the resistance is lightest, and another goose moves to the leadership position.  This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates.  When a team is functioning well, various members of the team may take the leadership role for a while because of a particular expertise or experience.  Consequently, on good teams, everyone has the opportunity to serve as a leader as well as a follower.

4. Geese honk at each other. They also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together.  Scientists speculate that this honking is their way of communicating with each other during their long flight. Similarly, when working on teams, it is exceedingly important for each team member to communicate regularly with all the other team members.  Teams frequently fall apart because of the lack of adequate communication among the various members of the team.  Perhaps human teams can learn from flying flocks of geese that constant communication among members is exceedingly important in moving effectively towards a common destination.  Geese also honk to encourage the leader in the formation to keep up the speed.

5. Geese help each other. Scientists also discovered that when one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose.  They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or dies. Likewise, human teams work best when they do more than just work together, but care for the well being of each other.

After bringing the team together and reading this to them, I explained that we need to learn from this lesson and apply it to what we do.  First, we very quickly showed them what was acceptable when they scored a touchdown.  The first matter in order was to find the nearest official and hand him the ball.  Next, every team mate was expected to get to the player who scored (or intercepted, or recovered a fumble or who made a big hit), and quickly without much of a show, congratulate him.  We expected them to be enthusiastic and excited, but we neither wanted a flog nor did we want to show up the opponent.  The idea was “do it with class” and “act like you’ve been there.” To demonstrate this we had either upperclassmen or the coaches demonstrate this procedure.  We explained that that was our procedure for celebration that kept us classy and within the rules.

After that, it was time for “honking” practice.  The entire team was put on the sideline and our expectations were outlined, such as having helmets on at all times, eyes always on the field and not in the stands, and being engaged and enthusiastic about what was has happening on the field.   We also covered other procedural items like where special teams units should get ready with the special teams coach, where the offense and defense would meet when they came off the field, and exactly where they should stand on the field to watch the game.  We didn’t allow much migrating and positions had a certain range on the sideline from where they should watch the game so that we could easily find players by position.  They were allowed to congregate in one spot only to congratulate a unit coming off then the would go back to their areas.

We then reiterated #4 about geese honking encouragement.  If a player was on the sideline, starter or non-starter, his encouragement was expected.  Our sidelines were loud, enthusiastic, and truthfully, fun.

We went through a short type of mock game with each unit getting a chance on the field, and the guys on the field and sideline fulfilling their roles.  The kick off team would get the first chance, and run down on air.  We’d single out a player after the whistle blew to stop the play as having made a big tackle, and everyone on the field would get to him and quickly encourage him.  As the kick off unit would come to the sideline the team would offer their congrats.  We’d put the defense on the field and have them pursue to the ball on a run and all get to the spot where the “tackle” was made and celebrate quickly.  We’d then simulate an interception and return for TD and they would use our “celebration procedure” on the field and on the sideline.  We would do this for every unit even progressing through second unit and JV units so that even starters were responsible for their sideline encouragement when they were out of the game.  We also explained that they were to remain in full gear (no taking the helmet, shoulder pads, or tape off) for the remainder of the game.  We never wanted the starters coming out to signify that it was time to ease up, so their remaining in gear and engaged was meant to solidify that idea.

What we would end up with was a very fun, enthusiastic, and energetic fifteen minutes of practice that installed all of our expectations and procedures for game day.

These lessons were also carried out in conditioning and the weight room.  In longer type of conditioning we’d see the guys who finished first go back and finish with the guys at the end, encouraging them as they made it to the finish line.  Whether lifting or running, the expectation became when you were finished or if it wasn’t your turn, you were encouraging instead of “feeling sorry for yourself” or “feeling the pain and fatigue.”  The idea was to turn your focus to others not yourself.

I’ve always believed that if you expect something from your players you must coach it. That includes all the little things that happen on game day that many coaches take for granted.

Good luck this 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: