Spring practice is a time for coaches to develop their players in every way without the pressure of real games. Most importantly, the fundamentals (blocking and tackling) of the game have the opportunity to be retaught and emphasized while creating a culture of physicality and toughness. Finally, the spring allows for the opportunity to try and test new ideas in every subject area that could potentially have a direct (however small) impact on WINNING games. These may not be landmark decisions or even new concepts but are often little details that can help the players to push themselves further along with their individual development . On that note, this blog is dedicated to sharing some ideas that have been collected over the winter as we head into spring that may be useful for you as you hit the field.
1 – Consider emphasizing the development of GRIT in each of your players. “Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective” (WIKIPEDIA). This may seem like the basic job description of being a football coach, but consider HOW you implement it. That is, meaning focus on the concept of never accepting anything but the standard(s) that have been established no matter how the player FEELS especially when in front of their peers on the field. Again, this may seem like COACHING 101 but reflect on how easy it can be or how often we have all let a teachable moment pass by because we were rushed to get onto the next repetition. For more on GRIT look up the work of Angela Lee Duckworth and Amy Chua.
2 – Find a way on defense to teach everyone ONE basic pass rush move. We all are keen to design new pressures and it’s always fancy when you bring a third level secondary player on an elaborate blitz track, but how often do those guys work on beating the block with a great move and then finishing appropriately on the QB? As we all study successful teams that consistently get SACKS, it becomes evident that their is a consistent defensive skill-set that is being taught and not just every position coach “just kind of figuring it out” on their own.
3 – Force physical toughness onto every player. If you are doing a full padded group or team period, stop worrying about players being on the ground. Most of us spend a lot of time coaching “staying up” when all that often does is slow players down and put them in awkward positions that increase the likelihood of injury. In addition, make sure that every play has a distinct finish and that should be however it is determined by each staff but is most effective when each defensive player has to get to the ball carrier. Finally, make the injured players do things during practice that is harder than practicing. I watched one FBS team this spring basically make the injured guys push prowler sleds the entire time.
4 – Work on situational football starting on day one and make it specific. Football is the most situational game there is and you may be “just running plays” that in no way prepares the players for how it will feel on game day.
5 – Find a way to play music at a reasonable volume level for the entire practice. Make sure it is loud enough to hear but not too loud so you can still teach. This makes practice more fun for the players but more importantly, again, simulates how it will feel on game day.
6 – Make your offensive players chase the ball on every play. Just as we teach pursuit on defense, the successful offenses around the nation “block with all 11”. This is very hard and must be practiced.
Most of the above are all things that are not revolutionary and a lot of us are already doing them but these are some of the things that are blatantly a part of several successful teams that have been studied this winter.