Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Midpoint Review & Announcement

Here we are, sitting at halfway through the 2014 season. We’re 4-0, having outscored our opponents by an almost uncomfortable margin. Our only apparent competition looms soon however, in the form of the Central Cal War Angels, who have similarly outscored their opponents. It looks like it’ll come down to us, Central Cal, Seattle or Kansas City in the American Conference.

I do miss our old rivals, the Dallas Diamonds. They handled us pretty well from 2004 until 2007. We didn’t play each other from 2008-10. Since 2011 though, it was all us and I know they’d like to have another shot at us. Back in the day they had great coaching – Todd Hughes put together a staff that was a handful, and they had some unreal talent to match.

Back East, it doesn’t look like Chicago, the defending national champions and who we defeated in 2012 for the title, has lost a step.  Boston (who beat us in 2011) and DC will be in a dogfight to see who challenges Chicago in the National conference championship.

I am looking forward to our trip up to Reno this week. Playing a team you’ve never faced before is always fun. Reno is a nice town, and holds good memories for me all the way back to the 80’s.

OK, now for the announcement: Well, it’s really more a testing of the waters. Our DC, Mike Suggett and I, along with members of our staff are looking to host a camp in San Diego, in November or early December. The exact schedule will depend on how many players will attend. We plan on opening up what we do and teach it from the ground up. From scheme, to technique, to practice planning, to drills – anything you want (we may not hand out our audible system, but we’ll help you design your own). This would be for players and coaches….and it’ll be free. (We’ll be selling camp T-Shirts to help offset our out of pocket costs or taking donations…..) But just get yourself out here – you know you want to come to San Diego in the winter!

We’re serious when we say that we want to increase the level of competition and better the game of women’s football. We’re willing to put our time and effort where our mouths are. We’ll be reaching out to some other outstanding coaches to volunteer their time as well, hoping that they’ll see the big picture too. Maybe if it takes off, we’ll charge in the future, but this time it’s on the house.

In addition to plenty of field time, there will be chalk talks and film sessions where you can see the things we talk about being put to use on the field. Unlike other camps, our ultimate goal is not to play a game at the end of the weekend. We want to give you tools that you can use immediately upon returning back to your teams. Not only will the players learn new techniques, but for the coaches we can show you how to teach and drill them.

We will have a filmed, padded  7-on-7 session and a filmed 1-on-1 OL vs DL session. Then we may have a “teaching” team session where you can put the concepts into play that you’ve learned and see for yourselves how it takes place in an 11-on-11 environment.

Again, coaches will be welcome as well, even those who we regularly play against. I’ll give out more details as things begin to fall into place, but for right now if you have any thoughts or interest (especially if you’re a veteran coach), then please let me know.

Coach Suggett, myself and the Surge staff are very excited to offer this opportunity to better the game!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Week Three & Professional Growth

There’s not a whole lot to say about last week’s game – we traveled and played a team that was overmatched. As with many of our opponents, they have some athletes, but they just haven’t been able to develop an offensive and defensive line. They played with heart and class and I admire them, and wish them luck in the rest of their season.

This week is a rematch from Week 2 against our friends on the West Coast Lightning. We’ll need to continue to try and perfect what we do and take every opportunity to get better.

Now to the professional growth part: I am a little giddy so let me explain. There is an annual offensive line coaches’ clinic held in Cincinnati that I have long wanted to attend, called the C.O.O.L. Clinic ( It is a weekend of nothing but offensive line coaches and topics, and it is absolutely on the cutting edge of offensive line thought. I’ve always wanted to go, but unfortunately, the clinic is normally held in May, which is of course, right in the middle of the women’s season. Anyway, I was browsing through another one of my favorite websites, X’s and O’s Labs ( and saw the link to the COOL Clinic. I thought I’d torture myself a little by seeing what I was missing out on this year, so wandered over…..

They have an offer there of every DVD of every clinic they’ve done since 1996…..126 of them total! They have 26 DVD’s of just drills. Every possible OL topic you can imagine, including long snapping. Was it expensive? Yeah, in a pure dollar amount…but not for the amount of information there is. So yes, I bought them. I’m always preaching about bettering yourself as a coach and getting better – how could I not? Besides, my players deserve my very best and I’m always worried about getting stale.

I mentioned X’s and O’s Labs a little earlier. Their membership of $35 a year is one of the very best values out there. I subscribed for one year to another site, which was devoted to the spread offense and spent $100, only to find out that it stopped getting updated after about three months. Fortunately, I got “probably” enough information to justify the expense. But X’s and O’s Labs gets updates every week, and it is quality stuff. Just two weeks ago I picked up an OL drill from that site that has proved to be popular with my OL, and I got a lot of ST stuff from there as well. I cannot recommend them enough.

We always tell our players (“we” meaning coaches in general) something along the lines of, “If you want to be a champion, you have to sacrifice” or something catchy like “If you want what others don’t have, you have to be willing to do what they won’t”, etc….well guess what Coach? That applies to you as well. What are you willing to do that others won’t to get better?

What drives you? For me, there was an epiphany of sorts just last weekend. After our game, a couple of our coaches were talking at dinner about Coach Geno Auriemma’s (UConn women's b-ball) book (I haven’t read it, but plan to now) and how he was driven by self-doubt. I have to say in total candidness, that that can easily describe myself as well. I do always wonder if I’m good enough to stand up against the best coaches across the country. I compare myself constantly to guys like John Konecki, the staff of the Boston Militia and our own DC, Mike Suggett. When I talk to other coaches about different situations I always ask myself “would I have seen what they saw? Would I have had an answer to that?” It may be a curse of sorts, because intellectually I know I’m at least half-way decent – I think the results over the years show that to be the case. But I always want more, to know that I’m the best I can be. That’s probably why I just bought 126 DVD’s.

You can start small – just by coming to practice with a plan and a way to execute it. I still see many of my colleagues (not necessarily on the Surge) come to practice without a practice plan and making things up as they go. Asking the coordinator 5 minutes before practice, “What are we doing today” is not the road to a championship. Then, find out what in the offseason you can do to get better and make your team better. It might take some money and it might take some time. But remember (to use another cliché) “once you’ve won a championship, you’re a champion forever”…so how much is a “forever” memory worth? If you look at the pictures following either of our national championships, I think you’ll see that they are priceless.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Week Two Review

I want to emphasize that these opinions, like everything else in this blog represent my opinions only and not those of the San Diego Surge organization or the Women’s Football Association, ok?

We had a game this past weekend, which we won 62-0. We ran 24 offensive plays (had a running clock from the 7:00 mark of the second quarter on), scoring 8 touchdowns. We also had one on a punt return. We averaged 20.8 yards per carry on the ground. Of our 24 plays, 14 were passes, and we completed only 50%. So yes, we threw in the second half (2 or 3 out of the 6 plays we had), but would the defense rather have a 50% chance of stopping the play, or give up an almost guaranteed 20 yards?

When we lined up for the opening kickoff, the receiving team lined up 20 yards off the ball. We declined to kick it onside. They fixed it, sort of, on the following kicks, moving up to 15 yards off. We never took advantage.

I mention all this to emphasize that we really weren’t trying to run up the score. I suppose we could have run up the middle, but I’m not a huge fan of running our backs straight into unblocked defenders, you know? Player safety does have a role in play calling, and when there are 8/9 defenders stacked inside against our spread formations, it just makes no sense.

Here’s the thing….short of giving the other team a 50-point head start, there’s not a rule change in the world that could have changed the result. When you are flat out faster than the other team at every position on the field, it is simply not going to end well.

Ken Massey said in advance of the NCAA women’s basketball championship something to the effect of, “there is a greater disparity in talent between the #1 women’s team and the #3 team than there is between the #1 men’s team and the #120 team”. I believe that to be true in the women’s game as well. It was graphically pointed out last year when the Chicago Force beat the Dallas Diamonds 81-34 in the WFA Championship game. Now, it’s not normally that bad – the spread in 2012 was 4 and in 2011 it was 15. But overall, I think you can draw a line after the top six teams in the league (in alphabetical order: Boston, Central Cal, Chicago, DC, Kansas City & San Diego) and there will be a wide margin of difference between #6 and #7 and certainly between #7 and #50-something.

I’m not quite sure of the reason for all this. This week, the main culprit was speed. We had it, our opponents did not. They have a good head coach, but he’s had trouble like so many other teams, in finding enough quality assistants. It’s tough to build a team of committed, quality assistants who volunteer.

The team we’re playing this week apparently went through another off-season coaching change, and that is tough as well. We’ve had coaches on our staff be with the core of this team since 2001 (not a typo). I’ve had a couple of offensive linemen be with me for 10 years now. The point is, when you have that type of continuity going, plus talent, rule changes are not going to even the playing field.

So right now, in all honesty, we find ourselves over the next couple of weeks facing the same “problem” Team USA did last year: playing teams that we will beat, by a lot. We have to continue to stress in practice that at this point it isn’t about the other team at all, but about how close to perfection we can get in our execution of technique and scheme. We will have tough games down the road! I also want to emphasize that I have the utmost respect for our upcoming opponents – it takes a lot to go out and fight until the end knowing what you’re up against. The team last week certainly did that, and the team we’re playing this week has a reputation for that as well. Plus, they have some of the most genuinely nice people we’ve ever played against. Maybe that’s not so good on a football field though……

Until next week!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Week One in the Books!

Fortunately, the jitters I had last week were unfounded. The butterflies didn’t start going away until we were up 21-0 though. As far as my First 15 script, that is also about when I got through it. To borrow a phrase from the old “A-Team” TV show: “I love it when a plan comes together!”

The first play we ran was designed to show a look/motion that they would likely expect, and then run a different play. It went for 18 yards. The second play was designed to attack a specific position, and it went for a TD. I don’t tell you these things to brag, but to emphasize the importance of scouting and research when putting your game plan together. I also want to give a heavy shout-out to our quality control coach, Dan Tovar, who helped put the plan together. He’s our former head coach, who took us to the national title in 2007 and we’re lucky to have a coach like him who is willing to help out in the poring over of game film. Also, I must point out that I’m not the OC this year – that goes to Carrie Suggett, who has done a fantastic job of doing just that – coordinating the offense. This is her first go ‘round as an OC, so I’ve retained the playcalling duties, at least to start the game. All in all, we make a pretty good team.

My primary goal of a First 15 is to not only call plays that have a great chance of working well because of what we’ve seen on film, but also to ensure that we get a chance to see how a defense will align against our formations. Maybe our opponent has only played against I-Back teams, or worse, Double Wing teams and so we never get a chance to see how they align against a spread team. So there are certain formation/motion/play combinations that I want to use, but I don’t want to call it until I have a better idea (or confirmation) of how they’ll align. So I’ll call the formation/motion but pair it with a “safe” play. Heck, who knows – maybe it’ll work well anyway.

We had other goals in mind during the game as well, things I wanted to make my offensive line prove. So I went through a couple of series calling plays that made them do exactly that. Generally speaking, they did well. We also ran a couple of plays that we hadn’t practiced a whole lot, and it showed. At least then we were able to get it on film and can make corrections going forward.

One of the goals was zero sacks given up, and we accomplished that, even though our opponent had a very highly-touted DE that we were concerned about. She lined up three different places, over both tackles and one guard, and as far as I can tell had 1 tackle for loss – that’s it. The QB got hurried 4 times I think – twice because they didn’t read their blitz reads properly and then twice because one of the OL let her technique get away from her, which was totally correctable on film.

Our run game was huge for us. The goal for the OL was 150 yards rushing. and I'm sure we made that, but we haven’t done the final stats yet. If we didn’t it was my fault, since I called the plays. We did have some very short passes that went for big gains. The biggest thing for me was seeing usually three out of the five OL getting downfield and leading the way, sometimes even escorting the ballcarrier into the end zone after a big gain. That kind of heart and effort is something we stress, but sometimes can be tough to get out of an OL. I stressed it with my men’s team too, but it didn’t make much of a difference.

So this week, we travel a little to the north (Temecula) to take on an old friend. Nate Benjamin is one of the top defensive coaches around – he was the DC both times we won the national championship, in 2007 and 2012, so we know each other pretty well. I love coaching against guys like this because it really becomes a punch/counter-punch affair. Plus the winner gets bragging rights for a year! So now it’s off to look at some film and figure out what’ll work!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Game Week Jitters

This is Game Week, finally! This will be the 27th Week One for me (over 24 years) and this is just as exciting as any of the others. I’ve coached in 268 games and won 159 of them, including two National Championships, but yet I know for sure that when the Star Spangled Banner is played at about 5:25 Saturday night, I’ll still get goosebumps.

Our opponent Saturday night is a long-time rival, the Las Vegas Showgirlz. We’ve been playing against them and their head coach, Dion Lee, since 2006. It is sort of rare at the adult level to see the same coaches over and over again, but it is nice in a way, because you get to know the person behind the name.

It is always difficult to guess what a Week One opponent is going to do. The only indicator you have is previous film. In a Week One situation, you normally have to go back to past years and see what they did and who they did it with. Then you’re checking rosters to see who is returning, see what coaching changes they’ve made, etc. – anything that might give you a little bit of a clue.

We as a staff feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on what Coach Lee “wants” to do from a personality standpoint, but we really don’t know “how” he’ll do it, and so in a Week One situation, you’ve really got to be able to adjust on the fly much quicker than you might in later weeks.

As a coordinator, Week Ones always take on an extra level of anxiety. This is when the schemes you’ve introduced take their first real test. Is one of your plays not working well in practice? Is it because your defense has seen it enough times that they react differently than an opposing defense does? Well, if you believe in the scheme enough, there’s only one way to find out!

As an Offensive Coordinator, I’ve always remembered Homer Smith’s words of advice: “The main reason for an OC to script out his First 15 plays is so he can sleep the night before the game.” I have no point of reference as a Defensive Coordinator, but I imagine that they worry if they’ve drilled enough of the opposing looks and if they think they’ve got a handle on what the opposing OC wants to do. As a Special Teams Coordinator, I always worry about whether I’ve given enough emphasis to the right units and “how can I get burned?”

Many people have said that they expect the Surge to return to the National Championship games we appeared in in 2011 and 2012. Those expectations also place a large target on our backs, but they are also “our” expectations. In three days we’ll have a much better idea of how realistic they are.