Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Day of Thanks

This being the day before Thanksgiving, I thought it only appropriate to give thanks for all those who have helped me over the years. Hold on, because 25 years of help won’t be quick!

To the coach who gave me my first job, Steve Castle, a buddy that I’d played flag football with, I wish I knew where you were now, but I think of you often. He brought me on as a know-nothing assistant varsity OL coach in 1991 and then somehow retained me when he got the HC job at Westminster La Quinta the next year.

To George Berg, the head coach at Fountain Valley High…man, coming from three consecutive 2-8 seasons with Division 8 teams, onto a staff in Division 1, coming off an 12-1 year….I don’t know why you took a chance on me, but I’ll be forever grateful that you did. I know I got thrown into the fire a little sooner than was planned, and I know that ’94 was a rough year, but thanks for all you did for me, both professionally and personally. My family will never forget.

To Willy Puga (QB’s) and Hank Cochrane (OC) at FVHS – you guys gave me some serious tough love, but it made me understand what was important and how to prepare on a real staff. 12+ hour days are never fun, but with you guys they were tolerable. Hank, you’re still my guru, whether you like it or not. The stuff I learned from you is still in my playbook.

To Bill Williams, who was another guy who took me under his wing and introduced me to coaches and opportunities that I never would have had on my own, the lessons learned from you while working camps and clinics will always remain. I’ve got a sense of urgency and serious attention to detail because of you.

To Mike Barry, Pat Ruel, Mike Sherman and Homer Smith (RIP)… guys, who are at the top of the food chain as coaches, didn’t have to give of your time as you did – especially when I was no longer a high school coach (or you’d moved on to the NFL) and had nothing to offer you (recruits). You gave freely anyway and have instilled in me a spirit of helping out younger coaches who maybe didn’t have the opportunities that I did to interact with you or other high-level coaches. Your knowledge has probably made up 90% of mine.

To Dan Tovar – thanks for showing San Diego it could be done! The concepts you introduced are still used and will always be in the back of my mind when designing an offense.

To Mike Suggett – what a ride it’s been! We don’t always agree, but we’ve got each other’s backs and I think it has translated pretty well onto the field.

Perhaps most importantly, without some pretty good players coming through to make me look smart, none of it works. From Mike Nelson (La Quinta ’92) and Don Casey (LQ ’93) who were my first All-CIF players, through Brad Hanson, Brian Hart, & Justin Speegle at Fountain Valley, along with a BUNCH of All League players. To Katrina Walter, Lela Vaeo, Christina Carrillo & Lindsay Hood, the first All Americans, and now to Jessica Cable and Eboni Chambers carrying it on. To Moses Everett, my first male All American. Those are just the OL, and I’m singling those out because, well – they deserve it. As an OC/HC there are a whole bunch of the “skinny people” who helped out as well – so many that I can’t possibly list them all, so won’t for fear of forgetting someone. But I appreciate you.

Finally, thank you to the sport of football. There is none else like it. No other tests physical and mental toughness the same way. No other depends on 33 different positions doing their job on each play, lest disaster strike or when they do their jobs, greatness ensues. So many life lessons have been taught and there are so many left to learn. Thank you…..

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Camp Stories

In a word: Wow! What a weekend! There was a ton of buildup over the past two weeks, small details to take care of, people & vendors to update – all sorts of stuff seemed to keep coming up. Not only are Coach Suggett and I not professional event planners, but we’ve never run a camp before and just thought someone should do it. Our goal was simple: Bring out quality coaches and teach some finer points of the game to willing players in order to increase the level of the women’s game. We wanted to offer it at a reasonable price ($20 this year for 12 hours of instruction!) and add value by including t-shirts in that $20 and bringing in lunches, a trainer and our team masseuse. I have to believe our goals were met.

We had 52 players and two visiting (non-instructing) coaches attend the camp. Add to that 11 instructing coaches, a full support staff of field and registration helpers and I was just overwhelmed at the amount of help that we had. Obviously, with charging only $20 this was not going to be a money-maker for anyone and it was never intended to be. But we wanted to be able to reimburse our travelling coaches for some of their costs and weren’t able to do that to Mike and I’s satisfaction this year. So next year it will cost more for sure. But probably still only 20% of what USA Football is charging for their camp, and the promise remains the same – everything left over after expenses will go back to the travelling coaches.

So for the camp itself…..what a great time! Two of the coaches, Angel Rivera and Billy Hughes, I hadn’t seen in a while; Billy in 2013 and Angel not since 2012. They of course fit in like family and as coaches universally do, it wasn’t long before the jokes were flying. But besides that, they are just excellent teachers. Angel is such a great teacher of technique in a very technique-intensive position (DB’s) and I’m not sure I’ve seen any better DB coaches who weren’t getting paid lots of money. He is also on point with his speed and agility training. You should check out All Out Sports Training when you get a chance.

Billy and I teach 95% the same techniques and concepts, but as usually happens, we use different terminology. But we were both scribbling notes when attending each other’s classes and field sessions and it was great to trade tips with a guy who has “been there and done that” at the highest levels. He is going to have the Dallas Elite back into contending status as their OC this year for sure.

I hadn’t met either of the Utah Falconz coaches before, but from seeing that team on film, I knew they were good and I wasn’t disappointed! Rick Rasmussen (HC) and Mike Ramos (DC) were top-notch teachers, with passion and intensity. They, too, freely shared their knowledge knowing very well that we would probably be across the field from them at some point.

The coaches are only a small part of what made this camp great. The Surge and the Falconz had the two largest groups of players at the camp, and they went at it like true competitors. During the drill segments, the more experienced players, no matter the team, were helping out the less experienced, again no matter the team. I think that’s the way it should be. During the more competitive segments (we had two OL/DL pass rush sessions, and a modified 7-on-7 session) then they got after it! I know with the OL/DL group, players were calling each other out, saying “Come on, let’s go! Let’s see what you got!” and it was great fun.

We had those competitive sessions filmed, along with some of the other field and classroom sessions and as soon as we get everything figured out, we’ll post it on Hudl and I’ll post the link.

We also had our first tryout the week before the camp. We had several rookies come out – more than we had on our team either of the last two years, so we’re very encouraged by that. And a couple of them will contend for starting spots almost right away – and those spots already have veterans in them, so that should tell you something about the rookie’s ability.

All in all it’s been a great week of football, here in the middle of the off-season. Next week it’ll be back to writing about actual football topics… still feels weird to not have a camp to get ready for! Set aside November 13-14, 2015 and we'll do it again!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Final Coach Spotlight & Camp Schedule!

All right! I’ve saved the best for last! Our final two coaches, Billy Hughes Jr. from the Dallas Elite, and kicking coach Luis Villagomez of South Bay Kicking.

Coach Billy Hughes Jr. came out of high school as a consensus Blue Chip recruit and orally committed to the University of Oklahoma. A coaching change there led him to transfer to Southeastern Oklahoma State. Coming out of college, he signed with the San Francisco 49’ers, and then continued to play professionally with the Barcelona Dragons (NFL Europe), the North Texas Extreme (XFL) and the Fort Worth Calvary (Arena).
He has coached in the women’s game for five years, starting out with the Dallas Diamonds, who made one national championship appearance and three conference championship appearances. Last year he was with the Arlington Impact in the IWFL, and this year he will begin his first year as an offensive coordinator with the Dallas Elite (WFA). Coach Hughes also assisted with the USA Football Women’s Team USA evaluation camp in 2013.
With his intimate knowledge of how the game is played at the highest levels, Coach Hughes will bring a great perspective to the offensive linemen attending the camp. He and Coach Ring have been eager to work with each other for some time, so these sessions are sure to be high energy!

Coach Luis Villagomez is making himself available throughout the day for the kickers among us. Coach Villagomez was a Top 100 high school kicker from National City Sweetwater High and then kicked in college at West Texas A&M and professionally for the Omaha Beef of the Arena League. In 2012 he started his own kicking school, South Bay Kicking where he has coached dozens of youth, high school and junior college kickers the finer points of high-level placekicking and punting. In addition, he has participated in two invitation-only NFL kicker combines.

Luis will be at the camp on Sunday for the kickers to work with.

Finally, the schedule for the camp has been released! You can find Saturday’s schedule HERE and Sunday’s HERE. Players are free to pick and choose which sessions they attend. No camp coach is going to tell you where to go or what to see (your own coaches, if there, may have different ideas). So if you play multiple positions, you have the opportunity to see coaches at each of your spots. The two truly competitive sessions will be the combined OL/DL session first thing Sunday morning, and the 7-on-7 session to conclude the camp. The plan right now is to have both of those sessions, as well as selected individual drill and class sessions, filmed. 

Outside of those two sections, the emphasis is on getting you better by exposing you to different techniques and scheme ideas. Some will work for you, some may not. But at the very least, you have exposure to them and can put them in your personal “tool bag” of techniques.

There is no over-riding “camp doctrine” – all of the coaches will coach what they know or what they currently do with their own teams. We all know that there is no “best way” of doing anything on a football field – otherwise everyone would be doing the same thing! So come in with an open mind – you will get out of the camp what you put into it.

I can’t tell you how much all of the coaches are looking forward to this. I’ve been having conversations with several of them and we’re all chomping at the bit to get going and make this a great event!

I’ll probably take next week off from the blog, so the next time I post will be the 19th, after the camp and our first tryouts. I’m sure there will be a lot to talk about!