Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Coaching Them Up!

This past weekend was a great one – I had the chance to put into practice everything I learned two weeks ago from LeCharles Bentley and his staff. A friend of mine asked me to come out to his high school and coach his players up a bit. It’s a new staff, and the program had run onto hard times, only winning a couple of games each year for the past few seasons.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect – I was told to “oversee” the OL during Indy, 1-on-1’s and team during the Friday afternoon practice, and then I would have them for four hours Saturday morning all to myself. When I got there, there were two other OL coaches there, and one was pretty much running everything. So I decided that since they were going into a competitive period (1-on-1’s) and then team, that I would hang back a little on Friday and just take notes about where they were at in terms of skill development. I didn’t want them to have to think not only “who” to block, but also “how” to do it in competitive drills.

Remember, this is a new staff, so none of the coaches were holdovers and they’d only had 4 practices with them. Given that, they didn’t look like they’d been coached much in previous seasons. One of the OL coaches is a young guy, and very enthusiastic. I’m convinced he’s going to be very, very good. He just has to develop his teaching patterns. Just as offensive linemen need to develop movement patterns to be efficient, coaches need to get their teaching patterns down so they can be efficient as well. This young guy isn’t quite there yet (but he’s way better than I was at the same stage of development). The older OL coach is more of an “attitude guy” – he’s very good at getting the kids to play with a proper attitude and to go out there and kick butt.

The kids themselves were great. They may not be great football players yet, but they are A+ human beings. As I mentioned, their technique was very raw, to the point of it was always a bit more of “how can I survive this play” rather than “how can I dominate this play”. So on Friday, I just took notes and offered some general suggestions to guys when I had the chance.

Saturday morning was different. They were all there either early or right on time. I’d developed a practice plan to take them through everything, that extended (in outline form) to five pages (!). Being that this is the first time I’d gone through this progression as a coach, and not knowing what pitfalls there may be, I wasn’t sure at all of how it might time out.
As it happened, we got through everything in almost exactly four hours. And let me reiterate – these kids are top-notch. I’d give them a water break, and they’d sprint off the field to an area a little ways away where the water was. By the time I got over there, they were saying, “OK guys, let’s go!” They really wanted to work and get better.

Some of the transformations were remarkable. The right tackle was a kid who sort of hopped into his pass set and opened up almost completely by his second step. We took a “before and after” video of him, and the results were staggering. A (soon to be) senior guard was coaching the other kids up before too long – he’s a smart guy, and was taking in everything and was able to repeat it back to me and the other players. They had two freshmen kids, one of which had never played football before, and they ended up being two of the stars of the camp. I could go on and on about how much fun I had coaching these guys, and how much I’m looking forward to watching their continued development over this season.

LeCharles just announced on Monday that the next Coaches Seminar is going to be July 16-17. I would strongly suggest that any OL coach who wants to make his guys better attend. I’ll be back in 2017 for sure. You can register here. You can thank me later.

In the WFA game of note this week, Chicago beat up on Boston 50-something to 18. I was expecting a much closer game, maybe even with Boston winning, I understand that Boston’s outstanding QB, Allison Cahill, went out with a season-ending injury. At the time, I think the game was close, and my guess is that then not only were the Renegades missing a whole bunch of offense, but also probably were a bit emotionally deflated, which is understandable.

With that result, if there is any difference in the Final Four other than DC, Chicago, Central Cal and Dallas, I’ll be shocked. I’m still fairly certain that Dallas will be the finalist from the West, and less certain that DC will be from the East.

On the men’s side, my Nighthawks have landed in a new league, the Southern California Football League (SCFL). This league is a quantum leap up in competition: The California Raiders were undefeated last year, the So Cal Coyotes have won a couple of national championships*, the Inglewood Blackhawks have won some, and the San Diego Thunder had a run on the national scene at late as the late 2000’s. Throw in a virtual All Star team in the Las Vegas Trojans, and there are very few gimmes on our schedule.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier – these are the types of games you sign up for as a coach, the types that for whatever reason we didn’t get often in the women’s game, at least until the playoffs.

*For my female game readers, national championships are a bit different in the men’s game. First of all, there are over 600 men’s teams across the country, so having one national champion is pretty much not going to happen. Second, there are several “national championship” tournaments put on in December/January. Fortunately for us, our league is recognized as one of the most competitive in the country, so our league winner will get an automatic bid to a national tournament.

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