We have all been in that brutal AM staff meeting. You can hear the complaints. Heck, maybe you are the one saying them.
“Why are we here?”
“Couldn’t this have been sent out in an email?”
“This is too much information. There is no way I can remember all of this.”
These are ADULTS! Now imagine being a teenager or a college student-athlete. We all know they didn’t sleep 8 hours. They have been in a minimum of 4 hours of classes that they can’t stand. And now we are going to install 2 new fronts, 4 new blitzes, go over a scouting report, and watch film. All before going out to practice for 2 hours and maybe some post-practice film correction.
Our time is valuable. We MUST be effective in how we run our position meetings! Research says humans can best remember a maximum of 4 pieces of information, so here are 4 ways to help you design more effective position meetings as a ball coach.
Put First Things First
This is one of the 7 Habits that Dr. Stephen Covey outlined in his famous book: spend more time on PREPARATION, PREVENTION, and RELATIONSHIP BUILDING when starting meetings. Drawings, installs, film, and handouts should be prepared before your players arrive. Have drawings already on the board. Have film cutups already built. Use all of your meeting time as efficiently as possible.
The start of a meeting is an excellent time to let your players know you care about them. This is the PREVENTION and RELATIONSHIP BUILDING.
Matt Campbell, HC at Iowa State, begins each meeting with a short story or quote to get guys thinking about a topic that benefits them. For instance, the Spring Ball meeting I attended he was talking about Spring Break and the people his players would be around and the decisions they would be making. He would make his leaders read the quote/excerpt aloud to the team, and they would discuss it. It was a 3-5 minute conversation, but I thought it was genius because it let everyone know PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS COME BEFORE FOOTBALL.
Ask how players are doing. Ask about important things in their life. Congratulate them for things they accomplish outside of football. Show fun videos, or show videos on topics you feel need to be addressed before you meet. PREVENTION and RELATIONSHIP BUILDING will go a long way in building your position group and team morale.
One of the more profound things I learned when I was in college football was extremely simple: PLAYER SEATING IN POSITION MEETINGS.
When I was at Tulsa, Denver Johnson outlined a specific way for me to set up for meetings every day. He wanted 3 rows of tables with 5 chairs in each row facing the film projector. I thought it was odd at the time, but it made perfect sense when the Offensive Line came in. The first unit sat in the first row, in order: LT, LG, C, RG, RT. The second unit did the same in the second row, and the young guys were in the 3rd row or aisle. This was genius. It created a routine for the players. It gave them more opportunities to communicate with players that played next to each other. They could make calls, coach each other, build better relationships, and Coach Johnson knew exactly where each player would be so he could locate and coach or correct him. It also allowed me as the assistant OL coach to sit in the back with the younger players to answer questions and get them up to speed more quickly since they were receiving fewer reps than the older players. When watching End Zone film, players could watch themselves literally in the position they were playing most of the time. I feel it really accelerated their learning and communication skills.
This concept can be applied to any position meeting. Boundary Defensive Backs and Field Defensive Backs can sit next to each other (or right and left side if that fits your scheme) to communicate coverages and calls. Quarterbacks should sit with the WRs that play the most so they can communicate route adjustments and signals.
Smart seating can be a simple solution to some problems you may be having in educating your athletes or getting your athletes to communicate more effectively.
Simple and Clear Mission
Every meeting MUST HAVE a simple and clear mission. What are we going to accomplish? What are the standards and expectations for behavior within the meeting? What materials are needed for this meeting? What is the weekly and daily schedule? ARE WE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE? DO WE ALL BELIEVE IN THE MISSION?
One of the premier books any coach should read is Extreme Ownership: How Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Sign up to get the free audio book here It has taught me more about leadership skills than just about any resource I have ever found. It outlines the most important factor in the success of any team, large or small: LEADERSHIP. If your position group is not performing up to standards, it is the coach’s fault, plain and simple. The coach needs to take responsibility and find out what the problem is and come up with a solution or the group will continue to fail.
Most often the coach has failed to provide a SIMPLE and CLEAR mission that everyone UNDERSTANDS and BELIEVES IN. A standard of excellence needs to be set, and it needs to be modeled and enforced on a daily basis. If your players are not doing what needs to be done, chances are they don’t UNDERSTAND or they don’t BELIEVE IN IT. It is your job to get that done.
Some helpful hints in setting a standard with a SIMPLE AND CLEAR MISSION:
- Outline and Model rules and expectations for meetings. Keep it at 3-4 simple rules. Reteach, if necessary. POST THEM IN YOUR MEETING ROOM.
- Have a daily, weekly, and monthly agenda or calendar visible to your players. Team Attack Academy provides a great tool to get all of these tasks completed within your position group.
- Have a standard for how your players will conduct themselves, practice, and play.
- Explain HOW and WHY the skills you are teaching your players will benefit them to increase BELIEF AND UNDERSTANDING. Kids love WINNING and PLAYING WELL. Start there!
Here are some example slides I used to use with my Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers in 2015 at Broken Arrow. This was our Standard and Mission. We preached it daily, and when we were having problems, we went back to this and did Level Sets. Where are you now? Where do you need to be?
Always start and end meetings on time. Always be cognizant of how much information you are providing your players. Do your best to keep it simple, concise, and constructive.
During an Iowa State special teams meeting I observed, the Special Teams Coach was showing clips from the previous practice’s Indy period. He would show 2 clips of the technique desired in this drill being executed flawlessly. Then he would show 1 clip of the technique that needed to be corrected. Several players had made mistakes in this technique, but he didn’t take time to correct each one. HE DIDN’T HAVE THAT MUCH TIME! Instead he showed the desired result and what needed to be fixed. He would get the others later in practice when he had that opportunity. Then he moved on to the next Indy drill, and he did the same thing: 2 perfect reps, 1 rep that needed correction. He was modeling the desired technique so the players who needed work knew what it should look like. This is excellent Time Management.
Finally, I will leave you with another clinic note and story I heard from Scott Frost, current Nebraska head coach. When Coach Frost was at Oregon as WR coach, HC Chip Kelly had brought in an outside consultant to evaluate their meetings and overall operations. Imagine that: a team on the cusp of a National Title bringing in an outside set of eyes to improve what they were doing: A BALL COACH MOVE. Anyway, Coach Frost knew he would have this gentleman in his meeting, so he had a perfect one planned. He was organized. He asked great questions. His players were engaged and prepared. He filled up his allotted time with activity and learning, and then he sent his players off to get ready for practice.
Immediately following the meeting, the consultant quickly grabbed Coach Frost to give him feedback. He told him what an awesome meeting he had just executed, but he also had just one question for him.
“Scott, I’m just wondering. Since Oregon is known as the fastest team in football with their practice style and tempo, why do you meet so long and relaxed with your players?”
Coach Frost, rather than being offended, said he didn’t know why, but said it made perfect sense! He knew the guy was right. So he changed the way he met. He met SHORTER. He made players answer questions quickly to mimic the tempo they had to see, process, and execute in a game and at practice. His players believed in it, and they got better, more efficient use of their meeting time. Plus, they were done with meetings faster!
Analyze your meeting time. Find creative ways to maximize your time. Make it better for your players and yourself.
I hope you got something out of this. Please feel free to contact me with suggestions, comments, or needs. I’m here to help you guys. More to come!