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10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a Head Football Coach!

On March 15, 2018 I walked onto the campus of Freedom High School for my first official day as a Head Football Coach.  That was roughly 6 weeks before the writing of this article.  Both excited and nervous, I still felt I was prepared for the task at hand, as I still do.  As I am sure all of you Head Coaches out there know, as ready as you think you are, there are things that occur that nobody can tell you about.  Even as I write this article, it will be different for new Head Coaches in other places.  So here are 10 things nobody tells you about becoming Head Coach from my perspective.

  1. Hiring a Staff, is not simply hiring a staff
    1. The administration may tell you that you can hire coaches, but there is a lot more to it than that. The red tape is by no means the fault of the admin, but nonetheless it must be dealt with in order to get coaches on staff.  You have county vetting they need to pass.  There needs to be teaching spots that are open or verified as going to be open.  Your prospective staff must be hired as teachers first.  This will be a lot easier if you verify that your coaches are also good teachers.  Finding PE spots is a lot like snipe hunting these days, but find a coach that can teach math or science, and your gold!  My administration might be one of the best, as they have done everything to make sure I am going to able to hire coaches.
  2. The hold overs from the previous staff can be a huge asset
    1. A lot of times a new coach will come in and clean house, or in some cases the house will clean itself out. However, the hold overs from the previous staff that show interest in staying, should be given serious consideration.  They want to stay for a reason, most likely it is because they have a vested interest in the program and its success.  They have already put time, blood, sweat and tears into the kids and the school.  I currently have 2 hold overs from the previous staff.  They have both been tremendous assets.  They know the kids, in one case since these players were 6 years old.  They know the administration, they can tell you how they work and give insight into how to most effectively communicate with them.
  3. The things you say and do become Gospel
    1. As coaches we always try and show good character, honesty and integrity. I was still shocked at the speed of which things I established, said or incorporated got around.  Example: I enacted a weekly grade report program, I announced that this would be happening to the players during our first meeting.  Before I left campus, a dean walked up to me and told me how much he liked the idea of weekly grade checks.  Now if something positive can get around that quickly, imagine if you say or do something that can be seen in a bad light.  You better be sure you are a pillar of character and truth at all times.
  4. The life of your cell phone battery drops tremendously
    1. You will be inundated with phone calls, texts, and emails. Once you put on that whistle you become the contact point for teachers, parents, community members, deans, administration, school staff members, former players, college recruiters, and the list goes on.  Always have an answer for those that contact you, or at the least tell them you will have an answer for them as soon as possible.
  5. You may feel like a politician
    1. Reference 3 and 4. You are now held to a whole new level of accountability.  Everything you do will be scrutinized.  Stand tall and always do what you can to have an answer for people.  You now have to manage a staff, players, and even faculty and admin at times.  The days of saying “that’s a question for the head coach” are gone.  Now, you are the man with all the answers.
  6. Your family becomes more involved than ever before
    1. Family support is always a part of being a coach. As Head Coach however; the amount of support asked of them is immeasurable.  They will be at practices, they will wait up at night, so they can see you.  If your kids are young they will be in your coaches meetings just because they want that extra time with dad.  Becoming Head Coach will be huge adjustment for them.  Take that into consideration as they persevere through a unique transition period.  make sure you create time to spend with them whenever you can, time is something you can never get back and never forget your wife, I wouldn’t be where I am with mine, and I’m sure it is the same for most of us.
  7. Your significant other becomes an nonsalaried secretary
    1. In my short time as Head Coach, I can’t tell you how many times I have asked my wife to take care of a task for me. Can you print this? Can you check on this? Can you call this person back for me while I do this? Do we have a file for this? What is on the agenda this week.  And this goes back to family support. Is it possible to do this job with out the support of family? Perhaps… but I know I never want to find out.  Maybe my situation is unique. All I know is this, without Karly, my life and job get a whole lot more difficult.  I will always try my best to show appreciation and do the same for her.
  8. The players will buy in immediately
    1. Your new players will be eager and ready to work. I was half expecting some stand off or resistance to the me, the new guy coming in. I could not have been more wrong.  They all immediately began to work hard.  From weight room to classroom to field, they have all been improving.  Maybe my message resonated with them, maybe I did a good job reaching them and motivating, or maybe it’s something simpler. Kids are kids.  They want to do good, they want to feel wanted and they want to play football!  If you come in and show that you care about them, and that you want them to be successful, then they will buy in!
  9. You become an administrator
    1. You will be handling much of the same things that administrators handle on a daily basis. You will: check grades, handle behavior issues, correspond with parents, track inventory, set budgets, track eligibility, develop schedules, maintain facilities, and become an authority figure for the all students in the school.
  10. You have eyes and ears everywhere
    1. I recommend everyone do this! I have developed a network of spies to help me keep tabs on the players.  A lot of the time if a player is doing something, I know about it before he is finished doing it.  This isn’t always bad, the good things the players do get reported too, so they can be acknowledge and rewarded!  Step one: get access to a walkie-talkie from the administration.  This gives you immediate communication and Intel in live time across the campus.  Step two: enlist the help of the front office personnel.  I now know every single time a player is late to school.  Step three: send out a faculty wide email list of your current players on the roster so teachers can report to you as well.  Step four: enlist the janitorial staff.  They are the unsung heroes of the school, and they see absolutely everything that goes on with the students, staff, faculty and admin.

CLOSING

Hopefully this gives you some insight into some things that happen when you become a Head Football Coach.  I wouldn’t say any of the items on the list are a negative thing.  Just things to be aware of, utilize and make sure you don’t take for granted. Id like to say a special thank you to Karly Marie Vogt.  I can’t imagine life without you or where I’d be.  I know my time and focus seems to always be on football, but I promise you, that you and our children are always in my heart!

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”FUN”ctional Training

How do we incentivize the “grind”? Most of your players will end up enjoying the strength training process, and seeing themselves get stronger, faster, and bigger.  But, let’s face it, the “grind” can be a dang grind sometimes.  We need to remember that these are 14 to 18 year old kids, they still like to do frivolous things and have fun.  Hell, I’m 33 and I still like to do dumb things too! So, how do we incorporate FUN into strength and conditioning and still promote, competition, toughness and functional strength? This article will touch on rewards, competition, and challenges all designed to put some fun into your training programs.  If you haven’t read my article on effective strength training then you need to go check it out here (Simple But Strong). These exercises are not meant to merely push them to compete, but to breed winners through competition.  I am not seeking competition, but DOMINATION in the weight room, on the field, and in life from my players.

REWARDS

Rewards are an obvious way to incentivize your players to train hard. But there is a catch, they cant be too frequent or they become expectations instead of extra incentive.  As far as rewards go, follow these 2 rules and the kids will want them.

1-Can they eat/Drink it; Protein bars, Candy, Protein Shakes, Fast Food

2-Can they wear it?  Will others see it? Social recognition can be important to them.

Its that simple, if it falls into one of those two categories they will compete for the chance to win.  How do you determine the winner(s)? Again, keep things simple.  Here are some examples

  • Most reps on the last set attained (pick 1 of your core movements)
  • The player who completes the conditioning portion the quickest
  • The player(s) that did not miss a day that week
  • The player who is working out with the weight closest to their old max (pick 1 core movement)
  • The player you ID as taking leadership roles (explain why as a group, and use specific examples, again social recognition)

These are all easy ways to provide some incentive and extra motivation, don’t make it a daily occurrence, or even a weekly occurrence.  About every other week or so seems to be right.  Whole team rewards are great too!  Here are some great examples of whole team rewards:

  • After lifting, instead of conditioning have some of the coaches set up a giant slip and slide outside while the players continue to lift. When they come out for conditioning and see that instead you just had an easy and huge moral boost.  They will go nuts.
  • Have an ice cream/snow cone truck show up to lifting so when they finish, it arrives and they can all go get something cold to eat. (obviously something like this would be dependent on funding, you want it to be free for them…)
  • Have T-shirts made for the players that never missed a day of training all off season

COMPETITIONS

Competitions are a great way to condition and compete at the same time.  Most of the time the players will not realize how tired they are until after the event is completed.  They can be as simple as relay races (get creative). Or as complex as games.  Divide the field into 4 separate zones that way you can have 8 teams all playing at the same time.  Gatorball is a great fast paced game that will get them all breathing hard.  Flag football is an obvious choice.  There are countless games that could be played, set it up in a tournament fashion so you have a team that is declared champions, but have the losing teams still play each other so they are still moving and competing.  Tug-A-War might be the simplest one, yet gets the most heated and competitive.  The most fun to watch…. Is towel fights.  Take a towel, roll it up and tape it.  Then have to players grab it with one hand overhand grip and the other underhanded.  Have each players hands staggered with the others.  Then say go and watch you wins, gives you an instant view into who your fighters are and who will need extra motivation to keep from quitting!

CHALLENGES

I love challenges. You can literally make anything a challenge that you are already doing in the weight room.  Here is what I choose to do.  Every Friday is called “Big Friday”.  Each Friday one of the Big 3 lifts (Push Press, Front Squat, Dead Lift) is going to done for the heaviest set of five possible instead of 5 sets of 5 across.  Rotate the lifts so they are done every 3rd week.  For example, if it is the week for Front Squat, instead of doing 5 sets of 5 at 205 pounds, the lifter will start light and work up heavier each set until he cannot get 5 reps any more. The players who get the highest total get to write their names up on the boards as king of that lift until the next time that lift is done and somebody beats them.  On the boards you will have 3 groups for the lift. OL/DL, RB/LB and WR/DB. So you will have 3 kings for each lift.  The players love to write their names and totals on the boards, and they get a big kick out of erasing the name of somebody they beat.  Here are some other simple examples:

  • Who can hold 205 the longest in a locked out Dead Lift position
  • Who can Plank the longest
  • Who can do the most push ups/sit-ups/ pull ups in a given time period.

All quick and easy to judge.  Give a reward for the winners if desired.

CLOSING

These are all simple ways to take some of the grind, out of the “grind”. As coaches, its our job to make sure we are promoting healthy competition and keeping moral high.  We want our players to want to be there.  Kids want to be successful, and they want to have fun too. There is no reason we can’t give them both. What better way to keep kids in the weight room working hard, than creating an environment in which they have fun doing it in? In doing so, you will create not competitors; but instead, you will develop Dominators! Please subscribe to my email list so you can be notified whenever I post a new article, and give me a follow on twitter at @thecoachvogt.