The Importance of the Kicking Game
When we went to UH five years ago, the area that we felt we must excel in was the kicking game. We had to get great performance and sell our players on it. We borrowed ideas from coaches like Don James, Dick Vermeil, and George Allen-all coaches who people on our staff had worked with. To emphasize the kicking game, the very first meeting of our two-a-day practices is a special teams meeting at which time we promote the kicking game and start to point out to our squad how important it is. In addition to this, we have a daily kicking meeting along with our regular offensive and defensive meetings-the only adjustment we have made to this over the last five years is that our kicking meetings are now by team (punt team, punt return team, etc.) We borrowed another idea from Jimmy Dickey at Kansas State. We have entire practices devoted to the kicking game in the spring and early fall. During those workouts, we will take, for instance, 20 minutes on punt and cover, 10 minutes on individual techniques and put it together for 10 minutes. We continue through our phases on the kicking game and by the end of spring practice, we have our whole game in and technique time spent.
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During two-a-days, we split the morning practice so that each player will get more individual coaching. For example, our first and third units may come out at 8:00 and our second and fourth units at 10:00 with all players on the field together for kicking at 9:45. This is hard on our staff, but we continue it as long as we can because it affords a player a better chance to improve.
Our weekly schedule is constructed to give our coaches as much time as possible with their families or as much flexible time as possible and still be well prepared. We play mostly Saturday night at home-our thought is that Sunday is a player’s day off unless he needs treatment or there is a special situation. Our staff on Sunday looks at the film of our game on their own time so they can have some hours of the day to enjoy. On most Sundays, we can have our film graded and have looked at the opponent by 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. On Monday, we get our film out of the way and start on the opponent. We have no practice on Monday-only weightlifting and running. In addition to this, we look at the game film as a squad, which has been beneficial to us since we started doing it a year ago before our West Virginia game. We continue our 6:00 AM start as far into the week as need be but do not have staff meetings after practice. Our Tuesday and Wednesday practices are long and we stay in pads on Thursday. We have a meeting and an hour workout on Friday in shorts. When we have a home game our players go to a hotel Saturday morning at 10:30 and spend the day which allows us plenty of time to meet and get ready for the game.
We have started going one-vs-one more in the last two years on Tuesday and Wednesday. We go one-vs- one: a) Each day pass and pressure. b) One-on-One OL vs DL and LBers. c) Full line on Tuesday or Wednesday. d)Each day DB vs WR – Man Coverage.
We stay in pads all week! Our players accept it and it keeps us from getting injured on Thursday with shorts on and our Thursday work has better tempo.
We prepare for recruiting much like a company (IBM for instance) prepares its sales force. We practice and talk about any and all things the coach will go through from initial contact to close. We have a very complete recruiting notebook and feel it is important to clinic each other in recruiting techniques, closing procedures, recruiting to negatives. Just like we clinic coaching technique.
We have visited other campuses and pro camps to try to help ourselves with new ideas, but recently we have started bringing people to our campus for several days to talk with us. We find this to be better for us. Less expensive and we learn more-the coaches we bring in give more of themselves than someone you visit. The organizational ideas I’ve just discussed are those I thought might be of interest.
In the time I have left, I will try to discuss the areas of communicating, expectations, and attitude development which I think are key to coaching and more important everyday living.
The basis for all we do as a coach and more important as a human being is our ability to communicate. The more we can learn about communication the richer our lives will be and we will find ourselves doing a better job of coaching. We have had professional people come in and clinic our staff on this subject. On the most recent occasion, the man started by making sure that we understood that the most frequent results of communication is misunderstanding. Many coaches know their business but are not well enough schooled in how to communicate. The Art of Communication starts with one-on-one relationships and knowing how to listen. Listening, to many of us, is something we are reluctant to do, it takes time, patience, and understanding. But in your work, in your family life and all encounters you have daily a sincere ability to listen can lead you to an improved ability to communicate. In order to communicate with a person, you have to have empathy for them and sincerely “care” about what they are saying. You must start to improve your ability to communicate with your one-on-one encounters before you can hope to be able to affect a group. Most of our players are poor listeners and many coaches are, so we must spend time trying to develop that part of a person. We must ask more from our players and coaches in terms of feedback and participation to encourage them to be better listeners. The last idea in the area of communication is that in a group situation there is an environment that is conducive to learning. Try very hard to create situations to communicate with one person on a squad that people can concentrate on. This is a vast subject that would take days to do justice to but suffice to say we all need to spend more time researching to do a better job.
The area that we believe so much in as coaches is in the area of helping people develop ways of looking at things-Attitude Development. Our attitude toward anything controls how we feel-how we react-what we think. We must accept the fact that attitudes can be changed or developed that will allow us to be better able to cope with things in our own lives and to give us a better chance to succeed as coaches and/or to give our players a better chance to succeed as people first and second as football players and members of a team. We can help people develop new ways of thinking or change ways of thinking by proper emphasis and by positively reinforcing good examples of desired behavior or attitudes. The following are specific areas that we work hard to develop specific attitudes:
- How hard it is to win-To win ourselves we must come to grips with this.
- Academic responsibility
- Consideration for others
- Adversity (personal and team)
- Position flexibility
- Effort (mental and physical)
- Road trips
- Off-season training
- How to win a football game.
The items above are all subject areas that we try to zero in on and develop specific ideas and attitudes about. We cannot accept all the attitudes that our players, co-workers, etc. have. We can develop new attitudes that can lead to greater success. In order to change or develop an attitude a person must know what you want, it must make sense and he must have a desire to change.
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One area we as coaches must appreciate is the area of Expectations. Many problems that occur in football or in your every-day life occur because there is a misunderstanding or a gap between what we expect and what really happens. We work hard to tell our players exactly what they can expect from us and as the head coach, I try to make sure our staff knows what to expect from me. We talk with our squad before each game and tell them the same thing in terms of what to expect:
- It will be a tough game-it’s hard to beat anybody.
- There will be a lot of adversity out there-both personal and team.
- There will be times it will look like we can’t win.
- We will win late in the fourth quarter-we must be prepared to win it on the last play of the game.
The above four items are our team expectations for each game. We believe that’s the way it will be. What it will take to win: In addition to the area of expectations we try to develop an attitude with our players relative to how to win the game-or what wins football games-for any one game the following areas may be deemed important:
- It will take the best game each of you has played-played collectively.
- Win the turnover battle.
- Win the kicking game:
- Be penalized less than your opponent.
- Win the fourth quarter.
- Win the sudden change
- Win + 20–0ffense and defense.
- Try harder than your counterparts, each play may be the one that decides the game.
- A big play-lot of little plays.
We pick out specific areas each week and talk about what it will take to win. We want our people to get an appreciation for what wins and how hard it is. The areas of communication and attitude development are vast areas and require patience and self-analysis to see where you are and improve. It does, however, behoove all of us as professionals to understand that more understanding in these two areas can help you be a better football coach and more of a winner in life.
Dick Tomey was the head coach at the University of Hawaii from 1977-1986. He left the University of Hawaii as the winningest coach in program history, a title he held until 2006. After leaving Hawaii, Tomey became the head coach at the University of Arizona in 1987. Tomey would step down after the 2000 season with 95 career wins at the helm for the Wildcats football program, the most in program history.