Enclosed are beliefs, thoughts and ideas that have accumulated over a career crossing five decades as a coach. It is my sincere and humble hope you find information that is both helpful, beneficial, and thought provoking. I have invented nothing, nor am I an expert or guru of any type. In other words, I’ve stolen every bit of it. It is not to be interpreted as preaching or lecturing on how one should do things. Nothing is written that has not been personally done or seen in my career.
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Sincere and deserving appreciation is extended to all of the coaches and players I have had the privilege to work with, for, studied, and received their help in any way. Whatever amount of experienced and enjoyed success is the result of their many lessons and examples. The tough times I have experienced resulted from my many mistakes, which have actually brought on most of my philosophies today. I hope this article helps.
1. Always Have A Purpose
It is important to recognize and acknowledge the reason that you do what you do. Understanding your purpose is a crucial component of realizing success. Once you understand your reason or purpose for coaching, communicate that in everything you do, whether it is teaching technique, highlighting processes, or honing in on key methods to perform. Though no one should no it better than you, players and fellow coaches should clearly understand your purpose and intentions for coaching football.
2. Establish Core Values
Core values are a guiding light for every decision and course of action taken. If a decision or action does not align with each core value then it is important to not engage in that particular activity. Part of understanding your own core values is being able to clearly communicate and explain them to others. One suggestion for developing clear and memorable core values would be to create a list. This can be a short and simple list that is conducive to memory, or an established list that is detailed and clear. Core values can be established at the individual level as well as the team level. Some examples of team core values include: be professional, be fundamentally sound, and pursue excellence. No matter the team’s core values, they should be known by everyone associated with the team.
3. Above All Else, be a Fundamentals and Technique Coach
Fundamentals and technique are the only way to improve a player’s performance. As a coach it is necessary to focus on key techniques and fundamentals, in practice and film study, to better an individual’s performance. Repetition is one highly emphasized mechanism of learning, so use that to your advantage. There are three reasons that players may not improve fundamentally. The first is they don’t practice at full speed. The second is due to a poor emphasis on technique. The third is because skills are poorly taught and coached. It is our responsibility, as coaches, to make sure that players improve, which is why they need to be taught proper form and techniques while going full speed.
4. We Are Going to Change the Culture
In football, culture is a compilation of how things are done. It is the combination of a team’s beliefs, habits, behaviors and experiences. In order to change the culture of a program, you have to change the overall beliefs, habits and behaviors. The positive experiences will come if the beliefs, habits and behaviors begin to change into what is right. If you want the culture to change, place a high priority and emphasis on doing the right thing at all times.
5. Character Wins
It is extremely imperative to establish standardized recruiting guidelines within a program. High on the priority list should be character. There are three basic questions that should be answered regarding a recruit:
- a) Is he a good guy?
- b) Is a college degree important to him?
- c) Is he a winning caliber that fits our program?
If the answer to each of the questions above is yes, then you can ask three investigative questions such as:
- a) Does he love football?
- b) Does he go to school?
- c) Does he love the weight room?
These questions are intended to dig deeper. By asking if the recruit loves football, you are making sure he understands the demands of college football. By asking if the recruit goes to school, you are verifying classroom attendance and performance will not be an issue when he gets alone on a college campus. By asking if the recruit loves the weight room, you are realizing their true passion and work ethic. These questions should be answered fairly easily if the recruit is a good fit for your program. Remember, “don’t worry about the recruits that get away – you only have to deal with them once a year. Worry about the ones you bring in – you have to deal with them every single day.”
6. People See Better Than They Hear
The act of seeing someone involves more than viewing their physical appearance. It is recognizing their behaviors, responses, decision-making, effort and commitment. Seeing someone consistently do the right thing, respond positively to adversity, make right decisions, and put forth excellent effort and commitment helps build trust among anyone involved with the team, including fans. It reminds me of the old adage, “don’t tell me what you’re going to do, show me.”
7. Patience Can Be a Virtue
Whenever a player is hesitant or may not seem tough, it is often caused by a lack of confidence rather than a lack courage or toughness. It is important for coaches to remain patient in developing athletes, especially since some develop slower than others. Please do not ever write off a player or a team. Each person is there for a reason so trust them. On another note, it is vital to remain patient in your coaching career. Enjoy your current position by considering it a blessing and opportunity. After all, the art of coaching is what has the potential to be life changing.
8. Never Give Up, One’s True Vision Is Stronger Than the Circumstances
Having a vision requires long-term focus. Although short-term circumstances appear (and may truly be) one way, that does not mean the long-term outcome cannot be something greater. As a coach you will experience good days as well as bad days. There will be favorable circumstances as well as unfavorable circumstances. Continue grinding with a long-term vision that is more than what the current situation promotes.
9. Have a Rule of Thumb (i.e. A Starting Point)
A rule of thumb is a good starting point. This can be applied to anything and everything. Examples could include: daily practice structure, eating in meeting rooms, travel trip itinerary, etc. With that being said, it is important to be flexible and adaptable while remaining true to the overall purpose and long-term vision of the team.
10. Nothing is Ever Perfect
This seems like a given, yet we often act as though everything should be perfect. Mistakes will happen, the script will change, and confidence can get shaken. As a coach, it is important to remain steady and provide the example of how to handle adversity in a positive manner. The players will feed off of your reactions and responses to imperfection. Correction is necessary, but so is encouragement, even in the tough times.
11. Run Your Trick Play Before They Do
If you want to catch the opposing team off guard, which is the purpose of a trick play, then run yours before they have the chance to run theirs. By activating your trick play first, you do not allow them to think about and focus on trick plays. This increases the likelihood of a successful trick play attempt.
12. The Great Backs Make the First Guy Miss
Agility and clear vision are necessary for any back. However, to be great, the back must make the first guy miss. Avoiding the initial tackle creates opportunity. Without avoiding the first man, the play won’t gain any substantial yardage. Teach your backs the importance of making the first guy miss by focusing on key drills and reps during practice.
13. Great Backs Go Down Facing the Goal Line
This concept is important for backs. Getting tackled while still facing the goal line means your momentum is headed in the right direction. This allows for the opportunity to pick up an additional few yards while falling toward the goal line.
14. Use Your Home Run Play in Scoring Range
As with any investment, you want a good return. A good return on a home run play would scoring a touchdown. To increase the odds of scoring on one big play, run it in scoring range. This may look different for each team, so it is necessary to recognize the skillset of your own team. Call it and then execute it by scoring six points.
15. You Get What You Emphasize
The players and fellow coaches will act in a way that follows your emphasis. If you want something done a certain way then regularly emphasize it. Promote a good attitude and fundamentally sound work ethic from the players then emphasize it routinely. Some of the biggest things to emphasize are attitude, teamwork, character, effort, toughness, discipline and winning.
16. Understand These Two Quotes
The following quotes are important to realize and come from two of the most successful leaders to ever exist. The first is by infamous head football coach Darrell Royal, “If worms carried pistols, birds wouldn’t eat them.” This means that it is important to have weapons in you tool belt to avoid getting preyed on by the enemy. Develop a skillset or talent to defeat the opposition, otherwise you will be picked apart. The second quote by Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Inc., says, “If you want to make everybody happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.” Leaders will always upset someone with a necessary decision and directive. As a coach and a leader it is important to not focus on making everyone happy, but helping everyone reach the common goal.
17. Running an Organized Practice Should be the Top Priority For the Day
Having an encompassing practice philosophy is instrumental in creating a winning program. There should be a pre-season philosophy, regular in-season philosophy and off-season philosophy. Part of that philosophy is anticipating conflicts. Scheduled conflicts as well as unexpected conflicts should have a predetermined solution. In the event of bad weather, a schedule conflict among student workers or even a sudden alteration to a specific practice facility, coaches should remain patient and transition to the predetermined contingency plan. Additionally, a routine is not necessarily a bad thing. Coaches and players should be able to get into a normal routine with a consistent plan for each day.
18. Practice Guidelines for Players and Coaches
It is important for everyone to be on the same page before practice begins. Once practice starts, there shouldn’t be any clinics, meetings or arguments on the field. Coaches should coach on the run but lecture in the meeting rooms. Players should know where to do during each period of practice and equipment managers should have the necessary items ready for use.
This should go without saying but have a planned script for each period. Some key tips for coaches are be enthusiastic throughout the duration of practice, “farm your own land,” which means coach your own position group, and follow the leadership hierarchy during practice and figure out any disagreements later. It is also worth noting that coaches and players should be professional in regards to conduct, language and appearance.
19. Defense Wins
The defense wins games whenever it stops the run, controls the pass, and shuts down explosive big plays. This is the fundamental breakdown of how to perform on defense. Obviously, as mentioned above, there will never be perfection, but controlling the big plays and passing game while stopping the run will limit the opposing teams scoring.
20. Running the Football Wins the Big Games
Having an efficient run game requires toughness, discipline and simplicity. Whether good or bad, the run game sets the morale for the entire team. Everyone should be accountable and responsible for blocking, running hard, and protecting the football at all times. Ground and pound takes hard work and isn’t always flashy, but it is a crucial aspect of winning.
21. Everybody is Responsible for Protecting the Quarterback
The offensive line is vital in fulling the role of protecting the quarterback. However, the responsibility of protecting the quarterback also falls on the coaches, running back, wide receivers, and even the quarterback himself. By slacking on a play, this puts the quarterback at risk of getting hurt. Everyone must do their job and play smart for the play to work and the quarterback to stay safe.
22. “First You Have Lies, Then Darn Lies, Then You Have Statistics” – Benjamin Franklin
As a coach, you should always have goals. The premise of leading or coaching is getting everyone to reach the planned goals. Start with a few simple and measurable goals that coincide with your philosophy before expanding to the ultimate goal of winning a championship. Some examples of measurable goals include:
- Score 24 points
- Hold opponent to fewer than 14 points
- Win the turnover battle
Set the goal and then determine the win percentage when each goal was met. This helps players and coaches practically gauge success on a week-to-week basis.
23. Fun, Grind, and Football
Even though fun and grind are often used in a positive connotation, they can become negative is not handled properly. There is a time and place for fun. At times football can be fun but the reality is at other times football is not fun at all. Though winning is fun, the journey and daily discipline to experience such victory takes hard work and determination, not necessarily fun. Something that is always fun is spending time with friends or staying at the beach on vacation. Football takes a special tenacity to taste success. Grind is also a term that isn’t always indicative of football. Even though it takes discipline, a grind is something you have to do and isn’t ever enjoyable. Football on the other hand is a word I can always relate to. To love football is to be committed to the process while rejecting any shortcoming or failure. Enjoy the challenge and preparation process. Football allows you to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Embrace the journey and love the game.
24. Respect Age
A younger coach should respect the older coaches because they have faced many experiences that a younger coach has yet to experience. It is important to lean on the wisdom and experiences of older coaches. You can learn from them and not be afraid to ask ‘why’ about certain philosophies, concepts or beliefs. This can turn into mentoring without either coach realizing it. On the other hand, older coaches should respect younger coaches. The younger guys are trying to break into the profession by bringing a fresh perspective and relatable personality to the athletes. It is important to lean on and embrace the diversity in age and experience.
25. Win In the Trenches
Basic key roles of the lineman are listed below:
- Offensive Line – be tough, get movement, and protect the quarterback
- Defensive Line – be tough, stop the run, and pressure the quarterback
26. Ten Things That Can Really Hurt a Team
These 10 things have the potential to negatively impact an entire team:
- Second Guessing
- Lack of Preparation
- Lack of Leadership
- Poor Focus
- Laziness – Poor Work Ethic
- “I know, but…”
27. Sometimes You Have to Look Reality In the Eye and Deny It
As a coach you have the potential to deny the “reality” of a certain situation, and encourage your players to continue working hard. The reality experienced now does not have to be the same reality experienced later. For example, if the current reality during a game shows you are down by 30 points at halftime, that does not mean the game is over. There is still time to turn things around and win the football game. If you start the season 0-4, that does not mean that the season is a wash. You can still win several games and transform players’ lives. A football season is a marathon, not a sprint. Finish strong.
28. Have Faith in God
This is important because He will never give up on you or steer you wrong. Whether it is your personal life or the culture of the team, place a high priority on honoring God through the way things are done. Make time for Him even during the busyness of a season. God’s love is transformational, so embrace it and honor Him in all things.
29. Listen to Your Wife
Your wife sacrifices a great deal for you to coach football. Recognize this and thank her for everything she does for you and the team. Since she is such an important part of your life, you should ask for her input and advice and then listen. Make sure she feels heard and understood. Take some time today to tell her how much you appreciate her and listen to whatever she wants to tell you.
In closing, if you have gotten to this point – thank you. I hope this has been helpful in some way. I believe in everything that is contained in this article, though certainly not to say that times were always easy and successful.
I believe coaching football at any level is a tough profession but a great profession. It is every bit a profession as auto mechanics, educators, lawyers, medical professionals, business persons, plumbers, and so on. I believe in most cases, if one respects their chosen profession, they will receive the same in return.
As I look forward to continuing a career of coaching and learning from those who have now become my young mentors, I want to wish you well and much success.
Greg Bailie currently serves as the offensive line coach at Mount Saint Joseph University. Prior to MSU, Bailie coached the offensive line at Thomas More University for five seasons. Bailie, a longtime prep coach in the state of Ohio, came to Thomas More from Wake Forest University, where he was the director of high school relations for three seasons.
Bailie is a Steubenville, Ohio native who graduated from Ashland University in 1974 and received a master’s degree from The Ohio State University in 1978.
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