101. What do you mean by "counting men" on defense? Many defensive men - I am one of them - base their adjustments to various offensive formations by making sure that they do not allow themselves to be outnumbered on one side of the formation or the other. They do this by counting the men - offensive and defensive - on either side of the imaginary center line, whenever they draw up a defense. Any man lined up on the center line - such as a center, a quarterback, an I-back on offense, or a nose guard or middle linebacker on defense- counts as one-half man. As a general rule, you'd rather not be outnumbered at all; but you never want to be outnumbered by a full man. It is not an infallible system, but if you make a practice of drawing your defenses up against the offensive formations you expect to see (and maybe some you've never seen before), counting men could prevent you from doing something unsound. Below are a couple of examples. (Bear in mind that a slanting "50" defense like the one shown below can overcome a half-man deficit at the snap of the ball - that is, if the defense executes the slant correctly.)
Defense is a half-man short to trips side (Slanting the line toward trips would even up the numbers)
102. In seventeen years of running the winged-T we have always rotated the ball as the center snapped it. This was done so that the laces were placed correctly into the Q.B.'s fingers. In watching your Troubleshooting video however, you go to some length to explain that hiding the ball is more advantageous than faking. To that end you bring the football immediately into the groin in a point-to-point fashion. Is the ball being snapped point-to-point? If so, is the QB holding his hands in the conventional manner or does he receive the ball with his thumbs up?For over 20 years now, I have taught my centers and quarterbacks an exchange that does not entail the center's twisting or turning the ball. The QB takes the ball exactly as he would if he were to reach out and pick up a ball lying on the ground. I want him to take the ball this way because (1) I believe it is the most secure way I know - I prove this by having him take one-handed snaps until he is confident that he can do it this way every time. It's the only way I know of in which a QB can take a snap one-handed; (2) this is the way I want the QB to handle the ball when he hands it off - I say "stay on your side of the valve"; (3) I believe this allows him to do the best job of hiding the football, as he "pulls it to his groin" and turns his back to the line of scrimmage. To show the center how and where we want the ball delivered, the QB stands behind the center, holding the ball as in scenes #1 and #2, and holds it between the center's legs at the point where he would get the snap. He lets the center take the ball from him,.but leaves his hand pressing up against the center's tail. The center takes the ball from the QB and takes it to the ground to the point from which he would snap it, then returns it to the QB's hand. There is no flip or twist or turn required. The center merely "hoists" the ball by bending his elbow. TO SEE THIS ILLUSTRATED
103. I presented the Double-Wing offense to my head coach. He liked a lot of what was presented but feels we are finally getting good enough with our wing-t offense that he is afraid to change now to the Double- Wing. And we are getting much better at running the wing-t. So I argued for just trying to cut our splits down. He liked that even better, but still, he wants to keep our normal splits. So I am now 0 for 2. The head coach came to me privately and told me that we could run the Double-Wing as a goal line and short yardage offense. We will even sub in our big strong linemen that do not run as well and use the wedge, power, and a pass as a package. I wanted to know what you thought about this. How good will we be just dabbling in the Double-Wing with those plays? What plays would you use? I love the Double-Wing and believe in it. The head coach knows this and he knows I'll get the offense to run it well. Thanks for the help and advice. Coach, you know me well enough to know how I feel about being anything other than a loyal assistant. I know that's not an issue with you. The old expression used to go "The boss may not always be right but he's always the boss." I'm sure you'll do a great job running what the head coach wants you to run. I think that you will do well running the Double-Wing on the goal line and in short-yardage situations. Your kids will probably run it better than they do the Wing-T. (A danger there, of course, is that this could cause some dissension, not to mention raising suspicions in some quarters of your commitment to the program - suspicions that you are pushing your own agenda so hard that you are not doing everything you can to make the Wing-T as successful as the Double-Wing.) To me, of course, the concession that you can run the Double-Wing on the goal line is a declaration of less than total confidence in the Wing-T. Your problem, I think, is that to be effective on the goal line, you have to have a fairly complete package. That means you should have both super powers and both sweeps, RED-RED to the right and 58-BLACK to the left, a trap (to one side at least), a "G" (to one side at least) a counter -- preferably criss-cross - (to one side at least) and, of course, the wedge. Otherwise, with a limited repertoire, you could become very predictable, and it is possible for people to take a chance on outguessing you if they have a pretty good idea what you're going to run. You also will be less effective if you only run a few plays and don't have the time to rep them until you can run them to perfection. I can tell you that the guys who run a handful of plays If I were in your shoes, I'm afraid that by the time I was done getting this "goal line and short yardage" offense to the point where I had confidence in it, I would look at my watch and find that I didn't have any time left to run my "real" offense. I just don't believe that you can run two offenses as well as if you were to commit to running one offense and getting the reps you need.
104. How much "no-huddle" do you run? Not a lot, if by that you mean running the offense from the line of scrimmage in games. Although a couple of years ago I did go without huddling for two entire games, I rarely do that. Many people see the major benefit of a no-huddle system as being a way to run off more plays, but that is not necessarily the aim of a ball-control offense such as the Double-Wing. (Of course, going without a huddle can also be a way to freeze a defensive coordinator in his tracks, or check out an opposing defense's condition, or just throw a change-up at the opposition.) However- just because we do huddle most of time in games, that doesn't mean I don't use a no-huddle system. I do. Full-time. I strongly recommend it. It is how I get all my plays in, signalling or calling to the quarterback without having to rely on the memory of a messenger to deliver the call intact from the sideline to the huddle. If I have to, I can even holler the play to the entire team while they're in the huddle or at the line (they all wear decoders), and I doubt that the defense can decode it in time to do anything about it. For me, though, where a no-huddle system really comes in handy is at practice. In practice, my teams never huddle. As a result, I find that in a typical 40-minute offensive period we pick up 10 to 15 minutes more of extra productive time, time that otherwise would have been wasted practicing the useless skill of getting in and out of huddles. And unlike most systems I've come across, our system is even difficult for our own scout team defense to decode. That means that I can, if I want to check our execution, stand over on the defensive side and "send in" plays by shouting them over to the offense in code.
105. We've been named to coach an all-star team. Do you think we can install the Double-Wing in five days of practice? I know you can, knowing what I do about your staff's expertise in running it at your own school. Just take the same approach shown in the "Installing the System" video - you were there when we shot it. Most all-star games tend to be on the grab-bag side offensively, heavily weighted toward the passing game with very unsophisticated running games. I watch them and think how good a Double-Wing you could put together with all those talented athletes on hand. It certainly puts a lot of pressure on an opponent to have to get his kids ready in five days to stop you, especially with the various constraints that all-star games usually place on defensive alignments and stunting (to try to put some offense in the game). As for the fan appeal of a running offense, people can argue all they like about fans wanting to see a passing attack, but I have to disagree a bit. I say what fans want to watch is not a passing attack, but a good passing attack, because otherwise there is nothing uglier, nothing more frustrating to the fan, nothing that makes a team look as if it hasn't been coached and the coach doesn't know how to call plays, than an ineffective passing attack - the kind you're most likely to see in an all-star game. (For what it is worth, last summer, Coach Tim Murphy of Concord, California's Ygnacio Valley High coached the Contra Costa County All-Stars to a 35-7 win over Alameda County. His Contra Costa team ran the Double-Wing exclusively, rushing for 333 yards on 48 carries. Coach Murphy was smart enough to "sell" his offense to his players, coming as they did from more conventional offenses. The runners were especially skeptical. "They didn't trust the offense at first," he told the Contra Costa Times after the game, "because there were so many blockers in front of them. I took them in to watch some of Ygnacio Valley's game film, and I got them to believe. It took until Tuesday or Wednesday of this week before they said, 'OK Coach.'" )
106. Play-Calling Part I - Coach: I am a first year head coach 8,9,10 yr olds.....in play calling at this age I am aware that there will be a limited # of plays to call from..less is more. But I am nervous about calling plays and philosophy of that. I am without a doubt a defensive minded person, so when I am sitting down and evaluating the upcoming season, looking at my core of plays that I intend to work....What hints or advice can you give me in regards to calling a game? I think that the essence of play-calling in any offense is to have a base play. I believe that if you don't have a base play, you are likely to be grab-bagging rather than calling plays with a reason. I believe you must have something you can hang your hat on - something you are known for - something that your kids have confidence in - something that other people fear and make a special effort to try to stop. Something that you are going to start out running and are willing to run forever if they can't stop it. For example, in a running, series-oriented offense such as the wishbone, it would be the give to the fullback, right or left; in the I formation it would be tailback off tackle, tailback toss sweep or tailback isolation (blast). In our case, it is - and in your case it ought to be - the Super Power. Don't misunderstand - you are not necessarily going to run the play all that much; it depends on how much opponents are willing to commit to stopping that one base play. There have been games when I have run Super Power 20+ times and there have been games when I have seldom run it. But in every case, I am sure Super Power was the play that opponents began their defensive planning with, and spent their week of practice preparing to stop. Everything else you do should result from what you see opponents doing to try to stop your base play. (MORE TO COME)
107. Play Calling Part II: As simply as possible, you must determine what people are doing to try to stop your base play - in this case, 88 or 99 Super-Power. Here is a very general idea of how the play-calling would progress from there. (1) If they are playing a bit wider, or their linebackers are overreacting to the outside, we may want to cut back inside them with 6-G or power keep; (2) if they are pinching in tight, to try to squeeze the off-tackle play, they are probably "reachable," and we may hit them with one of our sweeps, or log the DE and roll our QB outside him; (3) any time we notice that a defender has penetrated, we want to get his number, because we suspect that he may be trappable; (4) if we notice a defensive lineman picking a hand up at the snap and playing somewhat soft, ````he is probably vulnerable to a wedge; (5) on the backside, if they are chasing recklessly and not keeping anyone home, we may look at a counter, a bootleg or a screen back there; we may want to see how well they can contain our QB on a bootleg; if they are doing a good job of containing him, that means we may be able to get inside them on a counter; (6) if a defensive back is totally committed to coming up to stop the run, we may want to throw deep over his head; if the secondary is rotating to cover behind him, we may want to throw deep to the backside.
108. What plays do you like to use in various situations such as 1st & 10, 2nd & long, 2nd & short, 3rd & long, 3rd & short, red-zone, goal-line, and so on? Trying to figure out the long yardage calls really bugs me with this predominately running offense. I must admit I don't call plays according to situation. I have no such chart. It is more a case of what has been working, what defense they are running, and what they are least likely to expect. I don't have a formula. It is more art than science, although a certain amount of self-scouting is important. That is what keeps defenses off-balance. The answer to the long-yardage question, without meaning to sound flip, is that you work very, very hard to avoid those situations. Fortunately, this offense allows you to do so. The only time I consider us to be in "long yardage" is third-and-10-or-more. We don't average one of those situations a game. With our tight splits up front, we don't get tackled in the backfield a whole lot: in almost 200 super powers last season, only three were for minus yardage. So stop and figure it out: how did we let ourselves get to that point? We either fumbled or got a penalty or got sacked. That's what we work at preventing: I insist on protecting the football when we carry it - no excuses accepted; likewise wI am semi-anal about getting off on the correct count, and we block in a manner that keeps the hands in, so we minimize penalties. We throw passes that the QB gets rid of quickly and we do not throw into coverage. When we do find ourselves in third-and-long, though, the last thing we want to do is tru something heroic and compound our problems with an interception or a sack. We will probably take our medicine. Look for a power, a trap, a counter or a sweep. In other words, something basic. (But if you're a defensive guy reading this, don't bet on it.)
109. How do you keep the man you are trapping from wrong-shouldering you? When you are trapping, you have to be prepared to find the defensive man in the worst possible place - in a low pile, right where he lined up - and you have to be prepared for him to "wrong-shoulder" your guard - to meet the trap block with his outside arm, rather than squeezing down and using the the inside arm as is normally taught. I think the worst thing that can happen to your guards is to have a little no-brainer success against defensive linemen who just fly across the line recklessly - you probably would have beaten those guys without even blocking them! Now, just like a running back who bounces outside for a touchdown the first time he is supposed to run off-tackle, they will be hard to convince to do things correctly. Everything we do is based on getting our guard into an advantageous position to block inside-out on a defender who is in the worst possible position; anybody else will be easy. When trapping, our left guard does everything right-handed, and our right guard does everything left-handed. In the case of a left guard trapping right, he lines up with his right hand down and his right foot back. He steps with his right foot, into the spot the center vacates; with his right hand, he grabs the center's right hip. Now he is on the correct course to block a man with his right shoulder. We tell him to stay on that course. We don't want him to be drawn off course by a hard-charging defensive lineman; as close as our fullback lines up, that man will not make a play even if we don't block him - so we don't. This is crucial - we do not want our guard veering off course to block a man who doesn't need blocking. Instead, our guard stays on course - there will be someone for him to block.
110. I have shown the players the plays in the way you recommend. What I would like to know is do you have any practice organization forms showing what you do for installing your offense? I really don't have any specific "form," but if you check my "TIPS" pages, I think #39 will help some. Not to push anything on you, but my video "Installing the System" covers this subject really well. The absolute biggest thing I think you should do is to make certain that your players understand the logic of the numbering and terminology of our system. It is very logical and it is what makes the system so easy for kids to learn. Drill them on what all the numbers and words mean. Once they get that down, it will be like learning a new language. There will be no confusion on the basic plays, and you will be able to add new plays or variations to existing plays without a lot of difficulty. Be sure, by the way, to refer to 2-4-6, 3-5-7, etc. as the "2 man" or the "4 man" and not the "2 hole" or the "4 hole." It is really important for your players (not to mention you and your coaches) to understand that we are numbering men, and not holes. One more tip: start out teaching the offense without motion. You can teach practically every play in the book without motion, and then begin to add it when the team understands understand the basics. There is no sense wasting the time of 10 other men while you try to teach the timing of the motion to your quarterback. You can do that before or after practice. (The same goes, by the way, for the center snap: when you are trying to teach a play to 11 men is not the time to be working on the center snap. Every bad exchange will cost your entire team a minute or so of practice time that otherwise could have been spent repping plays. I believe, in the early going, in giving the QB the ball and "faking" the exchange. You can find a better time to work on the exchange than when you're trying to teach your offense to your team.)
112. Coach Wyatt, we just had our meeting with the referees to go over rules for this year. We asked one of the referees their interpretation of the rule for where lineman are supposed to line up in relation to the center. This referee (refs High School) said the shoulders of the lineman must be even with the waist of the center. I read the rule from the National Federation of High School Associations and it said the shoulders had to be approximately parallel with the line of scrimmage and the top of the head had to break the plane of the waist of the center (that's not word for word). Did you have these types of problems with refs when you implemented the system? I'm wondering if referees feel they can interpret this rule the way they want (kind of like the umpires strike zone in baseball). I see the line position being a huge advantage for us because the distance gives the kids a better chance at protecting their gaps and the pulling lineman seem to get by the center easier. What other advantages have you seen.? I'm afraid I'm going to get opposition from the other coaches if I hold firm on the line setback. Did you have to carry the rule book out before every game to get the ok from the referees? Coach: You have interpreted the rule correctly. We have the right to take full advantage of the rule as written. It certainly is to our advantage to be back off the ball as far as the rules allow - (1) for improved protection of our inside gap, (2) to allow us to escape those defensive linemen who are taught (unethically) to tackle our pulling linemen (3) to allow our pulling linemen to get past the center without having to turn their shoulders excessively.
I never heard of officials interpreting the rules on the order of baseball umpires and their personal strike zones.
That is one of the things that sets our sport - high school football, that is - apart from sports such as baseball, basketball and pro football, where rules are either ignored or openly violated as participants and officials choose.
Always keep a copy of the rule book handy. (Rule 2 Section 30 Article 9 couldn't be clearer: "A lineman is any A player who is facing his opponent's goal line with the line of his shoulders approximately parallel thereto and with his head or foot breaking an imaginary plane drawn parallel to the line of scrimmage through the waist of the snapper when the ball is snapped.")
113. Coach, do you always fold on the backside on the 6-G play, even against a 50? First of all, we don't really see a lot of 50 defenses, but the idea - from the days when we ran the Delaware Wing-T with its wider splits - was to try to provide a little added security for the playside tackle's down block, in case the nose man was slanting into the playside A-gap. Truthfully, since we have done so much to help that tackle - things like tightening splits, backing all the linemen off the ball and getting their weight back and their inside hands down - it hardly seems necessary to fold around a nose man. One thing that we have done that can drive a 50 defense nuts, especially one that has tried to teach its LBers to read your guards, is to run 6-G, but on the backside, block 7-G. You can send the A-back in motion or not. I call it "6-G Both Ways" (see below).
114. Coach, we are going to be playing against a 4-3. I am afraid that as soon as our center goes after the backside tackle, the Middle Linebacker will blitz through the gap that he creates. Coach, part of the problem is that the center does not block "MAN" away - he blocks AREA away - which means that he snaps and takes a small jab step but doesn't commit to the DT so long as there is a chance the MLB will come. If he blocks aggressively backside he not only gives the M:LB a quick read, but he creates a gap in our front. Don't worry about that backside DT - For him to cause us any trouble, he'll have to come through the center. Nevertheless, if you are really concerned, Super O is one way to go - pull only the guard and cut off the defensive tackle with your tackle Another is to fold the guard around the center to get that that MLB, while still pulling the tackle. The third - and the simplest and best - way is to block down along the entire line (see below) , since technically a MLB who will do what you fear he will do is creating a delayed TNT effect. (See Page 16 of the Playbook). Personally, I would be pleased to know that their MLB was that preoccupied with plugging the middle, because in most 4-3 defenses they need him to make more plays than that.
115. Coach, as you know, I have taken over a losing program. We won our opener but we just got our butts kicked in the second game. I am considering trying a couple of new formations. Which ones do you suggest?What you should do first is take a good look at every play you've run so far and look at every player's job and see if everybody did his job exactly as called for. If that's what's happening and you're still getting your butts whipped, you don't need any new formations. You are grossly outmanned and you need to go to the AD and try to do something about the schedule next year. And continue to rent.
But I doubt that that's what's happening. It has been my experience that you will always find something about any play that can be improved by better coaching and more practice reps.
Identify the things you need to work on by looking for the mistakes that keep recurring. (This is one of the benefits of running the same play from the same formation a number of times; if you only run a play once, you can't be sure that a mistake was just a fluke, and unlikely to recur. If you see the same thing happening every time you run the same play, you can isolate on something that you - and the player - are capable of correcting.) You may even discover, since it's still early, that you've got the wrong kid in there. He may not be capable of doing what you ask. If that's the case, it's not fair to him or the team to leave him in a spot where be is bound to fail. Making the tough decision is the coach's job.
It has always helped me in a building situation to look at the game tapes and then take a sheet of paper and make two columns: one a PLUS column. the other a MINUS column. (Like the one on the left.) In the PLUS column I list the positive things that the team did in the game; this may sometimes require a little creativity, but you'll usually be surprised to find that no matter how bad the score was, your kids actually did do some things pretty well. Reflecting on the positive things, no matter how few, can do wonders for your attitude. And in the MINUS column, I list the areas where there's still a lot of work to do. I will show the players the videotape, not to beat anybody up or point the finger at anyone, but to get their concurrence on these points - to convince them that they don't suck, despite what their parents and the twerps in the school who didn't turn out for football keep telling them. To show them where improvements - in their alignment, assignment, technique - will make a difference. This point is crucial - you have to sell them on the fact that there is nothing wrong with the coaching, there is nothing wrong with the system, and they are not born losers. Convince them that they are making improvement, and if they will work at continuing to improve in the areas you've shown them, they will get better. And as they get better, winning will take care of itself.
It is VERY important that you dwell on the positives here, because they have been conditioned to think that they suck. In the past, maybe they have. You are the football expert here, and it is your job as coach to see the encouraging things that nobody else can see - the areas where you are getting better - and point them out to the kids. If you don't, they have no choice but to look at the score and listen to the public and think that they still suck.
When you are building, you must remember that you may be the only guy there who knows what winning looks like. You may be the only one who can see beyond the scoreboard. Especially after a loss, you have to be an optimist - you have to be the little kid who rummages around in a roomful of horse manure and is happy because he's convinced there has to be a pony in there somewhere.
Above all, though - DO NOT CHANGE! Beware of giving off any sign of panic, of deviation from your plan, of abandoning what you've been doing up to now. You MUST convince your kids that they are on the right track and they are making progress. You MUST convince them that YOU believe that. And you are not going to be able to convince them that YOU believe if you start making changes after two games. They would love to believe that there is a magic pill, a shortcut, a special formation or play. It would make everything so much easier. But it's just not true. It is your job to stay the course and convince them that there is no easy way. This is not the time to start handing out life preservers or parachutes or showing them where the back door is. You must sell them on the truism that it is going to take hard work to get better at what they're already doing. The old sales slogan is still good to remember: "Plan your work and work your plan."
Don't forget - you took over a program that was dead on its butt. Nobody turns a program around in one game. Or two. Or three. Who knows how long it will take before they go out there expecting to win, rather than afraid they'll lose? Yes, your kids have begun to experience winning, but in all likelihood they are still very fragile, and you want to be careful to emphasize the things that don't lose games. If that sounds conservative, it is. First, work on eliminating the things that can cost you games, and then - and only then - consider moving on to doing the heroic things.
I would be surprised if at this point you are good enough at the basics to be considering sacrificing reps on the basic plays in order to begin diversifying.
You have just learned an important lesson all coaches need to learn, and it is this: none of us is bullet-proof. We are all capable of getting our butts kicked, especially when we take over a program where that's been the expected thing. Now, especially, when everybody is running around wondering if they're in for more of the same old stuff, you have to be a model of stability.
116. We are going to be facing a Gap-8 defense. How should we prepare? I can't recall seeing a gap 8 and I don't think many other high school teams do, either. A well-coached high school Double-Wing team would kill it, because it would have the ability to protect its inside gaps, to block down, to trap and to throw, but I can see how it could terrorize youth teams.
First of all, if you can't protect your inside gap you are going to be driven out of this offense. You simply must make sure that you have done everything about stance and alignment called for on page 2 of the playbook. Most of those things are related to protecting the inside gap, and people who stubbornly resist taking this advice will likely find themselves wondering why they are getting penetration.
One thing you can be pretty sure of when people line up in your gaps is this - they are coming! People don't line up in the gaps to do anything else but penetrate - which means somebody along that front can be trapped. I would trap the man in the A gap and I would also trap the man in the B gap.
Tighten those splits (if they aren't already shoe-to-shoe) and work on down blocking. Work also on the cut off block by your backside tackle whenever you will be pulling your guard.
Run 88/99 Super-O with down blocking (Left) , with the playside wingback coming over the top for the middle backer and the B-Back, as called for, blocking out on the first man past the TE. Have the backside tackle shoe-shine just like the backside TE
Run lead 47-C or lead XX-47-C without pulling the tackle; instead, have the backside tackle shoe-shine just like the backside TE.
Run Red-Red, with everyone blocking down including the TE; have the B-Back block first past the TE; throw only to the C back.
Look at over tight and under tight and run 88/99 super-o with no motion. Come up, get set quick, and go. Gap defenses, with all those men down, don't always adjust very quickly.
But before you do anything, first make sure you are solid on gap protection. Do everything exactly as called for on page 2. If you haven't already done so, it is now time.
117. How many times should you rep a particular play in an average week? We all differ, of course in the number of reps we need, but it is important to run a play enough in practice that you are satisfied you will run it flawlessly in a game. For me, early in the season at least 10-12 reps every day on 88 and 10-12 reps every day on 99 would be a fair guess. As we get better, though, I will rep a play less. (And, of course, we will get better because we've been repping it so much.)
Remember, though, I think I know this offense as well as anybody, and by now I think I can spot screw-ups fairly quickly without having to run a play too many times to find out what's wrong. You may need more reps at first until you become more proficient at recognizing breakdowns.
I also think you have to rep plays in games. I think that's the key to successfully troubleshooting your offense - running a play often enough is the only way you will be able to identify a recurring problem, something that's keeping a play from working.
Otherwise, you are liable to think there's something wrong with the play itself, or to give the defense more credit than it deserves.
To give you the opposite extreme from somebody who just runs the bare minimum of reps, John Irion, a successful Double-Wing coach in New York State who made it to the state finals twice, told the coaches at my 1999 Providence clinic that he has a policy of never running any play in a game until he has run it 500 times in practice!
118. We have had a lot of fumbles lately. What do you do to prevent them? First of all, if you run a ball-control offense, one of the things you simply must do is hang onto the football.
I think fumble prevention is part drill and part mental attitude - your mental attitude as a coach, which, like everything else you believe in, you must sell to your players until they believe it, too..
All the drills in the world won't do much to prevent fumbles if you don't have the proper attitude of intolerance toward fumbles.
I think the major factor in fumble prevention is what a coach is willing to tolerate on the practice field. I sometimes go places and see kids fumble during practice and nobody makes a particularly big deal about it. I hesitate to say anything unless I am asked, but I know from experience with my own teams that I am looking at a team that will find a way to lose a few games that it could have won otherwise.
I believe in spending a lot of time dealing with the proper attitide toward fumbling - that it is simply not tolerable. Period. I believe in stressing that fumbling is essentially an act of selfishness. It's a refusal by a player to do what he knows is best for his team. He's going to do what he wants to do. My players can all give my sermon about how "it's not your ball - it's our ball - it's the team's ball. We're going to lend it to you for one play, but we expect to have it back when the play is over." They hear it a lot. I don't care.
They also know that I am not excited by the little bit of extra yardage we might get if it means risking a fumble by exposing the ball to tacklers who are taught to bat and strip. We'll get those extra yards somehow. Just give us the ball back when you're done with it.
I'm getting a little more patient, and I no longer go ballistic about many things, but I will make a big deal over fumbles, and I won't tolerate an attitude among any player or coach that fumbling doesn't matter. It does matter. It always matters. It's the reason why we're playing. Possession of the ball is the purpose of our game. If someone fumbles, I want to see and hear a frenzy. I expect everyone to make a very big deal of it. I want fumbling on our team to be so rare that everybody can remember the last time it happened.
When someone does fumble in practice, for any reason, everyone does up-downs or pushups. Everyone. It's not punishment, so we don't overdo it - we're just reminding them that when a guy makes a selfish mistake, the whole team pays.
The "both hands on both points" mantra is something you'll hear me say a lot. I want to see "both hands on both points in traffic. " Yes, I know it is old-fashioned. It is also effective. I don't want to hear about how it slows a ball carrier down. He is not a sprinter - a sprinter doesn't have to carry a football. He is a ball carrier. And the instant he loses the ball, he is no longer a ball carrier. He has become a sprinter, and he is out for the wrong sport.
You might be surprised to see tape of my teams and see runners five yards downfield with "both hands on both points." So it slows them down. So what? Whose ball is it?
When it is safe to do so, the runner can carry the ball in one hand and arm. We say "unwrap the ball" to score.
When he does, though, we demand pressure on the ball at four points: (1) hand - over the point of the ball; (2) forearm; (3) biceps; (4) ribs.
It must be carried in the outside arm. Do NOT tolerate the righthander who insists on carrying the ball in his right hand as he runs to his left. If you do not have the stones to make this correction and reinforce it, your unwillingness to do so will certainly cost your kids a game at some point. Are you really willing to risk that, merely because you are reluctant to coach a stubborn kid? Isn't that putting the individual ahead of the team?
Finally, you may have to show "a set of stones" where personnel is concerned: a player who can't overcome a tendency to fumble, no matter how gifted, will not carry the ball for me. I am the team's caretaker; I owe it to the team not to take that chance, and I will make sure that I tell the player that, using those very words.
Once you yourself have the right attitude and you've sold it to your players, you can begin to drill on the necessary skills.
NEXT- Drilling to prevent fumbles
119. Drilling to Prevent Fumbling (1) RIP & STRIP DRILL - I think the first step in preventing fumbles is to convince your ball carriers that if they will just protect the ball as you insist they do, it is nearly impossible for them to fumble. Doing so will go a long way toward eliminating excuses, in making the point with your players that fumbles are not "breaks" - that they are not accidental - that they are preventable. The "Rip & Strip Drill" is a very competitive drill that will help you get the point across: one player is the ball carrier - he is given the ball with instructions to "fold over it", with "both hands on both points, " and "squeeze the ball into the belly." The defender reaches in and gets his hands on the ball. At the starting signal, the defender does anything he can (although he may not trip the runner) to rip, strip, pry or twist the ball from the ball carrier's grasp. The ball carrier may twist but he may not run away and he may not deliberately go to the ground. If they should happen to fall to the ground, the contest continues. Give them a time limit - 10 or 15 seconds may be enough for younger kids at first. Make it competitive! If the defender strips the ball loose, the ball carrier does pushups. (Gasp! Punishment! How brutal!) If the ball carrier hangs on successfully, the defender does the pushups. Before long, your runners will get the idea and the defenders will rarely win.
120. Drilling to Prevent Fumbling (2) MONKEY ROLL DRILL -
A major cause of fumbling is a player's natural instinct to reach out with his hand to break his fall. The problem is, if that happens to be the hand in which he's carrying the ball, he will likely extend his arm, and in the process expose the ball - making it more likely to be jarred loose by a tackler or by contact with the ground (sorry, TV guys - the ground can cause a fumble!) The purpose of the Monkey Roll Drill is to get the players used to falling while keeping the ball in contact with the body at four points: (1) hand (over the point); (2) Wrist; (3) Biceps; (4) Ribs. Start them out as shown in Frame 1. Player B (the one in the middle) starts the drill by rolling to his right (I always start out a drill going to the right - that's just me); In Frame 2, Player A (the one Player B is rolling toward) rolls OVER Player B, after which Player B gets up and prepares to roll back the other way; Player A, meanwhile will continue to roll (Frame 3) until he gets to Player C, who will then roll over Player A; at that point, Player A will get up and roll back the other way, first rolling over Player B, who will be arriving at his feet - and so forth. Go back and forth a few times. It is a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. It is also very useful. But a word od caution: if you are concerned about how it looks, you could get very frustrated. Don't. For me, the purpose of this drill is not to train gymnasts. It is merely to teach kids to protect the ball when they fall. IMPORTANT: Do NOT do this drill unless the kids are fully equipped - mouthpieces in and chin straps fastened, because there is always the chance, with all those feet flying in so many directions, of someone getting kicked in a bad spot. Be careful also to avoid mixing very small players with very large players - it would not be wise to have a 200-pounder crash-land on a 110-pounder.
121. Drilling to Prevent Fumbling- Goal-Line Pancake Drill - I like this adaptation of the pancake drill, which plays such an important role in the way I teach blocking and tackling. This drill reinforces the habit of handling the ball with two hands, while at the same time teaching the runner how to be tough and take on a tackler when dodging him is not an option. As always with the pancake drill, it should be done at full speed, which is possible without a great deal of danger to the participants. Instruct the "tackler" not to attempt to resist. Instruct the runner to put the tackler on his back. Important safety points: make sure that the landing pit is properly prepared and the "tackler" is centered in front of it; avoid obvious mismatches in size or talent; make sure that the top of the tackler's shield covers the bottom of his mask, so that the runner's helmet can't get under it and knock his head back;
122. Drilling to Prevent Fumbling - Gauntlet Drill - This is one of my favorite all-purpose drills. It is designed to stress the need for a runner to protect the football and keep his feet moving. There is only one way out. If a player slips or gets knocked down, he must get back on his feet and finish. If he fumbles, every one of the other "runners" does pushups or up-downs. If the players are unfamiliar to you, this drill can help you identify who your runners are - it will tell you a lot about their speed, toughness, strength and agility. If a player gets knocked down or slips, he has to get up and finish. It is a lot of fun - I like to have linemen go against backs and ends - but it can also be very competitive, so you have to set it up correctly and monitor it carefully. (1) Arrange two lines of players, kneeling on one or both knees, holding shields, a full yard apart. (You will have to work to keep them from crowding closer.) They are to deliver, with the shields, ONE (and only one) hard blow to the runner, directed at the general area of the football. They are NOT to take head shots or hit the runner in the legs. They are NOT to move their legs or position any part of their bodies in the tunnel to block the runner. (2) On signal, the runner drives hard into the tunnel, making sure to keep the ball protected and hidden; (3) Each man in the tunnel delivers a hard shiver into the runner, trying to knock him off balance or knock the ball loose; the runner must keep his feet driving, knees high, football secured; (4) At the back end of the tunnel, position one or two "clean-up men" to deliver the final blow. Note that the runner emerges from the tunnel still protecting the ball. (5) As a changeup, have the runner take a handoff just before he hits the tunnel. VARIATIONS: (A) Take the shields from a few of the players in the line and designate them as "strippers." They try to grab the ball as the runner goes by; (B) Have a "Clean-up Man" roll a round dummy toward the runner as he emerges, requiring him to step high; (C) Throw a short pass to the "runner" just prior to his entering the tunnel.
123. Drilling to Prevent Fumbling - Hammer Drill - I shot this drill as three Hofstra University running backs ran through it. The man in the middle hugs two footballs - one in each hand - making sure that he "hides" each ball by leaning forward and squeezing it at the four points of contact - (1) hand - over the point; (2) forearm; (3) biceps; (4) ribs - and jogs slowly across the field. The runners on both sides of him club the top of the ball with their outside hands, and try to poke it from behind with their inside hands. Runners take turns being the man in the middle.
124. What program do you use to do your playbook? I have two programs that work well for me. The original one I used when I first drew it up was Microsoft Works, which you probably can't even find anymore. It is an integrated program, with word processing, database, spread sheet and drawing functions, and I still use it for a lot of things, including many of my original pages. You can combine play drawings with the text necessary to explain them, and it isn't necessary to draw the same things over and over. For most new stuff I now use Appleworks 6.0. (I have a Mac - I doubt whether that there is a version for Windows.) I have also converted a lot of my old Works pages over to Appleworks. Like Microsoft Works, Appleworks is also an integrated program, very similar in operation to Microsoft Works and very useful, and I use its drawing function for the playbook. I am able to use the drawing function of either program to draw the play diagrams I use on my web site, and I can copy entire pages to my web site when necessary. (I have no financial interest in pushing a particular computer, but I would be willing to predict that if you get a Mac you'll never be sorry. And if you get the right one it'll come bundled with a pretty slick video editing program called iMovie 2, which I've written about.)
125. Our organization has appointed a Coaches Committee of which I am a member. We are in the process of trying to put some things down on paper. I would like your answers to these two questions if you don't mind. 1. What are the responsibilties of the head coach? 2. What should be expected from his/her staff? This is interesting, because it is one of the things I am working on in the video I'm making right now - a guide for youth coaches.
Basically, I believe that the head coach must have total charge of the program. He (I am talking football here, so I am not going to use he/she) must have ultimate authority and responsibility. He selects and supervises assistants and delegates authority and responsibility to them as he sees fit, always thinking first of the good of the kids and team before the good of the assistants. He may ask for input and opinions, and may even delegate decision-making, but ultimately, he is the man who makes the decisions because he is the one who muct defend them. He is not necessarily a whip cracker, and it may not be obvious to bystanders that he is in charge, but when it gets down to crunch time, the final decision is always his and everyone on the staff understands that.
The assistant coaches must serve at the pleasure of the head coach. It is not a healthy situation when the assistants are hired by someone other than the head coach. It should be their job to please him. They must agree to adopt and defend his philosophy. They either do or they don't. If they don't, somebody has to make the decision that they need to go someplace else. It is easier for all concerned if the assistant makes that decision, but if not, it becomes another one of the tough jobs a head coach has to do. If he doesn't do it, the disloyalty will harm the team and the kids and will ultimately take him down.
Obviously, it is the head coach's job to know what he's talking about and provide a strong program and give his assistants a chance to learn and to earn more responsibility and authority. And, of course, to reciprocate their loyalty - to try to understand their problems and defend them from attack - literally and figuratively.
In any strong organization , one person has to have ultimate authority. For some reason, youth coaches often resist taking this stand, or their associations are unwilling to give them that authority, but if you check out any good pro, college or high school program, you will find a strong man in charge. Hope that helps!
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