"DAMN IT, HAMILTON, HIT 'EM HARDER!"
"HAMILTON, GET LOWER!"
"FIRE OUT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, HAMILTON!"
I vividly recall hearing these phrases (and numerous others...) screamed at me during my completely unimpressive career as a high school football player. Usually, these inspiring words of wisdom were yelled in my general direction as I lay flat on my back, after getting smeared in a drill during practice. One day, as I lay staring at the sun, fresh off another whupping at the hands of a larger, more athletic teammate, and hearing the above phrases yelled at me for the 82nd time, the following thought occurred to me:
"I KNOW I NEED TO 'HIT EM HARDER,' 'GET LOWER,' & 'FIRE OUT!'
INSTEAD OF SCREAMING AT ME TO DO IT, SHOW ME HOW!!!!"
Having never played football prior to high school, I was at a HUGE disadvantage compared to many of my classmates. That being said, I was a decent athlete with a solid build, a strong work-ethic, and reasonable intelligence. While at a disadvantage due to a lack of experience, my other traits should be able to help form me into a functional high school player. Being a visual learner as well as a person who learns by reading, I yearned for a book to read, a video to watch, or some other strategy than yelling to help me learn to be a better football player.
Fast forward almost 20 years to my first season as a middle school football. I would come home from practice, hoarse and worn out, yet my kids still under-performed. After a particularly grueling practice where I spent an inordinately large amount of time screaming similar phrases at my offensive line, I had dinner with a very good friend who commented on my lack of a voice. About 30 seconds into my tirade about the kids "not getting it," my friend, who has no coaching or football experience, stopped me in my tracks with the following statement:
" If you keep yelling and the kids are not performing well, it seems to me that you are the one that 'doesn't get it.'"
Wow...Without intending to have it happen, I became the very type of coach that I hated. Even worse, I had failed to live up to my responsibility of being a role model for these young men. Clearly, I was the problem. I had forgotten that "coaching" is just another word for "teaching." I was someone my players relied on for guidance and I was not providing it. If my kids weren't learning what I wanted to teach them, it was my responsibility to find a way that will help them learn. That very night, I spent hours searching the internet for a solution to our inability to block the correct person and found some incredible resources, including the website www.coachhuey.com.
My search led me to one of the age old learning tricks, acronyms. I will never forget the acrostic sentence, King Philip Cried Out For Good Spaghetti, as the means of recalling the proper order of the biological classification system; Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. If it can work for science, why not football, right? Coaching football is nothing more than teaching a subject. so studying tricks should work.
For our scheme, I found the acronym G.O.D., which stands for Gap, On, Down to Backer. In a very easy way, I could teach our kids their responsibilities and streamline the thinking process. Their first responsibility was a player in the play-side gap. If no one is in the play-side gap, block the man "on" you. If no player is "on," then you should down bock the first man to the back-side until he takes you to a linebacker. I combined the teaching of this acronym with the visual of me standing in each of these three positions. The simplified teaching method created amazing results. Our kids were rarely out of position, started playing faster because they were thinking less, and began to enjoy practice. With this new strategy in my back pocket, I could easily quiz the kids about responsibilities during the spare minutes before and after practice.
Over the course of my 10 years as a football coach, I have kept this lesson in the forefront of my mind. The best coaches I had could motivate without ever raising their voice; they could teach the how and the why. It's not about what I know.; it's about what I can teach my kids. My next few posts will focus on some of the ways that our staff incorporates educational theory and strategies into our program to help our kids learn how to be better football players and better young men.