December 28, 2010

Book Review: “Whale Done”

A while back I was going through a bit of a crisis of faith, at least in the football context. I was having a real hard time coaching my position the way that our HC wanted me to do it, which felt exceedingly negative and overall-dick-ish. I'm pretty good a putting on a fa├žade/war face in most situations, but my problem was that I'm very fond of the two kids that we had starting at ILB. One played for me for four years, the other is a hard-working, charming, tough kid that I'd coached in a limited role as a freshman and almost started for me as a sophomore. I had a hard time doing what, to me, consisted of constantly running them down. I don't like being negative in that fashion, I prefer to coach and treat people differently.

This resulted in a lot of conflicts with me and the HC, some internal and some external. I got yelled at, a lot. It wasn't uncommon for me to a tongue-lashing in practice at least once a week. Eventually, I got assigned to coach the OLBs and another coach took over the ILBs, which upset me and both of the starters a great deal. I took it in stride, but I became pretty resolved to find a different way to do things. I wanted to find examples from anyone I could that would show me how I can be a positive coach and still be a winner. So, a shopping spree at Amazon resulted in several books by or about John Wooden, John Gagliardi (more on both at another date), and Whale Done! By Ken Blanchard.
http://www.amazon.com/Whale-Done-Power-Positive-Relationships/dp/074323538X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1292960129&sr=8-1

Whales? WTF?

Yep. Whales. Blanchard uses the example set by the whale trainers at SeaWorld to lay out his philosophy of positive training. In a nutshell, the philosophy is this: by emphasizing the positive, ignoring the negative, and redirecting the rest, we can build positive relationships with our subordinates and loved ones that enable us to experience a better way of being.

An example he uses is the difference between training a Jack Russell terrier in your yard and a Killer Whale in a tank. If you Jack Russell pees on your shoe, the common reaction is to shout and holler and make sure he knows that peeing on your shoe is BAD. He may never pee on your shoe again, but that hasn't limited him from peeing on the rugs, the couch, your laundry hamper, any number of things. If he nips your kid's heel, you whack him on the nose with the newspaper. So on and so on, training a dog isn't terribly complex in the grand scheme of things.

A Killer Whale, however, is a different task altogether. The whale is a beast of tremendous power and a fantastic killing machine. We can't just smack the whale on the nose when it's doing something we don't like. So, we have to go another way. We ignore negative behaviors and focus on encouraging and supporting positive behaviors. If we want the whale to jump out of the water and over a rope, we have to slowly train him. It starts with putting the rope in the water and giving him a rub on the head whenever he goes over the rope. He associates the head rub with going over the rope and keeps doing it. Then you start raising the rope out of the water. Mingle in feeding him some mackerel, more positive energy, and lots of effort, and you've got a friggin' whale jumping over a rope that's six feet out of the water! But if we had tried to use negative methodology, we'd probably have been marine mammal food in no time.

So… People?

Yep. People. I'm pretty committed to trying this out in certain aspects of my life: coaching track, teaching, training my parents new puppy. I really dig the theory and the methodology. I'm still working on planning how to incorporate the whole deal into football, since football is such a complex environment. People like being told what they're doing or have done was good, they like being rewarded, and they like pleasing the other people in their lives. It's not terribly outrageous to presume that we would get results from accentuating the good in people.

The trickiest aspect, in my mind, will be the ignoring of the negatives that people put out. It's one thing to accentuate the positive, that's fun and easy. But to ignore the negative efforts or actions of others is really, really hard. Imagine your two kids come in from outside and one tracks mud all over the floor, which you just cleaned. First instinct? "Get off the carpet with those shoes!" Whale Done philosophy says a more useful reaction would be to look at the one who is taking their shoes off by the doorway and say, "I love how you're minding the clean floor, go ahead and grab some couch time with the remote for a bit." You've accentuated what's positive about their behavior, you've rewarded it, and you've made it expressly clear to the other kid want kind of behavior you want without attacking them. Good stuff, right?

One Caveat, Though…

The ideas are great. The writing, however, is kinda painful. It reminds me of a philosophy book that I had to read for a class in college where a group of 'college students' seemingly had a series of debates about the nature of 'knowing', just for the hell of it. It all just felt forced and annoying to read, I hated the book and it was a terrible intro to philosophy for me. This book is the same thing. Lo and behold, a perfectly crafted story just happens to appear that reinforces exactly what the author is talking about. It's not like reading Twilight or anything, but it got to me.

December 21, 2010

Website Plug: Reasoning With Vampires

WTF?

    I friggin' hate Twilight for oh so many reasons. I hate what it's done to vampires, once a cool part of literature and movies. I hate that it's spawned some absolutely awful movies. I hate that it batters teenage girls over the head with the idea that a profoundly unhealthy relationship is romantic and desirable. But I REALLY hate that it's written by someone who doesn't seem to have any idea of what proper sentence structure, syntax, or punctuation is. It's incredible how poorly written it is. To that end, I present you with one of my favorite internet things: http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/

    The wonderful author of the blog posts images of scanned pages of Twilight with the necessary grammatical corrections, plus commentary. I giggle sometimes at how much I love it. I'm like, 90% sure I'd date the author. Do yourself, your children, and your country a favor: enjoy how BAD Twilight is, one snarky post at a time.

What To Coach First

A.k.a. The Argument For Effort

I'll be the first to say that I have a pretty difficult time getting behind every single thing my boss says or does. There have been many, many moments where I've just silently agreed to disagree with him, moments that range from fairly silly things to much larger issues. But, one thing that he's sold me on is the idea that there are certain things that have to come in the right order when coaching. I'd never really conceptualized what he was talking about before, but when I started thinking about it, he was right on. If you try to build a house without a good foundation, it will collapse. Similarly, if you skip some points of focus, you'll be building your offensive or defensive house on sand.

What it really comes down to is this: the most important thing we can coach first is effort. Without effort, we're left without much else. Poor defensive effort results in bigger and bigger plays and worse and worse outcomes. A talented player who gives less than full effort is less of an asset than a scrub who plays like Rudy. You can rely on Rudy, you can count on him, and you can work around his limitations. An effortless talent, however, is a liability in every possible way.

We can teach technique until the cows come home, in fact I would love to do that. Technique is vital to success at any level. But what is technique if it's not being used consistently or it's being used without full effort? What does it matter if Timmy can execute a perfect push/pull and then rip past his man when he jogs after the ball carrier after that? Effort is what matters most and until maximum effort is a consistent result, little else should really matter to us. Once you get a team flying around after the ball carrier, once you get an offense surging off the ball and just looking to hit someone, you're in a position for success.

How Do You Do It?

Well, in the beginning it should be about simplicity. Simplicity allows for effort to be not only talked about, but put forefront to everything else. If a player has no doubt about what they're supposed to be doing, then it's pretty easy for them to either be giving maximal effort or not. You'll know who is playing hard and who isn't because there won't be any doubt about whether or not they were busy brain-farting or doing the wrong thing or any of that other foolishness that can come with teenage brains. So you K.I.S.S. in the beginning to allow your guys the opportunity to develop into players with fantastic effort, which cures many, many sins.

The primary way that we coach effort is simple: if you aren't giving your maximal effort, you're replaced. Once the kids get the hang of this, there becomes a greater desperation to make the play, to execute your assignment, to play through the echo of the whistle. How you replace them is up to your own individual personality. My boss replaces with fire, brimstone, and the righteous wrath of God. Me, I generally just send the next guy in and tell the first guy, "We won't win with that." Everyone has their own quirks and mannerisms, but the important part is that we put out a consistent message to the kids: go hard or get pulled. There are other ways, such as push-ups or up-downs (usually just 2-5), but the primary tool we use is playing time.

Step 1: Effort, Step 2: ????, Step 3: Profit!

So once you've got effort, then you can start to do more. Schematically you can expand, you can add in new techniques, you're free to do more because you have already created the most important thing: great effort. To use a common phrase, putting scheme before effort is putting the cart before the horse. You can go back to effort once you've installed your complexity, but you've sacrificed time and allowed the players to learn to play at a level below what you consider acceptable. Instead, do things right the first way and make effort your only thought until they prove that they will continue to give great effort with or without your reminding. Then, and only then, can you start to think about more.

December 14, 2010

More Posts Incoming…

    Probably. We had a heck of an interesting season and I've been busy getting settled into the post-season. It's my hope that I'll be able to find more time to write articles and get some more philosophizing done. Some season highlights:

  • Lose our (likely D-I when he's finished) junior starting QB for most of the season to a mis-diagnosed broken foot
  • Got beat a combined 88-22 the first two weeks.
  • Reclaimed our rivalry trophy after a stupid-ass DC made a lousy game plan that surrendered it for the first time last year.
  • Went either 5-3-2 with 2 OT tie breakers or 7-3, depending on how you're scoring at home. According to our league, we're 5-3-2.
  • Lost in the first round of playoffs to the eventual section champion, who beat our week 2 opponent for the title.
  • Placed had 4/5 of our OL and ¾ of our DL make 1st or 2nd team all-league, all but one of which are juniors.
  • I almost got fired during pregame one week.
  • Graduated my first group of 4-year players, coached 'em from freshman to seniors. Very sad to see some of them go, especially our ILB/FB. Great kid, gonna be a damn good position coach if he wants it.
  • I became a much better coach, albeit at the expense of some sanity/happiness. I work for a very difficult man, but there's no doubt that he's helped me a lot.

Not sure what the offseason holds, there's a lot of issues in the air. I'm definitely going to keep posting here, hopefully the readership hasn't completely abandoned me. As a sort of manifesto for what I'm going to be writing about, here's what I've been researching and planning on talking about in the coming months:

  • Belly Series football, a frequently popular topic on CoachHuey. I'm hoping to maybe set up a mini-interview or two with Lochness and Groundchuck from Huey, both of whom have a great thing going with their belly series offenses.
  • John Wooden. Great man, very good coach, I've been learning a lot about him and his philosophy.
  • John Gagliardi. Same reasons, basically.
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Great book so far, pretty dense reading though. Hoping to finish it and have a write-up over Christmas vacation.
  • More 3-4 stuff. For being a pretty heavy 3-4 devotee, I haven't written all that much about it.
  • Whatever catches my fancy. I have the unfortunate trait that everything interests me, so it frequently feels like I'm just bouncing between topics going "Oooh, shiny…"

November 2, 2010

MS OneNote & Football: Part 1

Details on how it all works:
Basically, OneNote is a way to gather all of your info into one easily managed and compiled source.

You start out by creating a notebook, which will have separate sections and pages per section that will organize the specifics of whatever you're working on. I have 3 notebooks going: 1 for football stuff, 1 for lesson plans, 1 for recipes. It looks something like the toolbar picture attached.


You'll see a whole bunch of different sections for the football notebook, titled Weights, Offense, Defense, Specials, Culture. Within each section there's different pages based on the different aspects of each. For example, the defensive section is divided into the fronts, coverages, blitzes that are a part of my scheme. See the attached Pages picture.

From there, you can use the OneNote Snipping tool to insert screen caps of whatever you want, the example I used here was a response to a C.2 corner thread from CoachHuey.com that I inserted into the C.2 sub-page of the coverages pages under the defense section of the football notebook.



So, using OneNote in that way, you can organize and steal and acquire lots of info into one easily organized and managed source. This is the first use that I've got for it. More to come, probably.

July 10, 2010

My Argument For Coaching The Whole Person

It's Not Enough...
In a recent thread on Coach Huey, an argument sprung up surrounding the role of coaches within kids lives. Everyone was very assured that they, in fact, were correct and it was more than a little bit heated, which was unfortunate. It began with a video being posted of QB guru and expert Darin Slack, where he passionately lays out his case for the kids to become aware that the QB position is "Not about you". This is an interesting issue to me because I feel that it closely ties in with Viktor Frankl's book that I recently discussed/introduced.

We're Famous For Our Masochism
Football coaches are particularly famous for the amount of time, energy, money, etc that we put into our passion. My uncle, a very successful coach who lives about an hour away, has more or less forsaken the idea of having his own children because he could never find a woman who could come to terms with the fact that every year he has a family of around 150 children. Every volunteer coach I know gives up money they could be making in order to be there. Every teaching coach I know has taken a voluntary vow of poverty (almost extreme poverty in our district) as part of the gig.
Every offseason we go to clinics, we visit colleges, we have informal sit-downs over BBQ and suds, in an effort to do the things we do BETTER than we've done it before. We buy DVDs, we read books (!), we visit message boards and post stupid questions that we know are dumb but we ask anyways, because we want the learning and the knowledge. But WHY does all of this matter?

It's More Than Football
There's no crime in being an excellent technical coach. I dare say that it's my dream to be considered an expert at producing great technicians in any position. Teaching the technical skills necessary for the game is critical, we cannot roll a ball out and have the team scrimmage for a half hour and expert meaningful improvement. Tim Murphy, one of the most successful coordinators of the double-wing offense, an offense that is largely used to beat up and roll over and physically assert oneself on the opponent, is a fantastic coach of the offensive line.
But the problem for me comes down to this: we cannot only coach the technical skills of our players. We have to coach the whole athlete, all of them, not just coach what we need them to be able to execute. We have to address their personal deficiencies in addition to their athletic ones. We must take EVERY aspect of them and do our damnedest to make ALL of them better, because not doing so is not enough.

You're Overstepping Your Bounds
Maybe. But I don't think so. There's a reason why we have interscholastic sports and it's not fundraising. The purpose behind interscholastic sports is in the meaning of the word extracurricular, which is what sports are. They're for the purpose of going BEYOND the curriculum, they are there to teach something that will not and cannot be learned within the walls of the classrooms.
Now I am not saying that we must all become avatars of His Holiness, Sir Timothy Tebow or disciples of Joe Ehrmann, but we need to have a goal within our programs to improve every aspect of our players, not just their technical skills and physical ability. You can do this in any number of ways, from outwardly preaching and proselytizing, to selecting a scheme that develops the kinds of character you want, to running an offseason weights program that enhances these things, the options are numerous and varied. But you need to do something. Failing to address your players inadequacies or deficiencies is unacceptable because we cannot be content to simply produce more football players. Football will end one day, but their lives will stretch much further and be much more influential. When football is over, our work at creating the best technical player is done and gone, but our work at creating the best PERSON will continue and carry on for quite some time.

Copy-Paste-Fin
These are my final thoughts from the last response in the Coach Huey thread and I think it fits nicely here:
At the end of the day, it cannot only be about the football. If it's only about the football, then I will have wasted every moment of every day that I've spent working on football, both as a coach and as a player. There has to be more to it than just football or this world would've been better off without me, and that's one thing I won't have.

July 8, 2010

Deathly Serious Topic...

My Worst Fear
No joke, I hate zombies. I'm not really one to worry or get scared about much, but zombies freak me the **** out. I pray to God I never need it, but I do, in fact, have a plan in the event of the zombie apocalypse. I highly recommend you do two things: first, read http://www.amazon.com/Zombie-Survival-Guide-Complete-Protection/dp/1400049628/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278627473&sr=8-1 and http://www.amazon.com/World-War-Oral-History-Zombie/dp/0307346617/ref=pd_sim_b_1. Nothing will prepare you for the zombie apocalypse like those two books. Secondly, take the time to fill out the below image, even if it's only mentally.
Good luck, and happy hunting!

July 5, 2010

Book Review: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Amazon Link:http://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/0807014273/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278375358&sr=8-1

In no way, shape, or form is this a football book…

This book will have nothing to do with football. In fact, the surface layer of the book couldn't be further from football, with the first portion dealing with Frankl's time as a Jew in a Nazi internment camp and the second portion detailing Frankl's approach to psychotherapy. Frankl's description of his time in the internment camps is shocking, depressing, and painfully visceral. There's not a man whose heart pumps blood that won't be affected by Frankl's prose and storytelling, but that's almost beside the point because this book isn't intended to be some literary version of Schindler's List or Life Is Beautiful. The truly important thing to take away from Frankl's short, but powerful book is his approach to psychotherapy and, by extension, life.

Don't tell me how to live!

Getting past the whole "You're not my real dad!" reaction that a lot of people have when presented with someone telling them what to think or how to structure their values, etc, this book really does have the power to change how you approach your life. Regardless of your belief system, Frankl's book has the ability to focus your life and what you consider to be important.

Simply put: Frankl's book asks us to consider if we're leading a life that we deem meaningful. Whatever you want that to mean is what it means, but the question stands: are you able to find meaning in your life? Frankl asks us to disregard the pursuit of happiness as a foolish and/or temporary notion, because if happiness itself is the destination then what are we to do if we fail, or worse yet, what is left when we succeed? In either case, the pursuit of happiness hasn't result in anything that we can take to our graves with a sense of contentment. Frankl would rather we find something with meaning and commit to that, hopefully finding happiness along the way. If happiness proves to be elusive, then at least we've pursued and hopefully accomplished something meaningful. We may not be able to be happy about that, but at least we can find contentment and/or comfort from it.

So why do I care?

Well, depending on who you are, this book can be great for how you approach what you want to accomplish as a coach, player, parent, whatever. If your goal is first and foremost to win, then this book will seem lame or forced. If your goal is to show up and do your best, this book might be too serious for your tastes. What this book may do for you as a coach is this: it may provide you with an attitude and a culture that can apply whether you're a front-runner or a bottom-dweller. If you make your program about the pursuit of happiness (wins, postseason appearances, accolades, etc) then your culture will be about only that and again, the issue becomes what happens when you fail to accomplish it? Or, when you do? If your goal is to go 13-0 and win the section championship, what's your goal the next year? Do it again? And again? No, the goal has to be something else, something with meaning and purpose. Happiness will come and go in a program with a purpose beyond happiness itself, but what will last beyond that is the meaning that you've infused in your program.

July 4, 2010

Teaching Formations Follow-Up/Example: 3-4 Adjustments

Kind of A Re-Hash, But Whatever...

I wanted to follow up on an older post with some specific examples of how it can all work together. I'll let the pictures do the talking and try to post the PPT slides for downloading if you want.


Real Quick Note:

With the 3-4, most've your adjustments will happen with safeties and OLBs. I make it a point to try to divorce the interior 5 (DL and ILBs) from the adjustors (OLBs and safeties) and both from the trained monkeys (CBs). Corners are beautiful, fragile creatures, but we never want them thinking. Ever.

If you're a 4-4 team, most of your adjustments will happen with your OLBs and FS. Same for 3-3 teams. 4-3 teams can adjust in a variety of ways, depends on the philosophy and coverage of the DC.

OLBs:

Safeties:

Putting Them Together:

Scribd Link:

Alignments PPT


Wrap-Up

Hopefully this offers some insight into how I want to approach formations and their variants, as well as help you consider how you can teach a consistent set of rules and alignments so that there's zero confusion for your kids. Also, helps a great deal with disguising if you ALWAYS align the same way.

June 30, 2010

Book Review: Football’s 46 Defense by Rex Ryan



I Love Rex Ryan.

It's true. The man is crazy like a fox, aggressive as hell, and brash like you read about. At least part of this is because of the fictional character Rex Ryan from NFL humor blog KissingSuzyKolber, which I think may not actually be all that fictional. Ex: Careful, naughty, hysterical language compared with Real Life Naughty Language. I ask you, WHICH ONE IS THE REAL REX???

Humor aside, Rex Ryan is a phenomenal coach who just does things differently. I've seen diagrams of some of his blitz schemes that he's actually run with the Jets and they are both BRILLIANT and INSANE. Probably the most ridiculous example would be a blitz where he rushes three on two to the blitz side and then has a 1 tech loop to outside contain on the other side, all while playing standard cover 3 behind it. The quarterback gets the perception of pressure, but the defense gets the security of full, uncompromised coverage, so it's really a win-win for the D.


I Really Like The 46.

I think that it behooves just about any defense to have a 46 front change of pace. My D of choice is a 3-4, which I think matches up brilliantly with the 46, but I know 4-4, 4-3, 3-3 coaches who all have 46 packages in their playbook. The 46 lets you cover up your LBs, puts immediate and central pressure on the OL and QB in passing game, and, all things considered, is relatively cheap to install. If you run man coverage and shade your DL, you can do it. If you don't, you still can because the DL's assignments are very simple and you can run some pretty simple 3x3 zone out of it.


On With The Book

This book is thorough and easy to understand while presenting the ins and outs of the entire scheme. It's like getting a simplified version of the DVD set for much cheaper. You come away with a great understanding of how to install, adjust, and coordinate the 46 in a way that follows Ryan's acronym K.I.L.L.: "Keep It Learnable and Likeable". There's two sections that are great and fairly scheme independent: the first on loaded zone coverage and the other on 3 technique play. Both can be easily translated to other defenses quite easily.

June 29, 2010

Frickin’ Kickers…

I've been watching the World Cup, all I'm left with is the impression that this is what (American) football would be like if all the players were punters or placekickers. Every time some skinny dude falls on the ground and rolls around grimacing in pain because a mosquito bit him, I just want someone to walk out from the sidelines, grab him by the hair, and drag him off, making his team play 10v11 until his va-jay-jay swelling has gone down. F***ing sack up, you're embarrassing your countries.

Coach Dos: BAMF

This isn't going to be a terribly long post, but I just wanted to point out someone who I have been learning more and more about: Robert Dos Remedios, M.A. CSCS. Coach Dos is the head S&C coach at College of the Canyons in Southern California and is a growing name in the S&C community for his slightly different approach to lifting. He does a lot of non-traditional exercises for conditioning in addition to the usual 'jacking iron' that every football S&C coach will do. I could try to explain it more, but frankly I just don't have the background to accurately give detailed info on his stuff. Instead, I'll link you two cool sites that I really enjoy: Dos' Website and Dos' Youtube Channel. Two things to consider from his YouTube stuff: 1-no 'fatties' in his CoC football videos, and 2-how mentally tough do you think his guys are after doing some of his workouts? A lot of coaches pay a lot of lip service to wanting to have tougher athletes, but having done some of Dos' cardio strength workouts, I can tell you that finishing those with max effort takes you to a special place and you're PROUD of yourself when you're done.

You can find a lot of neat products from Coach Dos at his website, including his two books that are both easy reads and have lots of great stuff in them. As an aspiring HC, I think there's absolutely a place in every program for his kind of stuff.

June 27, 2010

What I Hate Defending: Series Based Football

Well, If You're Gonna Stop That...
If you ask a defensive coach what they hate to defend, you'll get a lot of similar answers, some of the most common being: triple option, the doublewing, and unorthodox schemes (frequent unbalanced formations, archiac offenses like the single wing, warp-speed no huddle, etc). And there's good reason for all of that, all of those things are a mother ****er to defend. Triple option makes you wrong, even when you're right. Doublewing takes your normal approach to defense and turns it on its ear.
But what I don't see much of and don't relish seeing, is true, series based football. When I say that, what I mean is that the plays being run are part of a progression and are made to take advantage of defensive adjustments to the base play. If you can't stop the base play of the series, you will continue to see it until you do stop it or until you adjust to it in such a way that you're exposed elsewhere.

Then We're Going To Do This...
An example of this would be the Belly Series in the Wing-T. The Belly Series offers a base play that is truly a bitch to defend, Belly Crossblock. Run and read correctly, the play can hit almost anywhere on the defensive front and have success. Stopping it in practice is just brutal for my D because our LBs have to fit precisely and trust others to be where the have to be, our DL needs to play with phenomenal gap integrity, and we have to wrap up on a tough fullback (we've got 3 GOOD FBs, too) when we are in position to make the play. But what makes it rough is that Belly Crossblock is just phase 1.
If you're stopping Belly Crossblock by having your OLB fold inside (assuming a typical 4-4), then the next step is to run Belly Option. Belly Option shows the exact same backfield, the exact same playside blocking scheme, and the exact same mesh as Belly Crossblock. Your OLB folds inside, our QB pulls and runs option with the motioning WB. If you're stopping B-C with great backside flow from your BSLB, then the choice is to run Tackle Trap. If you're stopping Tackle Trap by chasing it down, we can run Trap Option. If you're just doing a phenomenal job playing the run in all it's phases, we can run Belly Keep Pass and make you wrong.

So you drank the Kool-Aid, huh?
Kind of, but that's beside the point. As Chris Brown at Smartfootball.com likes to say, these are great examples of constraint plays, plays designed to keep the defense from effectively shutting down what you want to do. These plays are designed to have the same backfield action, same mesh, the same LOOK to the defense for the first precious moments before suddenly becoming something else. It's misdirection, it's opportunism, it's efficiency in action. What is important about these is that you aren't calling them based off of a hunch or a gamble or "because I want to". There are very specific defensive reactions that you can look for and use against the defense in order to make them wrong for trying to be right.
There's nothing imprecise about it, it's all about observing the defense and then taking advantage. The big question becomes Who made the play? and then your decision making process is much more simplified. If the OLB made the play, you run either Option or Keep Pass. If the BSLB made the play, you run Tackle Trap.

Ok, That Sounds Difficult...
The long-term effect of playing a truly series based offense is that your players will inevitably fall victim to the dread of all defensive coordinators: TRYING to make the play. For a long, long time, my alma mater has read the same "10 Commandments" before every game, a 10 item list of what our players need to do for us to get the win. One of the most important commandments has always been, in my eyes, #7 which simply reads: Do your job.
When your 3 technique stops trying to step and strike and follow his BD-SD rules and instead starts trying to make the play, you lose some defensive integrity. When the WILB starts watching the backfield instead of keying his guards, a little more is gone. When your FS starts getting tired of tackling a RB who has a full head of steam at 8 yards and starts trying to get him at 4 or 5, more is gone. Your players get tired of incorrectly defending the same series again and again and again and your defensive discipline is lost. Frustration sets in, people start trying rather than doing (Yoda knows his shit), and the snowball starts turning into an avalanche.

So Who Are The Worst Offenders?
That's just the thing! Potentially ANY offense is a series based offense if the OC has the foresight, creativity, and PATIENCE (!) to make it so. The Wing-T is a fairly complete offense in that it has several main series (Down, Sweep, Belly) with at least 3-4 constraint plays to each series, in addition to other minor series (Rocket and Jet, to name a few more popular ones), but it by no means has a lock-down on the concept. Spread to throw offenses can be series based, spread to run offenses can be series based, as can I formation offenses, veer offenses, single back zone offenses, all of them CAN BE. What I think separates the really good OCs from the rest is that they have the ability to recognize what defensive adjustments can happen, they have the creativity to figure out how to put those adjustments into conflict, and they have the patience to exploit them when it matters rather than right now.
A popular saying that I've heard from offenses coaches goes "Run your reverses early and your leads (FB iso) late". By following that piece of advice, the theory is that you'll have the defense off-guard from the get-go and unable to make effective adjustments when you want to pound it home at the end of the game. But the good OCs are the ones who see an adjustment and tuck it into their back pocket for later. Maybe not later as in 2 quarters from now, but maybe just later on in the drive. For example, after running Belly Crossblock for a 3 yard gain on 3rd and 3 and noticing that the OLB made the play, rather than going to Belly Option immediately, waiting on it until there's a better chance to score (+25 yardline) or a more important situation (crucial 3rd down).
A particular OC in my league had a bad, bad habit last year in his playcalling with regards to his passing game. In the first drive, he would ALWAYS run a 3-step hitch play, without fail. If that drive lasted to a 3rd series of downs, he would call hitch-and-go nearly every time. If not, hitch-and-go was coming on the next possession. He's always been an impatient playcaller, but this was a particularly glaring tendency. He had the fastest and most dangerous collection of skilled players in the county and loved to "hang a half hundred" like Bear would say, but they underperformed against disciplined teams. If he'd thrown the hitch more often and waited for a better moment to run hitch and go, they would have assuredly had more success.
Case in point: against us he ran one hitch for 4 yards and FOUR hitch-and-gos for 0 yards because he didn't have the patience or discipline to establish the play we HAD to stop. We had no business being competitive with them if you were to compare rosters, but we squeezed out a 20-16 win with 1 offensive TD allowed by staying disciplined and opportunistic. It wasn't because of any particular schematic brilliance on my part. They run a pretty vanilla offense and we had a pretty simple game plan, our guys simply played fast and loose because they didn't have to worry about effective use of constraints. Our guys were simply allowed to be more confident in themselves because they hadn't been given reason to not be.

So If You're Such An Expert...
Not even close. I just know what I hate to defend. If I were an expert, I'd have written a book titled "Effective Use Of Constraint Plays and When To Not Use Them" or some jazz and I'd be hailed as an expert. Come to think of it, I don't know that I've ever seen such a book, so maybe I will some day, after all, I'm definitely in this biz for the fat checks...
But yeah, I've never called an offense, I've only been a DC. I realize that on the whiteboard, everything appears to work. But all things being equal, an OC who has a well-planned offense that compliments itself while constraining the defense's adjustments and the discipline to keep from panicking and try to solve things RIGHT NOW will be working with the upper hand.

June 22, 2010

Once Again Back, It's The Incredible...

So I'm trying to get back to writing on this dealie. The end of the school year was kind of brutal for me and spring practice was no gentle hug, either. But, it's summertime and, like the Sublime song says, the livin's easy, so I'll try to get back to a somewhat regular schedule of posting.


I wish I had more to write at the moment, but more content to come. I hate to leave you empty-handed, so here's a link to a weird, weird Tom Waits video.

April 11, 2010

You've been doing... WHAT???

Get Ready To Freak Out...
I've been pretty busy figuring out the last 8 weeks or so of my teaching year, enjoying Spring Break (sort of), and learning some great stuff. What great stuff, you might ask? OFFENSE! Weird as it may seem, I've been really, really enthusiastically boning up on my offensive knowledge recently, for a couple reasons:
  1. I need a break from defense. There needs to be balance, or the attempt at balance.
  2. It's been really interesting.
  3. As a future HC (someday... ?) I think it's pretty important to know exactly what you want on both sides of the ball and how you want it to happen.
Future HC?
Yeah, it's one of my goals to be a header some day. I'm not desperate to do it, I'd rather be a DC for a while and accumulate varsity experience underneath a man who's a legend around California, waiting for the right job, right position, right situation to present itself. I've a buddy who's desperate to be a HC, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in my mind, but I'm fairly confident that what will happen is that he will end up putting himself into a bad situation for his first gig. I want to be in control of what situation I put myself in and I want to make sure that when I do take that leap, I'm as ready as I can be (Not to be mistaken with ready, I don't think anyone's ready for their first header position).
Being ready implies having a complete vision for your program and what you want to do with the offense and defense. I think that it's totally cool for a HC to run the defense and have an OC that calls the plays, in fact, that'd be my preference in a perfect world. However, coming into a new program I think that it would be easier and more feasible to have a DC who runs your defense while calling your own plays on offense. Eventually, I would want to find an OC who can call, organize, and teach the offense the way I want and transition to the defensive side of the ball.

So, What's The Offense?
Well, taking a page from some particularly successful playbooks, I'm pretty sold on running the split back veer as my offense. I like triple option football because of what it does to the defense and it's big-play capacity, I like that the traditional split back formation forces the defense to adjust to a tight end, I like that your passing game is still relatively intact. If you watch De La Salle of Concord, they run a very simple, very execution-based split veer offense and do it very, very well. When Coach Lad took over at DLS, he went around to his friends who were football coaches and asked them what was the best offense he could run with slow, nonathletic smart kids. They all told him split back veer, so he learned it, and learned it, and learned it, created an atmosphere where his kids work their butts off year round, and mastered the teaching of technique to his players. Now, he has fast, athletic smart kids and wins state titles every two years or so.
My ideal situation for becoming a head coach would be one of these two options: 1-Taking over a private school with a losing program, or 2-Starting a program of my own. I'm going to do one of the two at some point, maybe even both. Heck, I could start my own program at a private and kill two birds with one stone. Regardless, either situation would be a great one for me to install the split veer as my offense.
Also, it would be run as an up-tempo, no-huddle offense to force the defense into very vanilla schemes, prevent adjustments, tire the defense, and have fun.

My Homework
What I've been reading to prep/educate me on my offense:
  • Complete Book Of Triple Option Football by Jack Olcott
  • Complete Guide To Football's Option Attack by Drew Tallman
  • Coaching The Veer Offense by George Thole, Jerry Foley
  • Homer Rice On Triple Option Football by Homer Rice
  • The Hurry-Up, No-Huddle by Gus Malzahn
  • Veersite.blogspot.com and it's ensuing message board.
And what's still to come/in the mail:
  • Attacking Modern Defenses With The Multiple-Formation Veer Offense by Steve Axman
  • Attacking Modern Defenses With Belly Option by Al Black
  • Coaching The No-Huddle Offense by G. Mark McElroy
I've also been reading a lot of threads, new and old, on CoachHuey.com about the split veer, triple option, and double dive/inside & outside belly series. It's amazing how much knowledge there is in one place, I particularly want to thank Lochness, BLB, UCBears, and GroundChuck for their contributions, none of which have been small.

March 24, 2010

Books That Influenced Me

Jumping on the bandwagon, inspired by Chris Brown's SmartFootball.com:

(In no particular order)
1-Redwall by Brian Jacques. If it weren't for fantasy literature, and especially this series, I would be a VERY different person. I was an early reader and always loved it, but this series launched me into the realm of devouring books and eagerly anticipating the next one. The first time I stayed up past 11pm was when I just HAD to finish the first book of the Redwall series because I couldn't wait to experience the finish. Hugely influential book in my life.
2-The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. Recent read, within the last year, but this book just exploded my conception of how to coach and how to approach competition and personal effort. I cannot recommend it enough to coaches, athletes, and PEOPLE.
3-Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger. Kind of a cliche, but I loved this book nonetheless. Excellently written, perfectly executed with great depth and analysis of almost every aspect of that football season. Reveals the ugly, the good, and the insightful. Not for the faint of heart, however.
4-Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Good Lord, what a book! Hugo LOVES his characters, he writes them with passion and fervor and empathy as he tells a remarkable tale that spans several decades of a man's life and explores many, many deep issues, the central of which is the nature of redemption and forgiveness. I love this book, it took me a long while to read because I had to stop, chew on what I'd just read, absorb it, think about it, before I could allow myself to move on. Not because it was difficult, but rather because it was SO GOOD that I had to savor it. Probably my favorite of all time.
5-The Malazan Book of The Fallen by Stephen Erikson. Technically 10 books, but it's my list, so deal with it. Erikson is an amazing author who creates fantastically interesting and deep characters, along with an entire universe that is never fully explained, but revealed as the stories go on. The first book, Gardens Of The Moon, is a labor to get through, but it's worth it. Erikson shows such discipline as a writer that the main focus of the series doesn't even appear until the THIRD NOVEL, with at least 1100 pages in the first two. After college, I'd been pretty burned out on reading for fun, what with being an English major and all, but this series restored that love to me.
6-The Bible. I'm a born-again Christian (OH NO HE SAID IT!) and the Bible has been an amazing thing in my life. I don't read it as much as I should, which is unfortunately a bit of a meta-statement about my faith, but it's a journey, not a destination. Wonderful parables and stories, the best selling book of all time!
7-A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado. Written for Christians by a Christian pastor, Lucado uses the very famous passage of I Corinthians 13:4-8 (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.) as a starting point for a series of essays about the nature of love in a Christian setting and how we can use God's love for us as an example in our own lives.
8-A Season Of Life by Jeffrey Marx. Excellent read, another that I'd consider a must-have for football coaches. Examines what it is to be a man, what our roles as coaches is, and tells a beautiful story about a man's reunion with his fairly estranged father. Touching book, easy read, no reason not to do it.
9-Norton Anthology Of Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, always have, always will. I can't really single out any one thing, but some of my favorites: A Winter's Tale, R&J, King Lear, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Henry series, it goes on... Fantastic storyteller and writer, I've never read a play by Shakespeare and been disappointed by it. Hell, I even liked Shakespeare In Love (movie) because of all the references/tributes/nods to famous lines and events in his life and stories. Plus Gwenyth Paltrow reminds me of a girl I went on a few dates with.
10-The Dragonlance series by Margret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. Total fantasy lit nerd, one of the better fantasy lit series made, chubby childhood, roll them together and you get me! I'm no longer chubby or a child (I like to think fit and young adult) but the other two are still true and, like Redwall, I read the shit out of these books. Somewhere in my parent's basement are BOXES of books from this series that I read several times. Hell, I still remember important lines of dialogue and it's been like, a decade and a half.

So there.

March 16, 2010

Book Review: Football's Eagle and Stack Defenses by Ron Vanderlinden


Buy This Or You're Dumb
It's really about that simple folks. I don't care what your defensive system is, 3-3, 3-4, 4-3, 4-4, Bear, Variable UFO Defense of Doomination, this book has something in it that you'll read, re-read, and realize that it's not only good, but it can help you. I read it in about 2 days, which is saying something because it's not a light book at 248 pages which are largely dense, technical football writing. It's not a book of diagrams and whatnot, it's friggin' WRITING. It's cheap, it's thorough, it's one of the best football books written in a long time.

So, What's It About?
Imagine if you could buy the basic, nuts and bolts knowledge needed to install and coordinate a defense that's flexible, multiple, and fairly simple. This is your chance to do that. It's no Tony Franklin System for defense, but it IS quite excellent for gaining a very functional understanding of exactly how Vanderlinden's scheme works. He gives you a thorough explanation of how they set and dictate the fronts, how that overlaps with the coverages, and how people's run responsibilities play out. Not only that, he gives you very easy to understand directions regarding how his defense would defend common run plays versus the different fronts that he runs.
That alone would be good stuff, very valuable for everyone's growth as a coach, regardless of scheme. But what I really, really like is he gives a pretty sweet explanation of coverages, techniques, and defensing some common routes that might be an issue. I'm the first to admit that my knowledge of DB play is quite limited. This gave me some really great insight into HOW some coverage components work, from a schematic and a technical perspective. I'm no DB guru now, but reading that was quite helpful for me personally.
Lastly, Vanderlinden explains a few of his favorite blitzes. I love blitzes, I love blitzing. One of the things I grew to love about running a 3-4 defense was how damn flexible it was for blitzing and blitzing creatively. Being a football coach, I love to steal, and Vanderlinden's got some good stuff. He explains them pretty thoroughly, which is cool, but he also explains a lot of his thought process behind them and when/why he uses them. Getting insight into the mind and motivations of one of the best coordinators around is precious information and he offers it readily.
Oh, there's also a fairly extensive section on technique for positions.

So, What You're Trying To Say Is...
First, buy this book. Second, read this book. Third, ???. Four, Profit!

March 1, 2010

Understanding Youth, Society, And Crime: The Wire

If Snot Boogie Always Stole The Money, Why'd You Let Him Play?
The Wire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_wire), created by former Baltimore Sun crime reporter David Simon, is arguably the greatest TV show of all time. This isn't just me saying it because I happen to be a huge fan of it. It's been in the discussion for years by a lot of people who are much, much smarter than me. There's a class on it offered at Harvard University. President Obama lists it as one of his favorite shows to watch. My pot-head, tie-dye wearing, bike to school 16 year old TA raves about the symbolism, parallelism, and cinematography of it. It has a universal appeal to just about anyone. It's most prestigious award was a WGA award for best drama in 2008.

It's A Thin Line Between Heaven And Here...
So what's it about? EVERYTHING. The show is remarkable in that it operates on layers and levels that I've personally never seen before. My best description goes something like this: The Wire is about the way that drugs in Baltimore infect and influence life on every level, from the street corner 'hoppers' to the mayors and senators, and in a variety of settings. One of the most interesting things about the five seasons of The Wire is that in each season, creator/producer David Simon chooses a new focus to examine. In season 1, we get to see the role of technology in the pursuit of drug traffickers, season 2, the role of the docks and dockworkers, season 3, the influence of drug money on politics and business, season 4 (arguably the most important season, in my mind) the role of youth in the drug game, and season 5 examines the role that the media plays in this whole drug 'war'.
The plot is excellent, never predictable (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnyoneCanDie), and the show is fantastically acted. The strength of Simon's drama, however, comes from his characters. This is true of his other works too, Generation Kill had some fantastic characters (based off of real people, but excellently presented nonetheless). The Wire features an amazing assortment of characters, a few of my favorites:
  • Omar - Frequently quotable stick-up artist who makes a living knocking of drug dealers' safe houses and stashes. Also, a gay black man, which makes him an outcast in just about every way in the black community of Baltimore.
  • Jimmy McNulty - The ultimate good guy who doesn't wear white. McNulty sleeps around, drinks excessively, lies, manipulates, the whole she-bang. But, McNulty is "natural po-lice" and is ultimately the one responsible for the whole series.
  • Stringer Bell - One of the heads of the Barksdale drug empire, Stringer is refined, well-kept, and determined to treat drugs as a business. A highlight moments feature Stringer lecturing two of the workers at one of his fronts about the difference between an elastic and inelastic product or consulting his professor about economic strategy that he then puts to use in the drug game.
  • Bubbles - Transient drug addict who works as a CI for the BPD. Bubbles has one of the few happy endings in the series, but also goes through probably the worst torments, too. Brilliantly portrayed by Andre Royo, based on a real person that Simon met while working at the Sun.
And All The Pieces Matter...
So why am I talking about The Wire on a football coaching blog? One, it's that good. It really is. Two, I think that watching the fourth season is a great exercise in reminding us as coaches how important we really are. Our wins and losses and various battles we fight are important, no doubt, but the most important thing we can do is keep kids from turning to other things. Season four shows us what happens to kids in bad situations who don't get the important, positive, nurturing and supportive MALE leadership necessary in their lives. It shows us what happens when kids are given options in what they should be doing with their lives. If you can watch season four and not feel a little more motivated to be there for your boys a little more, to provide that much more of a role model, to sacrifice just a few more moments to make sure that they're taken care of, well, I'm at a loss for words. It's powerful, enthralling, and relevant.
Watching seasons 1-3 in order to be well informed while watching season 4 isn't crucial, but c'mon, it beats the hell out of basketball season :)

February 28, 2010

Being A Professional: What's It Mean?

Whore For Money
I don't think that getting paid to do something necessarily means that you're a 'whore', but I joke about it because I think I have a weird approach to work. Simply put: If you're paying me to do a job, I will do it. It might be demeaning and unfair and more than a little crappy (I've literally had a job where I was asked to dig up septic tanks), but I'll do it because you're paying me and that's what comes with the job. I don't complain, I don't work any less, I don't look to avoid my responsibilities. If I hate it, I'll either voice my thoughts in an appropriate setting or quit. Haven't quit a job yet. Working at a summer camp, I've had to teach art, make PB&J sandwiches, operate a ropes course, plan the parents night, pretend to be a lifeguard, rent a sno-cone machine, spend ~36 hours straight with my campers, go to meetings on personal time, go without eating for a day, give away my lunch, hug a boy who'd just wet himself and me, break up arguments/fights, build an RC car track, make stew for ~180 people, and clean the bathrooms. It was my job to do each and every one of those things, and more, and I did them without complaint because I believe that if it's my job, my duty is to soldier on.
I don't believe in being a sycophant, I like to think I speak my mind consistently. I don't believe that I have no rights as someone who is being paid to do a job, nor do I think any employer should be able to dump on their employees just because. I just think that too often people make a big deal about the things that, in my opinion, are actually a part of their job. Don't like it? Do something about it or quit, don't bitch and moan.

So Maybe I'm A Hypocrite
And yet, I find myself unhappy with my current situation. We've hired a new HC who is a proven winner, a guy who is widely regarded as a legend in the central valley of California. At a gathering of Wing-T minds yesterday (I don't have the secret handshake down, but I know the location of their lair) I watched him speak informally for 45 minutes and blow about 30 minds with simple, concise advice for everyone he'd listened to for the previous 4 hours. Dude's unbelievable. I have no doubt in my mind that our league is about to get ripped a new one. The kind of physical training, mental training, and specifically offensive brilliance that he's introducing just doesn't exist in this part of CA.
So why am I bummed out? Well, the defense that we ran last year has been scrapped. I worked damn hard on developing a 3-4 scheme that I felt good about and, for most of this offseason, I'd done the majority of my work on making it better. I won't say that it's been wasted, because no learning is ever a waste, but it's definitely not as useful as it could have been. We had some great success last year, sporting the #2 defense in our league and #6 defense in the local tri-county area, which I was very proud of. We had one game where we allowed 37 yards, total, against a team that finished 2nd in their league. We forced 5 turnovers in one game, recorded 7 sacks in another, and kept our team in games much longer than we should have. The kids liked the scheme, the coaches liked it, I began to love it.
But none of this matters now. We're moving to a 4-4/4-3 hybrid that is predicted on simplicity and bodies to the ball. One front, minimal blitzing, lots of Cover 3 and only a smattering of Cover 4. I have a hard time feeling comfortable with several things within the scheme. I don't particularly care for the way we're going to play our front, I don't like some of the nuts and bolts of the scheme.
What does matter, though, is that as the DC, it's my job to coach and run what the HC wants. He wants his defense to be a certain scheme, then if I am going to be his DC, I'm going to do it that way. I won't complain, I will ask questions, I will try to see what leeway I have, and I will bite my tongue, but I won't complain. I won't saying anything negative about it to anyone but the HC and MAYBE a few, select others. I will coach the hell out of our guys, regardless of anything else. It's my job, my duty, my role to be supportive and loyal. If it's intolerable, then I can either voice my concerns or do something else, but I will stay true to what I believe it means to be a "Pro".

February 11, 2010

Off-Topic: Coach Speckman

Ran into my college HC last week when he was in town visiting two of our guys. It's always a lot of fun to see him because he's such a great guy and such a priceless character. For those of you who don't know about him, Mark Speckman, HC at Willamette University (DIII) in Salem, Or. was born without hands. Rather than be limited by them, he's been motivated by them, accomplishing things that most people never will. Read more about him at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Speckman or http://www.speckmanspeaks.com/ (I'm just off-camera in that one).

I'll give you an example of what makes him so incredible:
For some background info, I hate Oregon. Well, I hate it now, I liked it for like, two years before growing to hate it with a passion. I hated the rain, hated the weather, hated a lot of the type of people that I'd run into up there. What was always a surprise was how hot and almost muggy August could be up there.
One August it's particularly hot in Salem during our fall camp. We're having a team meeting in a small lecture room type thing and it's uncomfortable to say the least. 100+ football players in a poorly ventilated room = no bueno. Coach Speck is up at the front doing a talk about something that involves the overhead projector. He's a little grouchy because it's hot, but his grouchy is usually pretty funny, until he gets mad.
Using a project for Coach Speck isn't easy and this one was no different. Turns it on, it's out of focus. Focuses the lens, but forgot to separate the coversheet from the xerox transparency. Lens is focused, transparency is visible, but the screen is too small. For a man with no hands, there's a lot of grasping and turning and whatnot that needs to be done. Speck's getting frustrated. He's fighting with each cover sheet on each transparency because it's hot and his wrists are a little slick from perspiration and so he can't get as much friction as he'd like to separate the two.
So Coach Speck reaches over and turns on the fan so he can cool off a bit. Fan starts in the stationary mode, but he puts it on oscillate because it "reminds me of that good ol' modesto breeze, like being at the dump..." Problem is, he had to move the cart that the projector was on in order to plug the fan in. So he has to go through all the trouble of fixing the focus, adjusting the size, etc all over again and he's getting down right annoyed. Guys are complaining about the image on the screen, so he pushes the cart forward to where it had been. Cart moves forward, pushes on the cord of the fan, fan turns and oscillates right into a stack of ~110 papers Coach was going to hand out.
FWOOM! Papers every where. Speck grabs his visor, throws it on the ground, and we get ready for the fury. "GOD DAMMIT!" Collective intake of breath. "I can't do anything right today! Friggin' projector is out of focus, slides are being a pain, fan's blowing paper everywhere, I GOT NO GODDAMN HANDS!" 110 men absolutely loose their shit.
Anyone would have excused Coach Speck for getting annoyed with the situation, except for him. There was never an excuse that was good enough for him, never a reason why something couldn't be done. It was either that you hadn't figured out how or you didn't actually want to.
To leave you, here's a short list of the things I've witnessed him do:
  • Play racquetball
  • Throw a 40 yard spiral
  • Play the worst Rock Paper Scissors 2 out of 3 you've ever seen
  • CATCH A WATER BALLOON THROWN FROM THE PRESS BOX
  • Drive, while talking on his cell phone, pre-Bluetooth
  • Mimic boy scout flag signals to hysterical effect
  • Play the trombone (Not in person, but seen video)

So what's stopping you from accomplishing your goals?

February 4, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Holy Cow!

Getting this teaching job has been awesome for me in a lot of ways, but my goodness have I been slaving to catch up to where we're at in terms of grading and lesson plan prep, etc. I'll try to start re-posting regularly in another week or so, but I've got to get settled and into a flow first. I just submitted progress reports last night and approximately 45% of my kids have "F" grades because they're just not turning in work, which means emails home to parents all weekend, among other things.

On the coaching front, it's been a very exciting time as we've hired a new HC who is a top-notch coach. He's been a winner pretty much everywhere he's been, with several section championship rings and a state coach of the year award to his credit. With him he brings the Wing-T, complete with the winged helmet design and all, and a very interesting quiet intensity and confidence that are obviously indicators of why he's been so successful in the past. I'm hoping I can convince him to allow me to retain our 3-4 scheme, but if he insists on a 4-4 look, well, I've got some ideas on that, too.

January 16, 2010

Ramble: 'Growing Up'

When I became a man, I put away childish things...
So I got hired for my first actual teaching position last week, teaching at a nice school about 45 minutes away from where I live. Kids are great, school is top-notch, I'm going to get A LOT of help with my curriculum planning-which means less actual work for me than normal-and there's even attractive, young lady teachers! Plus, in 5 months I'm going to make more than I've ever made in a single year. Very exciting times for me, right?
Well, kinda wrong. As much as I hate being a sub, and HATE being poor, it's still fun to be able to go home and have NOTHING to do aside from play Call Of Duty, ramble on Coach Huey, read, etc. You don't get to live that way very long in your life. The "post-college" years of life are a pretty awesome time for me so far, but I know that they're not only limited, they're rapidly dwindling for me. It's a funny time, in my opinion, because it's the end of some parts of my life and the beginning of others, with pros and cons to each. I'm no longer allowed to be a poverty-struck slacker, I need to take up the responsibilities that come with employment, 'age', and supposed maturity.
But what is it to 'grow up'? I've been saying for years that I don't feel much different than when I was 14 (25 now). I still laugh at ridiculously stupid things, have a sense of humor that-if anything-is getting more unique, watch South Park with more regularity now than 8th grade, and will occasionally forget to bathe for a day or three. I pay income taxes, cook my own meals, and sometimes even fix stuff around the house. I'm put in charge of the education and growth of teenagers in a variety of capacities, and yet most of my immediate friends are recreational (whatever the hell that means) pot heads.

What I think...
I think that growing up isn't just getting older, it's realizing that there's pleasure in taking on things that are difficult or unwelcome. It's reaching a point where you aren't the most important in your world (Ignoring the typical 'erotic' or 'parental' love that springs to mind for most people) and doing things for other people because that's what needs to be done. It's taking the things that used to dominate your time and your world and beginning to moderate them and phase them out of your life at times.
I'm by no means an expert on all this. This is something that's been on my mind a lot recently, but really has been brought to the forefront with recent events. I read a book last week called Do Hard Things, which I'll definitely post about in full at another date, which is geared towards inspiring teenagers to reject the way that society treats them and seek out responsibility, and am currently reading another called Man's Search For Meaning, written by a psychologist Holocaust survivor about his experiences and what he has drawn from them. I got a job, a real job, the first of my CAREER. I've had a series of conversations covering a wide range of stuff with a wide range of people, most having something to do with me and my life. All in all, I've been stewing on being a grown up a lot.

Good gets better...
I think there is no best point in life, if you're doing it right. Every phase of my life just keeps getting better, and better, and better. That isn't to say it gets easier, because that's absolutely not the case. In fact, life has gotten categorically harder, it's almost ridiculous at times. But in overcoming greater obstacles and living up to greater responsibilities, there's greater satisfaction and greater contentment. As I enter this next 'phase' of my life, I'm friggin' excited. I'm ecstatic. I'm eager like you wouldn't believe. I'm all these things because I know that it's going to be the best time of my life, until I enter the phase after that (I'm presuming marriage, but who knows what order things will happen in), which will only be better. So, let the good times roll, but let's also appreciate and enjoy that the easy times have long since sailed.

January 13, 2010

4-3 ‘Flex’ Blitzes: What I’d Do

As promised, I’m going to show a few blitzes that I would run if this scheme were my own. They’re not perfect, but looking at the diagrams, I think that they have some good potential. One thing that I like is the ease with which the Flex position can move two gaps across the line due to his upright position, as well as give a hard step upfield and turn and run to his drop. I’m looking forward to doing something similar this year with my Will backer, who’s just dynamite on the blitz.

Starting Simple: A Fairly Typical Fire Zone


This is a pretty simple concept that you’ll see repeated in pretty much every defensive playbook that features the traditional 3 deep, 3 under coverage. Ordinarily I’d run this with the Mac blitzing and the Will dropping to the middle hole, but with this scheme’s calling for the Mac to play at 7 yards, I find it more practical to have the Will take the blitz. The dropping Rush has the SCF, Seam Curl Flat, drop to the weakside. In order to keep terminology consistent within our scheme, we call it an Area-2 Vertical-2 drop. In high school I never played in a scheme with real zone drops, only very tight and aggressive pattern read quarters. Once I went to college, we had actual zone drops, but labeled them Area-1 (Rather than Curl/Flat), Area-2 (Hook/Curl), Area-3 (middle hole). I like that system because it, in my mind, it gets the kids dropping towards receivers, rather arbitrary spots on the field. We tell someone with an Area-1 drop that their landmark is 8 yards deep and towards the top of the numbers initially, but as soon as they read 3 or 5 step they’re responsible for getting underneath the #1 receiver while hopefully leveraging anything short and underneath.

Anyways, the Mac backer takes the middle hole and the S/S drops down to get the SCF/A-2 V-2 drop vacated by the blitzing Sam. Corners are loose man to deep 1/3 drops and the FS takes the centerfield.

Important details to remember:

· The Nose has to continue his slant’s momentum outside, lest the QB break contain while avoiding the rush from his left.

· Flex needs to be sure to start laterally, rather than attacking upfield and trying to work to his gap.

· A fun change-up can have the Will creep up and show his blitz and the Flex goes after him.

Taking It Up A Notch: Sneaky Flexing Ninjas


This is a good run stunt and effective pass stunt for teams that don’t slide protect as much. The theory behind it is that the Nose will occupy the Center and Guard on his slant, while the Rush takes the Tackle upfield, thereby leaving Will and Mac free to blitz on either side of the guard. What I like about it is that the Flex can hopefully occupy the Guard (for at least a moment) in front of him by giving a hard upfield step before dropping to the hole, thereby freeing the Nose to get a 1v1 pass rush, something rare and exciting for him.

One of the problems with the design is that the Mac has to creep forward at least a few yards in order to have any chance at all of reaching the QB before the ball’s out. This makes him obvious that he’s doing something fishy, unless you’re doing it all the time, which brings up other issues. Since the scheme is predicated on execution, having an LB sugaring around and potentially being out of position is a big deal, especially when the run defense is dependent on that guy’s presence.

Edge Pressure: Not For The Weak At Heart


This one would be for good use against teams that run a lot of zone read. It’s essentially a scrape-exchange stunt on both sides of the defense, with the Sam and Will coming off the edge to play the handoff on the traditional zone read while Mac is protected by the DL and flowing to the QB, wherever the heck he is. The presence of the Flex gives you no seams against the run, but offers a good middle coverage should he read pass.

One of the problems is that the Mac is responsible for the weakside SCF/A-2 V-2. He needs to read pass quickly and get his keister out to his responsibility ASAP, but that isn’t always easy against spread teams. Best case scenario is he gets there in time for a breakup hit or maybe a pick on a great play, but the more than likely scenario is that he’s just too late. This means the corner will probably have to play tighter coverage than we’d like, but hey, there’s no perfect blitz, or everyone would do it.

Conclusions

I like this scheme, it interests me a whole lot and I think I’ve shown that with creativity and the right personnel, it can be a confusing and complicated defense to dissect. I don’t know that I’ll be incorporating much of it into what I do in the future, but if I ever have a chance to maybe work an ILB at DL and develop a kid for the spot, maybe. Who knows what the future holds.

January 6, 2010

The 4-3 'Flex' Defense: The Basics As I Know Them

Kinda The Norm, But Not Really...
My former HS head coach was a very practical, pragmatic guy and a pretty damn good coach. I love the guy, but he wasn't for everyone. As I've said before, his defense was very execution and technique oriented, without a ton of frills and doo-dads. I called the same basic call "Eagle, 87" for at least 90% of my defensive plays. We played the hell out of that Under front, Quarters coverage, with great results at times. When he left to become the header at the local CC, he found himself in the interesting situation that he was inheriting a DC who was very good, but ran a scheme that was different from his. Recognizing that this was an opportunity where he needed to embrace the issue, he kept the DC and is the head coach slash DB coach. Theirs is a funny relationship: the DC has control over most things, but the HC still gets to pull the HC card when he feels something is unsound. They make it work and have routinely fielded a very exceptional defense that's unique and personnel flexible, in my mind.

Alignments And Responsibilities
Their "Down 3" align in fairly typical alignments for typical 4-3 players of their positions. Their Rush End is outside shade the OT to the weakside, the Nose goes to inside shade of the OG to the weakside, and the End lines up outside shade the OT to the strong side. The interesting player is their "Flex" spot, who can really do a lot of things for them. Some years he's a souped-up linebacker and hits his fit, usually outside shade of the OG, on a roll. Others, he's a true-blue defensive lineman and is just playing out of a two-point stance slightly off the ball. They fit the spot to the player and his ability, which I absolutely agree with philosophically. This last season and the coming season their Flex has been a 5'11 235lb MONSTER of an athletic specimen from a local team. He plays it both ways because he can.
Their linebackers are an interesting mix of body types and skill sets. Generally their Sam is a strong-safety type because they see lots and lots of 20 personnel offenses, so they usually elect to go with a strong, athletic runner over most teams prototypical Strong Outside Linebackers. Their Will plays with his heels at 4.5 to 5 yards, responsible for B gap weak, and reads the guard in front of him for his fit. He's your usual LB without any terribly restrictive needs other than the ability to take on an Iso from a FB in B gap. The Mac backer is the other fun player in their scheme, in my mind. He lines up at 7 yards deep and is expected to be playing down hill with a full head of steam on any kind of run play. Moreover, he's supposed to be a big, strong, physical kid who can run down plays. Their ideal is a guy in the 230+ range with at least 4.8 speed.
Because of their over front alignment (-1 NT, +3 Flex), the Mac backer is, in theory, not to be touched by an offensive blocker. The 3 tech flex protects him to the strong side, preventing teams from running isos directly at him, unless it's in A gap, where he will be expected to spank it and spank it hard. Likewise, anything run away from him will have a hard time getting to him thanks to the Will and Nose's presence. The Mac is supposed to make lots, and lots, and lots of tackles and hopefully bring the party when he does.
Secondary-wise, they run cover 3, cover 2, and quarters out of a fairly traditional 2-high coverage. Coach doesn't believe in doing a ton of different things, he'd rather be damn good at a few things and do those things anywhere and against anyone.

Why I Like It...
Being a coach in a 3-4 scheme, with the right personnel I could easily see us doing something very similar to it. In fact, the reason I even know what I know of the scheme is because I was close to installing a package with it this season. We had a linebacker that had spent the last two years as our 3 tech in the old scheme before moving the Mike this season. I thought it was a natural fit for us and would fit easily into our adjustments, but didn't feel comfortable pulling the trigger on the installation. I didn't feel it was unique enough from our 4-man front we stem to in order to warrant taking practice time to put it in. This isn't to say that it'll never happen or I don't actually think it's very useful, I just didn't feel good about it given what we were already dealing with.
It's flexible to your year-in, year-out personnel changes that you will deal with at the high school level, which is attractive to me. A very popular poster from Coachhuey is quoted as saying, "Play defense, not defenses" and I think this scheme allows you to play defense with different personnel without changing defenses, if that's clear. Some years you'll have a bumper crop of linebackers, in which case you can run this with a linebacker body at the Flex. Others, you'll have an influx of big boys and you can play a heavy at the Flex spot. You can change what you emphasize without changing what you practice and what you do.
If you're running with 3-4 type personnel, you can do a lot more blitzing and slanting and attacking with your front. If you're running 4-3 personnel, you can rely a lot more on execution and simplicity. You can line up in it from 3-3-5 personnel, 4-2-5 personnel, whatever. It's a very, very flexible scheme in my opinion and I think that contributes a great deal to anyone's defensive repertoire.
I plan on doing a write up in the next day or two on a few possible stunts and coverage combos I'd run, if it were my baby.