This blog article will about the role of the football coach. Before we get into the principles, I feel I should add a disclaimer that this is an opinionated entry – these are my own personal feelings, so please, take them as you see fit.
The first and most important role of the coach is role model. This is true for any level of football, from Pop Warner to the NFL. Coaches have a very profound and unique impact on their players, and by extension the community around them. This impact can be good or bad, depending on the values and principles he instills in his players. Before any of us are football players, or coaches, or fans, or businessmen, or anything else, we are people, and our greatest responsibility lies in treating other people properly. Football coaches have a visibility above that of most others within the community, and when that visibility is used to present a hardworking, disciplined, high character individual, the community benefits. Furthermore, a team full of hardworking, disciplined, high character individuals is likely to be a good team; winning will take care of itself when the individuals involved have the right mindset.
The second role is as a trusted teacher. It is a coach’s responsibility to pass down the correct information. When an athlete hears a coach’s instruction, those words become law. The coach must seek out the right information. A coach who teaches fundamentals incorrectly, schemes incorrectly, conditions his players incorrectly, is doing a disservice to his players. A coach must be objective and proactive in seeking out the best coaching methods. Don’t be stuck in the past, using methods of yesteryear, because your players are members of a different era, one with more available research, science, and empirical data to improve the level of coaching.
The third role of the coach is to help the team achieve success. This is ranked last for two reasons. First, I believe it is less important than showing character and coaching the players properly. A coach who wins, but in doing so promotes bad character, a lack of discipline, and other undesirable traits, is really doing more harm to his team than good. A coach who sacrifices fundamentals and proper scheming for a win is really not setting a good foundation for future success; he is likely to fail sooner or later, even if he won early on by taking shortcuts instead of teaching good football. The second reason achieving success is third is because if the first two things get taken care of, winning will come easily. That said, achieving success is most certainly part of the coach’s job, one of the three roles I would list under their job description.
So, what are the roles of a coach?
1) Be a role a model, a benefit to the community.
2) Teach players the right way to play the game.
3) Lead the team to success.
Those are three thing I would list, and in that order.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
There is no sport in America quite like football when it comes to training. Every athlete wants to be bigger, stronger, faster; they all want to be able leap tall buildings in a single bound, run through brick walls, fire passes seventy yards downfield, and make moves better than the roadrunner on the coyote. However, football coaches are susceptible to the same errors that the rest of the world is – we tend to teach how we were taught, train how we were trained. This generally means that our coaching and training methods are rooted in ideas of yesteryear, leaving our players without the advantage of the most cutting edge research. With that in mind, let’s examine a few topics in training for football that should provide a good outline for an off-season training program.
Topic #1 – Testing Biomechanical Integrity
A freshman football player walks into his first day at the high school weight training program. He follows in behind a friend of his who is a sophomore. The sophomore hops in the squat rack, and does a back squat. So, in turn, the freshman does. But, to what end? The coaching staff has completely missed finding out whether or not the athlete can even do a deep squat. At that age, when most kids are gaining height and losing range of motion, many athletes can’t squat properly. First and foremost, the athlete should be tested for biomechanical integrity – does he have the ability to get into the positions he will need to be in? If the staff isn’t qualified to do this, which is possible and reasonable, then find someone who is and get analyzed. Where there are restrictions, address them and create biomechanical integrity.
Topic #2 – Creating Strength, Power, Speed
Too many coaches confuse these three and how they are trained. Some coaches focus only on speed, not realizing that speed is only a component of how much force can be imparted into the ground (Eric Cressey of Cressey Performance wrote a great article on this). Other coaches only look for their athletes to get stronger, looking at bench reps and strength endurance, like the NFL combine. However, how useful is it that a defensive lineman can bench 225lbs 50 times in a row? It’s a useless skill, as it doesn’t measure maximal output. Unless he ends up on his back pushing offensive linemen off him all day, his 50 bench reps don’t help. The truth is, strength, power, and speed all build off one another, and coaches must train all three. So, when organizing the workout, make sure to start with speed work, which should include a quick, explosive running period with plenty of rest between reps. Speed work is NOT conditioning! The athlete should be moving at more than 90% of his maximal speed, otherwise he is no longer training to get faster, he is just conditioning. After the speed work, move on to power, which should consist of moving weight quickly, such as med ball slams, Olympic lifting, box jumps, or other similar activities. Again, use plenty of rest between sets. After that, do strength. You need components of all three; an athlete with only one or two is missing something and won’t perform his best.
Topic #3 – Conditioning the Right Way
No more long runs! No more testing mile times! Football is played in quick, explosive bursts. The coach who asks his players to go running on a track for a long time is training his players to run slowly for a long duration. Football is played quickly for short durations. In reality, football conditioning is not about how long you can run, rather, it is about how quickly you can recover. So, work on interval training. Have the players do a cone drill or hill run or something similar that takes about 5-10 seconds of extreme effort. Then, give a 30-45 second break, and repeat. This simulates a football game. As time goes on, decrease the break to 15-20 seconds, forcing the players to recover faster. This is different from the speed training, as players will be working as hard as they can, but with shorter breaks and at possibly less than 90% of their maximal speed.
There is no one perfect training program, but this should help provide a real basic outline to get into great football shape. First, test for biomechanical integrity, and be aware of any limitations when designing the workout plan. Second, train speed, power, and strength properly and in the right order. Third, condition for football, not for marathons. Use decreasing intervals to improve recovery time.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back soon for the next blog post.
There is no doubt that mechanics and fundamentals are crucial to any quarterback (or athlete), and constant dedication to that end is an enormous contributor to individual success. However, in some cases, working on throwing mechanics or fundamentals without first testing for biomechanical integrity can hinder the results an athlete gets out of hours of work on mechanics.
Let’s take, for example, a young man who works hours on end on his throwing mechanics, and pretend his shoulder is somewhat inflexible and won’t move into the correct positions during the throw. Since he can’t get his arm into the right position, all those hours of work are being put towards a compensated throwing motion, one that is not the most efficient or effective, and could quite possibly be causing injury to both his shoulder and whatever joints are bearing the excess pressure created by the incorrect throwing mechanics. In this case, the young man is actually hurting himself, which is unfortunate because he wants to work hard to achieve his goals. But, without the proper analysis done on his body beforehand, no matter how much work he does, he will not reach his goals; as we said, his shoulder lacks mobility, and he cannot yet throw the football properly, and will not be able to, despite his efforts.
What is the lesson to be learned from that scenario (which, by the way, is a real scenario I encountered a few years ago with a young quarterback)? The take-away is that quarterbacks need to do a biomechanical analysis before doing serious throwing mechanic work; in fact, this is true for every position, but we’ll focus on quarterbacks. If, prior to working on his mechanics, a quarterback were to find out how his body functioned, address areas that were of concern, get his body moving with biomechanical integrity, and only then begin throwing mechanic work, he would put himself in a far greater position to succeed. He would have a reduced risk of injury and a greater capacity to learn and execute the skill correctly.
So, whether you are a coach or player, remember – mechanics are not the foundation for success. They are a big part of success, but there is a layer of physical capabilities underneath mechanics that serve as the foundation – biomechanical integrity comes first. Once that foundation is solid, good mechanics and fundamentals can be built.
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.