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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How I Would Rebuild A High School Football Program

Recently a fellow coach told me that the Lehi high school position was open and that I should apply for the position.  I declined initially but it did make me think how I would build up a high school program.  Lehi hasn't won a game in two years.  This is unfortunate since they won the state title 10 years ago and have fallen on hard times recently.

So what would I do to re-build a program like this?  Well here is just a list of a few of the things in no particular order I would do:

  1. Recruit The Halls- Sounds pretty cliche but this is a school with around 1800 students.  They won the soccer title in men's soccer, there are players and athletes in the school that can help.  There has to be some size that isn't out on the field that can be coached into players.  First thing I would do at any school is hit the halls to get kids out for the team.
  2. Build Team Pride- When facing a losing streak, the players start to become ashamed of being a part of the team.  You need to build up pride to be a part of this team.  You need to have team-building activities for kids (movie night; pool parties; bonfires; etc)  They need to bond and have that pride to be a football player again.
  3. Schedule Easier Non-League Games That You Know You Can Win-  This in my opinion is one of the most important things you can do. Pride about who you are playing isn't worth it in the middle of a losing streak.  You need to win some games to get the monkey off the back.  Practice after a win is always better than after a loss.  Wins give kids confidence to be successful.  An example of a team I would schedule were I at Lehi would be American Leadership Academy.  They are going back down to 2A but only won 1 game last year and have struggled over the years as well.  Find a way to play them, start to build some confidence.
  4. Simplify Your Game Plan- Too many times, new coaches come in and try to install everything they want to do on offense and defense.  This is a mistake in my opinion and can lead to confusing your players.  It takes time to get your system fully into place.  Figure out what your base plays are and install those and make sure the kids have them down.  Then you can build off of them from there.
  5. Be Patient- Unfortunately the Lehi program hasn't won in two years.  You can't change overnight the way they act and play; it will take time to undo and remake what the players do and how the community reacts to you.
  6. No One's Position Is Safe- There will be returning players that were starters last year.  Well that doesn't mean anything now that I am in charge of the program.  I would say that every position is open for competition.  The best players in that position are going to play, no ifs and's or buts about it.  You win your starting position back then good job but don't expect it to be handed to you.  Competition will help breed success.
  7. Stick To Your Plan And Believe What You Are Doing- You may make decisions that others will disagree with even on your staff, but you need to send the message.  If that means sitting a star player because his grades are poor then do it.  Once you have established how your program is run you can't change your mind for certain players.  Doing so will lose any credibility your players and parents will have in you and can lead to more troubles in the future for your program.
  8. Bring In The Success Of Past Teams/Cut Away From The Past Struggles- What do I mean by this?  Well for Lehi I would bring in the former players from the 2000 state championship team.  Have them meet the players, speak and let them know what it meant to them to be a part of the school.  Likewise you will need to make a clean break from the past struggles of your team.  There may be coaches from the previous staff that would like to stay and help.  Unfortunately I would say thanks but no thank you.  That isn't to say they would be a terrible fit with my philosophies but any tie to the past struggles counters what I would be trying to build.  
  9. Get The Backing Of Your School's Administration-  You need to have the full support of your school's administration and AD.  Nothing hurts more than not getting the backup from your principal and that kills a program faster than you know.  I have seen horror stories on coaching boards and know that I want with respects to that.  This also includes being able to pick your own staff.  If a principal wants to hire some of your coaches, then it just won't work out.
  10. BE FULLY INVESTED WITH YOUR NEW PROGRAM- Were I to leave Timpview (a successful program) for one like Lehi, I would make sure to be fully invested.  How many of us as players saw coaches that looked longingly at the previous school they were at acting as if they were wanting to return there.  How can a kid trust that you are doing what is best for them, why will they play hard for you if they feel that way?  Once you are there, be fully there as a coach.
  11. Stay In Contact With Your Mentor- Every coach will have a mentor that helps teach them the ropes.  If I leave Timpview to take over a program I will continue to speak with Coach Wong for advice on how to handle certain issues that arise.
  12. Make Sure Parents Are In The Loop- Let the parents know what is going on with the program and what your expectations are.  Doing so will help avoid any issues that could arrive because of miscommunication.  
  13. Engage The Community- Make sure you have a good booster club president that will help you fund raise.  Make sure to get the community involved in what you are doing, if they support your team, success will follow..
Well these are just a few of the things I would do to build a high school program were I to take over.  I may add more to the list as time goes by and I have more to think about.  I would love to hear any feedback from any coaches that read this post on things that they have done to build a high school program.

PS.  If the head coach is still there at Lehi I apologize for any misunderstanding it is what I was informed by a fellow coach.

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