52 Things I Wish I Knew as a Rookie Coach

With many years of coaching experience behind me now, I wanted to reflect on how much I’ve learned on this journey.
Here are 52 things I wish I knew back then…
  1. Youth football players know almost nothing about playing football.
  2. Kids will believe you are right, no matter what – as long as you are confident.
  3. Some parents just think you do not know football. Just stay the course.
  4. The title of Head Football Coach should be changed to Parent Liaison. Nothing good happens when assistant coaches talk to parents.
  5. All disputes among coaches on scheme, drills, or anything else for that matter – are to be handled only when no one else is around.
  6. X’s and O’s do not win football games.
  7. Kids are kids. If you run an offense with pulling guards, your guards will pull directly into each other at some point. Laugh at it.
  8. Practice Plans are a good idea.
  9. Don’t follow the ball when you watch film. As a young coach, focus in on watching only your position. After you’ve done that, you can go back and watch the game.
  10. Nothing is ever good enough. There is something to be coached on every single play. This is not a bad thing, it is reality. No one is perfect.
  11. Get your hands out of your dang pockets.
  12. Just because they look like they are in significant pain, does not make it a good drill.
  13. Kids who don’t like contact can be taught to be good football players. Only crazy people naturally love hitting. Crazy people are great, but they’re rare. That’s a bad thing in football, but it is best for society.
  14. Special Teams may seem boring, but they are extremely important. Special Teams will decide the outcome of at least 1 game, and probably more, every season.
  15. There is some way to use fast kids. Anyone who is fast has a purpose on your team.
  16. Conversely, not all big kids are good football players. Work with everyone to improve, but don’t get your hopes up just based on the eye test.
  17. Kids need to know how to win and how to lose. Both ways are very similar.
  18. How many hours you work is not directly correlated to how many games you win. Work smarter, not harder.
  19. Value your player’s time. Get off the field when you say you will. Start meetings when they are scheduled.
  20. There is no “better” offense or defense. There is only the offense or defense you can teach your kids “better”.
  21. Kids have the attention span of a gnat. If you run a drill for 20 minutes, they’re bored as crap. If you talk for 3 minutes, they’re bored as crap.
  22. A year can make a big difference in a kid. Don’t write someone off because they are not so good as a 8 year old.
  23. Blitzing does not fix bad tackling.
  24. You can blow a gasket all you want, but it probably is not fixing the problem. I’ve reduced the frequency of my blown gaskets, though I do not know if they will ever be completely eliminated. But now I know they are mostly for my own benefit.
  25. After you blow a gasket, talk to the kid. Explain. Even apologize – which is hard. But it’s probably the right thing. Do this after practice. Don’t let the kid go home without talking to him.
  26. Use the people around you. Ask the coaches on your staff for help. Talk ball with them. A lot of our time in the when together or on the phone is talking ball.
  27. Don’t sit around hanging with the coaches all night. Get home!
  28. Start a journal, or a blog, or something to record your thoughts. I started a blog in 2009, as well as a podcast. Those early articles and podcasts are almost comical to me now. I love seeing how far I’ve come. And that was after 7 years of coaching. Today, I maintain my blogs but also keep a personal journal.
  29. Learn some breathing exercises or meditation. You’re going to be stressed out and you might even want to strangle a child. This is not okay.
  30. Your own health is just as important as your football team’s. Work out.
  31. Wear sunscreen.
  32. When you throw your hat, throw it straight into the ground. Distance throws don’t work out – the wind takes it and you look even more foolish than the guy throwing his hat at the ground.
  33. As long as you keep practice up-tempo, you will not need to do the conditioning that you hated so much as a player.
  34. In fact, remember the things that you hated as a player and find ways to not do them.
  35. Your players do not care that you were a player. To them, you are just another old man. You may be younger than all the other old men, but you are still an old man. They are not a good audience for your Glory Days stories.
  36. It’s not that serious. No matter what it is.
  37. You do not have to be perfect in front of your players. They like people. Many of them will grow up to become people, though this is not apparent at the moment.
  38. Just because you can demonstrate better than they can, doesn’t mean you should. Get players to demonstrate a skill whenever possible.
  39. Reward players for their accomplishments.
  40. Limit contact in practice. It’s a long season.
  41. Take breaks during practice. Shorten drills, cut down on running your mouth, and send them to water.
  42. Tell your players the tempo of each drill. We have teaching tempo, practice tempo, and game tempo. Then we have different game tempos. Define yours.
  43. Listen more than you talk in coaches meetings.
  44. Never give up on a kid. If you judged him as physically capable to play the position, and he is not performing, he probably does not understand what is being asked.
  45. Wear black socks. The white ones will get dirty because the grass on the practice field never lasts long.
  46. This is your Head Coach’s time to shine. What he says is gospel.
  47. Be patient with the kids. If you stick to your plan, you will see drastic improvements as the season goes on.
  48. Volunteer for as many jobs as you can handle. If you want to be in charge one day, you have to know all the jobs that the underlings need to do – and you have to know how to do them.
  49. Do not volunteer for more than you can handle. Volunteering for jobs you can’t get done will make you look lazy.
  50. Drop the ego.
  51. Don’t yell at the refs. Some questions should be asked, but it should come from one voice – usually the head coach.
  52. Football has been around for a long time. And teams have won doing it a thousand different ways. There is no right way. Stop looking for it and for goodness sake, stop thinking you’ve found it.