10 Keys To Great Coaching

Before I even start this, I must preface by saying that I am battling every day to be a better coach.

I am not on a soapbox preaching. I am talking to myself in the mirror in this article. Many of the things I am about to talk about are things I need to continually improve. I am lucky to be surrounded by a great group of coaches who hold me accountable everyday to being better than I was yesterday.

1. Coach Every Single Rep

Great coaches are willing to coach every single rep! Every time a player takes a rep, say something to him to help him get better. If his stance wasn’t good, tell him. If his hands weren’t in the right place, tell him. If his eyes were on the ground, let him know. The worst thing you can do is not say anything.

Back when I was first getting into coaching I had the opportunity to watch Tyrone “Moe” Murray from Kennedy High School in the Bronx, coaching his lineman. Moe was a master of talking to his guys every single time they took a rep. He never took a rep off. Kennedy’s offensive line was unbelievable. Moe coached those guys with a relentless attitude. He loved each and every one of them and they knew it. He coached them to be great every single day. They had some very, very talented lineman, but even the guys who weren’t talented were very technically sound. They also played with an edge.

Reps are a valuable commodity, like money. You are only allotted a certain amount each day, week, and season. Every time you use a rep without coaching something, you have thrown it away. You have cheated the player you are working with because he did not receive immediate feedback. It fires me up to go to a practice and see a coach not talking to his guys. There are guys at all levels who do this. They waste reps each and every day.

I was at a practice a few years back and saw a coach leaning on the chute. He couldn’t even see the feet of his lineman. His body language said, “it’s time to relax and I don’t really want to be here.” I am big on posture. How you stand matters. If you have poor body language your players are more likely to do this as well. During the drill he said very little to his guys. In fact, I think all he said was “set go.” He never made his guys better.

As football season begins we all have a choice. We can choose to be passionate or to be lazy. We have a choice to coach them every rep or to take reps off. We coach them to improve or we can let them get worse.

2. Improve Your Craft

Schedule 30 minutes a day to watch drill tape of the position he coaches. Spend a few $ and order a couple of instructional videos from really good coaches. Watch 30 minutes of video each day and take notes. There are no exception to this. Make the time to improve your craft. When the spring comes around attend at least on clinic and watch coaches who speak on your position group. Watch several speakers and take great notes.

At clinics I am always looking for one thing that can help me improve. I want to find one new drill, or one new coaching point that I can use with my players. The internet has put information in our hands very readily, and it needs to be taken advantage of. There is no excuse for not being able to learn more about the position you coach. I once worked with a guy who complained that I went to too many clinics each year. He said it wasn’t fair that I got to go and he didn’t. But the funny part was that he never once asked to go to a clinic. When he was invited to go (For Free) he said no. He didn’t want to improve and he tried to keep others from improving. He didn’t last very long on our staff. Stay away from guys who don’t have desire to get better.

3. Coach and Correct Mistakes

Never be afraid to tell an athlete what he did wrong and how to fix it. Never let a mistake go without fixing it. Correction is caring. Correction is the ultimate form of love. It tells your athlete you care about him enough to help him be his best. If he stepped with the wrong foot, tell him. If his eyes weren’t where they were supposed to be, tell him. “Here is where your eyes were, and here is where they should be.” Tell him the mistake and the correction. Keep correction the mistake until he gets it right. If the mistake continues, find a new way to correct it. Don’t come in the office and say, “Mike keeps screwing it up. I keep telling him, but he just won’t do it.” Find a new way to teach it. Great coaches figure out how to communicate with each player in a way they understand. They never give up on teaching that player.

4. Encourage Your Players and Fellow Coaches

Constantly reinforce to your players when they do something well. Even when you correct them you can encourage. Tell them you believe in them and that if they keep working they will do it right. If you constantly beat them down they will not improve. They will eventually tune you out. Build them up every single day.

Do everything you can to help promote your players and fellow coaches. Help the guys in your program to advance personally and professionally. Help promote your players to college coaches. Help the guys you work with to advance. When I was an OC I took great pride in helping every position coach I worked with get an OC job if they wanted one. It was awesome to see them advance themselves and be able to grow.

5. Coach Them to Greatness

Coach them to what you want them to be and they will get there. If you see a guy as a future all-state player, you will coach him that way. If you see him as a lifetime 7th grade B team player, that is exactly how you will coach him. I hate hearing a coach talk about how a player can never improve. Or they downplay a kid because he is a terrible athlete. He may not be a good athlete, but he can be better than where he is right now. But he will only get better if you coach him every play. If the kid is at practice working hard, coach him to be better. The only kid you can’t coach is the kid who isn’t there. Every other kid deserves our best! And darn it, you need to believe in them. You have to believe in them before they will believe in themselves!

Link to original blog post by Coach Vint.

6. Get to the Point

Keep your coaching points under 8 seconds. If you have to stop a drill to give a clinic you will lose your kids. NO CLINICS ARE ALLOWED ON THE FIELD! I like to have short, concise coaching points in 3 to 5 words. If we can say it in one word that is even better. Todays generation needs constant, immediate feedback, and they need it in short bursts. They text, tweet, instagram and snapchat. They get their information in 140 characters or less. We need to coach them that way.

7. Build Relationships!

If you don’t care about your players. GO DO SOMETHING ELSE! You have to care about their success on the field and in life. You have to be willing to get to know them for more than what they do on the field. Learn their hopes, goals, and dreams. Learn about their families. Learn about the things they love and hate. Learn about their struggles. This will build trust in your athletes. Many of our players have a great distrust for male figures because every male in their lives has walked out on them. They face broken promises every day. Why should they trust you? Trust is earned by your actions over time. Once you build that relationship and they trust you, the coaching can go to another level.

8. Be Loyal

This is vital. Loyalty is a championship quality. If you don’t like how something is done talk to the person making the decision. Don’t go talk to someone in the office or in the community, telling them how the OC or DC screwed something up. Don’t go tell another coach that you would do it this way and the head coach or coordinator is wrong. Talk to the source. This is a great way to destroy your coaching staff. The term I will use is Chicken***t. That is the best way to describe it. Go to the source, tell them how you feel, and accept their decision. Championship programs have coaches that are loyal to each other, to their kids, and to their program as a whole. You need to build up your coaches.

9. Accept Criticism

I love when the head coach tells me I did something wrong, or that I could do something better. It means someone is willing to hold me accountable to being my best. Great coaches want to be challenged to improve every single day. If you want to be a better coach, ask your peers to challenge you. Ask them to hold you accountable to being better than you were yesterday. If you aren’t coaching every rep, you want to be around people who will call you out. The only thing that hurts when someone tells you that you aren’t doing something as well as you could is your ego. And your ego heals fast.

10. Appreciate Managers, Trainers, and Custodians

No one notices the trainers until there isn’t water on the field. When your players can’t go on because they are gassed and don’t have water, you’ll realize how vital they are. You need to appreciate what they do and thank them for their efforts. Tell them how important they are to the program. No one notices the managers until the equipment isn’t set up. Tell the managers how valuable they are. Thank the custodians for all they do to keep your offices clean. Tell them thank you and let them know you appreciate them. Everyone in your program matters. Everyone is vital. Make people know you realize how important their job is. And don’t do it because you want something in return. Do it because what they do really is vital to the success of your program.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it covers 10 things I think we can all do to get better everyday. Every one of these things could be at the top of the list. I work on these things everyday, and I have a long way to go.

Every single day to everything you can do to be the best you can be for the kids you will coach. Every day make your decisions with the best interests of our kids at heart.

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James Vint has extensive experience as an offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinator at the high school and college levels. As an offensive coordinator, Vint's offenses are known for being innovative and on the cutting edge. He was one of