- There is no need for the “Good Cop” “Bad Cop” dynamic on a team. I believe that the best method of commanding the respect of your athletes, without having them fear one of the coaches on your staff, is to create a rigid set of team rules that are followed to the letter. With firm expectations, there is no need to have any coach demonize the athletes for the sake of keeping them in line, but the team rules but be executed with complete consistency. The next item on my philosophy deals with how this consistency will be maintained.
- Team rules have tiered levels. The most important core rules will be few in number but very important. The consequences for violating the core rules will be severe and non-negotiable but lined out. The second tier of team rules would be larger than the first tier but could depend on circumstances for which kind of punishment, if any, a player receives. The third and final tier would consist of the most minor team rules, some of them would be considered guidelines, and the team would have a role in determining the punishments, if any, for violating rules/guidelines in the third tier. This way the athletes feel as if they had some role in shaping the team rules.
- Players must believe in themselves. Football is very intense and can be extremely intimidating because of the physical nature of the sport. A player has to be confident in his ability to execute his assignment on every play, or else the play could go horribly awry. They must be confident of their knowledge of the playbook; they cannot be second-guessing what their assignment is on every play. To this end I have thought of some creative ways to ensure the players know their playbook inside and out, which includes putting the playbooks into an application on a tablet that has the ability to “test” the players on the playbook. Most importantly, they must be confident in the ability of their teammates to execute their assignments as well.
- Success can be achieved on every single play, focus on the positive. I believe that there can be success even in the face of defeat. While football is a team sport, and you win and lose as a team, individuals can have successful games, even if the rest of the team did not. If the defense holds the opposing offense to 14 points or less, that is a success. If the offensive line does not give up a sack, that is a success. I believe that the best way to grow is to build off the positives and correct the negatives, while I know that you cannot “coddle” the athletes, I believe that positive reinforcement is the most effective way to coach athletes.
- The coach must foster a climate that is conducive to players finding intrinsic motivation. Every study has shown that athletes that are motivated intrinsically tend to be some of the most successful athletes in the world. While it is impossible for a coach to intrinsically motivate his players, I do believe that a coach create an environment that can have a positive effect on the intrinsic motivation of his players. I believe it all starts with the culture of the team. If the team is very close, the players will look up to their coaches as role models, and if the players believe in themselves, then I think that there will be a positive effect on the intrinsic motivation of the players. Though when it comes to the actual environment, I believe that coaches should design their activities and practices to get players into a state of flow to increase intrinsic motivation. Another way of increasing intrinsic motivation is to explain to the players why they do all the drills that they do and why the drills are important, always let your players know why. Since I want to one day be an NFL coach, I believe the most important thing is to build your team with players who are intrinsically motivated, if you show me a guy who will take less money to go a certain team and I will show you a guy who is intrinsically motivated. Now this is not to say I am completely against extrinsic motivation, it also plays an important role, especially when the team has lost confidence, but is should be the secondary source of motivation for the players.
- The players have to have fun. From Pop-Warner to the NFL, I think that if the players are not having fun, then they are not reaching their potential. Sports at their core are games, and games are supposed to be fun, when the player stops having fun, then they are getting away from what is important in the game. I believe that coaches are easily the biggest reason whether athletes have fun or not. While some coaches argue that it is ultimately the athlete’s decision whether they have fun or not, I disagree and believe that the majority of people find certain things to be fun and other things to be not fun. For example, the majority of teenage boys find video games to be fun and mowing the grass to be not fun, taken a step further, the majority of football players find tackling drills to be fun and conversely football players find conditioning to be the low point of any practice. It is not that hard to have an intense practice and have the players have a bit of fun. Maybe instead of doing conditioning at the end of practice you play a game of Air-Force football (essentially a pick-up game of backyard football that does not utilize any linemen) instead. Will the players be conditioned as well by playing Air-Force football as they would by running gassers? That’s hard to say as conditioning is obviously designed to improve the conditioning of athletes, but it also an activity that very few people find intrinsic motivation for. Conversely, something like Air Force football is something that many people can find intrinsic motivation in and will most likely push themselves harder in. Now this is not to say that I think that there can always be fun and games during practice, because I do not, but I think that the coach has to go out of his way to make practice fun sometimes and to make practice something that is not dreaded at all times. Ideally, the perfect practice would only consist of activities and drills that are helpful to the team and are generally intrinsically motivating.
- The athletes are people first and athletes second. I whole-heartedly believe that the emotional well-being of the athletes is the responsibility of the coach. I have always thought that a healthy mind is a healthy body, and that coaches need to do everything within their power to ensure that their athletes maintain a healthy mind. It is human nature to want to be cared about, and I think it means a lot to a player when their coach reaches out to show that they care about them. From my demeanor to my actions, I will strive my best to be as open and reasonable as I can possibly be so that my athletes feel as if they can go to me for anything. At the onset of the season, I will tell my players that I care about them personally and that I believe their emotional and psychological well-being is something that I care about. I would use intuition to seek out players that are visibly bothered by something and would talk to them after practice to see what is bothering me, and if their problem exceeds my expertise, I would ensure that they would get in contact with someone who is better suited to deal with their problem.
- The coaching triad. To me, the experience, development, and performance of athletes are not three separate entities, but rather three parts of an equation. I will try to sum up my ideas on experience, development, and performance as simply as possible, as I feel as if I could write an entire paper on this part of my philosophy alone. While this idea may be born from a lack of experience on my part, I believe that the player experience is the first part of the equation and essential in positively effecting development and performance. With an environment that produces positive player experiences, I believe that the players will be more receptive to coaches and have a higher amount of intrinsic motivation as compared to a team that produces negative player experiences. While I acknowledge that producing a positive team environment is complex, I believe that the single most important aspect of it is to make team activities (ranging from team meetings to practice) enjoyable and to tailor them for players that love the game. I believe, for reasons listed in the last sentence, that positive player experiences will lead to an environment that is conducive to developing the athletes. As long as the coaches know what they are doing, it is easier to develop players that believe in the system, and enjoy the time they spend on the practice field. With well-developed players (from an athletic/skill standpoint) it is much easier to translate that into success in games versus a team that is not well-developed. As stated earlier this is a brief summary of my idea of the coaching triad, but to reiterate, positive player experiences lead to positive player development which leads to successful performances.