I always find that valuable lessons are learned not when things are going well, but when adversity has set in. After my second season in 2010 our program was in need of a shot in the arm. We finished the season 2-7 and I felt all the fun had vanished from practice because all we cared about was the almighty “W”. After the season ended I met individually with all 75 football players. What I learned from my players would forever changed how I will build and coach my teams. Every topic in this presentation can be purchased in my Building a Team the Spartan Way for just $19.99!
Lesson 2: Character Development- Probably the most important change we made in the program was creating a character education program called “Monday Meetings”. During our 2-7 season we lost a lot of games because when things got tough we backed down. By installing a character education program, we were able to create a weekly topic that would match that week’s game theme. Even more importantly, the character education program strives to also teach these young men how to be better people outside of our program. As a coach I believe it is our responsibility to teach our football players how to be men. Times have changed and we believe it is no longer only the responsibility of parents to mentor young students. In order for our athletes to earn a letter, they needed to attend every one of our Monday Meetings. Some of the topics we covered were: gratitude; being a man for others; false masculinity; empathy; and how to treat women. Our athletes were extremely receptive to these topics and made changes to their daily lives that we observed, as well as were reported to us by their family members, faculty, and members of their communities. By creating a culture that takes away the importance of winning it has created more success for our program and I could have never imagined that happening.
Lesson 3: Building Fun into Practice- Another piece of information I learned from my players was that practices were dragging on during the end of the season. Our coaching staff met together during the summer and came up with a couple of ideas to make practice more enjoyable. The first thing we did was make all of our practices last only two hours, and during the playoffs we shortened them to an hour and a half. Instead of conditioning at the end of our Monday walk through practice, we play Ultimate Football with our Family Groups as teams. Every team gets a point for winning their weekly Ultimate Football match. On Wednesday after practice we break the teams into their Family Groups and issue a coach’s challenge for the week. These activities can range from relay races, academic challenges, sporting activities, singing and even touchdown celebrations. We give teams points based on their performance and winning team receives the belt.
Spartan Football is a game played exactly like ultimate Frisbee, but we use a football instead of a disc. A player who catches the football cannot run with it and must stop in 3 steps. If the team that possesses the football drops the ball then the defending team picks it up, and is now on offense. Set up fields so that the sidelines are the end zones 10 yards deep and try not to make the fields wider than 20 yards. On our practice field we are able to get 3 games 12 minute games going at one time. The team that wins gets two points and the losing team gets one. We have each team play each other and then create a playoff bracket.
Coaches Challenge We score each coach's challenge like a track meet. We have 8 teams so the first place team gets 8 points and the last place team would get 1 point. Here are a few examples of the activities we have done.
‐Partner Egg Toss
‐Closes to the pin (golf)
‐Field Goal Contest (Starting at the 10 and moving back)
(You will get all of the activities in the Team Building the Spartan Way Program)
These are just a few of the activities that we do. We make sure to time the ones that will take a long time. We also try to match physical activities one week and then a mental challenge the next week.
I have been blessed the last few years being able to share my lesson and ideas with not only high schools, but with the NFL. I have also had many opportunities to speak to high school athletes, coaches, and athletic directors at many different places. These are just a few examples that our program has had success trying. We found that it has really brought our players closer together because athletes that wouldn’t normally hang out together became closer through the challenges. Our staff also noticed that our players really enjoy football practice because they know there will be rewards if they work hard. Most rewarding for the coaching staff, we received many compliments on our players’ respect for others, both on and off the field. I have had an opportunity to speak to a lot of successful coaches from different states at various coaching clinics this year, and they are also doing similar things. I think coaches have to do what is best for their team, but if you are struggling to get kids out or struggling to get your team to bond together, I know these ideas will work for you. I would like to thank X and O Labs for giving me the opportunity to write this article and also being the number one resources for coaches of football at all levels.
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Mike Rowe has been the head football coach at Rocori High School for 7 years. During that time the Spartans have been to state 3 times and won 1 state championship. Coach Rowe’s and his Domestic violence character lessons have been featured by the NFL on the video A Call to Coaches and he has also spoke with Joe Erhman to other coaches about the importance of being a man for others. You can find all of Coach Rowe’s resources at http://coaches-clinic.com/character-development/