We recently finished our "off-season" meetings with our defensive players. We refer to these meetings as "Shark School." They are a series of weekly meetings before school 1 day a week to focus on defensive mentality and our installation schedule. To mark the conclusion of those meetings and to transition to spring practice we had our "Shark School Graduation."
A large portion of graduation was a Zoom meeting with former Pioneer players talking about the importance of spring practice and embracing the "grind" of building a dominant defensive unit as well as developing individually. All of the former players on that Zoom meeting are now playing college football somewhere. One player, who is at Baylor, could not be on the Zoom due to a final but wrote a letter to us that he asked me to read. I personally had an awesome list of takeaways from these guys. Here are a few of the message points they shared with us:
A former DB told us that spring practice is a time to "take chances" to learn what plays you can and can't make. He pointed out that you might get fussed at by a coach if you fail but the scoreboard doesn't change and you don't hurt the team. He wanted to know before it mattered what plays he could make and which ones he couldn't.
One player talked about practicing his stance in his room just to get 1% better.
A DL told us to always hear the message that coaches are delivering and not pay attention to the delivery. He let our players know that he realizes how much his coaches were focusing on getting him to be his best.
Focusing on details and communication as well as learning to study football was an awesome point that was shared.
The letter that was written to us shared that approaching each rep with an ATTITUDE OF DOMINANCE is the only way to be your best. He never believed anyone was going to beat him at anything. (Turns out that was pretty true)
We also had a strength coach from a large school in another state, who I had been fortunate enough to coach when he was a college player, share some thoughts. He did an awesome job of challenging players to write down meaningful goals. He showed us his actual list of goals he had as a player taped to his bathroom mirror. He also helped our guys think about how short the window is between now and the first game next fall and introduced the notion of dividing each day into 96 15 minute quarters and doing everything possible to win each of those quarters.
Last, I had our players watch the attached YouTube video:
We then had a discussion about the video and how it applies to our process of building a defense. You start out with a blank key. You put the key in the lock, attempt to turn the lock, and have no success. You take the key out, mark it, and grind on the key. You repeat this process over and over and over...always making a little more progress towards opening the lock. Finally, the lock unlocks, but it is not a smooth unlocking. Now you have to get finer with your grinding, and polish the key. We talked about how this process is exactly what we are doing. Always working/grinding to UNLOCK all of our potential. Somedays it may seem like we are not making much progress...especially early. That may be the case. And when we do start to see some success, it is important to remember that we have to get even more detailed in our approach. And even when the lock finally unlocks, we still aren't finished...you have to polish it up. The reality is that to unlock our full potential we have to KEEP GRINDING!
All of our players got this keychain with a BLANK key as their "Shark School" graduation gift.