We just finished our season with a loss in the semifinals of the state playoffs. We lost to the team that eliminated us twice this year and have been beaten by them in 2 state championship games as well. We also lost another regular season game early in the year and finished our season with a record of 9-3. To some people 9-3 is a successful year and for others (probably the team that beat us in the semifinals) 9-3 would not be seen as a successful year.
If I evaluate this season based on the thoughts of Steve Jobs, then this year was a huge success on a personal level. I am very fortunate to be able to be a part of high school program that embraces the commitment necessary to grow. This year was certainly a year of growth for us all in that program. Also, getting the opportunity to be a small part of several other football programs across the country through "Eat the Captain" was very rewarding. I'm not sure that I have ever committed as much time to football as I did this year and I know I never finished a season as sleep deprived as this year. And to say I loved it would not come close to doing the experience justice! Here are just a few thoughts and experiences from this year.
We were an unusually young and inexperienced team at our high school. This group had followed several classes of highly successful teams and did not have much playing experience. Also, as is often the case with younger teams, we had a crazy number of injuries and at one point every starting LBer missed games at the same time. When you are coaching/teaching first-timers you have to become better at organization and communication. All "clutter" had to be eliminated. Evaluation became critical in everything. We had to evaluate what we were doing, how we were teaching, practice/meeting organization, game planning, play-calling, personnel, etc. Every moment was a teaching opportunity! Even in our last game as it became evident we could not win, the opportunity to teach/coach for the future was obvious. A high performing environment is never a place of comfort and we were certainly never comfortable this season. In order to develop more precision in both practice and meetings we moved our defensive meetings to the evenings. We met by Zoom 1 hour after practice each night. This allowed us to accomplish several things:
Everyone could attend ALL meetings. Conflicts with training room, offensive meetings, meeting space, etc. were eliminated.
Consistency! Same time, same agenda for all meetings. (10 minutes of today's practice/10 minutes of opponent video)
We could always finish today...today. No starting a day by working on yesterday. We could fix practice mistakes that night while fresh on everyone's mind.
We met special teams by Zoom to start the week (Sunday night) so players were used to it.
We also prepared and shared all scouting information digitally so players could access it at any time and it was easily accessible during Zoom meetings.
We saw players become more invested in their own learning and develop a sense of pride around preparation. Of course, it also gave them the company line of "Zoom in an hour!" as a joke about how much they were working.
We had to become better coaches of many details that we had probably taken for granted with previous teams. Things like alignment, assignment, pursuit angles, tackling, game situations, etc... even RULES had to be taught from the ground up. There was always something that hit me upside my head that I needed to do better!
And last, the opportunity to help other schools definsively was AWESOME! Having other coaches add me to their HUDL accounts and ask for my thoughts during the season gave me an incredible growth experience. I loved the Sunday night meetings, calls, texts, and emails that were all a part of this season. I learned how other programs run, what football in other states looks like, challenges and opportunities associated with different size schools, rivalries, managing staffs, etc. I also am now more versed in different time zones and northern accents. I am very appreciative of the trust that all of these coaches placed in "Eat the Captain" and me personally!
Was this season a success? No doubt!! I was fortunate enough to have trouble sleeping every night for 4 months because I was excited about the challenges and opportunities of the next day. I got to spend several hours a day coaching and teaching our players and I watched them get better each of those days! I got to interact with coaches all over the country reagarding their teams and their seasons and I got to be a part of Friday Night Lights 12 times! Hopefully next year includes winning the last game of the season, helping more coaches with "Eat the Captain", and Stevie Nicks finally coming to a game I am coaching. Yes, if coaching is your "work" it certainly requires a great deal of time. But if great work and success is defined as loving what you do then this year was a raging success!
Attached is our 2021 "Eat the Captain" Defensive Highlight Video