Common Coaching Errors and How to Avoid Them

9 Feb

Here is some food for thought from a guy who not only won a few games but developed the 5-2 defense.

Bud Wilkinson
Former HC, University of Oklahoma
Winner of 47 straight games and 3 National Championships

General Comments:

The best coach is the one who makes the fewest mistakes; the one who does the best teaching job; the one who is the best organizer.  Writing the X’s & O’s is not the most important thing.  There are 22 variables in a football game.  A coach must be a salesman to the extent that when his team loses, they don’t blame him or the offensive or defensive system, but rather themselves.

Errors in Teaching Methods:
1.)  FAILURE TO USE TIME EFFICIENTLY.  Failure to recognize the time factor available to get the job done.  Planning makes for valuable use of time.  Too long on any one thing produces boredom.  When boredom comes in, learning goes out.  Football players have a short attention span.  Hold to time schedule.

2.) FAILURE TO EXPLAIN THE PURPOSE OF THE DRILL.  Tell the player WHY he is doing what he is trying to accomplish and he will do a better job.  Explain WHY then show HOW.

3.) IMPROPER TEACHING PROGRESSION.  You can’t teach a player how to block until he has learned stance.  If he hasn’t learned stance, he doesn’t know how to step out of the stance into the block.

4.) TOO MUCH VERBAL INSTRUCTION ON THE FIELD.  How much can a player learn from your verbal instruction with his helmet on, he’s breathing hard, he aches, he’s stunned, etc.  Do WHO and WHY in chalk talk.  Teach assignments before hitting the field.  Correct on the field.  Teach – no!  (HOW is taught on the field – not WHO and WHY).

5.) TOO MUCH DEMONSTRATION BY COACH.  How much you know is not important.  How much the player knows is.

6.) BEING ON THE FIELD TOO LONG.  Better to have a team eager to play rather than physically tired.  How long you practice is a judgment factor.  Cut down as season goes along – not going to change mechanical ability late in season.  Only one rule never violated at Oklahoma.  If one coach on staff feels practice too long, we must cut it down.  More players play poorly because they practiced too long not because they didn’t practice long enough.

Errors in Tactics and Strategy:
1.) TACTICS AND VICTORY.  You get very few victories because of tactics.  Victories come if you can out block, out tackle, and out fundamental your opponent.  Red Sanders said it best: “Intimidate them physically”!  Outmaneuver – no.  Defeat – yes.

2.) CLEAR CUT PHILOSOPHY A MUST.  Decide on an offense and defense that will suit your personnel then stick to it.  Depth of morale can be determined by a player’s or team’s reaction to a loss.  If morale is deep, they’ll blame themselves.  If morale is shallow, they’ll blame you.

3.) TOO MANY PLAYS AND DEFENSES.  Subtract the number of different plays used in the game from the total number of plays you practiced.  If this number is too large you better get rid of some plays.  It is difficult enough to know when to run off-tackle, but if you have four ways to run off-tackle, you will never get the right play.  Beauty of Split-T was its very limited number of plays.

Errors in Judgment:
1.) BE REALISTIC ABOUT A PLAYER’S ABILITY.  Don’t just put an X or an O on the board.  Put up a player’s name.  Immediately his limitations affect the offense or defense you put up.  Big difference between Dick Butkus and Humpty Dumpty.

2.) WHEN CHIPS ARE DOWN, HAVE BEST PLAYERS IN THE GAME.  It is a mistake to play blue chippers only one way.  Say best kid you have can only go on offense.  Say opponent has ball for 45 minutes.  These are 45 minutes he cannot help you.

Errors in Developing Morale (Morale is to the Physical as 4 is to 1):
1.) FOOTBALL BEGINS WITH MORALE!  Once you get morale, it is easy to maintain.  How to get it is a problem.

2.) HOW TO LOSE MORALE.  Don’t do what you said you’re going to do.  Don’t say we’re going to practice 1-½ hours and go 2-½ hours.  Team rules – if you’re not going to enforce them, don’t have them.


4.) TREAT PLAYERS AS A PERSON.  If he feels you are interested in him only as a football player, he won’t go all out for you.  If you are interested in his academics, his personal problems, etc. and he knows this, he’ll go all out for you.  Convince him that football is good for his future.

5.) One year, Knute Rockne had 2 QB’s.  Under great athlete, team failed; under mediocre QB, team succeeded.  Why?  Captain’s reply – “the great athlete is trying to show how good HE is.  The TEAM is trying to make the average guy look good”.

Coach in Your Own Way:
DON’T COPY!  Note other coaches and successful leaders and their personalities.  ALL have different ways of being successful.  Plan carefully in the off season.

Concluding Remarks:

The man who is best organized and does the best teaching job is the best coach

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