1 question - 10 coaches: What's the best coaching advice you've ever received?
"1 question - 10 coaches" is a new series we'll be doing over the next few weeks of the off season where we ask coaches to weigh in on a variety of different subjects. These installments will be aimed at sharing information with coaches across the country in an effort to educate, or provide a nugget or two of information that coaches may be able to take with them throughout their careers.
This week we asked coaches about the best coaching advice that they've ever gotten. We polled head coaches, coordinators and position coaches (ten in total spanning almost every level of football). Some shared stories from mentors, while others decided to share quotes that have helped to shape their coaching careers.
Buckle up and enjoy.
Question: What's the best coaching advice you've ever gotten?
Rich Rodriguez - Head coach at Arizona
"You treat every job like it's the last job you'll ever have because you never know - it might be. From that standpoint, whether you're a GA, or your a coordinator, or you're a head coach, whatever level you're at, you want to put everything you've got into that job. If you do that and concern yourself with that and you're at a good place with good people and have good fortune, everything will work out fine for you. I've always told our guys that. Wherever you're at or whatever role you have, just put all you have into that and people will notice."
Eric Ravellette - Offensive coordinator at Trine University (D-III - IN)
"You always have to know and believe in what kind of Offense you want to be. Even when the chips are down know who you are and what you do but never let stubborn pride get in the way of success. You may be 21 personnel and grind all the time but if you don’t have the personnel or the defense is taking it away you have to be willing to run your offense out of different looks while staying true to who you are."
Kevin Griffin - Linebackers coach at Southwestern College (NAIA - KS)
"The best coaching advice I've gotten came from Georgia defensive line coach Chris Wilson, who always told me this they day you quit learning to become a better coach and a better person is that day you better start looking for a new job. He also told me this, 'Great players make average coaches look like great coaches and great coaches bring out the greatness in players who are already great.'"
Matt Rhule - Head coach at Temple
"One of the best pieces of advice was actually something I read. Bill Parcells has an excerpt from something he wrote on how to lead a team, one of the things he said in that, and I'll paraphrase, "If you want to be a leader, then lead." What he was saying was when he was a young coach he basically tried to earn the ability to lead and waited until people wanted to listen to him. He finally made the decision that was just going to lead and do it his way and see if people followed. I think as a young coach that's the one thing I tried to do. When I was a GA I didn't want to act like a GA, I wanted to act like a full-time coach and carry myself that way, in the staff meetings speak up if I have something to say, if I had a question, ask it. With the players I tried to deal with them as a coach and not just as another one of the boys. That takes confidence and that takes courage. That's something that I read from a guy that I look up to. I think that's carried me very well and that's something I encourage our GAs here, don't wait to be a full-time coach to start acting like a coach. Carry yourself like a coach, act like a coach, work like a coach and then eventually you'll be a coach. That really sticks with me."
Mike Haydon - Defensive coordinator at Feather River Community College (CA)
"It is tough to pick just one piece of advice, because I have learned so much just from being a GA. The one piece of advice that has always stuck with me though came from Robert Taylor, my Head Coach from Defiance College where I played and worked as a student assistant. He told me that, as a coach, you can not work for your next job, but work hard at the job that you have and the next job will find you."
"That lesson has remained with me since I left. Too many times as coaches we want to make that move to the next job and forget about the program we are at. If you work hard at your job and don't sacrifice your morals you will be successful."
Joe Davis - Offensive coordinator at Shippensburg (D-II - PA)
"Theres nothing that deflates your opponents sideline quicker than when they know you're going to run the ball and there's nothing they can do about it."
"Never underestimate the positive result that can happen by running your most basic play in the most crucial situation."
Andy Kotelnicki - Offensive coordinator at Wisconsin - Whitewater (D-III):
"It’s hard to label one lesson I’ve learned as an offensive coordinator as “the best”. If I had to choose one, it would be to Make football finite. I subscribe to this school of thought, because we really value teaching. We want to be effective teachers."
"As an illustration…. Think about a high school American History teacher. If that teacher is going to do diligence in preparing his curriculum for a class. One of the first questions he’s going to ask is “how much time do I have to teach?” From there, he’ll lay out course objectives, teaching material, and what the curriculum will be."
"In the football world, being an effective teacher would mean to limit the number of plays/schemes you want to carry in situations so you can really focus on the details of “why” you want to carry the aforementioned plays/schemes. I read Brian Billick’s “Developing an Offensive Game Plan” back in the early 2000’s and it described the importance of planning football by situations and how often those situations come up in a game. From there you determine how many calls you want to carry in a given week. (I reread Coach Billick’s book every year.)"
"How many calls on a call sheet is one example of making football finite. I also apply this “make football finite” principle to everything we plan offensively. (i.e. practice reps, practice drills, pre-season camp organization, etc.) We know exactly how much time in practice we’ll have for individual drills, 11-on-11, inside run, skelly, 1-on-1s, etc. so our coaches know exactly how much time they have to teach."
Tyler Haines - Offensive coordinator at Indiana University Pennsylvania (D-II):
"In big situations, think in terms of players, not plays."
Ruffin McNeill - Head coach at East Carolina
"I got a chance to meet Coach (Bill) Walsh, the great San Francisco 49ers head coach. He mentioned one word - details. Pay attention to details. That same day I met Coach (Eddie) Robinson and he pointed out that one thing to be very, very good an attentiive to would be special teams. So, details and special teams. The thing I learned at Clemson under Coach (Danny) Ford and his staff, that's a great staff I was able to GA under, was that you have three items as a college coach. You have on the field, in the classroom or community and recruiting. Be good at those three things and make sure you're good at all three of those things."
Tyler Wellman - Offensive line coach at Lakeland College (D-III - WI)
"Continue to evaluate what you are teaching and how you are teaching it. Doing things because, "That's how we've always done it" will detract from success."
A big thanks to all the coaches that participated. Next week we'll have a new set of coaches and a new question.
If there's a particular questions that you would ike to get answered, or if you know someone who would be great to share their knowledge as a part of this series in the future, feel free to send me an email at [email protected].
Special thanks to Zach Barnett (@Zach_Barnett) for contributing to the story.