Angus Reid played professional football in the CFL for 13 seasons, earning multiple all-star selections and winning two Grey Cup Championships.
Today, Angus travels North America speaking with companies, schools and teams about what it takes to make it and win. His successful TEDx talks, “Why We Need High School Football” and “Mastering the Skill of Trust” have garnered him both praise and respect.
Angus joined Keith Grabowski on the “Coach and Coordinator” podcast recently to discuss his book, Thank You, Coach, an Amazon bestseller, which also expands on his never-ending gratitude for the good fortune he has been granted by those who have helped shape his success.
He was impacted by his coach Dan Dorazio. The excerpt below explains how Dorazio evaluated the performance of the offensive line. It provides a great example of motivation created by effective evaluation.
As Dan talked, it became clear that one dictated the other. Our job was to do our job, and that’s exactly what we would be graded on. Offensive line can be a tricky position to specifically measure. Nearly every other position in all of sports has very clear cut statistical categories that are universally accepted as measurable for performance evaluation. The only hard stats an offensive lineman racks up in the league’s official documentation are penalties. Imagine that! The only measurables that the world ever sees in regard to your performance are negative. A good performance to the outside observer is the absence of ever hearing or knowing about what you did. That can make it very hard to have tangible appreciation for your work. Dan made sure, internally anyway, that wasn’t the case. The trick is making those measurables as objective as possible.
It’s also vital to:
1. Make them extremely clear to all, so that there is absolutely no confusion about what they are and how they will be viewed.
2. Make sure the WHY is clearly stated and accepted by all.
Without those two parameters, you end up with:
1. A hazy mark, leaving people unclear of where to aim.
2. Measurables that may not be bought into, or worse, are fought against.
Dan started by throwing an aggressive gauntlet down. “We see a 90% grade or better as being a winning performance. That’s what we expect from you here.” 90% for a passing grade seemed pretty high. What was unique, though, was his phrasing. There was no PASSING grade. There
was a WINNING grade. Was your performance good enough to win with? That’s all that mattered.
In 2003, Dan set that mark at 90%. You had to do your job at a winning level 9 out of every 10 plays you completed. The mark was set high and made very clear. “There are two things we are looking for in a winning play.” He then turned on an old school projector that lit up the white grease board outlining what a winning play consisted of.
The image before us looked like this:
A WINNING PLAY
Those two things were completely objective and entirely within our control. You either lined up right and went to the right person to block, or you didn’t. It was pretty hard to question those parameters. There was really no judgment or interpretation needed. Dan merely recorded whether you did those two things or not. Simple. Clear.
2. PHYSICAL PREVENTED YOUR PLAYER FROM DISRUPTING THE PLAY
That was it.
Now, you could argue that this point was a little more subjective, but the wording was such that it kept things pretty clear. Did your inability to physically do your job negatively affect the play from doing what it was intended to do? When you look at that tightly defined statement, it gets much harder to not clearly see whether you physically did your job or not. That was it. Clear and simple. The mark was set, and the parameters to hit the mark were laid out in clear, understandable language. This was one of the very few times Dan did not leave the door open for our input. He threw the gauntlet down. He didn’t want us to manipulate the bar and reword it to fit our liking. I see now why sometimes it’s so much more powerful to have a challenge imposed on you from an outside source.
Dan wasn’t interested in what we thought a winning play was, but he made sure we CLEARLY understood what the club saw as a winning play as well as how our performance would be graded accordingly. He also made sure we all fully acknowledged that understanding and that we accepted it. Clarity and understanding were key, as was acceptance. Without those, measurables become an exercise in futility.
Doing your job gave you a plus (+) for that play. Failure to do so gave you a minus (-). You obviously wanted to see more pluses than minuses when you opened up your grade sheet from the previous game. To get the goodies we were about to be introduced to, you wanted pluses AT LEAST nine out of every ten plays.
Playing for Peanuts…Rolled in Caramel and a Few Other Ingredients
There’s getting your paycheck, then there’s earning your PayDay. One is contractually obliged; the other is earned only by your performance. One you can get your agent to deal with; the other, only you can achieve. One feeds your family; the other feeds your pride. It’s funny how a $2 incentive can be so powerful, but that’s just what the next topic of discussion by Dan proved.
He had a bag with him. It was a small bag and looked similar to one of those hotel cloth bags you might put your shoes in to get them polished. I’m almost certain that’s not where that bag was from, but it was the only comparable I could think of at the time. You could tell by both the searching of his hand and the rustling sound that there were a few small items in there. He was searching by feel alone. He obviously knew exactly what he was looking for. He pulled his hand out to reveal a fully wrapped PayDay candy bar. Now, I hadn’t known Dan very long yet, but I already knew the man enough to know he was not the type to pack candy bars in his bag for impulsive mid-day snacking.
Dan didn’t do anything impulsive, and eating candy bars just didn’t fit his M.O. So…what was going on here? He held the bar up near his face, exposing the PayDay logo to us in such meticulous fashion that it looked like he was setting up to do an infomercial. “Hi, my name is Dan Dorazio, and I love PayDay bars.”
He didn’t say any of that, and he definitely didn’t unwrap it and dive in. He wanted to explain rewards — rewards for a job well done. A PayDay bar would be awarded to any player that put out a winning performance the previous game. You truly earned your PayDay. It’s amazing what happens in a room of competitive people when some get to eat their PayDay bar while others sit empty handed. It may be a $2 stick of salted peanuts rolled in caramel, surrounding a firm nougat-like center, but it’s what it represented that made all the difference.
It was a tangible, public acknowledgment of a job well done. I personally dislike PayDay bars, but for some reason, they always tasted amazing during those meetings. It was that satisfying taste of a job well done.
The Winning Performance Equation
“Play at a level that your opponent is unwilling or unable to match.” There were other parameters required to earn a winning performance as well. Your sack ratio and pressure ratio needed to be in order. Again, clear targets with straight forward objective parameters.
An acceptable sack ratio throughout the course of a season was 1/125. Meaning, if you gave up a sack in less than one out of one hundred and twenty-five throwing play snaps, you were playing winning football. That again was broken down to a very clear, very objective definition.
Each and every passing play had a planned time frame that it was expected to take. For example, 662 x pony trade (it’s a bunch of nonsense, I know) was a 2.8 ball. All that means is that the play is designed to have the quarterback throw the ball in 2.8 seconds. That.8 sounds
like splitting hairs, but in the world of pass protection, every tenth of a second matters, and you learn to ‘feel’ the difference between tenths very quickly.
So, on that particular play, a sack would have to be given up in that time frame for it to have counted. If the quarterback held onto the ball for four seconds – that sack was on him. Clear, simple, objective. The stop watch tells you if you did well or not. Dan just recorded it. Quarterback hurries, pressures, and hits presented the same scenario as sacks, only the ratio was a little more forgiving. The ratio of 1/25 passing plays was acceptable. Again, what equaled a pressure, hit, or hurry was predicated on the time allotted for that play. Did you prevent your man from doing any of these things to our quarterback in the designed play time frame? If so, from a grade perspective, all good.
Please don’t misunderstand, getting a (+) didn’t always mean there weren’t things to be improved on that play, but it did mean you fit the outlined, objective-based parameter of grading.
To fully qualify for your prized PayDay bar required fulfilling the following:
* 90% or higher grade
* Pressure ratio of 1/25 or better
* Sack ratio of 1/125 or better – You really couldn’t give up a sack and earn a PayDay bar. That would require us throwing the ball more than 125 times in a game! The most plays I had ever run in one game in my entire career was 77. Bottom line: to get a PayDay – NO SACKS.
* Finally, NO mental errors. This was again very objective. If you went the wrong way, went to the wrong person, or got a mentally driven penalty (offsides, illegal procedure, etc.) a PayDay was off the table.
There it was. All laid out very clearly. The standard that was expected and exactly what it took to meet it. You can’t ask for more than that. It didn’t require Dan’s interpretation of how I played. All he had to do was record how our play measured up.
I pretty much knew my grade the second the last play of the night was run. I knew whether I went the right way or not. I knew how many times my assignment disrupted the play. I clearly knew if I had mental penalties. The only uncertainty sometimes was in the sacks, hurries, hits, and pressure.
You do get an amazing feel for fractions of seconds, but even still, sometimes you’re not totally sure. You also have no idea what else was going on behind you during the play. What the quarterback or other players may have done to alter where that play went and ended up.
Either way, you knew while watching film the next day that the evaluation had already been made based on what you did. The parameters were already set. I wasn’t waiting for Dan to come up with my grade. He would merely be compiling what I did. I made my grade. We all do.
Reid, Angus. Thank You Coach: Learning How to Live, By Being Taught How to Play (Kindle Locations 1853-1940). Kindle Edition.
RELATED CONTENT: [Podcast] Thank You Coach - Angus Reid
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