Prepping Coaches for the Clinic Season

By Terry Donovan | Posted 3/1/2019

Meeting with your staff this time of year rekindles the football juices. It’s a great time to reconnect with your best buddies after the long holiday season. By now, the past season is in our rearview mirror, and regardless of the outcome, we start to work on getting better as coaches for the upcoming season. The summer and fall are such a huge commitment to the kids, staff development sometimes gets put on the back burner. However, this is the perfect time to really invest in your staff. 

Getting away for a couple of days with your staff is a great way to bond and talk ball with other coaches. We’ve talked about having a plan and this should be in place before embarking on clinics or visits to colleges. 

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Football is always at the forefront of the talks, but do not overlook the importance of coaches building relationships with each other and the players. Here is a blueprint of what a good offseason of coaching development should look like:

Review of last season: If your staff hasn’t yet taken a hard look at last season, now would be a great time to do so. Find out what went well and where your team faced challenges. Evaluate everyone coming back to get a grasp on what you have returning. This needs to include more than just the players. Make sure all your coaches are being as productive as they should be. In many cases when evaluating your player’s performance, it can be directly related to coaching.  Nick Saban once said, “You’re either coaching it or letting it happen.” When we look back and coaches say our receivers couldn’t block at all last year, then we let it happen. Don’t be complacent on any player and challenge your coaches to get the most out of every single kid. This is the time to get a plan of how to get your coaches best equipped to teach your players to play the way you need them to. 

Offseason Objectives: What’s a good objective for your coaching staff in the offseason?  For starters, each coach should add value to your program and be able to show the players what their roles are. The No. 1 objective must be building your culture. Have expectations of the coaches. Challenge them to lead a group in the offseason and really get to know the kids, not just as players, but as people. This helps build a chemistry to have your players do what you ask of them willingly. 

This time of year is also great to reevaluate the staff and make certain that the right pieces are in the right places. Maybe a little shuffling is needed to get the right personality and passion with the right position group. This is the time to do it and still be able to seek out the information necessary to be great throughout the change.

Lastly, identify what your team needs most to improve on the field. Maybe it’s a defined practice structure or possibly a new scheme. Last season may have put you on the doorstep of greatness. Going 9-1 but losing in the section final may have been regarded as a success by many, but self-reflection could show that your team needs to be better at passing to take the next step. Your objective would be to find out how to get better at throwing the ball within your offensive scheme.

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Clinics: Setting your objectives will help in planning the clinic sessions you’ll want to delve into and the college teams you plan to visit. By meeting first and having a plan, unnecessary information is not cluttering the minds of the coaches. Getting information is great, but narrowing your focus will allow growth in your program. If you are looking how to become great at running A-gap power, try to not only attend these sessions related to this concept, but stay after and talk with the presenter or other coaches in the room. Many times you can have lunch and take a deep dive into this as well. 

What to do with the information collected? Clinics are great. The speakers are there for a reason. They know what they’re talking about and will make you believe that what they are preaching about is the way to go. This is why you want to have a plan. A triple option team doesn’t need a coach sitting in on a bunch of sessions on running a up-tempo RPO game. It’s always good to learn, but spending a bunch of time on topics you won’t apply to your program is not a smart usage of time. It can be detrimental if the meetings following the clinic season are overloaded with agendas that don’t mesh with the objectives. 

It’s good to meet shortly after the clinic or convene as a staff to debrief and get the new information sorted out. Some of it will be used and while some of it won’t. This is ultimately decided as a staff. Not everything that is learned will be applicable and that’s okay. The objective is to get better and use the information that will achieve this.

Staff Meetings: Regularly set up staff meeting to implement all the offseason development.  Getting information and not using the parts that will help you is a waste of time. Go through your findings with your staff and find out what’s useful. Keep these meeting short and follow an agenda.  It’s important to remain productive in the offseason just as you do during the season. 

The clinic season unofficially starts up our football season. Use this extra time to make sure your staff is best prepared to take on the upcoming season. These people are so instrumental in the success of your program. Give them the tools to be great!

Photo Courtesy: Jack Grinold/Eastern Massachusetts Chapter National Football Foundation

Terry Donovan is a Master Trainer for USA Football’s Heads Up Football program and has coached within the U.S. National Team Program. He currently serves as the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and B-backs coach for Kasson-Mantorville High School in Kasson, Minn. Additionally, Terry is a youth coach and Director of Youth Development in the Kasson-Mantorville Youth Football Association.


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