If you take a look beyond the surface of the majority of successful programs, you’ll notice a set of behaviors and traits that are missing that seem to pop up more and more often in struggling programs.
For head coaches, I believe that there are certain behaviors that you should never allow from your players, and your staff. These particular types of behaviors can be contagious in the wrong way, and lead to adverse side effects that can end up dragging the ceiling of the program down.
Here are the 6 traits and behaviors that coaches should never accept from players, or their staff.
I am a firm believer that poor attitudes from players or staff can ruin a team dynamic quicker than almost anything else, and therefore also need to be dealt with swiftly. Attitude is a daily, conscious choice, and if someone is going to make the choice to have a crappy attitude around the team and refuse to change it, it’s probably best for the team if they be sent home and are no longer a distraction.
The locker room, practice field, weight room, and everywhere else will be better without the selfish negativity that comes with the choice to bring a poor attitude around the team.
Lack of effort
I remember constantly hearing from one of my coaches in college that effort has nothing to do with ability, and it is something that has stuck with me ever since. As coaches, we cannot accept anything less than maximum effort from both your players and your staff. Listening to the Focus 3 Podcast with Brian and Tim Kight recently (the same guys that Urban Meyer trusted to come on board to help build a culture at Ohio State), they use the phrase: “If you permit it, you promote it.” In coaching terms, that’s basically the same as the old adage, “you’re either coaching it, or allowing it happen.” Don’t permit less than all out effort from your players and staff.
Refusal to align
Every program has a mission statement or vision that requires everyone to be pulling – or in PJ Fleck terms, “rowing” – in the same direction. If you have players, or coaches on your staff that refuse to get on the same page, and get on board to work toward a common goal, your players, staff, and team as a whole will never reach their full potential.
The beauty about football is that it is a team game to it’s core, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be played selfishly. It could be a quarterback trying to make a play on his own instead of reading his key on a 3rd down, or a defensive end running and chasing an off tackle play away instead of keeping contain, only to have the quarterback keep the ball and run for a big gain. There’s a reason that Bill Belichick, and so many other coaches use “Do Your Job” as their motto for their program, and it’s because it’s simple, effective at getting it’s point across, and also comes with the inherent understanding that everyone has a job, all the time, and no one job is more important than the other. They are all very important pieces of the puzzle.
Whenever you recognize selfishness from a player, or coach, be sure to address it immediately, and more importantly, in a manner where it is going to be most effective.
Bad body language
I know I’ve harped on the importance of this in previous articles, but body language is something I have become a stickler for over the course of the last several seasons. Football, like baseball to an extent, is a game of failure in many ways. It’s crazy to think you’re going to go into a game and dominate every block with a pancake, or that you will never give up a completion and make every tackle from your corner spot, or throw ever pass with pinpoint accuracy and making the right read every singe time. Failure is part of the game, and it is how we respond to that adversity and failures that act as the building blocks for the life lessons that makes football so loved. Controlling your body language after making a mistake and focusing on the next play is vital to both short, and long-term success.
It may sound like this is just for players, but it’s for coaches as well. Players often tend to take on the personality of their head coach to a degree so make sure you’re modeling the behavior that you want to see in your guys.
One of my favorite shirts that I was ever given as a football player came as during my time in college. The back read “There are two options regarding the committment to this program. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in between.” I believe the quote came from Pat Riley, and it has, and will forever been etched in my memory.
That quote is a great addition to this list because while some programs may have to beg kids to come out and play to field a team, or to hold more efficient practices, at the end of the day you want guys there who 1) actually WANT to be there and 2) who can commit to your way of doing things. There should be no middle ground there, for coaches or players. Either step in with both feet and commit, or stay out. Successful programs have little use for players, and coaches, who want to have one foot in, and one foot out.