That long stretch between spring practices coming to an end and the beginning of fall camp is just about upon us, so I decided to take a look at how we all can become better coaches during the spring and summer before we all get started on the 2017 season.

Here are a list of ideas, some that you can do immediately, while others will take a bit of planning, to help you and your staff become better coaches before you hit the field.

1 – Spend some time at a local college having spring practices
A good number of college programs still have spring ball going on, so whether you’re a high school coach, or college coach, take a few minutes and reach out to a program or some coaches there to set up a visit to come and observe a spring practice to see some drills they’re using, verbiage they use in the meeting rooms and practice field, and just how they interact with both players and staff. If you can swing it, try and carve out some time to sit and talk scheme and program building ideas with some of the coaches there and chances are real good you’ll leave with a few good nuggets you can use yourself.

2 – Visit with fellow coaches
Whether it’s just meeting up with someone in their classroom, having drinks with someone at a local watering hole, or in their basement at their house, getting out and sharing ideas and stories with other guys in the profession is a great way to hear a different perspective, a different way to do things, organize a practice or off season, and just plain network.

3 – Spend some time talking scheme with coaches on the other side of the ball
As coaches, a lot of times we want to hear the best ideas from coaches on the same side of the ball that we coach on, but it’s equally as important to spend some time with coaches on the other side of the ball to find out how they’ve found successfully defended certain formations and schemes in order to stay a step ahead of things come fall.

4 – Step up your game on social media
There is a ton of great content being shared around Twitter and even Facebook today. Guys are sharing cutups of everything from the national championship game to the Super Bowl and breaking down the X’s and O’s in ways that only coaches can really appreciate. Take some time and dig around to find some guys out there sharing short clips and great insight, and then find a way to share that stuff with the rest of your staff in a way that stimulates some thought and conversation and, more importantly, where you can look back on it come fall.

5 – Pick up the phone and reconnect
As part of the “younger” generations of coaches, I can attest that the simple act of picking up the phone and dialing is becoming a lost art of sorts. Blame it on texting, or social media, or whatever you want, but simply picking up the phone and connecting with an old friend you played with or coaching buddy is something we all should do more of. Especially when there is nothing to gain from it, other than simple reconnecting and catching up to reminisce or ask how they (or their family) are doing.

6 – Pick up a book or start listening to a podcast
Every off season, starting with the annual trip to the AFCA Convention, I make it my personal mission to pick up a few books to dig into that will open my eyes to a new way of doing things or on topics that will make me a better leader or coach. For those that claim they “don’t have time to read,” put down your phone before bed and pick up a book…or I have a more efficient suggestion – podcasts. In the past 9 months (or so), I started digging into various podcasts on my way to practice last fall, and they’ve become incredibly helpful. A few in particular have been so impactful that I had to tell myself that I’d only listen in my car, or somewhere that I am able to take notes. The amount of stuff I’ve been able to learn has helped me grow as a coach, person, and new father tremendously. (You can subscribe to our FootballScoop Podcast here, which will be rolling out new episodes in the coming weeks.)

7 – Get in shape
Some coaches believe in the bond created by working out with their players, or at least sharing the weight room with their players while they work out so they can see you sweating along side them. It really doesn’t matter how it gets done, I think that we can all agree that we’re all better coaches for our position group, the program, and for our kids, when we’re in better physical shape. Being able to spend the time at practice active on your feet, being the model of energy and enthusiasm you want to see in your players and staff is only possible if you spend some time the next few months getting after it and preparing your body and mind. Speaking of your mind, be sure to take some time and connect with your wife, kids, and the rest of your family and let them know how important they are to you with your words, and actions.

8 – Spend some time away from football with your players and staff
This off season, spend some time with your players and staff on things that have nothing to do with football doing things like taking them to the beach, have them over to your place to grill burgers and hot dogs and play yard games, have coaches and their families over once a month for a game night, or movie night, or something similar. The bonds created doing things like this will not only pay big dividends come fall, but will also carry over for your players and the lives of your staff and their families long after the season is over.

9 – Spend some extra time around your non-football players and staff members
This one is a bit outside the box, but I’m a big believer in the value of investing in others outside of your program, just as you do with those on your team and staff. Spending some extra time at lunch around non-football players, or members of the faculty outside of your staff building relationships can have some unintended benefits that have nothing to do with football. Maybe some of those non-football players become difference makers for you come fall when they decide to give football a try, and by connecting with fellow faculty members you show that you’re invested and interested in them and their well being and not simply the guy that lives, eats, and breathes football all year long and chances are they’ll start to see you, your program, and your players in a different light.

Have some other suggestions that coaches can get better this off season? Let me know via Twitter @CoachSamz or via email at [email protected].

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Content manager – Doug took the reins in 2011 and the website has been better ever since. A former college player and small college coach, Doug now serves as assistant head coach / offensive coordinator at West Ottawa HS (MI).