After years of being an assistant coach, being a part of staffs who met on Sunday nights while the NFL played in the background and the attention of those in attendance went back and forth between the NFL game, their fantasy football score, and film and opinions of the upcoming opponent, I felt like there had to be a more efficient way of doing things.
As a first-time head coach at Ravenna HS (MI), I got an opportunity to put a system of operation on the weekends to the test. I had to opportunity to talk about this at last day of the Grand Rapids Glazier Clinic, and it generated a lot of discussion and I've fielded a ton of emails, texts, and DMs about sharing it since, so I thought this was the perfect platform to do so.
Unlike a lot of programs, we don't bring the kids or staff in on the weekends. There are no early Saturday morning film sessions and Sunday meetings. In an era where the focus has clearly shifted to having the freshest possible players on Friday nights, I wanted to create an environment for our staff to be as fresh as possible as well.
When I took the head coaching job at Ravenna, it was a 40-minute commute and my wife was 8-months pregnant with our second child, and our first was about a year and a half old. I knew driving up to the school six days a week wasn't going to work for us, so we had to create a system to be efficient while working remotely.
Also, just for some background, at Ravenna I had one staff member out of 12 assistant coaches that was a teacher in the building. We had guys working during the day and then driving up to 30 minutes to be a part of our program. Asking them to drive that 6 days a week wasn't in the program's best interest either.
Here is how we attack our weekends (with the addition of Monday's).
Saturday - Off. Spend time with your family and watch college football. Get to some film stuff if you can.
Sunday - Dig into this week's opponent from home. Offensive staff - fill out suggestion sheet (explained below) and add best runs / passes / and 3rd and short and Red Zone plays, and any new formations we can get an advantage with. Defensive staff - Identify top formations and plays, and explosives (runs of 12+ and passes of 16+) for Monday
"Mental" Monday - Big film day where we will watch a cut up of top championship effort plays from Friday, and inexcusable effort plays (Loafs / softs) as well. Offense will walk through some fix-it stuff that needs corrected and introduce new tweaks heading into new week, and defense will do the same.
I did this for two seasons at Ravenna HS, and now have an opportunity to implement it and tweak it as my staff and I enter our first season at Comstock Park HS (MI).
Whether you're a high school or college head coach or coordinator, I really think you'll find something in this article worth implementing.
In the era of "the cloud" and Google, where we can be collaborative and efficient with Sheets, Slides, and Docs - it is my belief that meetings are becoming unnecessary and obsolete. Here is our system for taking back your weekends.
#1 - SLACK
If you're not on the Slack bandwagon yet, you need to be. There is a reason it has quickly become the go-to communications platform for businesses of all sizes, and teams.
As a FootballScoop staff, we use it daily to seamlessly communicate. As an assistant I was able to get our head coach on board with using it, and it worked wonders for us. When I took my first head coaching job at Ravenna HS (MI) in 2018 I doubled-down on using it to brainstorm and communicate with staff, and we used it in a variety of other ways as well for two seasons there. It's something I plan to continue as we head into my first season at Comstock Park HS (MI).
In order to really get this most out of Slack, you've got to make it clear during your hiring process that communicating on Slack is going to be your program's main mode of communication. Then it's on you as the head coach (or coordinator) to prompt some weekly communication on the platform, and hold guys accountable.
Create a channel for your offensive and defensive staffs, and for whatever else (culture, weight room, off season ideas, etc.) as well.
This past off season I got really specific and set up what our weekly workflow should look like as a staff by position and on each side of the ball. I included a look at that below.
Slack also has an integration option with Google services so that sheets and docs can be easily shared.
What I really like about it:
a) Place to store ideas - Over the course of the off season, we all come across a thousand different ideas on social media, at clinics, and everywhere in between. Slack is a great place where you can store those ideas and then come back and search for them in-season.
b) The digital footprint - This is something I'll mention another time or two in the article for a variety of reasons, but when you're clear with your staff about the expectation and how you'll be using Slack, it makes it really easy to go back to a day when you asked a question about a plan for your 3rd and short defense and never got a response back from your defensive coordinator.
#2 - GOOGLE
As I shared earlier, I got really specific with what I wanted over the weekends from each of my position coaches so that the expectations were clear and "on paper" so there was no way a miscommunication could occur. Yours may look like this, or completely different. This is first-page peek of what worked really well for us on the weekends. Whatever you decide to do, get it on paper, and to your guys so they know what is expected of them on the weekend.
WEEKLY SUGGESTION SHEET:
How we use it:
Every Sunday (at the latest) I put together an offensive suggestion sheet that I send to my offensive coaches. Each one has a column where they can put their input and it can range anywhere from formations or plays they really like, to what weaknesses they think we can attack, and everything in between. Whatever insight they feel like can help us win the game is fair game. There is also a section for things they don't like vs. the week's opponent. Coaches aren't expected to fill the sheet, but some adding some thoughts with the minimum expectation of contributing to the game plan is expected.
What I really like about it:
At the end of the year, if you weren't happy with the input from Coach A, you now have a digital footprint to really reflect back on. In the event that you decide to make a change, you now are able to essentially put together a personnel file on the coach to present to them. The same can be said for positive post-season evaluations - you now have specific examples to provide.
This is also really great in helping to reflect and put together and reflect your daily practice scripts and game day call sheets. It helps to ensure that you assistants feel like they have input that is valued into the game plan each week, and you can get a great feel for how your assistants see your both your opponents, and yourselves.
For each week and each opponent, I have a folder set up where all that information is stored from scout cards, data breakdowns, and practice scripts.
At the top of each of my practice scripts I use a header to put our core values as a program. The reason for that is that I want my coaches to see exactly what we're trying to emphasize every chance I can. I put the entire week's plan and scripts on the same page so that it is easy to reflect back on, and also put my game day call sheet in a different tab as well so I'm able to flip back and forth and be reminded of what we ran and emphasized during the week.
Another thing I don't think that you'll find on most coach's practice scripts is a place on the bottom where I put a DAILY EMPHASIS for my staff. It's not something I've done as much as I should have, but when think we could do better at emphasizing something as a staff, I want to put a note of it on the practice plan. For example, early on in 2019, I wanted to make it a point to praise kids who demonstrate what we call CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT. I asked our staff to make a point of it to praise it three times with kids during practice, and to go over the top and get REALLY excited about it one time. Pointing it out three times would ensure kids know that we value it as a program, and making a scene and doing it once really draws some extra attention to it.
I would keep a mental note of the coaches who did it as ones that were really bought into the culture we've talked about creating, and also make note of those that felt my request wasn't important enough to them to do it as well. You get a sense of who is all in, and who has their own agenda pretty fast.
Whatever your helmet decal criteria is, creating a Google Sheet to track it really streamlines things. As your staff is watching film from at home over the weekend, they're able to hop in and add names to the list. For Player of the Game and Scout player of the week type stuff that requires a vote, prompting guys to weigh in on Slack has been great for us.
As with anything, if you develop a system, but don't equip your people with the tools to succeed with what you're asking them to accomplish, there is a lot of room for failure. I eventually evolved to including templates of what I wanted our coaches to accomplish on the weekends so they knew not only what I felt we needed to have as a program, but how I wanted it to look as well.
If you're anything like me, having uniform looking scout cards that look neat and professional is important. Over the summer, I put together a handful of templates as resources for my staff to use come fall. I share them in their respective Slack Channel so when it's time to diagram plays or do scout cards they're easily accessible.
Below are a few of the other sheets I share with the staff to help make sure they have the tools to do what I'm asking them to do over the weekend.
SCOUT CARD EXAMPLE
OPPONENT OFFENSIVE TENDENCY SHEET EXAMPLE
That's a great look of how we set up our weekends while at Ravenna, and what I will continue to do as I enter my first season at Comstock Park. I'm a big believer in how it allows us to be efficient and gives us the ability to balance coaching and family time effectively. We took over a program with a great tradition at Ravenna, hired some great coaches, and were able take a program that won 3 games before our arrival, to 5 games in year one, and a jump to 8-3 and a top 7 state ranking in our division for most of the season.
At Comstock Park, we're taking over a program that has won 3 games combined over the past two seasons, but the weekend blueprint will largely remain the same. Another great thing about using the Google platform to organize everything is that I'm able to look back at the agenda for our very first staff meeting at Ravenna and see what I touched on, and what I need to tweak for Comstock Park. The same can be said for parents meetings, youth camps, and all that kind of stuff.
Feel free to reach out to me via Twitter @CoachSamz with any questions or input.