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Coaches Corner: 7 tips to have a more effective and engaging meetings (including the virtual variety)

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Today's post comes from a Group of 5 position coach.

How did your last staff Zoom meeting go?

Were you “camera on”, sitting up, wearing pants that require a belt (remember those?), taking notes, with no food or drink offscreen? Was your phone in another room, and every tab on your internet browser closed?

C’mon, man. If you’re like me, you were muted and texting recruits or working on scripts or reading the news online while paying half-attention to yet another set of announcements that could have been sent in an email.

So, think your position group meetings feel any different for your players? Here are a couple ideas to help any meeting, virtual or in-person, be more productive and enjoyable for all involved.

    Brains are like muscles; you gotta warm them up and stretch ‘em before you can expect them to work at full capacity. Ask your guys the last 5 champions of your conference or league. Name the previous year’s champion in the 4 major pro sports. Who is a current Supreme Court Justice? Ask two for their best joke or best pick-up line or favorite movie quote and vote on the best delivery. Name a musical artist whose name begins with H. There are a million starters, use a different one daily and get their mind away from whatever it was on ten minutes ago.
    Don’t encourage them to put their phones away, don’t have some penalty for trying to sneak them out during the meeting, have them hand them in to get in the door. If you’re on a virtual meeting, ask them to set their phone somewhere visible. If you’re inclined to allow phone breaks, do so at your discretion; but when you want their brain, allow no escape routes.
    Remember your 5 Ws from English class? Who does this QB like on 3rd down? What is their lead personnel group? When are we gonna call Red Right X Lancer? Where does the defense bring their cross dog pressure? Why is it important for you to capture the safety's eyes on this route? Don’t say “does anybody have any questions?”--it’s too easy to decline. Tell them before you begin that everyone needs to have a question ready after your (brief) install presentation, and when you call on someone, let another player answer. Asking questions and answering questions should be a habit just like taking notes is. When the voice is working, the brain is working; when they are silent, trust me, you have no idea where their brain might be.
    If you want them taking notes, you have to teach that skill and hold them accountable to doing it well. Provide guided instruction where you type out incomplete sentences to complete and leave space for diagramming calls and plays. Tell them that after your 10-minute install meeting one of them will need to install using only their notes; collect their notes at the end of a select meeting. I’ve seen HS coaches lead meetings that run circles around some highly-regarded college coaches because HS coaches are experts at teaching this skill.
    Ever drink an Icee too fast and get brain freeze? With the young men we coach, brain freeze sets in sooner than you think. No matter how much time the head coach or coordinator has allotted for your meetings, you have their attention for 20 minutes--if that. That doesn’t mean the meeting has to end, but you need to shift gears: have them stand up and stretch/hydrate; change to a walking demo of a technique; use one of your meeting-openers as a “commercial break”; give one of them the remote to coach up the next play. If you’re still meeting virtually, there are a whole suite of Family Feud- or Jeopardy-style templates to teach and compete in a different way. Did you enjoy being talked at for an hour-long Zoom? Neither do they.
    Sorry, Coach, they haven’t seen Animal House or Dumb and Dumber. They were in diapers when Anchorman came out. Be you, but don’t make it about you. There are some meetings where a serious tone needs to be set; but if you make it a habit of leaving them no space to laugh, they’ll dread your meetings. A friendly reminder: we are football coaches, we’re all odd. It won’t kill you to be the butt of the joke from time to time.
    You’ve said it a thousand times, live it. “A’ight fellas, any questions? Nobody? OK, I guess we’re good, let’s have a uhh...let’s have a great day.” Weak, Coach. Script your conclusion if you need to. Have them tell you something specific they want to improve upon by the next meeting. Give them a challenge for the upcoming practice. Break the meeting with your cadence. Put an exclamation point on the end of your meeting, not an ellipse.

Have other ideas for more engaging and effective meetings?

Share them via DM (@CoachSamz) or via email at