The previous post "Building and Sustaining Culture" covered a lot of ground. Reflecting back on it, it seems prudent to emphasize a few key points and provide one small, but important example of sustaining culture. How and what you share with and about your programs is going to be as varied as one can imagine.
The BC Secondary Schools Football Association recently had a coaches clinic at Lord Tweedsmuir High School in Surrey, BC. This event was far-sighted in its conception and I truly believe that it represents a great starting point to build off of in terms of coaching and program development. There is a great reservoir of coaches and football knowledge in this province that is mostly untapped. I strongly support this project and its continuation in succeeding years. It can only get better.
I was honored to be asked to speak regarding the Building and Maintaining of Culture. It is a pretty wide open topic and frankly, a bit daunting. Writing comes a lot more easily to this child than speaking, so I figure I'd give it a second go and hopefully, bring more clarity to the topic.
The Bedrock of Your Values and Beliefs…Your Football Zen
The word culture brings with it many connotations in the mind's eye that are as diverse as the people ruminating about it. It stands to reason that we might want to formalize it a bit and see what can be milked-out thereafter.
Definition of culture
1 a : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material
traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic
features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by
people in a place or time popular culture Southern culture
b : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and
practices that characterizes an institution or organization a corporate culture
focused on the bottom line
c : the set of values, conventions, or social practices
associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic
studying the effect of computers on print culture
Changing the culture of materialism will take time … —Peggy
d : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and
behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge
to succeeding generations
2 a : enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by
intellectual and aesthetic training
b : acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities,
and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical
skills a person of culture
3 : the act or process of cultivating living material (such
as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient media; also : a product of such
4 : cultivation, tillage
We ought to blame the culture, not the soil. —Alexander Pope
5 : the act of developing the intellectual and moral
faculties especially by education
6 : expert care and training beauty culture
Building and Maintaining Culture within a football program requires some context. Lets start with program. In broad simplistic strokes what is it?
Physical Structure: This is the “House” or better put “The
Church”. It is very important, but it
means nothing without the PEOPLE who inhabit it.
·Field Equipment and Storage
·Team Facility: Player Equipment, Uniforms and
Simply put, a program has the physical structure. You could add staff organization to the template as a part of the matrix as well.
Building a Culture
The word "Building" involves both a long term and a short-term approach. Long-term involves a strategic approach and the short term is far more tactical in its nature.
Stategy vs Tactical, Understand
Strategy: Strategy typically involves two major
processes: formulation and implementation. Formulation involves analyzing the
environment or situation, making a diagnosis, and developing guiding policies.
It includes such activities as strategic planning and strategic thinking.
Implementation refers to the action plans taken to achieve the goals
established by the guiding policy. It can
be summed up with the following question:
Who are we, where do we want to go and how are we going to get there? Do Your inventory!
are the ordered arrangement of your program elements in relationship to one
another and your opponents elements designed to accomplish your objective.
In a nutshell: Strategy is a set of choices used to achieve
an overall objective whereas tactics are the specific actions used when
applying those strategic choices
Building A Culture: The Process aka
1.Do your personal belief/philosophy
inventory and DEFINE YOUR PHILOSOPHY.
-This is the moral and spiritual compass by which
all things in your program will be oriented.
-Whatever it is you say, YOU MUST DO!
Walking-talking contradictions FAIL
-Your Philosophy translates to your Performance
HERE IS MY PERSPECTIVE
-Developing a Sense of Urgency-
Estimated Age Of The
Universe: 13.799 Billion Years plus or minus 21 million
Estimated Age Of The
Earth: 4.54 Billion Years
Modern Humans: Speciation to modern humans from Homo Erectus was 2-300 thousand years ago. A very liberal estimate of lifespan during this time is 30yrs per-generation. That would equate to approximately 10 000 generations. Now think of mortality rates from drought, famine, disease, complications at childbirth, predators, human predation and conflict.... I can confidently state that your very presence here right now, the fact that you live and breath in the present, well....You are
Average Life Span of
Canadian Male: 80.2 yrs. How old are you right now? Subtract that number from 80.2 and that is what you have left out of 13.799 Billion Years.
You are Here xxxxx
How and why are you going to
spend the time you have? With some urgency perhaps???
How Are You Going To
Approach The Life You Have?
Follow Your Bliss: "Do that what you love and doors will open for you,
hidden hands will help you and lift you up along the way." Joe Campbell
Building Your Football Culture:
Look to Nature for Inspiration
A healthy ecosystem is in its essence BALANCE. Take a pond for example, there are plants, insects, fish, birds and of course water. Each of these entities affects the others. Kill off a certain plant and you likely will affect the chemistry and oxygenation of the water, the life cycle of an insect, the cover for fish, or the food for the fish (no insect specie to eat), the birds that eat the fish or insect and then in the absence of one of those apex organisms, other plants or insects will multiply out of control affecting the balance of the ecosystem. Nature is rife with such examples. There is a masterful study of what happened in Yellowstone Park when wolves were killed off and then what happened when they were reintroduced. Basically, the apex predator (wolves) were absent. Their prey, elk exploded in numbers. The elk ate the vegetation around stream beds, this had two major effects, shore erosion took place with no roots to bind the soil together and the streams then flooded and meandered widening the streams and wrecking spawning beds for the fish. The streams were shallow and un- shaded. The water temperature increased and the deep pools disappeared. Bad for fish. Secondly the riparian zone, the area where vegetation close to the bank that gave shade, habitat for insects and cover for the fish was gone. Bad for fish. Now, bring back the wolves, bring the elk population back under control and BINGO, balance is restored. Vegetation comes back and the streams are brought back in to their natural state. More habitat for fish. More insects and fish, more animals and birds that feed upon them.
What I am trying to say is that an ecosystem can be modeled like a large hoop with tin can lids in it that are connected by rubber bands. If you tug on one can lid and let go, there will be a reverberation amongst all the lids. One affects all.
Now in the context of a "football culture", building and sustaining it, it is not a great leap of the imagination to use nature as an analogy. Each part of your culture as you build it is not a singular independent entity. In reality, each element should be a part of the bigger whole with a function that is supportive in a balanced way of all the other parts of the program. Make sure your core values are complimentary.
Macte Virtute –Increase In Excellence!
Be sure to imbed and nurture the idea that improvement is to be sought in all aspects of your program from the physical structure to personel, communication and technique. This is ongoing and improvement in one area naturally has an effect on all other areas. There is great power within a program when all members are seeking to improve. The Status Quo is not good enough.
-MERITOCRACY: You Will Be Known For Your Commitment, Effort and Talent-
Think about it. Talent never reaches its potential or is even able to express itself without Commitment and Effort. Commitment to the program and its plan must precede everything else. Once a Commitment is made, maximum Effort must be given at all tasks small and big. Talent can then be expressed. Players, Coaches and All Members of the program earn their role by this formula. A Meritocracy is fair and it eliminates politics and people claiming roles for themselves that are unearned. "If you want it, take it!" rules the day. The most prepared mentally and physically are rewarded with the role they play. Competition within this framework comes natural as does the reward.
• Commitment: Be There! On-Time, In
Uniform, Properly Equipped
• Effort: You Control Your
Effort. Bring Your Best Every Day, All
We all like doing certain things. If you
like something, it is your hidden genius!
There is something in every endeavor we apply ourselves to that we can
come to enjoy.
Some Maxims To Follow
-Try Your Hardest! Get Better Each Day!
Do The Right Thing!-
Lou Holtz took this wherever he went to coach. It cuts to the core of things and any aspect of your program can be framed and emphasized as such!
-A Fierce Sense of Urgency!-
All tasks and operations of your prgram are important! The health of one endeavor affects the health of all endeavors. All program members should approach they do with a Fierce Sense of Urgency! This becomes a habit and the program as a whole reaches new height after new height!
-The Harder You Fight For Something, The Harder It Is To Surrender –
When we commit to something and spend a precious moment of our life doing it, we are paying a price. The more time we spend on target, the more energy we expend doing this, the more we invest of ourselves, the more valuable it becomes. Quitting becomes out of the question. Surrender becomes loathsome.
“The More Sweat On The Training Field, The Less of Your Blood on The
This is both simplistic and True! You are what you do every day. Drill, Drill, Drill! and when you are exhausted, picture your opponent doing just one more rep...do two more perfect reps! On game day, with the contest played within the same rules on a level playing field, there will be no lies. You cannot go out and fake the training you have or have not done.
Every rep, every drill, every task on or off the field must be done correctly and it must have Finish! Defeat's greatest author is partial or sloppy preparation. Finish The Job! Block to the echo of the whistle, run through contact, not to it. Sprint all the way!
-Make The Big Time Where You Are-
You cannot use the air in front of you or the runway behind you, only the air beneath your wings! We all had a social studies unit in elementary school on Egypt. It is not really the topic that counted however, It Is HOW You learned about Egypt that really counted. When you are doing something, the rest of the world stops, your focus is unassailable, it is the only thing that counts. It is not the block on the next play that matters, it is the block you are executing Right Now that matters!
-From Death Comes Life-
Rest assured that every religion or mythology that has ever existed carry's this message. Why? Because as humans we observe our universe constantly and codify it to bring meaning to our experience. You are going to lose games, you are going to fail to achieve a goal you have worked for. That does not mean quit. It means that you need to treat a setback like a friend and learn from it. Do a post-mortem on any breakdown or defeat and learn where it went wrong. Build a better mousetrap and earn the next win!
Philosophy Of Competition: Success Place vs Success Road Embed in All
Aspects of Training! Being your
Frosty Westering spoke a lot about this. He described the "Success Place" as the winner's circle, that moment after the big championship win where all the hands are raised, the ticker tape is falling and the trophy is raised high. He went on to say that our society has come to embrace that as what success is. Number One or No One! We see it all the time. There are winners and conversely, there are the losers. He said that this is a dangerous mind-set that lacks consistency and that it creates problems along the way. He also said that teams and individuals lack a crucial element of control in this mind-set. You see, you cannot control your opponent. You are going to face a better opponent along the way at some point and if you view yourself as a winner or a loser based solely on the outcome of a given game, your self-esteem is on a rocky road. Picture your self-worth as a flow chart. Your wins may be upward trending, but your losses will be conversely, downward trending. You get into comparison games and as no one is perfect, that can negatively affect your moods, self-esteem, commitment, effort and focus.
Frosty then spoke of a different way to approach success and competition. He called it the Success Road. The success road is something you drive on all the time. It will take you to the success place for sure, but it continues uninterrupted through defeats and tough moments. When you take the success road you compete against yourself, not others. The idea is continuous self-improvement. You take calculated risks and up your game incrementally all the time. What is great about this approach is that you control your effort and because your opponent is you, you can influence outcomes much more consistently. The success road creates great self-esteem which translates to an inner-culture of self that creates wins and builds a positive momentum.
If you foster a "Success Road" culture within your organization, it creates a culture of excellence and humility. When individuals embrace self-improvement and then taper that improvement to team/program goals the whole organization becomes stronger and closer to one another. It becomes honest and resilient. It is a STRONG and HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM so-to-speak.
2.Assemble Your Staff and Lead Them To
Understand Your Philosophy.
-Your Leaders are an extension of yourself. There must be no variance in what they
communicate to all aspects of the program.
The message must be consistent and teaching is to be framed in the
context of your philosophy.
-Your Staff Teaches to your Performance
Sustaining Your Culture
1. Couche your
teaching/phrasing in terms of your philosophy when you speak or communicate in
writing/social media. SAY IT-REPEAT IT-EMPHASIZE IT!
2. Embed your
Philosophy and Performance Standards in all activities that are in your Annual
3. Your Program Goals
(Which are Your Performance Standards!) across the Annual Plan need to be
celebrated and reflected upon in the context of your philosophy.
4. Team and
Individual success are to be framed and celebrated within the outlines of your
philosophy. Show-em why they succeeded! It’s not what you did, it’s how you did it!
5. Record and
6. “Harden Your
Position” Maintaining is the equivalent of Retreat as events around you are
fluid. When you get a moment of
down-time, do an inventory and build a SITREP (Situation Report) on the program. Find ways to double down, strengthen and
reiterate. Remember your competition is constantly upping their game, probing your weaknesses and getting ready to strike. Good Enough is never Good Enough. You have to do the hard things, make sure your organization is taking nothing for granted and is constantly "Getting Better" in all aspects.
7. Off Season or
Opportunity Season! There is no "off-season". Certainly, you are not doing in-season things such as practices, games et-al, but you do have the OPPORTUNITY to GET BETTER across the board structurally, intellectually, physically, organizationally and in terms of equipment and facility. Relationships don't end, they simply transition. I read a quote once that said "The road to greatness is always under construction." That makes a lot of sense.
Culture takes time to build. You cannot go to the store and buy a can of culture, sprinkle it around and expect results. Over time, consistencies are built. Behavior is established and history is built. Things about that history become acknowledged and CELEBRATED. Story's are told, deeds are recounted, expectations and common understandings enrich the narrative. In time a pattern and expectation with its accompanying heros and villains emerges. Behavior becomes guided by a code that is both formal and informal. Those that came before have much to offer those of the present. There is great strength to be found in the legacy that has been left. Embrace the positive aspects of your history and be sure to encourage alumni to attend your practices and games. Encourage them to tell stories from their time in the program. Be sure you always take time to tell stories or show video about past successes. This type of cultural transference is very powerful.
The concept of Cultural Transference is brilliantly described in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. This book is a must read if you want to examine "Success" in its many forms.
So folks, this post probably just scratches the surface of a complex phenomenon. Thoreau hit on some good observations below. Use that time you have wisely and be grateful for it. Remember that it is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time.
“I learned this, at
least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of
his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet
with a success unexpected in common hours. . . . In proportion as he simplifies
his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will
not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness."
I wrote this letter (this is an edited version) to our program. It applies to all of us I reckon...
An Ode to the 2017 Season
A high school football season is precious. A young man only gets four of them if he is
lucky. Each season is unique in that the
squad is composed of a different cast of characters each with their own contribution
to make. Some year’s we are big, some
years we are fast, some years it is a mix of both. The mortar between the bricks is the ability
to catch, run, tackle, block, kick and pursue.
The rebar that runs between the bricks is the marrow of the game;
unselfishness, toughness in adversity, heart, desire and a love for one
another. The arrangement of the bricks
is the ability to do one’s part to the best of his abilities within the team
schemes for offense, defense, punt protection and coverage, kick-off coverage,
punt return, field goal/extra-point and kick-return. In short many bringing their A-game to the
practice and playing fields to become one heartbeat, one play at a time in
common-cause. There is “individual
greatness” inside each man and when it is all focused in one direction, with
one purpose something beautiful happens.
Something bigger than the physical, something magic and spiritual that
creates a play or series of plays that are in the moment, that have never been
done in quite the same way before and will never be done the exact same way
again. It is a song in the moment, it is
creation, it is the work of many hands and it lasts a lifetime. Quite simply, it is beautiful. Beautiful because it was made from scratch
and the product of many striving in unison for perfection. Perfection as individuals is being the best
we can be with what we have in a moment in time. Perfection is tiered, it gets harder to obtain
with each individual added to the equation.
The game played in between the sidelines, on the field of battle against
an opponent determined to disrupt your efforts at every turn within the rules
of play demands the ultimate in terms of perfection. Let us go back to the phases of the game:
Offense (11 Players), Defense (11 players), Kick-Off (11 players), Kick-Return
(11 players), Punt Team (11 players), Punt Return (11 players), Field Goal/PAT
(11 players) defending the Field Goal/PAT (11 players). Now that is 88 players not including the 2’s
and 3’s that have to be trained-up to fill in at a moment’s notice with no loss
of effectiveness. Really, that’s 3 x 88
brains, bodies and fighting spirits that have to coordinate themselves with the
goal of perfection in the moment, where every player has to succeed for the
other 10 to succeed on a given play.
That number is 264 players that have to be polished and precise TOGETHER
to succeed. Most games vary by the
number of plays played between 120 and 150 plays. That means at a minimum you have to have 264
brains, bodies and fighting spirits preparing and striving for perfection with
120 opportunities to do so….that folks is 31 680 combinations of a perfect
effort to make a perfect play in one game.
Now, a regular season is nine (9) games.
That is 285 120 opportunities to achieve perfection together. A championship season would be 13 games. That is 411 840 opportunities to be perfect
in the face of the headwinds of an opponent hell bent on disrupting a perfect
team effort in one season.
Herein resides the greatness of the game. There is boundless and quite frankly,
exponential opportunity for finding one’s bets self. The pursuit of perfection as an individual,
as a sub-unit, as a unit and a team is manifest. There is a seat at the table for EVERYONE and
the recipe for perfection season after precious season draws from its human
ingredients that are as varied as the society we live in. Within a school building there is a group of
potential players that are walking the hallways. As a coach, they are what you have so you
give them all you have and that gang is the social contract. Helping each player find their greatness and
guiding them to perfection as a team is the challenge. Coaching staffs are again, if you do the
math, a group of architects and engineers with a similar exponential task
before them. The staff must be
coordinated in terms of training for the ultimate outcome. All those opportunities gang, they add up to
the journey that is a season. A precious
season like none that has come before and like none that will ever follow. When the final whistle blew this year, the
last page of the 2017 season was turned.
The afterglow of the season we all authored together like a novel just
read, will resonate for the rest of our lives.
When you look back at it, the journey reigned supreme over any win-loss
record. Shakespeare once wrote that good memories are like roses in winter or
something to that effect. As we grow in to the winters of our respective lives remember those TEAMS you played on and you will will always live in the full bloom of those memories!
-We're supposed to be living in very sophisticated times, with sophisticated young people. All worldly wise and knowledgeable. How can the game of football still be important in that context? I feel that it's more important than ever. Where else can we walk out there even--everything the same--and compare? Look around. Maybe the football field's the only place left. Maybe we've already lost it everywhere else.- -Paul "Bear" Bryant
Is football the last outpost of discipline? The grind of the gridiron separates it from other sports. Where else-in what sport or activity-does a man line up directly across from another who could very well be bigger, stronger, smarter, older and more talented? Yet he is expected to compete intensely for 60 minutes. We ask him to give no quarter and take none. It's been said that the most competitive men play the most competitive games. Coaches and players know the undersized men can win because nobody has a market on heart, desire, motivation, and the will to win. Football reveals these qualities in men and rewards them. Teamwork is necessary in all group sports. Yet, football digs deep into the true meaning of team, simply because 11 men must coordinate their efforts. Vince Lombardi said the best definition of team is "one heartbeat." To gain this requires total commitment, demands selflessness. These qualities are not inherited and are rarely demonstrated in a laboratory or classroom. No, football develops them through the grind, the difficulty, the unity necessary to blend into one. Have you noticed that a redwood tree can mature to a full 300 feet (the length of a football field!) when fully grown? Did you know that its roots do not sink deep? Actually, they are very shallow. It would appear that any good wind could knock over any redwood. Do you know why that doesn't happen? Redwoods grow in clusters. Their roots grab one another-much like hands gripping on all sides. Our best football teams reflect the same dependence. A man learns to trust and depend upon others. Bill Curry taught me the smartest definition of leadership. He calls it a powerful positive presence. If you are positive, your presence will be powerful. Think about it-everyone can lead under this concept. You need only to bring a healthy attitude to your squad every day and you are positively influencing your team. There is a verse in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 20:8: "Who is the man who is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house so that he won't make other hearts melt like his heart." Did you know that when you are weak, you can make others around you weak? If your heart is melting, so will others. If you are strong, others will draw on your strength. Football has a unique way of building leadership. The very nature of our game depends upon leaders to emerge. -To me, no coach in America asks a man to make any sacrifice. He requests the opposite. Live clean, come clean, think clean. Stop doing all the things that destroy you mentally, physically, and morally, and begin doing those things that make you keener, finer, more competent.- -Fielding H. Yost Think about it. Football has not really changed. Fielding Yost penned this quote some 80 years ago. It is still appropriate today. It is no sacrifice to play football. In fact, it's a distinct privilege, an honor, an opportunity of a lifetime. I think we can look people in the eye and promise that if their son wants to play football, chances are good that they will see (a) improvement in his self-esteem, (b) renewed respect for authority, (c) willingness to cooperate with others, and (d) inclination to participate in everything more wholeheartedly. I believe football develops character. There is no easy way to practice football. it is often the most difficult thing a man undertakes in his lifetime. It prepares him for the trials and struggles of life. ______________________________________________________________________________________
-1989 AFCA Summer Manual. Coach McCartney was head coach at the University of Colorado.
Boy oh boy did the season go by fast this year! We now find ourselves in the playoffs. Lets take a look.
Friday, 10 November
John Barsby Bulldogs vs Langley Saints: Here are two teams who have quietly had very positive seasons. Offensively, both teams are very similar in their style of attacking defenses and moving the football. Defensively, they could not be more different with Barsby's stubborn pursuit oriented squad vs the ever attacking and opportunistic Langley crew. Special teams will be interesting to say the least, particularly kick-offs and punts. Size and team speed are pretty evenly matched. Barsby's roster has a bit more playoff experience than the visitors. Home field goes to the Dawgs. This game will be a defensive struggle with a couple big plays either way making the difference. GI's Pick: Barsby by 8
Clarence Fulton Maroons vs Samuel Roberts Technical Titans: SRT features some very big and skilled running backs and receivers. They are no slouches up front either. Fulton is playing on home dirt and is a real team in every sense. The Maroons have a very tough running game and are a big play threat via the air at any given time. Defensively, they are tough and swarm to the football. The Fulton punting game is excellent and they can really get themselves on a short field using it. Coach Scheller is one of AA football's treasures. His teams are a reflection of his leadership and they will always play tough, inspired football. SRT is g. 11 heavy and a legitimate threat in 2018 to run very, very deep in to the playoffs. They still have some growing pains however. Gridiron's Pick: Fulton by 10
Prince George Polars vs Argyle Pipers: If PGSS can cover what is easily one of the top three passing offenses in BC, this game is winnable. The Polars can run the football very effectively, have a multitude of good backs and lots of size. Argyle however, is truly dangerous via the air, effective running the ball and for a spread offense, they control the clock in superb fashion. The qb release is the fastest in BC. Defensively, they are fast and aggressive. I think PG just has not seen anything even approximating what is coming down the pipes on Saturday via the air. It is not something you can prepare for in one week if you have not been in that type of a fight all year. I also like what Argyle has become as a program. They are doing things the right way and it is no accident that they are in the playoffs yet again. There is a lot of football passion and "program push" behind the Pipers varsity success these past four years. GI's Pick: Argyle by 19
College Heights Cougars vs Hugh Boyd Trojans: College Heights, typical of their conference, runs the ball very well. Running teams almost always are a reflection of their offensive selves when playing defense. The Cougars will be physical, tough tacklers. I have seen nothing however from them in terms of passing the football that would make me spend a huge amount of time working on defending the pass if I was to play against them. Hugh Boyd should be able to load up against the run with at least eight in the box. The Trojans can run and pass with equal effectiveness, a highly balanced group offensively. The Trojans are also very, very fast. They have played the toughest of schedules all year and they have not faltered. On top of everything else, there is the Haddow factor. Two 30 plus year coaching legends who have led great teams in all the big games at all levels of play. Their players love and respect em and I am sure in their hearts, want to cap their careers with something special on the field. GI's Pick: Trojans by 26
AA JV Playoffs begin next week. I will have a set of predictions up in next week's blog post.
Best of Luck to everyone on and off of the field. God Bless!