This week is Part 3 of our four-part series evaluating some of the aspects of becoming and performing the role of a head football coach.
Over the next few weeks, this series will briefly examine thought processes that are to be considered.
Pete Kempf is elated to co-author this series with former Fremont head coach, East Noble and Angola defensive coordinator Nick Maksimchuk. Nick is currently a social studies educator at Angola High School and serves as self-scout and video analysis consultant for high school programs across the United States.
In this third part of “Being a Head Coach,” we take on the early days of game week!
MONDAY AND TUESDAY – COACH PETE KEMPF
It’s game week, and Monday has reared its head, so it’s time to get to work.
You and your staff have spent hours watching film, assessing your roster, preparing a game plan and are now implementing it.
Remember, every program is a bit different. Some conferences play junior varsity games on Monday. The approach of a Class 1A program is vastly dissimilar from a 6A.
The following is a high-level approach from Coach Maksimchuk and myself.
For the varsity, Monday areas of focus are to continue healing from Friday, athletic enhancement for players, finish film work from Friday (if any), scouting report and opponent film session, install periods and practice.
The goal of Monday should be “tonal efficiency.” Later in the season, there is burn-out effect starting about Week 6 or 7. A program has usually installed a routine; the players, parents, and coaches know this routine. A head coach must keep in mind how to keep things fresh, fun, and effective to accomplish those goals.
Tonal efficiency is the business tone of practice on a Monday when you just have helmets or pro pads. There is rarely any contact. It needs to be fast, efficient and focused.
A high-level Monday may appear as:
- Scouting Report and Film
- Two-way system:
- Offense and Defense separate then split to position groups
- Come back to the whole group for special teams and team meeting
- One way system
- Team Film Session (Covering all three facets)
- Can go Team → Skills (bigs, mids, littles) → Team
- Two-way system:
- Walk Thru and Install (Whole)
- Indy\Group Execution Periods (Based on necessity)
The goal is to accomplish all of this in 90 minutes. When peak efficiency is met, it can be achieved. However, the process, when starting the season, can take up to 120 minutes., which is too long to stay effective for a playoff run.
Other teams may just lift and walk through on Mondays, while others do not even meet. Regardless, the players need to be as fast as possible on Tuesday. The only way to process this is to be mentally prepared and experience a high-level visualization on Monday.
Other considerations for Monday are JV games. Many conferences have moved away from Saturday JV games. So if you have JV kids at practice, player rotation may be adjusted to fit an efficient weight room and film session in.
If JV kids are prepping for a home game, the varsity players usually work the sticks, clock and may offer some coaching support on the sideline. If a JV game kicks off at 5:30 or 6 p.m. it has to be considered in practice planning.
Tuesday is the “high impact day.” It is traditionally a day that if your program does hit in full pads, this is it. But that needs to be a weekly decision.
Again, some programs do not take down in full pads all season. The winningest coach in NCAA Div. III history had a philosophy to never practice in pads. There is merit to it.
As a coach, I always felt as if you didn’t take down in team or group sessions, you have to feel full pads. Feel, drill, run, move and simulate tackling in full-pad drills are a necessity once a week. If a team is mature enough to have overcome that need, there is a discussion to build Monday and Tuesday under the same tonal efficiency model. Tuesday’s tone traditionally at a smaller school (80 kids and under on the roster) is a stimulus-response-rep model. You have to know your Assignment-Alignment-Keys (AAKs) for the game Friday.
Tuesday is the teaching day to build upon the mental approach of Monday. Coaches can see what plays, formations, front, stunts or adjustments that may look good in theory that their players can grasp and execute.
Tuesday is the COACHING day. Young men need mental reps and coached hard, and that takes time. In the COVID era where team film is limited, this is arguably the most important day of the week.
A rudimentary Tuesday looks as follows:
- Film (Focus on position specifics, if able)
- Pre-Practice (Special teams walk-thru)
- Practice warm-up
- Whole or part Session (Install or walkthrough if needed)
- Part (Indy)
- Part (Group)
- Team vs. Scout
- Special Teams
- Repeat 4-5 for the other side of the ball
Tuesday’s goal is 120 minutes if full efficiency is reached. It may last a bit longer at the session’s start (as long as the IHSAA’s rules are followed correctly.)
I am a big believer in film. We always had two cameras going on Tuesday and Wednesday – a high-level sideline and manager on a tight film from a team side perspective. Two managers would man a High-Pod lite (I strongly recommend the product to any program.) This also enabled us to film both Skelly (drills) and inside periods if going simultaneously.
We would also film individual sessions if necessary for teaching purposes. Coaches would then break this down the evening of practice and relay it to the players to watch the following day before practice.
WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY – NICK MAKSIMCHUK
Wednesday and Thursday are very similar in the setup of the agenda. These are your main days to get the athletes in full pads and work on your scouting report for Friday’s opponent.
One significant change I have seen from being the head coach at Fremont and then an assistant at East Noble and Angola was that I had to have team study tables after school at Fremont. This is to allow the lay coaches (many years, I was the only coach in the building) to practice, so we didn’t start practice right after school but instead closer to 4. Still, even with the later start, we were laid out similar to Tuesday’s practice.
It was a good situation at Fremont with study tables because it helped out the assistant coaches and it benefited the athletes to get school work done, and we also got to watch more film.
As a new head coach, make sure you have a vision for each day. I know some coaches have given each day of the week a theme (Warfare Wednesday / Mental Monday). This can really set your practice tone with the athletes and coaches, but if you are not prepared, it will show, and athletes will not be getting everything they need for Friday.
So on Sunday, you started to prep for practice plans, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at those again or make changes. For example, as you continue watching the film on your opponent, you may notice that this team likes to throw screens to the tight end, especially in the boundary. You may want to add a few practice periods with your athletes to recognize the situation and how to attack your opponent’s screen game.
As you film practice, you can always make notes on each clip to maximize your practice time. It helps if you are fortunate enough to have multiple cameras to film. If not, you will want to get the film uploaded and have assistant coaches by position make playlists and share those clips with their respected athletes. Students watch a lot of film, mainly highlight tapes though, so keep the playlists short and right to the point.
However you set up your practice plans for the week, you will want to build in certain situations, for example, goal-line offense and defense. This is a great time to get some competition going if you are a team that is two platooned (players only playing one side of the ball). For example, get 1v1s going for a limited set of plays helps to keep that competition going throughout the week.
If you are not fortunate to be two platooned, you can still make a competition. Get as creative as you want, but don’t lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish.
If you are facing a team that runs a lot of 10 personnel (1 RB / 0 TE), you will want to look at working in more 7v7 or passing situations with your linebackers and secondary. Not many teams run several personnel packages with double tight ends anymore (unless you are facing Leo).
Again, I can not stress enough that you need to have a plan for the week and make sure it lines up with your scouting report’s focus.
Thursday practice is also known as “pre-game,” and this is where you put a lot of emphasis on the special teams aspect of the game – including making sure athletes know which special teams they are on, what happens if someone gets injured and who is their backup. One of the biggest frustrations as coaches is when an athlete is not out on the field for their special teams. I was guilty of that in college once for the punt team and made us use a timeout; I still feel bad to this day for that, sorry, Coach Dale Carlson.
It is always good to have a coach on the sidelines that gets special teams ready before they are called.
On Thursday, you still want to run some team or 7v7 to sharpen skills learned throughout the week. Thursday is all about being mentally ready; I liked to talk to the athletes a lot to review our opponent’s plays and scouting report for Friday.
Some coaches want to go a little bit harder with contact than others, so it will come down to your personal preference. At Fremont, Thursday was also our team meal that the parents helped organize, so practice was not as long as the other days of the week.
As coaches, you may have a team-building activity planned, but remember you are playing a game tomorrow. You need to be ready with the Xs and Os, but you also have to make sure you have the administrative details figured out.
On Thursday, it is a time for you to charge the headsets and make sure the memory cards are cleared and ready to go for each camera. Hudl sideline needs to be packed and ready, with the cameras charged and everything laid out for Friday’s game, regardless if it is at home or away.
Don’t forget to make sure you have things ready to go if you have a Thursday freshman game. You will need chain gang members (again typically the JV or varsity players.) You will need to be visible at the freshman games because this is your future (same with junior high games).
Once the freshman game is over, and the fun laundry is taken care of, it is time to head home to finalize the game plan for tomorrow night and socialize with the people in your house before an extremely busy Friday.
Thank you for checking out part 3 of Coach Maksimchuk and I’s four-part series of Being a Head Coach. This sky-high view of the weekend process was enjoyable for us to discuss!
As always, make sure to reach out with comments, questions, or topics you would love to discuss!
Yours in the Pursuit of Excellence,
Nick Maksimchuk and Pete Kempf
Coach’s Corner is a weekly feature at Outside the Huddle written by Pete Kempf, former DeKalb High School head football coach. Coach’s Corner appears every Monday during the prep football season. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers.