10 Tips to Earn Your Headset

By Alex Ewalt, FNF Coaches Contributor

Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio) head coach John Rodenberg, entering his 10th season there, has called both sides of the ball for the Crusaders and mentored play-callers strictly as the HC. The 2012 state title-winner shared some tips for assistants ready to start calling plays.

Script your plays at practice. “The only way to get into the flow of what you’re calling is to know how you’re going to call it in practice,” Rodenberg says. For young coordinators, scripting is essential to know how to strike a balance. If you’re an aspiring coordinator, pick a practice to shadow the play-caller on your side of the ball.

Avoid late changes. “I’m emphatic about not making changes (on game weeks) after Wednesday,” Rodenberg says. This is key for young coordinators, with new responsibilities, to follow. And it’s important to keep the increased teaching aspect of an OC or DC job in mind. “It’s not about what you know; it’s about what (the players) know.”

Make in-game adjustments easy. Rodenberg says simply asking position coaches, “What are we running well?” at halftime should be enough. Expect quick answers and tweaks from them.

Practice pressure—in practice. Simulate those pressure-packed situations before you encounter them in games. “You have to practice things like going over with your unit after a series and talking to them,” Rodenberg says.

Change up your coaching approach. The reality of moving from position coach to play-caller is that your relationship with the kids must change. “Some of my most fun days were when I was just a defensive backs coach, where you can just have a great relationship with your players,” Rodenberg says. “But once you’re a coordinator, you’ve got a lot of parts you’re responsible for.”

Show faith in your system. Rodenberg encourages young coordinators to stick with their schemes—even if things aren’t going well right away. “That faith in what you believe in has to be stronger than the doubts that you have about your players,” he says.

Position coaches: Show the HC you’re ready. “I will give you more responsibility when you show me you want more,” Rodenberg says. “Are you willing to go to an extra clinic? Are you willing to speak up in a meeting?” The ability to express ideas to other coaches on staff is key.

Clinics are fine, but make colleges your go-to. Clinics are a good place to pick up ideas, but everything you find won’t fit your style. Rodenberg urges young play-callers, if possible, to strike up relationships with area college coaches. Follow a recruit on a visit, and have questions prepared. Summer or right after national signing day are the best times, he says.

Making a change? Sell it. If you’re installing a new philosophy or just making some tweaks, you’re not just teaching changes to your players; you have to convince your other coaches as well.

It’s ultimately your call. It’s important to lean on your position coaches and get them involved in meetings. But Rodenberg says he’s had young coordinators who were absorbing too much from coaches around them. “After that meeting, it’s got to be about what you feel is good.”

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