By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor
The end of a football season can come quickly for a team that falls short of its goal of winning a state championship – or even a team that captures the ultimate prize. A coach’s natural inclination might be to take a break after the season, but we recommend that coaches go through this checklist before taking time to decompress.
Develop a system around the team’s best players.
Mat Taylor has won four state championships in his 10 seasons as head coach at Skyline High (Wash.). The first thing he does each offseason is consider his next team’s identity. That ritual was of particular importance after the 2015 season when he needed to revamp an offense that had been led by a string of four consecutive Division 1 quarterback prospects over the previous seven seasons. This fall, Skyline starts a 5-foot-7 quarterback and calls plenty of quarterback keepers.
“A coach needs to put his pride aside and evolve with the kids,” Taylor said. “You have to figure out a way to mold what you are and identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. If you want to stick to your beliefs, and say, ‘This is our identity ever year,’ you’ll have down years.”
Network with other coaches.
Even with 45 years of experience as a head coach, Good Counsel (Md.) head coach Bob Milloy, 73, is always looking to grow in the profession. Each offseason, he invites college coaches to his campus for recruiting visits. In exchange for the opportunity to recruit his players, Milloy often asks the visiting coaches to provide some tips on the X’s and O’s of the game.
“I watch a lot of college games, and see different schemes,” Milloy said. “When they come here, I’ll have questions for them. I call in my coaches and say, ‘Why don’t you go up to the white board and show us this play?’”
Milloy finds that the X’s and O’s sessions often mark the start of a mutually beneficial relationship for his staff and the college recruiter.
“Sometimes when a college coach designs a new play, his assistant will think of me and call with an explanation,” Milloy said.
Take inventory of equipment.
Jerry Pezzetti has been coaching for 56 seasons, including the last 43 at Ankeny Centennial (Iowa). He is one of two coaches in Iowa high school history to reach the 400-victory career milestone. The first thing he does each offseason is take inventory of equipment and initiate the process of updating any unsafe gear.
“I go through every piece of equipment,” Pezzetti said. “We’re a Riddell team for helmets. I have Riddell come in and inspect every helmet from eighth grade through varsity. We make our orders by Christmas so we’ll have everything by the time we start in the spring.”
Once the equipment order has been placed, Pezzetti reviews expectations for the offseason strength program with his players.
“We make sure all of our ninth- and 10th-graders are in the program if they’re not out for other sports,” Pezzetti said.
Consider ways to relate to players.
Dirk Wedd, 64, has been a part of the coaching staff at Lawrence High (Kan.) for five state championship teams. With 19 starters scheduled to graduate last June, Wedd’s first order of business last offseason was to brainstorm ways to relate to younger players.
“I’m about as high-tech as the Pony Express,” Wedd said. “Kids today love seeing themselves – whether it’s pictures or video – immediately. That’s where they’re coming from.”
Wedd determined he needed to upgrade his program’s technology in order to better relate to players. He purchased software from HUDL that allows his coaches and players to view video on the sidelines.
“Every day you can wake up and learn something, that’s a positive,” Wedd said. “It was important for us to do whatever it took to get a bunch of young kids to develop at a faster rate.”