By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

A coach’s responsibility starts with providing a game plan for players each and every week of the season. However, a coach is also tasked with helping young men form a game plan for life. Make character development a priority in your program, and reap the rewards later.

Aloha High (Ore.) coach Bill Volk bristles at a question he often receives from high school football fans over the summer. The question: What do you expect from this year’s team?

“I say I have no idea,” Volk said. “I’ll know 10 to 15 years from now when I can see how these players do as fathers, husbands and citizens in society. I want to make sure they have a better understanding of how to do that.”

Volk has strategies in place to support the goal of molding better citizens. He shared some of those strategies with FNF Coaches.

Address the negatives. Volk insists that teenage boys are self-centered, narcissistic and egotistical by nature. Once they own that, they can make strides to evolve.

“It’s about understanding and developing team group dynamics,” Volk said. “Our job as coaches is to lead them to a path where they understand that to become better fathers and citizens, they have to avoid those egotistical ideas.”

Build up the people around you. Volk subscribes to the theory: It’s not what you do for me, it’s how you make me feel. “That’s about being a good leader. I want them to feel good and believe in themselves. Your belief is tied to your behavior, and your behavior is your belief.”

Meet weekly in small groups. Volk learned this mentoring strategy from his time as the coach of the U.S. U-16 National Team. “Each coach selects five, six, seven or maybe even eight players,” Volk said. “We sit down in different corners of our turf field and give them a topic to discuss.”

Discuss subjects outside of football. Volk opens the floor for discussion in the small groups. Topics might include virtues in the program, family roles, motivational slogans, current events or politics. “It spins it toward developing character,” Volk said.

Stress the importance of family. Volk’s goal is to make every player feel like a part of his family. “I’ve heard an acronym for family: forget about me, I love you. They feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s emotional and powerful beyond measure.”

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. When Volk’s team got into a particularly difficult portion of the schedule last season, the coaches stopped using practice time to break into small groups. They felt the time would be better spent getting practice wraps and teaching X’s and O’s. “We forgot about why we’re all here,” Volk said. “We lost two of three games. We met as a staff with the captains, and they asked to go back to meeting in small groups.”

The Bill Volk Report

School: Aloha High (Ore.)

Experience: 24 years including 7 as head coach

Honors: USA Football Master Trainer, named head coach of the United States Under-16 National Team during the 2018 International Bowl Series

Championships: Helped lead Aloha to its first Class 6A state championship as an assistant in 2010

Playing career: Former NAIA All-American running back at Western Oregon University (1992-95)

About the author

Dan Guttenplan