FNF Coaches Talk — Minnesota Coach Shares Secret Behind 400 Wins, Patriots Player Gives Pep Talk, NY Coach Suspended for Running Up Score

Happy Monday, Coaches. We hope you had a productive weekend. Here’s a few stories for you.

1. Minnesota Coach Shares Secret on 400th Win: ‘You’ve got to have the kids buy in’ (Brainerd Dispatch)

We don’t often share stories of coaching legends reaching milestones such as 400 wins because it seems to be more of a local story. But in this case, we enjoyed the story because it offered some coaching lessons, so we’ll share it with you.

Verndale High (Minn.) coach Mike Mahlen, now in his 51st season at Verndale, became the first football coach in Minnesota State High School League history to win 400 games when the Pirates defeated Rothsay 44-6 Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Wednesday’s victory elevated Mahlen’s career record to 400-123-3.

The first question that comes to mind for a coach who has been in the same place for 51 years: How has he managed to stay for so long?

“I had a couple of opportunities but I just seemed to like it here,” he said. “I liked the community, I liked the kids, the school system.
“I always heard that whole thing about the grass is greener on the other side but I just thought I’m doing what I like to do. I’m coaching football. I didn’t need to be in a bigger school to enjoy coaching. I thought as long as I enjoy where I’m at, I might as well stay.”

He said the key to winning every year is having buy-in from the entire community.

“I think it goes back to kids buying into the program,” he said. “You’ve got to have the kids buy in, you’ve got to have the parents and the community and the administration and the faculty — everybody has to buy into it. And, I’ve had great assistant coaches over the years. That’s helped.
“Kids coming up want to be part of a winning program. There’s no magic wand to say this is the way. I don’t know why (Verndale wins). We just try to do things the right way and everyone buys in. That’s the bottom line, probably.”

How do you get consistent buy-in from players, parents and assistant coaches?

2. New England Patriots Player Gives Pep Talk to HS Team (Heavy)

We all think of inspirational words to say just before kickoff each week, and this is certainly an exciting way to fill that time.

On Friday night, New England Patriots rookie linebacker Chase Winovich visited nearby Franklin High School to give a rousing pregame speech to the members of the team ahead of their game.

Winovich was connected to Franklin by his Michigan defensive coordinator, Dom Brown, whose son Zach coaches baseball at Franklin. Sporting a team hat and all, Winovich got the Franklin team hyped and ready to go.

His speech paid off, as Franklin defeated rival Attleboro, 14-0, in the tournament opener.

What are some unique ideas you’ve come up with to get your players excited before kickoff?

3. Another HS Coach Gets Suspended for Running Up the Score (New York Times)

This has become a concerning trend this season, and whenever we see reaction to it on Twitter, it’s almost unanimously in support of the coaches.

This time, Plainedge Red Devils (N.Y.) coach Robert Shaver was suspended one game by Nassau County after leading his team to a 61-13 victory over the South Side Cyclones.

Nassau County has an unusual policy designed to prevent lopsided results in football games: If a team wins a game by more than 42 points, the winning coach must explain to a special committee why such an outsize margin could not be avoided.

The committee determined this week that Mr. Shaver, who became the first varsity coach to be punished under the three-year-old policy, should have pulled his starters when he had a big lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and it found his explanation for why he did not lacking.

“I don’t want to make it into a bigger deal than it already is,” Shaver said.

Nassau County’s policy is unique in New York State, and perhaps the United States.

Blowouts happen everywhere, but in most places, according to Bruce Howard, an official with the National Federation of State High School Associations, the issue is handled on the field by letting the game clock run or by simply stopping play.

“I have not heard of that kind of deal,” Mr. Howard said of the Nassau County policy. (Connecticut had a similar policy for more than a decade before switching several years ago to one that relies on a running clock.)

What rules does your state association have in place to prevent blowouts?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk