FNF Coaches Talk — Rookie Coach Takes Team From Bottom to Playoffs, NFHS Director Asks for Respect, Create a Technology Coordinator Position

It’s Wednesday, Coaches! Let’s get ready for some football.

1. Here’s How a Texas Coach Took a Previously Winless Team to the Playoffs in His First Season (Wichita Falls Times News Record)

We all like a good rebuilding story in high school football. Whenever I read a story about a worst-to-first season, I try to figure out how it happened. Was it because a new coach put in an unstoppable scheme? Did the coaches decide to make strength training in the offseason a priority? Were the practices suddenly more competitive and efficient?

In the case of the Petrolia (Texas) Pirates, it might be as simple as a rookie coach getting players to believe in themselves.

In 2018, Petrolia failed to win a game, finishing the season 0-9. The team’s participation numbers got so low that it had to forfeit its last game of the season against Santo because it just didn’t have enough healthy players.

Nearly one year later, it’s completely different. Under first-year head coach Mitch McLemore, the team is 3-3, winners of its last two games. Now, those players that quit are reconsidering as the Pirates are back in the playoff picture, inching closer to a big game against Electra Friday.

For McLemore, his goal was simple. He wanted to build a team of young players that had a winning attitude. He knew it would come if he taught them how to believe in themselves and one another. To do that, he drew upon things he’d learned as an assistant at Stamford, where he helped a district bottom-dweller win back-to-back state titles.
“The biggest thing was treat them right,” McLemore said. “I tell them how many kids would love to be doing what we’re doing—playing high school football in Texas on a Friday night. The biggest thing is you have got to learn to speak and think from a point of victory. Even if you don’t win, you have to keep that mindset.”

Those little things are a big part of his program. He asks his players to worry about the small details like tidying up the weight room and keeping the locker room clean. He asks them to get better each practice and focus on every repetition. He’s a firm believer that the little things can go a long way in determining wins and losses.

“If the culture is right, the scheme will take care of itself,” he said. “What matters more to me is the development of their character.”

What is the one piece of advice you’d offer a new coach taking over a winless team?

2. NFHS Director: Show Respect for Everyone in HS Sports (MaxPreps)

Just last week, we shared a column from National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff arguing that college football teams should leave Friday nights open for high school games. Niehoff penned another column this week in response to some unacceptable behavior from fans at games.

Racism is one of our greatest concerns nationwide. We have heard of students posting videos to social media with racist comments. We read about racial comments by team members of nearly all-white schools to opposing players from schools composed of nearly all minority students. There have been cases of white players disrespecting Native American players on the opposing team by addressing them in an unacceptable manner.
This type of behavior could be a reflection of events occurring in our society, or due to lack of a respectful environment at home. Regardless, they are not defensible reasons for the occurrence of these horrible acts within education-based high school sports and activities.

Niehoff places the burden on the leaders of each school to instill a respectful culture during sporting events.

High schools must establish a culture that values the worth of every single person – both players on the school’s team and players on the opposing team. There must be a no-tolerance policy regarding behavior that shows disrespect for another individual.
Kids today are looking for a community, and high school sports and activities must be that community that is fun, respectful and supportive of everyone.

How do you make sure your football community creates a positive, respectful, competitive culture during your home games?

3. Create a Position for a Technology Coordinator (USA Football)

Most of us rely on assistant coaches or parents to help with the technological aspects of coaching (i.e. headsets, video replay, editing software, etc.). Greenwich High (Conn.) coach Anthony Marinelli has created a position of Technology Coordinator to handle all of those responsibilities.

He’s found it creates a clear role for one member of the coaching staff so that other coaches can focus on their day-to-day responsibilities.

DJ Furano was added to the Greenwich (Conn.) High School staff in the Technology Coordinator role.

Furano fills multiple positions for the Greenwich team and is now an essential part of their daily operations, providing an excellent example of what a technology coordinator can provide on your staff daily.

Furano joined Keith Grabowski on the Coach and Coordinator podcast to share exactly what he does for his high school’s football squad, detailing his week from Saturday morning through Friday night.

“If it’s a Saturday morning, we probably had a game the day before,” begins Furano. “I would be intercutting the film, which would be intercutting the press box and endzone camera, making sure it’s all been assisted by Hudl. Once that’s done, I share it with the whole team and then we start working on stats.”

All that gets done before 9 a.m. the morning after the game.

Following the off day on Sunday, players come in on Monday prepared to watch film as a team. Furano also sets the technology up here. “I’m hooking up all the TVs,” says Furano. “We have a TV in one of our locker rooms, a projector in the other and a TV in the coaches’ office … If anything goes wrong at that point, I’m here in the center of it.”

For Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, although the players are on the field, Furano joins the team managing the GoRout technology so that players can track their movement.

As the team proceeds through walkthroughs on Thursdays, Furano is beginning preparation for filming on Friday.

What is your team’s process for setting up the technology you need for game preparation?

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