The last thing a coach wants to be doing on game day is dealing with logistical nightmares. Organize a schedule for each and every Friday and share it with administrators, fellow coaches, players and parents. That way, you won’t be blind-sided with unexpected tasks.
Game day can feel like a marathon for coaches and players. Expend too much energy early, and you’ll be left with nothing when it truly matters.
For that reason, you want to map out exactly how you’ll be spending every minute of your in-season Fridays. And then create boundaries to make sure everyone around you honors your plan.
The Calm Before the Storm
Haltom High (Texas) coach Brandon Clay and his staff require players to remain on campus all day on game days. That prevents players from getting in trouble off campus, showing up late for meetings, or being involved in car accidents.
“We keep them on campus,” Clay said. “Coaches feel better when everyone is in the building. It lets us focus on the goal.”
Many coaches have a pregame meal right after school to give players time to digest and relax. It’s important for coaches not to waste too many bullets from a motivational standpoint early in the day. Keep the players’ heart rates down so that they can give you energy when it matters most.
After giving your players time to rest and relax on the afternoon on game day, you’ll want to rein them back in with an exercise to sharpen their focus. This can be a team meeting, a guest speaker or even some film review. Ligonier Valley High (Pa.) coach Roger Beitel reads a poem to his team before every game, “A State of Mind,” by Walter D. Wintle. The familiar poem ends with:
Life battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can
Beitel says the poem gets his team focused on the task at hand.
“We trust in our ‘process’ and that means that we prepare every single week like we are playing for the state championship,” Beitel said. “We have prepared the same way since Week Zero: Break down our opponent, try to take away their strength, and exploit any area of weakness.”
Generating Energy and Enthusiasm
We all like to joke about our fire and brimstone pregame speeches. In truth, the moments before the game are often spent shuttling players in and out of the bathroom and sending the coordinators and scouts up to the press box.
While the moments before the team takes the field might not always follow a Disney script, it is important for a coach to deliver one final message in an inspirational way.
Southington High (Conn.) has a tradition in which a team captain drops the metal head of a sledgehammer against the concrete floor over and over to fire up his teammates.
The sledgehammer is a team symbol for the team’s “dungeon” defense, which touts aggressive, physical play.
Game Day Routine for Haltom High (Texas)
Haltom High offensive coordinator Brandon Clay shared his team’s game-day routine.
3 p.m. – Players meet in cafeteria. Head coach gives five-minute speech.
3:05 p.m. – Players are served a pregame meal.
3:45 p.m. – Players are encouraged to get off their feet (i.e. mat room, watch film, sleep, play cards, etc.)
5:15 p.m. – Special teams meeting.
5:25 p.m. – Defensive coordinator meeting.
5:35 p.m. – Offensive coordinator meeting.
5:45 p.m. – Get on bus to stadium.
6 p.m. – Arrive at stadium, bathroom break.
6:10 p.m. – Position coach meetings.
6:30 p.m. – Specialists take the field.
6:40 p.m. – Skill-position players take the field.
6:50 p.m. – Linemen and linebackers take the field.
6:55 p.m. – Team stretch (static and dynamic).
7 p.m. – Individual position drills.
7:05 p.m. – Defense runs four plays.
7:10 p.m. – Offense runs four plays.
7:15 p.m. – Special teams runs a PAT.
7:15 p.m. – Coordinators lead coaches meetings.
7:20 p.m. – Head coach leads team onto field.
7:25 p.m. – Coin toss and National Anthem.