Winning Coach Shares Formula for Program-Building

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

Rancho High (Nev.) football coach Tom Pletsch has established a reputation for taking over struggling programs and turning them into winners.

Visit the middle school. Pletsch went to physical education classes at Rancho Middle School in January to “get a hook in the kids.” He returned in May to explain the summer training schedule. “A lot of freshmen in the past never showed up because they didn’t understand football was an opportunity for them.”

Share your facility with youth league teams. Pletsch found that the most efficient way to recruit youth league players was to bring the players to him rather than going to the players. He gave the youth league teams opportunities to play on the Rancho turf and use the locker rooms.

Recruit within the high school. Sometimes the best players are walking around the same building as your coaching staff. Pletsch had a 6-foot-5, 330-pound player, Frankie Rodriguez, in his class, and recruited him to be his next left tackle. “Once he committed, he never missed a day and was a heck of an offensive tackle.”

Help players overcome off-the-field obstacles. Pletsch learned that the biggest obstacle for new players joining the team was getting an updated physical. Many of his potential players could not afford to pay for physicals, so he arranged for transportation to a physician who was willing to provide free physical exams.

Keep promises to players. Losing programs often experience coaching turnover, which can result in unfulfilled promises to players. Pletsch made a promise to players to improve the locker room and weight room, and fulfilled the promise by seeking out donations from alumni. “Once those things happened, there was a buzz.”

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