The Pre-Season Meeting
After sorting through the various coaching opportunities we had for the inaugural season of the “Worst to First” show, I narrowed it down to three teams. I was most interested in Reno for several reasons, reason number one, I TRUSTED the guy driving for me to coach his team. Mr G was an extremely successful businessman who had come from nothing. He was very intelligent, open, passionate about competitive team sports, was honest to a fault and he ALWAYS did what he said he would do. The tiniest of details he said were true, were true. The smallest of tasks he said he would do, he did. Unfortunately, those traits are uncommon in todays world.
To finalize the decision on taking the team on, as in any case it has to be a win-win for both parties. Understanding each other’s needs and setting expectations and clear cut boundaries, then seeing if the situation is still acceptable for both parties had to be done face to face. What we talked about was just what all coaches need to talk about prior to every season.
We started with a meeting agenda that was sent 1 week prior to the meeting and a list of questions I needed answered as well as some questions I wanted them to ask me.
Organizational Structure breakdown
Mission Statement of team
Coaching commitment- time, consistency
Coaching strengths- weaknesses
Reasons for failure
Defining success- My definition
Barriers to success, the coaches opinion
The meeting started off a bit clunky, with all of us trying to get to know each other. While I wanted to be polite, it was important to flesh out all the hard core real life details without any posturing or embellishment. I laid out what the team, players and coaches would gain from the experience and what I would gain. The kids would benefit from my coaching ability, helping them develop a love for the game so they would continue to play. A successful team, usually has much higher retention than consistently losing teams which in turn usually yields much higher retention rates. The kids that went on to play High School football would motivated and be ready to play Freshman football, much better prepared than had I not coached them.
The most important thing in my eyes was to give these kids a winning season, a chance to compete and for them to see that hard work, commitment and following directions can lead to success both on and off the field. They needed to understand that they weren’t losers, that they could come together in a powerful way and be successful as a team and individually as well. While it wouldn’t be all fun and games, we would have some fun along the way along with the “fun” it would be to see your efforts turn into team and personal success on the field. I would gain a pilot episode for a reality television show called “Worst to First” which would show coaches, parents and players how quality coaching can help a downtrodden youth football team come together and be winners.
While the meeting was going on, I was assessing the entire time. How smart are these guys? How honest and honorable are they? How much football do they know? How much football do they think they know? How open were they to change? Were they serious about wanting to win? I asked them all to tell me a little about themselves what they did for a living, what positions they coached and what they could bring to the table.
It was important to lay all the cards out on the table. Every team or coach can have a “perfect storm” season, but consistent losing is a coaching issue, I shared that. I let the coaches know my way of doing things is much different than how most guys coach and definitely much different than how they coach. The scheme, approach and decision making wouldn’t be up for debate. If I didn’t have total control over every aspect of the team, it just wouldn’t be a good fit. It was important to let the guys know if we couldn’t come together, it was no big deal. I wasn’t there to convince them to let me coach their team. If we didn’t come to an agreement, it didn’t mean that either party were wrong or “bad” people.
The back and forth included the coaches laying out several scenarios where the team continued to lose and I walked out on the process and the team. I let them know I felt the team would improve significantly, we would be a lot more competitive, we would win a lot more games, score a lot more points and the kids would come together in a very obvious and powerful way. It was obvious they didn’t feel this team could consistently win. I shared with them how I had helped other consistently losing programs and teams turn around and where MANY of the typical problems were at. We also talked about some of the approach I would use to assess where we were at and how we would move forward. I also shared where I thought we would have the most problems with the process and working with me and each other.
In turn I laid out several scenarios as well, including coaches kids changing positions, no longer starting or even being demoted to minimum play players. I shared the following my:
Assistant Coach Responsibilities
Minimum Play Requirement Player Philosophy
My Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
Offense/Defense/Special Teams Framework
After about an hour of back and forth we more or less agreed to move forward with the process. I told the group that the decision was final on my end, I had discussed it in depth with my wife and family. I fully trusted Mr G and the coaching staff understood what the terms and conditions were and seemed willing to accept me leading the team on my terms. There was a good bit of humility from most of the coaches mixed in with some excuse making as well. I found out later that some of the excuses were legit, many weren’t, but I could tell they legitimately cared about the kids and they wanted the players to experience a winning season that last year together. Yes there was plenty of skepticism on their end, but they were willing to take a chance on doing something entirely different this last season together. I told them to sleep on it and then the next day get together as a group and either confirm their yes or change their minds to a no.
Logistically, the conditions were very good. Reno is a beautiful area nestled in the Sierra Mountains adjacent to Lake Tahoe. They set me up with a personal trainer and gym, a nice hotel in a good area with beautiful view of the mountains and with an excellent restaurant attached. Reno has amazing hiking trails all around and is a couple of hours away from Yosemite and the Bay Area. After the first 3 weeks, I was able to fly home for 2 days to spend time with my family. After that I was able to go home for 2 days every week, leaving on Sunday morning and then returning every Tuesday for that nights practice.
The next post on my journey is how we spent the next 2 weeks preparing in warp speed how to attack this huge opportunity of turning around this youth football team. This was a team that most kids in Reno had avoided like the plague, the league dormat. Think of how you can apply this to your coaching situation. When it comes to your personal situation of volunteering to coach and deciding where you want to coach, you have to be honest with yourself and others. Does this situation a good fit for all parties? Can I live with the constraints? What are your “deal breakers”? Are you willing to walk away if the situation isn’t a win-win? Coaching youth football well, starts well before you ever step on the field to coach anyone.