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Mar 01

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Building a Coaching Staff & Program: Technique Practice

Over the past few days I have talked to a couple of young head coaches who are looking to build a staff. It reminded me of the conversations I had with Chuck Smith, 25 years ago, when we were young head coaches and trying to build a staff. He was at Boyle and I was at Paris in Kentucky.

The issue: when you are trying to build a staff, and you are short on coaches, and possibly the ones you do have are young ones, how do you help those guys be successful? And, how do you make sure your practices are productive as you build your program, with players and coaches that are new to your system? And, the likelihood is that if you are taking over a program, they are struggling.

The answer we came up with was “technique practice.” For one hour, the entire staff coached the same position. When that hour was over, the next position group came in and we coached them for an hour.

Chuck and I had one major difference. He would do offensive positions one day in the morning. Then, at night, the entire team returned for team offensive practice. The

following day he would do defensive positions in the morning, and team defensive practice at night.

At Mason County, we did every position individually for four days. Our schedule ran like this, and every coach was at every practice:

8 am: defensive line

9 am: defensive ends

10 am: linebackers

11 am: defensive backs

Noon: lunch

1 pm offensive line and TEs

2 pm: WRs and TEs w/ QBs

3 pm: RBs and QBs

It was brutal! 7 hour days on the field for the coaches, often in scorching hot weather. But, it was best for our program.

It insured that our new coaches understood what to teach and how to teach it. And, we were bad when we got started. We needed the immersion in working fundamentals for our

players. The Mason County kids were athletic and good character guys, but were not initially high football IQ guys. That got much better the further we went.

I also liked the seven hour days because it demonstrated my commitment to the kids, program and the community. It helped our staff understand the level of commitment that was needed from them. And, after a staff of coaches goes through that type of preseason, they are heavily invested in making sure the team is successful. It sent a clear message to everyone that we were willing to do whatever is necessary to help our kids enjoy success and winning.

Finally after a few years of technique practice, Shawn Thompson, our defensive coordinator at Mason County asked me, “Coach, can we all just do our own position for technique practice? We know what needs to be done.” I agreed to it and we went to standard 3-a-days that were all technique for the first 4 days.

When we started having spring practice, I told our guys that if it went well, we would cut technique practice from 4 days to 2 days. With the changing of preseason rules, our first two days are still technique practice but we add on some team and special teams stuff at the end of our 3 hour practice, which we only have once a day now. It is easier to plan and organize one 3 hour practice each day in the preseason than to manage the different rules and

requirements for contact, etc. And, unlike Mason County, Mercer County is a large county. It is easier for kids to get here once a day than twice a day…. although when we did 3-a-days we kept the kids there the entire day.

I am not sure I will ever need to do the 7 hour technique practices again. With the staff we have currently at Mercer, that would be counterproductive. But, I won’t lie to you… I would like to do those 7 hour practices at least ONE MORE TIME before I finish coaching.Very tough days, but great days. I mean… If you love football…..YOU LOVE FOOTBALL!

About the author

Coach Buchanan

David Buchanan is the head football coach at Mercer County HS, in Harrodsburg, KY. He was previously the head coach at Mason County HS & Paris High School (KY).

Buchanan has served as president of the Kentucky Football Coaches Association and as head coach for the Kentucky All-Stars in their annual Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star Classic. He is the son of John Buchanan, a former head coach at Boyle County High School and Mercer County High School.

David is married to Stephanie Trosper, and they have 3 children, John Combs, Emma, and Trosper.

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