Before the Whistle: Football Coaching 101, by Matt Kunz
Matt Kunz, a former Notre Dame football player, is currently a business owner, City Councilman, author, and former non-profit president. Kunz is the author of Triumph! An Athlete’s Guide to Winning On and Off the Field, Before the Whistle: Football Coaching 101, To God and My Country, and The Triumph Workbook. Through the help of his faith and his experiences, he loves building a winning team around an idea by bringing out the best in others.
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Chapter 3: Meet the Parents (Part II)
As soon as you have your team together, you’re going to want to have a talk with the parents to communicate your expectations for the team. Obviously, you’re going to want a winning season, but know your situation and your talent. Convey to the parents what values you hold dear to your heart and how you plan to transfer them to the players. It is important to lay some ground rules at this time. Let them know your rules regarding playing time as it regards to practice participation. This is important as some players will try to perform double duty by participating in another sport near the end of your season. This can be particularly dangerous in football as one player not knowing his assignment can get another player injured. Of course, it can affect the team’s overall performance and attitude.
One season, our team had a cornerback who was a pretty good athlete, but suddenly stopped coming to our Thursday practices. We were told he was sick, but he managed to show up to our games. We managed to make the playoffs that year, and again, this cornerback did not show up to our Thursday practice. Unfortunately, Thursday we
worked to refresh our defense on the plays the opponent was going to run against us. We were able to tell our players this because we had film on their plays throughout the season. One particular play they used only twice all year was a reverse that went right where our missing cornerback would play. We told the defense about this, but this player was not there to understand his responsibility, and the rest of the defense knew it.
We found out that night that this player wasn’t sick at all, but was instead going to practice another sport on Thursday nights. However, when the game approached, he was there to play the game. The rules said we had to play him. So, unprepared as he was, he took his cornerback position.
In our playoff game, we took a 6-0 lead at the half and held the lead through the third quarter. As the fourth quarter was drawing to a close, the other team lined up to pull out their reverse. Sure enough, our cornerback didn’t listen to our yells, bit on the fake, and the ball broke outside him for a long scoring touchdown.
This had a psychological effect on our safety. He no longer trusted our cornerback for skipping practice, so he felt he needed to overcompensate. When our offense punted on the next series, their offense sent their running back into the flat on our cornerback’s side. Their quarterback faked to him, and our safety bit. Instead the ball sailed over his head to the tight end that was lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage. We lost the game 12-6, and all our hard work for the playoffs was over because one player thought he should go practice another sport instead. As a staff, I feel that was our fault because we did not lay out the rules at the beginning of the season. Had we done this, this young man and his family might have learned how important for the sake of others it is to finish what he had started. Then, at the end of the season, he could have gone on to play his other sport.