Five Wide – Put some fun into football



          Our style of offense is wide open and pass oriented.  However, it is my firm belief that  our success  over a very long-span of time is more than  a style of offense.    I believe our success is due more to  a philosophy.   That ‘s what is between the lines in the chapters concerned directly with X’s and O’s.  It is the answer to the often asked question, “Why are your teams so successful?”


          Because it is more fun than running the football.  Who says the game should be fun?   Well, I do and I guess that is where I separate myself, philosophically, from many football coaches right off the bat. 

          Don’t misunderstand.  Don’t play for fun.  Play to win.  Just try to have as much fun along the way as possible.  If you play for fun…you lose and losing isn’t any fun at all.  Don’t make that mistake.    I believe it is imperative to   keep the game of football in proper perspective.  The players and the coaches for that matter should have loads of fun and have a real life…away from football.


          I’m not against running the football, not at all!  In fact with this system the run is usually very effective and an important part of the game plan.  What we’ve done is to create space to run  by our formations.  In my opinion, block down…kick out…lead through…works when you have the best players.  Any other time its headache’s ville.  Because we pass so often and so well, few people realize how good we are at running the football.  What I’m saying is that my philosophy is to throw the football first and run it when the defense is concentrating on stopping the pass. It’s what I know best, what I teach best and it works for me.  If your philosophy  is something different and you’re good at it, stay with it and read this book for possible future reference.

          Develop your own style.  Your own philosophy.  Recently after a game , in Europe, I asked one of my former players (with the Vienna Vikings) who was with us on a trip to play a game Vs a team from the Czech Republic, this simple question.  How did we look?  His answer was very revealing.  “Coach”, he said, “It was such a relaxed atmosphere.  No coaches running around yelling.   No frustrations.   I really felt the players were totally confident.  I really liked what I saw from this team”.  Philosophy is important.  Establish one that will allow your players to play their best.  The results will be very gratifying.  Trust me!


Recently I spent two hours with my wife’s step fathers daughters husband, got that, who coaches real football at Fort Vancouver High.  He is going into his second season as head coach and wanted to ‘pick my brain’.  I’ve been asked that before and nearly always agree to these requests because I think I need to pass on some of my experience to younger guys.  I’ll let them decide if my methods are worth considering for their program.  I tried to tell him that coaching football is pretty simple.  The most important thing is to get the players out for the sport and keep them there.  How do you do that? 

Well first you have to realize that football hurts.  It isn’t like basketball played in a cozy gym where kids get to run around in shorts, ok they are way too long today, and bounce a ball and throw it ten feet in the air now and then. Usually from behind the three-point arc, which is why no one in basketball can shoot a ten-foot bank shot anymore, sorry about that John Wooden.   It isn’t baseball played in the warm sun, where you get to chew and spit sun flower seeds everywhere and run one out of three times you bat…. if you’re good.  Football is played with heavy gear on and in the hot summer sun and the cold late fall rain.  You get blind sided, hammered, knocked down, stomped on, kicked and too many times yelled at by some Vince Lombardi want’a’b.

 So I told him to do two things.  First talk to all the basketball and baseball players who don’t currently play football and let them know your practices will be no longer than two hours long….ever.  That if it rains too hard, or is too cold you’ll push out the ‘open gym’ basketball team illegally practicing and practice in the warmth of the gym.  You won’t require off-season commitment, only remind them that the best player plays, which for the motivated kid is reminder enough to work out in the off-season, if he has one. 

Second design an offense and defense that is ‘fun’ to play and doesn’t require a thick play book and long hours in meetings to master.  Teach the game on the field and leave the whistle for the soccer (sorry) guys.  When I want a play to stop I yell ‘whistle’…. it works.  Laugh and have some fun.  Throw out the ‘monkey rolls’ and other agility drills designed a hundred years ago by some coach trying to fill in time to make the game harder and practices longer.  Do they give points for monkey rolls?  Practice football and do it mostly with eleven guys that are what the rules require.  Some kids are very good at drills and can’t play the game.

 I loved watching Ralph Miller’s teams practice when I coached at OSU eons ago.  They played basketball, full court.  Sometimes it was 5 on 5, sometimes 4 on 4 and sometimes 3 on 3, but it was basketball. Made good sense to me.  We practice less fundamental, individual, small group football than any team in the entire world.  Seems to work. 


I told him to set some realistic weekly goals.  Something simple like, empty their stands before the fourth quarter.  I emphasized to him to have his players physically, mentally and emotionally fresh on game day. I told him to talk to his players about life, love and the pursuit of happiness and not just about football.  Tell them some short personal stories that might motivate them.  Tell them to hug their dads and kiss their moms.  Tell them to clean their rooms and take out the garbage.  Tell them to wash dads car and mow the lawn.  Tell them to sit in the front row in class and become a great listener.  Tell them to choose their own words carefully and respect the non-athlete for his or her skill.  Tell them to open doors for women, smile at strangers and sit with the new kid in the lunch room.  Remind them they are in a glass house so don’t throw stones at others.  Tell them not to take themselves too seriously but to give their best all the time, everywhere.  Tell them to respect those who are better than they are and to compare yourself with…yourself.  Tell the subs to mentally prepare like a starter and to be supportive on the sideline.  Treat kids like you love them and you better.  Never let a kid leave the locker room believing you don’t like him. 

Understand it’s motivating the players to play at their best that makes the difference.  Design the game to take advantage of the player’s skills not some system you learned in college or at some clinic.  I emphasized that his coaching goal should have nothing to do with championships or wins and losses but should be judged by how many of  his players come to him after their career is over and say, “Coach, I loved that and I’d do it again in a minute.” 

I said to surround yourself with quality coaches who care about kids.  Then point them in the right direction and get out of their way.  Tell them that this game requires a lot of plough horses and some thoroughbreds.  You can yell at the plough guys but you better give the thoroughbreds an easy halter. Finally, keep this simple game of football in its proper perspective and never forget, “Winners Win, Losers Bitch.”

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