This week might be your first game week.
Today is our last day of 2-a-days, picture day is tomorrow, and we have a scrimmage Saturday morning. I love this part of the season…the journey of putting a team together.
After a wild season last year and an offseason that moved forward with this season’s future in balance, we are here at last.
And I hope you have had a great summer and camp with your players.
And also the senior that shows up on the first day of school asking if he can play.
And the freshman that shows up at the end of the first week because he finally heard about the football program.
These players show up every year and you always want to ask them, “Where were you all summer?”
They show up and they do not have physicals.
They show up without cleats.
They are behind everyone on learning the plays.
They might have to stand around in a helmet for a few days while everyone else is already in pads.
This happens to every football program in the United States and it will keep happening.
But the more players playing football, the better.
So, let me give you actionable tips to build a way to make this process as smooth as it can possibly be:
- Student Tree Program
We identify our core set of leaders in May. I meet with them every Monday night to talk about leadership and we took them on a 3-day, 2-night leadership retreat in July. Each leader is assigned 6-8 players and is responsible for texting, snapchatting, and even expected to make 1 home visit to make sure that player is not only informed, but understands that they are part of a family and now they have a big brother to help them.
The players that are assigned is any boy that I think should be playing. Maybe they signed up at the middle school, a PE teacher told me about them, they played 2 years but sat a year out because of one of the dream stealers (drugs, jobs, girls, grades)…..This year my “wish” list was at 72…and we have 53 that actually showed last week.
- Use the internet.
Get ahead of the problem. I have every boys cell phone number that I use for 1on1 messages and we use a team app to get announcements out. I got all the parent contact info from the AD secretary and added the parents of all 72 players. We have all the forms, schedules, dates, etc on the app….and I still mailed (you remember the US Post Office?)…a packet to all 72 houses.
Every student and their parent should know exactly what needs to happen for them to participate.
Is it just me or does it feel like there are at least 50 pieces of paper that a kid must turn in nowadays to play football?
- Find a physical provider.
Wouldn’t it be great if every player showed up late with physical in hand? But when they don’t.
Find a local doctor that provides physicals and will do them on a walk-in basis. Trade out some advertisement of give his family an all-sports pass. Have a flyer ready to hand the late-and-not-ready player with instructions on where to go, how to make an appointment, and what they need to ask for.
We ask that doctor (or an RN) to show up the first day of 2-a-days and the first practice of school to do physicals on the spot….
- Have a cutoff date.
I hate cutting kids. I hate telling a kid that he cannot play this great game. But there has to be deadlines. Here are mine:
- A senior cannot come out after the 1st week of Aug practice
- A junior cannot come out after the 3rd day school starts
- A sophomore/freshman cannot come out after game 5
If a senior or junior come out late and they KNEW about summer…they have to stay after practice to do “Championship Reminders” and clean the field. Missed 12 summer workouts? Then you stay after practice 12 times until you play in a game.
Sometimes it can be tough to do this, but todays teenagers more than ever need to understand accountability. And responsibility to a team.
It is always wonderful to see students want to play this great sport, but as a high school coach, you’ve also got a program to run.
Get this part of the job in line, and your season kick off will become a little less hectic.
And then you can focus more on the games.