Attitude, physical toughness, confidence, swagger, grit, drive, and anything else you can think of that makes a better player, are all by-products of Mental Toughness. There is no other way around it. And mental toughness is built from December-May, enhanced in June and July, and implemented from August-early December during the season.
At Oñate High School, we are two weeks away from completing Phase I of our off-season football program. It has been a grueling 5-times a week weight room session that is turning our players into men. It is something these kids have not been used to. Yet they have embraced the new culture and show up every morning religiously. We had quite a few kids throwing-up in Week One, but they jumped right back into the workout once they were finished cleaning out their systems. Pat Summit would have been proud.
Everything is done with a purpose, and every little thing matters. Our program aims at being deliberate, and we aim at year round competitiveness. In almost everything we do, we try to add some type of competition to it. We never let the threat of monotony derail us. We will begin every session with some type of team or one-on-one competition, and the kids love it. Trying to mimic the game day vibe as much as possible goes a long way in making them game ready come this August.
Like a lot of high school football programs, we run our system in three phases.
Phase II is set to begin on February 5th and run for 8 weeks. It will take our weight room activity to three days a week and will take them outside for our “boot camp” portions two days a week. I do not believe in the type of boot camp that has grown men scream at and berate teenagers. Ours is tough and it will test them, but my concern is building them up with mental toughness as opposed to tearing them down. It is a combination of extreme work with an added focus on attention to detail.
Phase III will from April 2nd-May 21st, and that will focus more on football prep. For the first half of that phase, we will be inside in the weight room twice a week with a three times a week focus on individual and group football work. The last four weeks of that phase will be a true Spring Football four days a week, and lifting session once a week. Of course, the rules in New Mexico are a little different. Spring Football with equipment is not permitted, so we plan on doing it without equipment during our 90 minute class period. As a lifelong Texas guy, I’ve learned to adjust to what is allowed and what is not. Adapt or die.
We also have an added emphasis on school work. Too many times, kids work hard during the season to stay eligible, but during the spring they slack off since there are no game days. This is not allowable for the Knights. We grade check every single week, and next Monday we will begin our lunch time tutorials for any players failing a class. This goes hand in hand with our Character Development program that we preach every single day.
To be honest, I was a little worried to how these young men would react to our new off-season system. As they mentioned to me many times, they are not used to something this tough and structured. But once again, they are thriving and it lights me up every day when I see them buying into our program and selling out.
RECOMMENDED BOOK OF THE MONTH: I thought I would start doing something a little different in my blog for 2018. Once a month I am going to recommend a book on athletic leadership, culture, and insight. As coaches we do not always have a ton of time to read, but we need to make time if we want to achieve true professional growth.
My first choice is “Culture Defeats Strategy” by Randy Jackson. What I enjoyed most about the book is that it is written by one of us, a high school football coach.
Saban’s and Meyer’s books are great, I’ve read most of them, but they do not fully understand what we go through every day. Jackson does. It covers topics such as mental toughness, creating a family environment, and most important, creating and believing in your program’s “core values.” Without core values to believe in and follow, we have no shot at creating a truly great culture.
The book is insightful, entertaining, and very educational. I’ve already taken a ton of ideas from Coach Jackson that I am implementing this off-season. Like the old saying goes “good coaches borrow, great coaches steal.” Pick up a copy when you have a chance, it will make you a better coach.
UNTIL NEXT TIME: BUY IN-SELL OUT & SWING YOUR SWORD!!
by Scott Veliz
Oñate High School Head Football Coach