Sunday, April 3, 2011

Coaching Clinic Do's and Don'ts

I believe that coaches must be excellent teachers in order to be successful. It is extremely challenging to bring a large number of student-athletes together and motivate, instruct and get them to buy into a common vision in order to win games. Sure you can have great athletes and still win games, but in order to win championships you must be a great coach and teacher.

We know that coaches can teach players what they need to do. What I have found discouraging are the instructional strategies coaches employ when they are giving clinic presentations to a room full of coaches. It amazes me how many outstanding and successful coaches use teaching techniques that would never be effective with students in the classroom.

I realize there are many constraints that coaches are working under when they are giving a clinic talk. They don't want to give away "secrets" to competitors in the audience. They only have an hour to talk. I have given clinic talks before, and I know that speaking in front of your peers can be one of the most frightening things ever.

As teachers, we intrinsically know effective strategies when we teach students. However, that does not always translate over to when we are teaching our peers. I began thinking about what I would like to see in clinic presentations to make them more effective. I also brainstormed some things that coaches should try to avoid doing in clinic talks, but we have seen far too often (or been guilty of ourselves).

  • Talk TO the audience the entire time. Ask questions of the audience. Engage them in discussion.
  • Show a PowerPoint slide full of words... and proceed to read every word to us. Use the slide as a starting point, not your script.
  • Devote more than two minutes and one slide to your season stats.
  • Show cut-ups that are in no real order or sequence (and stop to explain each play before the play starts).
  • Have several slides explaining each athlete's responsibilities, but no diagram of the play.
  • Use unique terms that mean something to you, without explaining the terms to us. For example: "In 54 Nebraska Y Cobra X Rambo... the Y is going to run his Cobra route and then the QB will look to the Rambo."
  • Devote more than two minutes and one slide to your coaching philosophy.
  • Show your season highlights.
  • Also, avoid these "clinic cliches":
    • "Men, we are in the best profession in the world."
    • "This works at our level where we can recruit... it may not work at your level."
    • "Can you guys hear me in the back? Can I go without the microphone?"
    • "I made some copies of this PowerPoint for you so you don't have to write it all down."
    • "I'm not very smart, so we use the KISS method."
    • "I had our technology GA put this together. I don't know anything about technology."
    • "Ya'll are welcome at our place any time. We have no secrets. Just call and let us know."
    • "We learn more from you than you learn from us."
    • "Recruiting is like shaving.. if you don't do it everyday you look like a bum."
    • "I have the best coaching staff in the country. They are all smarter than me.
  • Go in depth. Choose one small idea to talk about and explain it in full detail.
  • Discuss in detail one run play, one complimentary play and a play action pass off of it.
  • Explain how you teach, install and drill the play. Show the entire progression.
  • Demonstrate drills. Live. Bring volunteers up front and teach them technique in front of everyone.
  • Show video from practice of drills and team time. Then show the play executed in a game.
  • Use non-exemplars too. We can learn more from when the players didn't execute correctly than film
  • Choose unique topics beyond the X's and O's. Examples:
    • Take us through your entire practice. 
    • Demonstrate how you break down film. 
    • Explain how you game plan. 
    • Show your offseason schedule. 
    • Discuss each coach's responsibilities
    • Talk about fundraising ideas.
Finally, here is an excellent blog called "Speaking about Presenting" that has great articles about creating effective presentations. The ideas are applicable both in the classroom and in presentations. I highly recommend it.

As always, please add your comments below. What are other coaching clinics do's and don'ts that you would add to the list?


    1. Coach,
      These are excellent points. Some of the better presentations I've seen definitely take one aspect of their game and go into great detail. Additionally, for me, personality plays a major role. There is nothing worse than sitting through a presentation where all you can think is that this guy has zero personality and you can't imagine how he interacts with his players.

      Video clips are long as they set aside the time do them justice. They best clinic I have been to, in terms of quality and set up, was at Angelo State in Texas. They had the presenters on the main stage first for about 40 minutes and then a breakout session in a classroom immediately after. So if you enjoyed what was said and wanted to hear more, you just went to the breakout session, which were perfect. We were in a small classroom and it was all about the grease-board.

      I really enjoy your site. Keep up the great work.

    2. Zac - I really like that idea. Giving a preview to the group, then letting you talk in a smaller group setting where you can ask questions. We know that is an effective teaching strategy with students - we should also do it with coaches. Great points!