Two years ago I hung my cleats up from daily coaching to focus on performance training, non-profit work, and spending more family time; Friends and associates ask me constantly, “Do I miss the daily action and the aroma of excitement and adrenaline on Game Day!” It’s funny I tell them it’s a lot like playing; you may miss game day but the daily grind of practice I haven’t thought about twice although when you are out there in that moment it became a safe harbor or “church” that allows for you to block out all worldly problems and focus on teaching the kids or young men! I mentioned this because recently I realized how much I miss one area I coached – Special Teams!
It’s funny over the past week I couldn’t resist coming out of the coaches closet after witnessing specialty team nightmares at every level from the youth level to the pro level and share some of the advice I received from a Legendary coach that taught me a large portion of what I know to become a success in that area – Virginia Tech Great – Coach Frank Beamer. I had the pleasure years ago as player to be recruited by Coach Beamer to attend The Citadel; I didn’t go there (freeze – I went to Wisconsin – Go Badgers!) but years later I had the pleasure to re-connect with Coach when we were speaking at a conference. Although I was coaching the skilled positions, I had just taken over specialty team duties; so I sat with Coach Beamer privately to find out his secrets to success to producing some of the most dangerous and feared Hokie specialty teams year after year! When I asked, Coach Beamer just laughed.
I smiled and asked again even more insistent since he looked he like he knew the numbers for the lotto , “Coach, what’s the secret?” Coach’s answer? “Nick, it’s really simple. I put starters and great athletes on my specialties. Whether it gunners, enforcers, punt blockers , kick blockers, long snappers, punters, or kickers.
I smiled and asked again even more insistent since he looked he really had an expression like he knew the numbers for the lotto , “Coach, what’s the secret?” Coach’s answer? “Nick, it’s really simple. I put starters and great athletes on my specialties. Whether it gunners, enforcers, punt blockers , kick blockers, long snappers, punters or kickers when I can.” I then asked Coach, ” So how do you manage that without burning them out if they start on offense or defense?” He revealed, “You have to convince your Head Coach to give those players breaks and replace them after major scores with the backup player on offense or defense which is not an easy task. I then laughed because it’s an easy task for Coach. For those unfamiliar with Coach Beamer’s role in addition to being the Head Coach he is also the Special Teams Coach, so it’s not hard for him. He then told me the following which I added to my core Special Teams approach:
1. Stay aggressive with your Specialties philosophy every series;Find the mismatch!
2. Since it’s suppose to be a 1/3 of the game, ensure you block out 1/3 of the time in practice and stick to it! If you can’t; add it to the beginning or the end of practice but do it! This tenant may sound simple but this is the rule broken the most. For example at the collegiate level, a typical indication to the role being “de-valued”; Check the teams that don’t have a Coach dedicated to Specialties.
3. Get creative! Time the drills and make sure everyone can do them to ensure every one knows how to execute them in a game situation and more importantly truly makes special teams have value to the players.
Thanks to that 30 minutes Coach Beamer took with me that day and the support from the Head Coaches I worked with the after that meeting — my friend and colleague — the late Coach Steve Trimble and Mike Wright my specialty units soared; During that time-frame we returned more than 20 punts & kicks, blocked more than 40 punts & kicks, recovered more than 20 onside and poach kicks, converted more than 30 fake punts and kicks and yielded only 2 returns over the years. In part 2, I’ll show you how I integrated Coach Beamer’s techniques with my own ways and performance training techniques into practice and games to produce results for you this season at that critical moment.
Catch a Dream,