“Scratch where it itches” has been my primary football philosophy throughout my head-coaching career. It means taking advantage of whatever comes your way and doing whatever needs to be done. This philosophy applies to weather, injuries, and opponents.
This chapter is devoted to some of the unpredictable factors every coach faces. Life and football would be simpler if everything went according to plan. However that is not always the case. I am not aware of any coach who has all the answers as to making the right adjustments for weather, injuries, and opponents. The information in this chapter is based on what I thought to be the best adjustments during my coaching career.
Adjusting for Weather
The most important thing you can do when the weather turns bad is have a team celebration. Why? Because you have practiced in the spring and fall for exactly this kind of weather on game day. Your players and coaches should have a positive attitude because they are prepared to execute in all weather conditions.
The team doctor, trainer, and strength conditioning coach are leaders in coordinating bad weather practices. Our advantage over opponents was that we practiced every week for the bad weather game. Obviously, you are not going to play in the snow early in the season, but look at your schedule for possible games in the snow. Call your coaching friends in snow country and get their advice on shoes, heaters, and windbreakers. Be like the Boy Scouts—be prepared!
Adjusting for Injuries
One of the most important strategies for winning football games is preventing injuries. Since football is a contact sport, it is impossible to keep everyone healthy. Injuries are going to happen, but I believe that many injuries can be prevented and the number of injuries can be significantly reduced by following a few precautions.
Reduce the number of full-team scrimmages for veteran players. Your experienced players do not need to prove anything by participating in fullspeed contact in fall practice, and they risk injury if they do. A short “get the cob webs off” scrimmage in the fall is adequate for veteran players. Reserve the emphasis on full-speed practice for reserve players and freshmen.
Adjusting for Opponents
Each football season presents new, exciting challenges to the coaching staff. The new season requires in-depth evaluation of your team’s strengths and weaknesses as compared to the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents on your schedule.
Our game plan for offense, defense, and the kicking game was dictated by what we had to do in order to defeat the top three teams on our schedule. This required designing offensive and defensive schemes based on all the scouting information we could gather..