Every football coach has a way of hyping his team up or creating an atmosphere that appeals to every athlete. There are unique team-building traditions that coaches do to keep a player’s fire burning well into the offseason, or even during a rough week of practice. Coaches young and old are experts in motivational mastery, and without fun, a player’s interest in the game can go by the wayside. So what are some great football team-building traditions that you can use for your team? Find out from some of the top coaches in the game, below!
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Head Coach, Murray State University
On Keeping Players Excited:
First things first - if you don’t recruit players that LOVE the game, they won’t get fired up about anything. We know staff meetings can be a bore, and kids have a limited attention span, so before every big meeting (offense, defense, special teams) we play music. It might be ZZ Top, Fetty Wap, or even Adele, but we start the meeting as positively as we can, with guys singing and dancing. We also have a starter, whether it’s two claps, or a 30-second funny, motivational video, just to capture their attention.
On Coaching Philosophies:
We keep our meetings as short as possible - 30 minutes max. I’m big on on-field walkthroughs and I make sure our kids are the ones leading film study. I’ll never answer my own questions, I’ll ask them “what is this formation” or “what is that play” or “tell me what you did”. It doesn’t matter what I know - if they don’t know the opponent or their own formations, we won’t win the game.
We’ve done a lot of team-building activities. Houston Nutt (Coach at Murray State from 1993-1996) started a tradition where we sing the fight song at the campus-wide sing off on the quad of the university. We want this university to mean something to them, and the ones that are singing it at the top of their lungs are the ones that we know are the leaders, and are going to fight for that last yard on fourth and one. Our starting QB and starting linebacker are prime examples of guys that sing it all the time - it means something to them.
We have a player-council called the Gutts Group. We sew a “G” on their jerseys, and the group consists of 2 seniors, 3 juniors and 3 sophomores. They serve as almost a message board between players and coaches - they tell us when to pull back practice, or communicate things to the rest of the players. They’re also in charge of planning players’ night out, where the team will go do an activity together like karaoke.
When I played at Valdosta State, we had a week called the Kentucky Derby. We broke the team into groups and had weeklong events, complete with dodgeball and obstacle courses.
Coach Mike Canales
Associate Head Coach, Utah State University
On Coaching Philosophies:
I’m big on giving my players feedback. That’s how they improve - if you don’t give them feedback, they won’t focus. The key when you’re giving a player feedback is making sure you’re doing it in a way that is not demeaning. You always need to build their confidence.
In 2015, I was the Interim Head Coach at the University of North Texas, and we had yet to win a game all season. Sometimes team-building means doing the hard things, so I gave my players an ultimatum - no social media until you win a game. Lo and behold, one week after the ban (after a tough loss against Marshall) we won our first game. To make it even sweeter, it was against an in-state rival (University of Texas- San Antonio).
Before games, I’ll make sure to do some regular team-building activities - we have chapel, team movie nights, etc. One night before a game, I collected all the players’ cell phones (everyone has one) and the team just sat around for two hours, talking to each other and bonding.
We do a lot of other team-building activities. For fun, players will get into dance-offs, and sometimes the kids will play other sports like softball. I’ll have the linemen catch a few punts to break up the monotony of practice. We’ve always had BBQ’s too.
During the offseason, we’ve had the Marines come in and give the kids a boot camp. Even though many of my athletes are in great shape, there was nothing that tested their will like the armed forces.
Head Coach, Austin Peay University
Coach Healy is the second-youngest head coach in Division 1 Football
On Coaching Philosophies:
It’s all about communication. Sometimes, your players don’t know if they did something wrong. I always do my film sessions and meetings popcorn style so that everyone, from the star player, to the scout team receiver, can participate and keep engaged in the overall team strategy. I don’t move on to the next play until that group I’m working with is able to get the play right.
Their focus goes quick, so the best way to keep them engaged is by feeding them during film study. What college student isn’t hungry?
Head Coach, San Antonio Brandeis (TX) High School
On Using Video to Keep Things Light:
When I was at Allen (High School), there was a coach who made a video of the previous game the Tuesday night before the next Friday’s game. It’d contain highlights of the previous game, but we called it our “Bullcorn” video - it started as highlights, but there were things in it like a coach running funny down a sideline, or it would show two teammates chest bumping with one falling down.
We do a lot of things at the end of our practice. Sometimes we’ll punt and make a lineman catch it. Other times we’ll have our offensive and defensive coaches out there, and whichever one can field a punt correctly, the other part of the team has to run more. To simulate pressure situations, we’ll have our kicker kicking field goals with everyone lined up on each side of him, screaming and yelling as he takes the kick. I know spring ball is a grind, so sometimes I’ll turn the sprinklers on for fun.
Something I’m trying this year is getting the booster club involved. Once a week, I’m hoping to have the booster club bring the kids popsicles and ice cream like we did at Allen. The night before games, we had each position group meet at someone’s house to bond, minus the coaches.