college football

Book Review: You Win in the Locker Room First


In this new series, the GSC team will review some of the top coaching books on the market today and hopefully encourage you to read or even to share books or other materials that have impacted you and helped you become a better coach.

The first book that we are reviewing is "You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C's to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life" by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith. Mike Smith is the current Defensive Coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former Atlanta Falcons head coach. Jon Gordon is a consultant to many businesses and sports teams.

The first C that the book tackles is "Culture." Culture is an important piece of any team's winning strategy. We've talked about creating a positive culture in previous blogs.

Jon and Mike talk about how important it is to involve the entire organization in building a great team culture, not just the players and coaches, but everyone in the training room, on the administration side, assistants and supporters. John and Mike talk about how important it is to get everyone to share the same beliefs, values and goals. One of the ways to do that is to get people to read the same materials and share messaging. 

One of the interesting things about this book is that Mike Smith talks about his successes, but he also talks about his mistakes. He talks about how it's important not to focus on goals for the team, but on achieving milestones and focusing on the process. He also talks about how quickly culture can change and how it's up to the coach to make sure that maintaing culture is more important than the outcomes.

The second C the book talks about is "Contagious." This refers to energy levels and how both positive and negative energy can affect the entire group. Jon Gordon talks about how important it is to stay positive and share that energy constantly with the organization. Contagiousness can be shared verbally and non-verbally.

Two of the themes that are addressed in this book and developed further in additional books by Gordon are those of Energy Vampires and the No Complaining Rule. Both concepts help teams stay positive by recognizing team members that tend to go negative and sway the positive focus of the group. The No Complaining Rule changes the team mindset to be one of appreciation and forward progress as opposed to being stuck in negative and limiting behavior.

In our next blog, we will touch on the next two C's from "You Win in the Locker Room First": Consistent and Communicate. 

Maintaining Tempo

maintaining tempo in football

Experts say that any game is won weeks before the kickoff ever happens. Teams start the winning process during the conditioning and practice sessions weeks before the season begins. Solid practice is essential in making players both physically and mentally strong enough to compete and win. And one of the keys to having a successful practice, is maintaining the tempo.

Maintaining the tempo of practice means there's no downtime. Not a second is wasted as the team moves from one play to another or repeats the same rep until players get it right. 

There are three reasons why tempo is so important for the game of football.

1. Energy--Maintaining the tempo of practice is good because it keeps the energy of the entire team up. Energy is infectious and having a strong, vibrant energy will take a physically talented team to the next level.

2. Get in more reps--Maintaining the tempo of the practice means no down time, so a team can get more reps in. More reps mean more opportunities for coaching tips to stick.

3. Keeping players engaged--Being able to maintain the tempo of practice helps keep players minds engaged on what's going on. Rather than getting distracted or bored, athletes are able to focus on the task at hand and truly engage throughout the entire practice.

Learning Styles for the Student Athlete

4 learning styles of student athletes

Great coaches know how to get their athletes to do more than perform. As a coach, your job is to teach your players how to become better and smarter after every rep, after every play. And teaching your players successfully can be a tricky business, especially since everyone has a unique learning style.

Researchers in Britain named Peter Honey and Alan Mumford categorized four different learning styles in order to assess and recognize the way people learn the best. 

1. Activist
Activists need to dive right in and start doing. They learn best by experimenting and trying things out. They tend to be pretty outgoing and get excited about doing new things.

On the field, consider having activists try out several different options when it comes to a play. Or consider having them adjust each rep slightly. They tend to be fairly open-minded and can learn through the experience itself.

2. Reflector
Reflectors are analysts, looking back on past experiences for their best information. They also do well watching others and then analyzing their activity for the best learning experience.

On the field, consider having Reflectors watch your Activists try different approaches for each play. They can see what works and learn from watching.

3. Theorist
Theorists like to know the whys and the hows about things. These are your athletes who like to know why certain drills are being used and what strategies are in play on the field.

These are the guys who enjoy doing research on other teams and understanding the theories behind the plays. They also have a tendency to understand the opposing team as well can can be very intuitive on the field.

4. Pragmatist
Pragmatists like to know how what they are learning will benefit them in an actual game experience. 

On the field, it's important to run scrimmages similar to what they'll be experiencing on game day. While open to new ideas and experiences while learning, they prefer to rely on what they've mastered in practice on game day.

While there are four different learning styles, Honey and Mumford insist that there are more than one way people learn. Most of us learn in several different ways and blends of those styles.

The key to successful coaching is to figure out the way your athletes learn best. And then teach them how to learn.

Huskers Use C2P During Spring Game


Two seasons ago, Nebraska became the first collegiate team to use the GSC Coach-to-Player practice systems and have been using them in some capacity since. With the second year of Mike Riley as head coach, Nebraska again used the C2P systems throughout the spring to help specifically in the development of their quarterbacks, but they've discovered that the systems have helped the team as a whole with cleaner practices and more repetitions.

GSC's Alex Shada integrating the C2P systems at the Husker Spring Game.

GSC's Alex Shada integrating the C2P systems at the Husker Spring Game.

This past weekend, the Huskers used the C2P systems during the spring scrimmage with Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf using the system for play calling while continuing to mentor his quarterbacks.

The GSC team came in and set up the system to be integrated into the existing coaches intercom system. This allowed for the play caller to call the play to the QB while the other coaches could hear the call as well. Keeping everyone on the same page.

One of the advantages to using the C2P system during practices like this is that the team is able to realize consistent play by all of the QB's. Because they are able to listen in on every play, they are able to hear instant feedback from the coaches and make adjustments during that practice. They don't have to wait until the following day and can learn from coach’s instruction provided to the other QB's. 

With the ability to get more repetitions during every practice of spring ball, GSC's C2P systems not only help the QB's develop themselves, but can help the entire team.

The Importance of Rest


We're getting close to that time of year. Spring ball is wrapping up, and fall training is a few months away. Summer is a time for both the body and the mind to rest. And rest is so important.

Rest is essential for the body to regenerate. Physically, rest allows the muscles to replenish glycogen and repair body tissue. It's the regeneration phase when the body (and mind) really develop.

There have been many studies done about the condition of overtraining, but it's always a good idea to take a break when you notice the following symptoms: 

  • Moodiness and depression
  • Overall fatigue that doesn't go away after brief rests
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased illness and injuries
  • Altered sleep patterns. 

This depression could dampen the overall competitive desire. And a team that doesn't really want to win, won't.

Physical rest is good for the body and can help the recovery process. One of the easiest ways to get physical rest is to sleep. Sleep deprivation makes it harder for the body to maintain endurance. It also raises the cortisol levels and decreases human growth hormones which are essential during tissue repair. Sleep helps mental health, hormonal balance and muscular recovery. 

Mental rest, however is just as important as physical rest for competitive athletes. Taking a break and enjoying activities that are not a part of training are important for getting quality mental rest.

The benefits of mental rest include: 

  • Increased alertness and focus
  • Help with visualization
  • Improved learning
  • Enhanced mood (which helps the entire team.)

So, enjoy the time off. Get plenty of sleep. Chill with friends. Bring on the Netflix marathon. Fall will be here before you know it. 

Spring Approach

Spring Ball #hear2win

Although successful seasons can -- and often are -- forged in spring football, there is no set routine to the way spring camps transpire. Unlike the college football season -- when the game each Saturday dictates, to a great degree, how coaches structure their preparation week -- spring camp allows coaches to get creative with how they work out their teams. 

Each program gets 15 practices in the spring. Usually, programs try to schedule two or three practices per week, and there's typically a spring break to negotiate in there, as well. Years ago -- and it's still somewhat true today -- programs just waited for spring break to end before they started their camps, working four weeks non-stop. But that approach can eat into important recruiting and evaluation periods. 

So many schools will start spring practice in late February or early March and work around the spring break. Some will practice for a couple weeks, let the players go on break, and then return to practice after coaches have evaluated a few weeks' worth of film. Some programs choose to practice during spring break -- like Michigan, which moved its operation to South Florida for a week, allowing players to enjoy the beach when they weren't practicing. 

Many programs -- although not all -- turn the 15th practice into a game with officials, a game clock and sometimes a big crowd. Ohio State, Alabama, Nebraska, Michigan and Auburn are among those programs that draw the biggest crowds, and those schools tend to turn those spring games into recruiting events that attract prospects to campus. And Kansas State chose to take its 2015 spring to a soccer stadium outside Kansas City. Other schools -- generally smaller -- prefer something more scaled down for a final practice. 

What programs choose to work on during those 15 spring practices can also vary. Some, like Ohio State, like to have a firm depth chart by the end of spring camp, so the environment -- and the meaning of the spring game -- is pretty significant. Other programs ditch all concerns of depth charts and just have players focus on improving their skills day to day. That generally means competition is moved to the first part of fall camp. 

When it comes to deciding how much or how little a coach should install of his offense or defense, you'll find differences, as well. Some programs prefer to focus on what they do well already -- their identity, if you will -- while others underline where they struggled the previous season and focus first on that. Strength vs. weakness is perhaps one of the biggest differences in approach. 

No one method is better or worse, necessarily, so long as coaches and players communicate well and know the expectations. 


Communication is key

One of the key skills successful coaches need to have and continually improve upon is the ability to communicate well with their athletes. Clear communication can pave the way not just for success on the field but for a successful relationship overall, ensuring team cohesiveness and cementing the culture of the program.

Communication is a two-way street. It's important to not only communicate to the players your goals and expectations, but also to listen to what they are observing and noticing. Having a coach that will listen to concerns or suggestions helps create a "buy in" for the player.

There are two different types of communication: verbal and non-verbal.

With verbal communication, consider choosing words that will resonate with your team. Keeping your messages concise and on target will help guarantee your athletes will listen, pay attention and understand what you are saying.

With non-verbal communication, make sure that your body language, facial expressions and method of communication are matching the tone and the message of what you want to express. Telling a player that he's done a good job with a frown on your face  just isn't as effective as saying the same thing with a smile in front of other teammates. 

If you are noticing that you are not getting what you want from your athletes or if they just don't seem to be "getting it," you could be sending too many messages, or they might respond better to a different method of communication. Ask your fellow coaches what they might be observing from player behavior and listen to what your players are saying. The answer for the perfect communication strategy is there. You just need to discover it.

Should College Football Expand the Playoff System

It took so long to get a four-team college football playoff instituted in the game that it's fair to ask: Why change it already?

Of course, some teams that were just on the edge of making the four-team playoff – such as TCU and Baylor in 2014 and Stanford in 2015 – might not feel the same way. And fans probably wouldn't say no to more college football playoff games.

a football in the spotlight

There are two sides to the college football playoff story. Here are short versions of those:

Bigger, better playoff: Were the playoff to expand to six or eight teams, each of the major conferences would be guaranteed a representative in the event. As it stands, even if five teams finished undefeated – unlikely but theoretically possible – only four of those teams would qualify for the playoff. How would that be fair? Addtionally, FCS and Division II teams take part in larger playoffs than four teams and do just fine with it. If those schools are able to navigate around final exams and holidays and the start of a new semester, then FBS schools should be able to do it, too. As it stands, the CFP relies on a committee to parse the differences between the fourth and fifth-best teams. That can be a distinct challenge. Why not open it up to eight or more?

The playoff is just the right size: Coaches have already made it clear, that the amount of time and effort asked of players is right at the max. By the time the title game has been played, the champion will have usually played 15 games, which is akin to hundreds of car crashes in pads. What one or two more games might do the human body of a 20-year-old – who isn't getting paid a salary – could be scary and unfair. What's more, if the playoff expands, the exclusivity of it changes, and it begins to make fans believe they can expect playoff berths from their favorite programs each year. Is that right or fair? Probably not. Four teams is just right, in that it almost never leaves out an undefeated team, but it also won't be bloated with two-loss teams that probably don't belong.

7 Turnaround Teams

7 turnaround teams in college football

In a sport as competitive as college football, it is not easy to go from a doormat to a champion. So the few programs that are able to do so deserve notable recognition. They stayed ahead of the curve, embraced the future, ditched the past and bet on themselves. Turnaround programs may not have the tradition of a Alabama or Texas, but they have something else: The knowledge of what it takes to go from the bottom to the top. Here are seven:

Baylor: Long an afterthought in the old Southwest and Big 12 Conferences, Baylor's fortunes changed with the hiring of coach Art Briles, who brought his up-tempo, spread offense from Houston and, along with it, a special recruit in Robert Girffin III. RGIII won the Heisman Trophy and Baylor won two straight Big 12 titles shortly after that.

Kansas State: Nobody has done it better than Bill Snyder. When he arrived in the late 80s, KSU faced some challenges. Snyder, a tireless worker, has built a program over 25 years that occasionally wins conference titles but, more than anything else, has revitalized the university.

Oregon: The Ducks were never a terrible program, but they went through a prolonged stretch of mediocrity from 1960 through 1994, when the Ducks returned to the Rose Bowl. Since then, Oregon has used fancy Nike uniforms and a cool, speedy offense to blast its way into the top ten. From 2010-2014, Oregon finished in the top ten at the end of each year.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks had been fairly unimpressive until they hired Steve Spurrier – fresh off a failed stint in the NFL – to take over the program. Wise move. Under Spurrier, South Carolina won 11 games for the first time in school history – three years in a row.

Wisconsin: When Barry Alvarez took over the Badgers in 1990, Wisconsin had won just nine games in the previous four seasons. Alvarez won just one in his first year. By 1993, he'd won his first of three Rose Bowls. The program has remained successful through three head coaches since Alvarez moved into the athletic director's chair, but only Alvarez has a statue outside of Camp Randall Stadium.

TCU: The Horned Frogs played in just three bowl games from 1960 through 1995. Since 2000, TCU has missed just two postseasons and had a perfect 13-0 season in 2010 thanks to dominating defense under coach Gary Patterson.

Virginia Tech: In the first 92 years of the program, the Hokies had never won ten games in a season. Frank Beamer – who by then was in his ninth season at Virginia Tech – changed that. The Hokies dominated the ACC over the last 20 years.  

Turning around a program is not an easy task. It takes patience, understanding and strong motivational and communication skills to get the players, coaches and the entire organization on board. These seven teams show that it can be done and done well.

Top 100 Recruits

top 100 college football recruits

Where are the top prospects headed this year? For the answer, we examined Scout's Top 100 players in the nation and tracked where they signed scholarship papers. Here is a list of where those players landed:

7 Top 100 prospects

6 Top 100 prospects
Florida State

5 Top 100 prospects
Ohio State

4 Top 100 prospects
Penn State

3 Top 100 prospects
Notre Dame

2 Top 100 prospects
Texas A&M

1 Top 100 prospect
Michigan State
Mississippi State

What does that list tell us?

While a winning culture and playing style attract top recruits, having additional tools available to potential players can also help incentivize these young athletes. 
The decision whether or not to attend a particular school can be made more easily when young recruits and their families know that teams are invested in the full development of the athlete from college to beyond.

The Importance of Off-Season Conditioning

The college football season has been over for a month. The peak recruiting season has been over for a few weeks. Spring football, for most programs, is still roughly one month away.

From a fan's perspective, this is a quiet time. There aren't even any preseason magazines to enjoy!

Do not underestimate, however, how important this time is in the life of a college football team.

Winter conditioning is often where some of the best teams are built. It's time when players, after some time off to rest their bodies, begin the slow climb toward peak health and strength, two things that get worn down considerably during the course of a long season. It's when a program's strength and conditioning staff takes over the coaching and works on the mindset of players by training for increased mental and physical toughness. Players call upon this training once the season rolls around.


Winter conditioning also helps identify new leaders among the players. The outgoing seniors are either preparing for their shot at the NFL or some other role in the job market. New guys, often seniors-to-be, set the goals and worldview of the team in January, February and March. Captains aren't often elected in the winter, but captains are discovered and shaped at that time.

Coaches generally adopt more of a hands-off approach during this period. They're still around, of course, making plans for the future, but they also want their strength staffs to do their best to build team bonds before spring football when all those players will be competing against each other for playing time.

Winter conditioning is also the time when dreams of better seasons are born. For any number of programs coming off of disappointing seasons, winter is when players envision a better season and make their pacts to achieve that vision.

The game of football takes a well-deserved break, and this is one of the slowest times of the year for the game. But football life is perpetual, and there's something important about this time, right now.