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. 

Increasing Mental Toughness

Mental toughness can be the difference between a so-so team and a champion. How do you get there?

It can be said that the true test of a champion is not in his ability to run faster, hit harder or throw longer; it's how tough the athlete is mentally. The ability to handle the highs, lows and the daily pressure of the gridiron is key to a winning athlete. Put a bunch of mentally strong athletes on the same team, and the combination can be unstoppable.

Here are a few tips on how to increase mental toughness:

1. Don't waste your energy on things you can't control. You can't control what the other team brings to the table. You can't control the weather. You can't control the ref calls. You can focus on making your reflexes quicker. You can focus on strengthening your leg muscles and making yourself faster. Keeping your mental energy on what you have the ability to control will give you power and confidence in the moment.

2. Check negative thoughts at the door. Realism has its place. But negativity doesn't. Anything truly is possible when you have a "make it work" mindset, but sometimes, you've got to get a bit creative on how that happens. A culture of positivity and trust in fellow teammates and coaches will allow athletes to truly believe that anything is possible. That culture of positivity will feed itself and can really make a team thrive.

3. Get uncomfortable. If you aren't scared by the goal you set for yourself, you're selling yourself short. Now huge goals don't need to be achieved overnight. As a matter of fact, chunking it down into smaller goals is a great way to see success on the path to greatness. Pushing yourself physically and mentally will allow you to grow, and that growth will again feed your confidence. 

Many players come to the table already mentally tough and ready to compete. The good news is that mental toughness is contagious; a handful of players with a positive, enthusiastic and tenacious mindset will most definitely spread that mentality to the rest of the team. It's even easier to do when they have coaches who know how to encourage that philosophy.

GSC Team Q&A: Sarah Arnold

1. Why do you enjoy working at GSC?  

I enjoy working at GSC, because we all strive to do our best while having fun in the process. I like the small team environment, which provides an opportunity to work on a variety of different things.

GSC Team Q&A - Sarah Arnold

2. What do you think the GSC communication technology can do for the college level?      

The coach-to-player technology is an innovative, yet simple way for coaches to take full advantage of practice time and provide instantaneous direction and feedback to several players at once. This will give college teams a competitive edge and in turn, provide great rewards on game day.

3. How does your background help you meet the goals of GSC's client teams.    

My background in non-profit organizations provided me with experience managing the goals and needs of several people and projects simultaneously. The day-to-day needs of GSC’s team and clients are ever changing, but my goal is to keep everything organized and provide outstanding customer service - with a smile.

4.  What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?       

To always try your best in every single thing you do, no matter how big or small it seems.

5.  What's your favorite thing to do on a weekend?

My favorite thing to do is to spend time with my husband, two boys and our families.  Every day brings a new adventure with them!


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.

Spring Football

Only the hungry advance up the depth chart.

Spring football isn't perfect for everyone. Often times, for the very best players on the team who have already established their place in it, spring football is almost more of a refresher course, a way of staying sharp and teaching some of the younger players how to work.

But spring football is the perfect time for players who are looking to prove themselves and catch the eyeballs of the assistant coaches. Say there's a guy who spent the last year rehabbing from an injury. Here's his chance to show he's healthy. Or a guy who needed a year to mature into the college life. Here's his chance to show he can handle the daily grind. Maybe there's a walk-on who arrived at school undersized and unprepared for the size and speed of the college game. After a year or two in the weight room, spring football is his chance to show he's grown into his frame and can handle the rigors of big-boy football.

College football teams are allotted 15 practices in spring. Usually, that 15th practice is a kind of official “scrimmage” or spring game. Some schools like a smaller setting for a spring game. Other schools like Alabama, Ohio State and Nebraska make it a major event for recruits to enjoy.

No matter how coaches decide spring football should work – Michigan's taking its show on the road for a week down in Florida this year – they generally want to see good competition. They want to see to positions depleted by lost starters be replenished. They want to see progress and belief. And they want to see some guys who have something to prove...actually prove something.

GSC Team Q&A: Alex Shada

1. Why do you enjoy working at GSC?

Each day is a different challenge.  Regardless of the project, we strive to make sure each team, club or entity receives the individual attention they deserve.  It helps us develop a long-standing relationship but also allows us to customize the product specifically for their need.

GSC Team Q&A - Alex Shada

2. What do you think the GSC communication technology can do for the college level?

GSC’s technology is helping college teams develop athletes.  It truly is an extension of the film room and allows coaches to provide instant coaching throughout every drill they are doing.  C2P is an incredible tool that is being used in so many ways; it’s no longer solely for calling in the play.

3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? (Either on or off the field)

Don’t ever get tired of doing the right thing.

4. What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Spend time with my wife and kids, either something outdoors or watching a movie.

Top Trends in College Football

The game of football is changing faster at the college level than anywhere else. That makes sense, since college is placed between high school – where all kinds of ideas get tested out by coaches – and the NFL, which has changed greatly, as well, but not at the rapid rate of the college game.

The trends in college football make the game fun to watch and follow even in the offseason. Here are some of the key trends in the game today.

college football trends

Technology: It's everywhere these days, from the elite instant replay boards that help give coaches an idea of when to challenge a referee's call, to the sophisticated, smart computer teaching tools colleges can afford to use in the locker room to make rapid changes in gameplans. There are real-time simulators that help college quarterbacks dissect defenses during their down time. 

A top tech advancement that can be used in practices is GSC's coach to player helmet communication systems. The practice systems help streamline playcalling and get more reps into a compressed timeframe. More reps build confidence when it counts on Saturday.

Scheme updates: The up-tempo, no-huddle offenses favored by programs such as Auburn, Clemson, Texas Tech, Baylor and Oregon don't come from the NFL. They come from high school and small college programs looking for an edge when they can't always get the best athletes. Those schemes have trickled upward into major college programs, and they've changed the way the game is played – in a good way. They've created more of a level playing field by allowing players – especially offensive linemen – who may not be as big and as fast to still execute at a high level.

Advancements in nutrition: The food revolution has hit college football. With the NCAA loosening standards on amount of food athletic departments can provide their athletes, schools have responded with million-dollar initiatives to improve nutrition and keep players well-fed. In addition to the standard training table, many colleges offer athletes snack bars for throughout the day; the bars are usually stocked with real food like fruit, yogurt and breads. Ohio State calls their bars “fuel zones.” Oklahoma uses a food truck. Nebraska has created a card that athletes can use at some nearby sandwich shops.

The push for player safety and health: Some of the brutal tragedies of CTE and consistent head trauma in pro football have led to positive changes at the collegiate level. There's now a clear emphasis on protecting players when they suffer a concussion instead of putting a player in more harm's way. Further, rehabilitation techniques for injuries have advanced to the point where it doesn't take nearly as long to come back from knee and ankle surgeries.

All of these trends in college football are what make this level so exciting to watch and follow. With such a diverse group of conferences, teams and coaches it's riveting to study the different techniques and see how they play out on game day.

3 Traits of Winning Teams

The best programs in college football get it.

three traits of winning college football teams

The best programs know that most college teams have pretty good players, smart coaches, gear and apparel from a shoe company, a nice cafeteria and a weight room that can make a team big and strong.

The best programs know: Most teams all have enough “stuff” to win.

Of course, just having the "stuff" isn't what gives the team a win. The best programs know that organization, communication, chemistry and other intangibles are what make it work. 

Here are three key traits of a winning program:

Be willing to take time – and even fail a little – to get the culture right. A few elite programs can make immediate, quick turnarounds. Ohio State with Urban Meyer, for example, was a perfect pairing of top coach and talented roster. But what Meyer was able to pull off at OSU – going 12-0 in his first year – is rare. Most programs need a few years to make mistakes, recruit players who fit the coaches' vision and get the right mixture of veterans and young players. Beware the quick turnaround at non-elite programs, for it usually means a coach pushed hard in that first year and may not have longevity in mind. Programs are better built over several years instead of immediately. Short-term gains don't always lead to long-term buy-in.

Have a recruiting plan that finds players who fit your vision – and stick to that plan. The best two examples of this are teams that have risen from mediocrity to excellence – Michigan State and Baylor. Both programs have been dogged in recruiting the area right around their campus and targeting specific kinds of players who fit the schemes that Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and Baylor coach Art Briles prefer to run. Both coaches look for certain measurables – speed and length at wide receiver and defensive back positions – that help their teams win games. Both coaches also know how to fit their teams to their respective leagues.

Work to make sure everyone – especially students and academic adminstrators – are generally pulling in the same direction. In a college football program, there can be a lot of competing interests. Although you can't waste too much time attending to squeaky wheels – which tend to squeak more the longer you attend to them – the top shareholders in a college football program do need to feel like they're a part of the deal. That includes students and administrators. There's no such thing as universal buy-in, but there is momentum in a program. The best coaches know how to find it.

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.

10 Best Coaching Communicators

Players are the biggest factor in the success of a football program, but motivating those players and putting them in the best position to win is important, and some coaches are better at it than others

The best coaches tend to be the ones who can communicate their message – without compromising their personality – to players in a relatable, motivating way. With changes in culture, a “my way or the highway” approach doesn't work like it once did, so coaches have to be more savvy in their approaches.

Here are ten college football coaches who do it right:

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: A down-to-earth Southerner, Swinney tries to relate to his players with humor – locker room dances, for one thing – before he hits them with the tough love and catchphrases like “bring your own guts.” It's working – Clemson has gone from a middling ACC program to a national power in a half-decade.

David Shaw, Stanford: The former Cardinal player is the perfect fit for a school. Never too high or low on the sidelines, Shaw takes a cerebral, even-handed approach and embraces technology to help his players become better in practice. He's also a good recruiter, which is never easy at a school with such a sterling academic pedigree.

Nick Saban, Alabama: College football's consummate winner. He knows the game inside and out, his players know he knows it, and, what's more, Saban is a master communicator with his assistant coaches. Rarely is the Crimson Tide poorly prepared for a game, and that's because Saban hires well and demands a lot from his assistants.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan: There's a method to Harbaugh's style, and it's not only made waves in recruiting, but it endears players to him. 

Urban Meyer, Ohio State: A natural, powerful public speaker, Meyer is by turns dramatic, tough and inspirational. Few coaches reach into a player's competitive soul quite like Meyer does.

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma: One of the most successful coaches in recent college football history, Stoops is one of the godfathers of the sport now, as he's been at OU the past 17 seasons. He carries a lot of weight and his team is poised to be one of the nation's best in 2016.

Tom Herman, Houston: In his first year at Houston, this rising-star former offensive coordinator led the Cougars to a 13-win season. Herman is smart, competitive and a perfectionist, and his players tend to like his confidence in them. It shows on the field.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: Among the media, Dantonio almost comes off like a politician, but his players know another side of the guy, the one that effectively plays up the “little brother with a chip on his shoulder” factor that's helped the Spartans to their most successful five years in a half-century.

Gary Patterson, TCU: Rumpled and dogged, Patterson doesn't strike the typical “celebrity coach” posture, but his players – especially on defense – line up behind him. Patterson preaches a blue collar style that has served the Horned Frogs well in their transition to the Big Ten.

Hugh Freeze, Mississippi: The Rebels have a smooth talker at the helm. Freeze's easy smile and inspirational faith-based style resonates with players, which has helped Ole Miss become a stronger football program in the cutthroat SEC.

The best coaching communication style is one that encourages players to thrive. A coach that can listen and observe his team, and then respond to their unique personalities is one that will be able to adopt that winning tone. The tone that lets your players know, as a team, you are #hear2win.

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.   

GSC at the Super Bowl

GSC at Super Bowl 50

When it came to getting our Coach to Player systems ready for Super Bowl 50, our goal was to make sure that everything was business as normal.

The GSC team flew into San Jose on the Tuesday before the Super Bowl. With many Carolina and Denver fans on the flight, you could really sense the energy of the upcoming weekend. 

GSC sideline at Super Bowl 50

Our objective when setting up our Coach-to-Player communication systems was to make sure the installation and execution was consistent with every regular season game. We wanted the teams to be able to rely on our systems just like they are able to every Sunday of the season.

For the GSC team, the biggest difference in providing our systems for the Super Bowl was all of the prep work ahead of time. With all the additional media representation on the field, there were many radio frequency requests. We wanted to make sure our frequencies were clear and uninterrupted by other users. So we tested and tested and tested again. It was important to make sure that all bases were covered and even our back up plan in place was working. 

With all of the amped up energy in the stadium, GSC's Coach-to-Player systems were something that players were glad they could rely on as a constant. Since they are so familiar with GSC's C2P systems, it allowed them to concentrate on the task at hand. Players were able to trust in the technology and follow through with the game plan.

With so much that can happen throughout a game, we heard from several sources that they were pleased with the consistency of our C2P systems. Coaches know that with GSC they don't have to worry. They know GSC can be trusted and depended upon to eliminate any additional communication headaches on game day.

Broncos Helmet Super Bowl 50

Overall, the Super Bowl was a huge success for the GSC team. We were able to meet some great people on and off the field. We're already looking forward to the 2016 NFL season and helping more teams #Hear2Win.

The All New GSC

GSC began as an answer. The NFL was looking for a solution for secure coach-to-player communications during practice and during Game Day, so they came to our founders, Jamie Schnakenberg and Mark Gubser. Our technology experts got to work and created a unique helmet system that has dramatically improved on-field communication.