Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Erk Russell's Four F Filosophy for Flag Football

Every player, I believe, begins the season with plenty of desire to play hard, play smart, and have fun. A coach has many important matters to attend to when a season starts. Perhaps not attended to is the question: Am I going to be fueling my players' desire to play or will I actually extinguish much of their internal fire for the game? The short answer: If you are an authoritarian, militaristic coach who relies on punishing mistakes with exercise, yelling, and filling practice with rituals which contribute virtually nothing to playing well in games, then you are a coach who is likely killing your players' desire to play. While there is no one way to coaching success, a more positive approach fuels the desire to play that every player has when the season starts.

Erk Russell's Four F Philosophy provides a framework for positive coaching:

1) Firm- Develop a sound philosophy and stick to it. On offense we run plays as quickly as possible without a huddle or a snap count. Our system is sound and yet contrarian. Running the option from a tight formation means that most opponents have little chance to prepare specifically for us. On defense we run a zone scheme that relies on all players filling their roles. We know that every play is not going to succeed, but if we firmly stick to our schemes, we will have success.*

 2) Fair – Every player contributes in every game. We do tend to specialize linemen, but all others play offense and defense. This gives players variety and gives tremendous flexibility to the coach. There are at least two players experienced in every position. As coach it is important to always encourage every player, as every role is important. When players make mistakes, reassure them and give them advice on how to do better next time.

 3) Fundamental – Talk, show, do, then repeat, and repeat. Practice is filled with doing what it takes to succeed: running plays well. Adjustments are made and pointers are given between plays. Keep it simple: We can attack any part of field on offense yet our system is simple; we use only one formation. We learn foundational plays without a defense in one week and then run them against a defense in the second week of practice. New plays or variations to current plays are added over the course of the season. We do not waste time on drills, especially “character building” drills. Character lessons are built into the nature of the game and require no special drills and certainly do not require extra punishments.

 4) Fun – Perhaps first among equals is fun. All games are popular primarily because they are fun. Killing the spirit of fun kills player desire to play, period. Players who know their roles and can play well while not having their time wasted on mindless, and sometimes punitive drills will be having fun. They will look forward to practice and games. They will be confident because they know what they are doing; they have done it many times. Enjoy the time with your players; encourage them, teach them, joke around with them sometimes. Everything should be done in the spirit of fun.

Fuel your players' desire to play. Do not be seduced by militaristic approaches where the answer to every problem is, in some way, to “get tough” with players. “Get tough” coaching is lazy, counter-productive coaching. Use Erk Russell's Four F Philosophy of Firm, Fair, Fundamental, and Fun to provide the positive experience every player deserves and will remember fondly, win or lose.

*I am in a constant quest for better ways to do things. I make most majors changes in the off-season. In season we make “adjustments” usually.

 Erk Russell Bio Courtesy: Release: 01/08/2008 Led Georgia Southern Football Team to an unprecedented National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-AA record three national championships in the 1980's. Followed back-to-back championships in 1985 and 1986 with a perfect 15-0 title performance in 1989. Arrived in Statesboro in 1981 to restart a football program which had been dormant for 40-years and averaged 10.4 wins a year over the next eight seasons. Headed into first season in 1982 with walk-ons and enjoyed 7-3-1 record. Joined NCAA I-AA in 1984 and won 70 of 84 games in six seasons. Led Eagles to five postseason berths from 1985 to 1989, garnering three championships, one second place finish and one quarterfinal appearance. Won 37 consecutive games at Allen E. Paulson Stadium, including 1989 Championship game. Retired as America's winningest football coach with 83-22-1 (.788) record. Named Coach-of-the-Year on 19 occasions. Inducted into Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. Born July 23, 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama. Earned Bachelors and Masters degrees from Auburn, where he was last four-sport letterman in Tiger history (football, basketball, baseball and tennis). Spent 17 seasons as assistant at Georgia where his defensive teams were known as the "Junkyard Dogs".