Independent School Football – Are the small schools in trouble?

A friend of mine and I were talking over the holidays about independent school sports, in particular, football.  He is a teacher and coach at a private school as well, and was expressing his concerns about football in small private schools.  This conversation has lead to this post.

Having been involved in independent school football since 2000, I have seen a few trends that are effecting the numbers in smaller schools.  These trends have lead to some tough conversations in schools about the ability to maintain a football program from year to year.

The first trend is the growing realization that more and more athletes are specializing in one sport younger and younger.  Two sports that effect football, in particular, are basketball and hockey.  The athletes of these two sports effect football greatly.  A large number of these boys take the fall season to train and get ready for their upcoming winter sport.  Many of them could help a small football program.  But for whatever reason, they feel they may jeopardize their season.  Some are concerned about injury, some that they haven’t played football in awhile, and others are just told by their parents that they are not allowed to play.  The worst excuse that I have heard is their AAU coach, or club hockey coach, told them they could not play on their team if they played a fall sport for their high school!!  This is the one that has effected many day schools throughout the northeast.  Boarding schools are less effected because the athletes have to remain on the campus during the week.  Day students have the ability to participate in teams outside of their school.  With this type of specialization, and it is not just hockey and basketball, less boys are playing football in the fall.  This is not the prime trend that has lead to lower numbers.

The second trend is concussions.  More and more families are concerned about their sons suffering a concussion from playing football.  This trend, in my opinion, is the major one that has lead to lower numbers in football.  Parents are more reluctant to allow their son to try football at the high school level, especially if they have never played the sport growing up.  The concerns are valid, but they do effect the overall numbers of participants in a football program.  The headlines from the NFL, college, and even the President, who recently said that if he had a son he would be reluctant to allow him to play football, certainly play a role as well.  Awareness of the side effects from concussions has grown over the past ten years.  This awareness has lead to many families making more educated decisions about whether to allow their son play the sport of football.

These are the two leading trends that I see effecting numbers in smaller independent school football programs.  There are a few more I am sure, budgets, location of school, etc…but the greatest impact have come from the couple reasons above.  It will be interesting to see if these small schools can continue to field football teams of 25/30 players and remain competitive, and more importantly, provide a safe playing environment.

Football is a sport I grew up playing from the age of ten.  I loved it all the way through high school and into my days of coaching.  It is the ultimate team sport that can teach life lessons of teamwork, cooperation, self-discipline, and determination.  All of these lessons will come in handy as these student-athletes move on in their life journey.  Time will tell on this question.


Outside the Lines – ESPN

Great report this morning on OTL on ESPN about the safety in youth football.  If interested, just go onto and look for it under Outside the Lines.  It is worth the watch if you have a child playing youth football.


Anther Great Tip for Coaches

Anther Great Tip for Coaches

This is a great article from “Coach and the Athletic Director” which touches on the hot button topic of parents and playing time.  I am a firm believer that playing time on the varsity level should be the coaches discretion, and theirs only.  Parents should not have an influence on their son or daughter’s playing time.  That should be earned by the player either in practice or the game.  If a player has a question about how much they are playing then they should approach the coach and have a conversation.  Try and find out what they may, or may not, be doing to earn more playing time.  That is a conversation a coach can respect and appreciate.  It is also a way for a young adult to advocate for themselves in a way that will come in handy as they get older and move on in their lives.


What Sports Is All About

What Sports Is All About

This is what I love about sports at the collegiate level.  A walk-on player who works hard and does his job the best he can gets rewarded for the effort.  It is a true testament that coaches will notice if you give maximum effort in every practice and game.  Effort is the one thing that every player can control each time they step onto the field, court, ice, pool, track, or whatever surface they compete on.  This video is proof that it pays off in a big way.  Congrats to this young man and to Vanderbilt for having him as part of their program.

The Coach as a Role Model and Professional

This is part of my coaches handbook that I put together for my school.  A coach is a vital part of a young players development, and these are a few of the characteristics I feel are important for a coach to display.


The Coach as a Role Model and Professional

A role model is a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.  Modeling those attributes desired in our student athletes is paramount to successful coaching.  Consider the following when carrying out your daily tasks:

a)     Integrity – Follow the rules.   Be honest and fair with your players and exhibit loyalty to them and the team.    Show trust and confidence.

b)    Motivation – Communicate effectively and clearly without vulgarity, anger or sarcasm.

c)     Sportsmanship – Winning isn’t everything.  Understand that success is measure in your team’s performance and behavior not by the result on the scoreboard. 

d)    Composure – A calm demeanor is essential to allow your players to be focused and to deliver a peak performance.

e)     Organization – Have practice plans ready.  Study film. Take time out of your day to be prepared for your next game.

f)     Punctuality – Be on time.  Start and end practice on time.  Show the importance of being early to prepare.

g)     Knowledge – Study the game you coach.  See the Athletic Director for professional development ideas.

h)    Enthusiasm – Be excited about coaching your team.  It is amazing how teams will perform if you believe in them.

i)      Positive – Be encouraging and supportive of your team.

j)      Respectful – Respect for your opponent is an integral part of any definition of sportsmanship.  Demonstrate respect for your players. Respect and know the history and traditions of the game you are coaching and teaching.  Respect the officials without whom there would be no equitable contest in which to compete.  Respect opposing players and coaches.

k)    Health – Promote healthy habits and lifestyles.

Summer Vacation

I apologize for the lack of posts recently, but I have been on summer vacation and decided to take true time away.  As any educator knows, it is important to decompress and recharge the batteries over the summer.  The grind of the school year can weigh on you, and getting away it a must!!  I hope all of you have had a great summer and are looking forward to the upcoming school year.