Coaching Association of Canada

The Foundation for Success - By Larry Haylor

November 1, 2011

Larry Haylor, Head coach, Canadian national football team

Coaching a football team is always a challenging and demanding commitment.  For the new coach it can, at times, be overwhelming.  With that in mind let me offer some thoughts for new coaches to help guide them through the beginning days.

1.  Fundamentals are the foundation of success.

At all levels, football is a basic game of blocking, tackling, throwing and catching. It begins with stance and movement. Teaching proper stance and movement techniques by position is something most teams drill daily. Know the stances your players will need and teach proper movement from that stance. This is a necessity for the execution of skills. 

2.  Know the skills of the position you coach.

If you teach running-backs, what are the skills required in your system and what is their order of importance?  Assign your teaching time on that basis. The number of skills will increase with player experience and level of competition.

  • To begin, drills should be simple with one focus, e.g. catching – hand position, player stationary;
  • Progress to more difficult skills, e.g. catching on the move, to, away, and parallel QB;
  • Routes and catching vs. air; vs. man coverage; vs. zone;
  • As your players become more skilled, try to make your drills game-like and competitive (does NOT need to be live contact);
  • Game-like drills motivate players and they learn how to compete.

3. Be a student of the game. 

Your knowledge, when properly applied, makes your players better. The internet is filled with good (and bad) coaching materials -- search out the good ones. Attend clinics; communicate with fellow coaches (network); enrol in the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). Good coaches welcome the opportunity to share information so be certain to keep a notebook of materials/communications you’ve experienced. 

4.  Don’t teach more than your athletes can manage in games.

In competition, what matters is not how much you know, it is what your players can do consistently well (what you have taught and how well). 

  • Remember that repetition = consistency = execution = success;
  • Teams that execute with consistency win most often;
  • Confidence comes with players knowing what to do, and why and when to do it.  Your responsibility is to teach them the what, why and when.       

5.  Evaluate your players and your systems and be certain you put your players into the proper positions so they’re able to do the things you ask of them. This is a fundamental principle of good coaching.

6.  Plan your practice and practice according to your plan.

  • Script and follow a practice plan -- it forces a focus on the things that are most important and need to get done;
  • Players will know you’re organized (or not) and you will manage your time more efficiently.  Wasted time is never recovered.

7.  Never pass up the opportunity to teach the 3 R’s:

  • Respect for one’s self;
  • Respect for opponents and officials;
  • Respect for the game.                

Being a coach gives you the chance to make a positive difference in a player’s life. Do things right and you’ll receive far more than you give – and remember to have fun!!!         

Larry Haylor is the winningest coach in Canadian university football history with a career record of 178 wins, 47 losses and 4 ties - a mark many Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football coaches believe will never be equalled again.

In 22 seasons as head coach of the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, Haylor won two Vanier Cups, eight Yates Cups (Ontario university provincial title) in 13 appearances and every season finished with a record of .500 or better. Haylor is a seven-time OUA Coach of the Year and a two-time recipient of the Frank Tindall Trophy as CIS coach of the year (1990, 1998).

Haylor is an active contributor and one of the original architects for the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) and was instrumental in developing Football Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development program.

A native of Prince Albert, Sask., Haylor lives in London, Ont. with his wife Judy and his sons Matt and Jordan and daughter Jennifer.                 

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