Everyone talks about creating the “whole child” and being a student-first, athlete-second. However, while we see advancements and growth to many parts of high school football programs such as: strength and conditioning, coaching technologies, and scheme; more often than not very few gains are made on the academic side of coaching.
Step 1: Explain to the players why making good grades, behaving in class, and acting responsibly (ie. displaying scholarly behavior) is important. Players today care about “how does this affect me” more than ever before and if you don’t paint a clear A-to-B picture you may not make the connection clear to your players. I talk often in the classroom and on the field about how a student acting out in class directly results in taking food off the plate of their teachers, administrators, and coaches. I also will not make college recommendations (athletic or academic) for problem children on campus. That lack of recommendation could cost them a scholarship which they understand fairly well.
Step 2: Show your players that you care about them. Go watch them play other sports during the off-season. Talk to them about their families. Have them in the office to chit chat. Do whatever you can do to show you care about them and want what’s best for them. One they feel loved they’ll act accordingly.
Step 3: Show your commitment to the program. Kids can see through BS. They know who is here to stay or just for today. Show you care by fundraising with them, upgrading facilities or uniforms, making college calls for them and helping them grow.
Step 4: Hold players accountable. If they fail to meet their end of the bargain- let them know! D’s or F’s aren’t accepted in my program and those players are forced to do OSI or Opportunity for Self Improvement. E-mails from teachers re tardys or behavior- more OSI. Sometimes we punish the squad together, sometimes we don’t. But we always hold guys accountable.
Step 5: Reward all-stars in the classroom. You can’t just give out helmet stickers for big plays, give it out for big GPAs too. We even reward passing the FCAT (testing) and SAT/ACT scores. I give guys stickers if they clean up the cafeteria. It can’t be all punishments.