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Charlie Weis: your youth coaching anti-role model

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Notre Dame Weis FootballI could do this piece about any of the arrogant incompetents who have fallen on their heads out of the Bill Belichick coaching tree (Mangenius, anyone?). But given the epic way Notre Dame football coach snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory thanks to his decision-making, Charlie Weis becomes the A-1 exhibit of how not to coach.

Weis is an abject lesson that no matter what level you coach, the moment you put the need to show off your genius before the needs of helping your team, you and your team are both sunk.

Today was but one example: leading 34-31 at Michigan with 2:29 to go, Notre Dame has the ball on its own 29-yard line. A first-down run had just gotten stuffed, though the previous run gained a first down. Anyway, Michigan calls time out. You’re in serious time-killing mode here if you’re Notre Dame. Worst-case scenario (other than a fumble), is two runs that get stuffed, two more timeouts called by Michigan, and the Wolverines have to drive without benefit of a time out. Best-case scenario is you pick up another first down and run out the clock.

Instead, Weis has to show what a genius he is, and calls (note — he took over offensive play-calling this year) a long pass down the sideline. Yes, Notre Dame’s passing game had worked well, and if the pass is complete the game is as good as done. But the running game had average more than 5 yards per rush. You have the lead, and you’re trying to kill the clock, not win the game. So the pass is incomplete, and Weis, now on 3rd-and-10, calls another long pass. Michigan gets the ball back at its own 42 on a punt, with 2:13 to go, and two timeouts. Michigan scores the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left — 11 seconds it would not have had if Notre Dame at least had run the ball twice and forced the Wolverines to take two time outs.

The reason why that sequence, as the one that will probably get Weis fired at year’s end at Notre Dame, is such an example of how not to coach goes beyond whether Notre Dame won or lost. Instead working with his team to put it in a position to do its best, Weis’ ego took over. He figured he was genius enough to come up with the play that would get him backslaps from all over about how smart he is. Now, he’s looking very, very dumb.

What does this mean for a youth coach? The lesson, as always, is that you as a coach are not the supposed to be the reason your team wins or loses, or why your players succeed or don’t. Your job as a coach is to teach your players the best you know how, and put them in the best position to succeed.

Certainly, when you’re coaching the girls’ fourth-grade basketball team the issues are different than when you’re coaching Notre Dame football. But the point is that you shouldn’t coach in a way that puts the spotlight on you. Success is not a group of parents giving you a backslap because you’re such a great tactician. You know you’re doing a great job when everyone is happy, and no one is sending you nasty emails about what an asshole you are.

Written by rkcookjr

September 12, 2009 at 10:38 pm

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