How to Get the Most Out of a Football Clinic

Clinic Season is in full swing. It’s the second greatest season of the year! For coaches who had a great season last fall, you get to go out and speak to your fellow coaches, giving back to our great profession. For those who did not, we get to listen to the successful guys. We get to spin hundreds of ideas through our heads and think, “Our kids can do that next year!”

This year, I will attend 5 or more clinics. So far I have already been to two, and we’re not yet halfway through February. I love football clinics. But I attend more than the average person, since this is my job.

So if you only get to visit one or two clinics every year, how do you get the most out of them? What are the secrets to really getting the most bang for your buck? I’ve put together a list here, and StrongFootballCoach.com has a few suggestions for you here as well.

Plan Your Strategy

If you have no purpose for going to a football clinic, I’m not sure why you go. If your school is paying for the hotel and you just want to get away for a weekend that’s great. Don’t read this.

Decide what your purpose is for attending the clinic.

Is your team installing a new defense this season? Obviously, you need to go to as many presentations on that defense as you can find. We’re toying with our defense, so in one clinic I hit as many Even Front, Quarters Coverage talks as I could.

Are you going to be coaching a new position this fall? Maybe you’ve never coached the secondary before, but your secondary coach left for greener pastures. Better get lots of drills and technique.

Maybe your staff isn’t changing anything, but you just want to become a more well rounded coach. Maybe you’re the Defensive Coordinator for a team that got toasted by the Pistol Spread Option last year. You may find one guy talking for an hour on defending it, but at most Glazier Clinics you can find someone talking for 3 to 9 hours on running the Pistol Spread Option. Listen to him, not the guy who thinks he knows how to stop it (because he may have just stopped a really crappy PSO team).

As a side note, I went out this year looking for ideas on the 4-2-5 Defense. After two clinics, I will probably avoid 4-2-5 Defense speakers at the next one. Everyone’s defense looks shiny and new, but at some point we have to settle on something.

If You Like it, Put a Ring on It

When you find someone who’s a good speaker and fits what you need, don’t make it a one-hour stand. Marry them for the weekend.

I love Glazier Clinics because most speakers are talking for at least 3 hours. Even better are the guys who spend 9 hours talking about their system. Look for those guys. Spend all day, or all weekend, listening to them. Really get to know their system and get to know the reasoning behind their system. That can help you build your own, down the road.

I almost never plan to attend multiple speakers in a 3 hour block at a Glazier Clinic. If I get in to the first guy and don’t like it, I’ll get up and head to my second choice as soon as possible (and don’t feel bad about walking out, you paid money to learn). I want to sit with someone for 3 hours and get the full plan. Most guys are giving a 3 hours speech, with breaks in between, not 3 one hour talks. If you miss the first hour, you’re either A) lost when you show up in the 2nd or 3rd hour or B) the guy who’s pissing me off because you’re asking questions he answered in the 1st hour (you should ask questions, but if you just showed up, you should wait and ask them during the break. Just my opinion, but I’m a jerk).

Not every clinic has the same structure as Glazier Clinics. Smaller clinics may not have the ability to, but you can still find a way to have a meaningful relationship. At smaller clinics you often get High School coaches who do not have a book out, and do not usually get people hammering down their door for a copy of their playbook. They’re regular coaches. Talk to them after the session, ask them if they’ll be around all weekend, and make some plans to sit down and talk. If your schools are close, you can make plans to visit with their staff. Unless they’re on your schedule, most coaches are open to that.

Take Excessive Amounts of Notes

Maybe it’s just my learning style. But I can’t just sit and listen to a guy. If someone hands me a copy of their PowerPoint, I politely accept, then put it in my notebook. I almost never look at it again. My notes are better than his Power Point. Taking notes keeps me focused on the talk and engaged. I’ve seen a lot of people nodding off around me.

Process the information, both from the slides and from what he’s saying, and put it down on paper the way you need to see it. Often, I use my own words and not his (though I try to use their terminology).

Do not copy the words on the PowerPoint slide word for word. The vast majority of guys will send you their presentation if you just email them. I just don’t see the value in copying it down. I write down what he says, knowing I can get the Power Point any time (for Glazier Clinics, most of the presentations will be online as well).

In a 3 hour session at a Glazier Clinic, 9-12 pages of notes is pretty average for me. I normally use up more than one notepad in a weekend. Not everyone is like that, so do what works for you.

Use EverNote to Get the Most Out of the Clinic

My latest trick involves an iPad and the Evernote app. Evernote is available for almost everything, by the way, but I use iPad.

I open up the app, start a new note, then click the microphone button. The iPad records the clinic talk, and I type my notes in at the same time. When I’m done, they’re already formatted and easy to read. Plus I’ve got the talk recorded as well, in case I miss something or need clarification later. Evernote syncs it between my iPhone, iPad and the web based application.

If you set your entire staff up with Evernote accounts and link them together, you can share all of your notes plus the recording with everyone quickly.

I use a separate app, Pages, to draw diagrams. I’m just sure to label those diagrams and put a note in my Evernote document that there’s a diagram to accompany that part of the talk. Pages will actually export directly to Evernote.

Glazier Clinics, and most others, do ask that you don’t record the clinics. I choose to operate within the spirit of the rule, which is don’t record the clinics and distribute them around the world (don’t bother asking me to send you a recording of anything, I won’t do it). My recordings are for my use only.

Ask Stupid Questions

If you’re a teacher then you know this one. There are no stupid questions!

Except, of course, if the question was already answered, but you came in late. Remember what I said earlier. If you weren’t there at the start, wait and ask your questions after the session. Presenters have a short window and they have plans to fill the whole thing. If they have to back-track constantly, they’ll never get through it all. There’s nothing wrong with coming in late. I routinely leave a session after the first 10 or 15 minutes when it’s not doing anything for me, and skip to another. Just be courteous.

Moving on, if you’re in a session from the start and you need some clarification, ask it. Ask questions that are on topic if you’re asking during the talk. If you have something that’s a little off topic, wait until the end when the speaker usually opens it up for questions.

Here are two examples from this past weekend. I’m not meaning to attack or embarrass anyone, by the way, so if this sounds like you then… eh.

  1. In the middle of a talk about aligning to 21 Personnel, someone asked a question about defending Doubles and Trips sets. Now, the next session was clearly labeled as “Defending Spread Offenses.” The speaker was polite, and briefly touched on it. Then he went 10 minutes over on his talk, hardly even having a chance to show film much less answer questions. Bad question.
  2. Another speaker, an Offensive Line Coach, was giving a presentation on Power. In his mind, Power was the simplest play in football. Block down, kick out, roll the hole. We all run it. He’s an Offensive Line coach so he quickly glazed over the Fullback kick out. After all, he doesn’t even coach that guy. A coach in the audience, who seemed fairly inexperienced but not at all afraid to ask questions, raised his hand during the film. “So the fullback will kick out the Defensive End on this play?” My first reaction was, WOW! I remember when I was that guy! My second thought was, Good for him. There’s probably 30 people in this room who just went DUH! in their heads, but this guy will understand how to run Power. And chances are, someone else in the room was thinking the same question, so we got two guys to understand one of the best plays in football.

Ask questions. Speakers assume too much, because what they are talking about is second nature to them. The O Line coach in the second talk runs Power for a living. He’s got rings to prove it. In his world, everyone knows block down, kick out, roll the hole.

I listened to a phenomenal Wing-T Coach who assumed everyone in the room was an old hand at Wing-T Offense. If you didn’t know what Buck and Belly meant, you were screwed. That’s his world, so if you want to learn about it, you have to ask.

Do take into account the level of the talk, though. Glazier Clinics label many of the talks as Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced. If you’re not pretty knowledgeable on the Double Wing, please don’t plop down in an Advanced Double Wing talk and ask where the receivers line up.

Assume the Speaker is a Good Football Coach

It bothers me when people in the audience need to prove the speaker is incapable, or that they are a better football coach. Assume that the speaker is a good ball coach who can teach you things. If you don’t think so, don’t go.

First, just because he has great athletes does not mean he can’t coach or you can’t learn something from him. Trust me, they know if they have really good players. Not many coaches have spent their entire career coaching State Champions. Almost everyone has had that 0-10 season when they didn’t have a single kid get recruited by even the worst Division III school in the country.

You do not need to suggest changes to his scheme or a new drill to try, either. We came to hear how the speaker stops the Zone Read, not how you do it. Personally, I’d love to talk to you about it. But not during the speaker’s 50 minutes. He probably wants to hear it too, but after the session.

Talk About it Later

Sitting in a talk with other coaches from your staff? Have a great idea or think what the speaker is talking about can really help you? Take it outside or, better yet, talk about it during the break.

I get easily distracted. If you’re talking about something, even in a hushed whisper, my mind wanders to that pretty quickly. No matter how hard I try to focus, I can’t help but hear your conversation and drift off to a Shut the #@$* UP! mental process. Once again, be courteous. I know that teachers are the worst at this, because it’s a learned behavior from the students (remember, I taught for 10 years). Fight the urge!

We won’t even get started on the cell phones. If you get a phone call you just have to take, get up and step outside. The height of rudeness is to sit in a clinic and talk on the phone. I’m amazed every time I see it. Who raised you!?

Thank a Good Speaker at the End

This is an easy thing to do, but not one that I always did. Last year I gave my first clinic speech. The room was empty. There were maybe 12 attendees. Okay it was 12, I counted. It was only the fact that about half of them came up and thanked me or complimented my presentation that kept me from breaking down and crying.

It doesn’t matter how important the speaker is, they won’t be offended by a quick handshake and a “Great job, Coach.” And if you have to jet out of there, or you can’t wait on the line of people waiting to ask a question, then take note of the speaker’s email and send them a thank you that way. We all get too many emails every day, but most of them are junk. No one ever said, “My inbox is just flooded with appreciative notes and Thank You’s every day. I just can’t take that crap anymore!”

By the way, your thank you is a little watered down when you follow it with, “Can you send me your power points?” So if you know you’re going to ask for them, try your best to say thank you in person.

I hope you’ll be attending as many football clinics as you can this year. We can always learn more from them. You can tell that I prefer Glazier Clinics, but I also love small local clinics. I have not attended any Nike COY clinics, so I have no opinion on them. Check out FootballClinics.net for a comprehensive list of clinics all over the United States this year.

If you’ve seen a great clinic speaker this year, give them a little extra props – and a recommendation for the rest of us! Tell us about them in the comments. Thanks

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