t’s an extreme pleasure to have an opportunity to submit an article, on behalf of our staff, for the AFCA Summer Manual

. The meat of this article will deal essentially with game day organization as we use very little strategy per se. Game day really begins with the evening meal the day prior to the game. Although we don’t have a special menu, the dress-out squad has this dinner together. Since I am usually the only coach on the campus at this time, I have this meal with the players and also attend an evening movie with them. The movie is chosen by the captains, and every player on the dress-out squad attends. Our married players are a part of this group activity and remain with the squad until the game is over. There is no effort on the part of the staff to sell this point through any reasoning other than we all need to be together. We hope being together for dinner, the movie, bed check and the entire day of the game will help promote a little more understanding and esprit de corps among the players. Following the movie, all players return to the dorm for an evening of quiet and relaxation. Our trainer, Bubba Porche, has a fruit and candy sack for each player as he reports to his room. We used to have Bubba make the bed check, but that is now made by one or more of the coaches. We usually have at least one coach seeing a football game in the immediate area; so the room check is usually made sometime between 10:30 p.m. and midnight. All lights and TVs are to be off by 10:30, and if we could, we would have all the phones blocked off. Visiting by outsiders in the athletic dorm is discontinued from 5 p.m. the afternoon prior to the game until the evening following the game. Cooperation of our players relative to these few rules has been excellent. Morning Meeting If we are having a night game, we don’t expect to see our players, since we don’t require them to get up for breakfast, until 10 a.m. the next morning in group meetings. At these meetings, we usually review briefly the scout report and then show one reel of our opponent’s game film. These are only reminder meetings, which we insist, last no more than 30 minutes. Of course, at this time, we have an opportunity to touch base with everyone overly anxious about the game, anyone with a problem he hasn’t handled for the day and any-


one feeling badly. We try to make this meeting meaningful as to what we expect in the game, but we don’t want anyone leaving the area wound so tight they can’t relax throughout the day. All the coaches and players have lunch together at 11:30 a.m.. In mingling with the players, we make a concerted effort to promote a relaxed atmosphere. Immediately following the noon meal, our players return to the dorm for relaxation and taping. Half of the squad is taped prior to the 3:30 p.m. pre-game meal and the other half is taped following the meal. Our trainers like to tape in the dorm so the players can remain in their rooms until called. This also prevents a lot of distraction caused by the players’ walking from the dorm across the campus to the training room. I’m sure you realize we are trying to establish a routine we follow every game day whether the game is to be played in the afternoon or night. If we do play in the afternoon, our time schedule must be changed, but the order of events remains the same. We begin the day with short offensive and defensive meetings at 8:30 a.m., if game time is 1 p.m. A 9 a.m. pre-game meal follows which consists of the same menu we have at 3:30 p.m. preceding a 7:30 p.m. game. The trainers must hustle to get the taping done, but we haven’t encountered any major problems. Once we arrive at the dressing room, time intervals are the same for day and night games. Pre-Game Meal Returning to the time schedule of a 7:30 p.m. game, at 3:25, all players are seated in the dining hall, at which time I address the squad for five minutes concerning our expectations, the merits of our opponents, and the meaning of this game to all of us. Following this short talk, we eat a six-ounce steak, two scrambled eggs, one piece of dry toast, one-half peach, honey and drink either coffee or tea. Although some of our players don’t eat, they are required to be present for this meal. Immediately following the pre-game meal, all players return to the dorm for additional taping. Coaches’ Responsibilities I feel the need at this time to digress and pick up the duties and responsibilities of the coaches pertaining to matters other than what involves our players. Game day for us begins about 8 a.m. with everyone realizing he isn’t going to get back home

Game Day Organization and Strategy

Bennie Ellender Head Coach Tulane University New Orleans, La.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •

until the game is over. As soon as we arrive at the office, we check all equipment and aids necessary for the day’s work. My game aid is a waterproof see-through binder in which I carry two papers, one of which is a short sheet (offensive) and the other a personnel sheet. A concerted effort is made to never have a short sheet consisting of more material than can be placed on one side of a single sheet of paper. For some this may be too condensed, but we have lived with this idea for several years. We all know this practice will change as soon as someone convinces us a more lengthy short sheet is better. This game sheet includes all plays and formations we’ll use in open field play, all plays and formations to be used in goal line situations and all special plays and formations for specific down and yardage situations. The personnel sheet includes our kickoff team, kickoff return team, defensive and offensive teams, extra-point team and all the necessary substitutes. Since the substitution rule has been changed, I can see the possible need for a field goal team and maybe a punting team for next year. The personnel and short sheets contain a lot of information pertaining to responsibilities assigned to other very capable coaches, but one never knows when something might happen during the course of a game to toss these responsibilities back to me. If and when that happens, I’m going to rely quite heavily on these two sheets. Our offensive backfield coach, or the designated offensive press box coach, makes out his short sheet on a manila folder. The size of this folder provides him space to make notations as the game progresses. These notes prove to be very useful for our halftime meeting. The defensive press box coach uses a defensive short sheet, which includes all primary and secondary defenses for a particular game. In addition to referring to this sheet quite often, he also charts plays and formations used by our opponents. By being aware of all defenses called, he can analyze where and why our defense is breaking down. His observations play a big part in our second half defensive game plan, whether it be the same as the first half or not. An armband is worn by our defensive coordinator on which he has special defensive reminders. This armband is an excellent idea not only for the available information, but because it’s attached to his arm,

Bennie Ellender at a Glance
Experience: Assistant Coach, Tulane University, 1959-61; Assistant Coach, Arkansas State University, 1962; Head Coach, Arkansas State University, 1963-70 (52-20-4); Head Coach, Tulane University, 1971-75 (27-29) Career Head Coaching Record: 79-49-4 Bowl Game Record: 2-2 National Championships: 1970 (College Division) AFCA District Coach of the Year Awards: 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970 AFCA National Coach of the Year: 1970 Notes: Led Arkansas State to an 11-0 record and a victory in the Pecan Bowl in 1970 to earn the NCAA’s college division national championship that season ... Led Tulane to a 9-3 record and a berth in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in 1973.

he has both hands free all the time and he doesn’t have to worry about losing or destroying his short sheet during the excitement of the game. Throughout the entire day, we hope each coach is referring to his specific game responsibility during every spare minute. Sometime these spare minutes are hard to find, as there are usually a few recruits, visiting coaches, parents and interested alumni about the office on game day. We all make a concerted effort to attend to the needs of these various groups and show them as much personal attention as time will allow. Of course, the meetings and meals we have with our players take precedence over any other commitments we might have. During the afternoon between our lunch and pre-game meal, or immediately following the pre-game meal, we try to have a short staff meeting to discuss for the last time what we plan to do during the game, what we expect our opponents to attempt and the mental and physical condition of our players. If possible, we’ll have this meeting with the entire staff present; otherwise, I’ll catch offensive and defensive staffs when they are available. Brief Solitude Helps About an hour prior to arrival of our team, I like to get off by myself for a little rest, relaxation and meditation. If we feel the players need to get mentally ready for the game, then I’m sure, in our own way, we coaches need to do the same; so this is my way.

Bubba Porche and Marvin Hagaman meet the squad at the dorm at 5:40 p.m. and walk with them to the stadium. Since the squad arrives at 5:50 p.m., we have exactly an hour in the dressing area prior to pre-game warm-up. In this hour, we encourage everyone to be sure all tape is to their liking and all laces, cleats, pads and other wearing apparel is in good shape. The quarterbacks start a 10-minute warmup routine at 6:40 p.m. in an area adjacent to our dressing room and all other specialists do stretching exercises in the dressing room. All the specialists hit the field at 6:50 p.m. for a 12-minute pre-game period prior to the non-specialists joining them at 7:02 p.m. We then take about three minutes of stretching cals, which also tends to promote that togetherness once again. Following cals, we break up into small groups for a five-minute drill unique to each group. The backs and ends for instance take part in a pass skeleton drill against our defensive secondary and linebackers. This drill enables our receivers to catch the ball in traffic, run their regular pass patterns and catch the ball a maximum number of times in a five-minute period. The defensive secondary is able to play any defensive coverage we desire, thus getting the feel of a game-type situation. Although we have three quarterbacks under the center at the same time, we designate which quarterback the defensive secondary will read. Since we want our receivers to catch as many balls as possible and our quarterbacks to get in maximum throwing, we

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •

place one quarterback in position to take the snap and one quarterback on each side of the center. The middle quarterback drops straight back and throws to an interior receiver while, at the same time, the two side quarterbacks sprint out to their respective sides and throw to the outside receivers; so we have three throwers and three catchers each time the ball is snapped. At the same time, we are showing our defenders a complete pass pattern and giving them a pre-game coverage drill. The last three minutes of our pre-game warm-up is an offensive team drill consisting of two offensive teams executing plays from the five-yard line into the pay-zone. The defensive teams crowd in behind these offensive teams and provide a lot of enthusiasm through yelling and clapping of hands. Last Minute Instructions We return to the dressing room about 18 minutes prior to the game for final check of all equipment, elimination of personal waste and last minute instructions from each coach as to starting teams, captain instructions, cautions, etc. Our final up in the dressing room is at 7:25 p.m. when, within a very close huddle, he Lord’s Prayer is said in unison. We then break for the field where the coin toss is already taking place. Two of our coaches, one offensive and one defensive, have already taken their places in the press box. These people are to communicate with field coaches relative to game strategy and play of our opponents. Too many coaches in the press box tend to promote too much conversation and ensuing confusion. When we are able to have other coaches in the press box, they have responsibilities altogether different from our two permanent press box coaches. On the sideline, our offensive line coach is responsible for any changes to be made due to unusual defenses or stunts we may be seeing. He is also accountable for the hustle and enthusiasm of this group; so he meets with them each time they come off the field, not only to glean information and disseminate knowledge, but to also light some fires. Usually our receiver coach is communicating with the offensive press box coach relative to the upcoming play if we have the ball or to what we want to do the next time we gain possession. Our defensive coordinator and defensive back coach have been

together for a long time and feel they can coordinate our front seven and four deep better if they are on the sideline together. They, like the offensive line coach, are constantly huddling with their respective groups. I handle the kicking game plus being ready to assist any member of the staff relative to changes we may want to make during the game. The other coaches, if we are fortunate enough to have some of them home for the game, control our sidelines. This is a hard job, since we don’t require the players to sit down, because everyone is trying to get closer to the field than his teammate. We do ask our players to sit down when they come out of the game so our trainer and managers can administer to them in an orderly fashion. On very warm days or nights in New Orleans, this is very important since the humidity is usually so high. To combat the humidity problem, we sometimes try to have ice behind the benches with big fans blowing over it to cool our players. Although we play very few games in severe cold, we are prepared to use hand warmers, hoods, fire buckets and/or heaters to alleviate this problem. Halftime Routine When we hit the dressing room at halftime, the offensive coaches meet with their press box coach and the defensive coaches do the same in another area of the dressing room. In a few minutes, we try to formulate some plan, both offensively and defensively, for the second half. The offensive people then meet on one end of the dressing room with their players while the defense is doing the same on the other end. We then split up into smaller groups so each coach can go over these changes in greater detail as they pertain to his particular players. This also enables each player to have all his first half problems solved if his problems aren’t all due to the guy playing across from him. Just before returning to the field, we all huddle up so I can express my thoughts relative to the first half and make a few remarks concerning what we expect the second half. After the Game Following the game, we ask all players and coaches to hustle into the dressing room so we can have a short meeting prior to opening the doors to the news media as well as other interested parties. We need this short meeting to quickly relate our

thoughts about the game to the players and to give all of us time to settle down prior to meeting the public. The news media, parents and close friends are permitted to enter our dressing area. The news media is invited to interview any of our players or coaches while I hold a short press conference immediately following every game. In our press conference, I usually make several general statements and then open the meeting to questions. In the meantime, our players and coaches have dressed and headed to the dining hall for the post-game meal. This is the last time we see our players until 3 p.m. the following afternoon. Of course, all injured and bruised are encouraged to see the trainers prior to or immediately following church Sunday morning. Men, I realize this is somewhat of a lengthy article concerning a lot of generalities, which I’m sure all of you do much better. If there is anything left unsaid, chalk it up to oversight. If there is any part of the article needing further elaboration, I hope you and I can discuss same over a cup of coffee at the next coaching clinic. Many thanks to all of you and our staff for allowing me this opportunity.

2000 AFCA Committees Will Be Listed in the AFCA Directory

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •

Practice Safety-First Coaching Techniques
Excerpted from an article by Dick Schindler for the National Federation News

Coaches’ Checklist
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. Keep the head up. Discuss risk of injury. Keep the head out of contact. Explain how serious injuries can occur. Involve parents in early season meeting. Have a set plan for coaching safety. Clearly explain and demonstrate safe techniques. Provide best medical care possible. Monitor blocking and tackling techniques every day. Repeat drills which stress proper and safe techniques. Admonish and/or discipline users of unsafe techniques. Receive clearance by doctor for athlete to play following head trauma. Stress safety every day. Don’t glorify head hunters. Support officials who penalize for illegal helmet contact. Don’t praise or condone illegal helmet contact. Provide conditioning to strengthen neck muscles. 18. Entire staff must be “tuned in” to safety program. 19. Check helmet condition regularly. 20. Improper technique causes spinal cord injuries. 21. Helmet must fit properly. 22. Be prepared for a catastrophic injury. 23. The game doesn’t need abusive contact. 24. Player safety is your responsibility. 25. It’s a game — not a job — for the players.

Keep The Head Out Of Football
Rules changes that eliminated the head as the initial contact point in blocking and tackling have significantly reduced head and neck injuries in the sport. Coaches can do their part to continue that trend by teaching correct techniques and emphasizing proper fundamentals at all times. That way, players can avoid catastrophic injury and coaches can avoid lawsuits. Keep the head out of football.

13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

• AFCA Summer Manual — 2000 •

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