I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Time Out: Roundtable with the Coaches

If you want to be a successful coach, you have to listen and learn from other successful coaches.  I am fortunate to have some good friends who are great coaches, so I asked two of them to answer a few questions and share their insights on coaching football, motivating athletes, and developing kids in the sport.  Kim Nelson (SF Roosevelt) and Brian Hermanson (SF Washington) together hold the Class 11AA State Football Titles for the past three years in SD, so they definitely fall in the "successful coach" category.  These are their responses to my questions:

KR:  How many years have you coached? Where did you play college football?

Kim Nelson-SF Roosevelt
Nelson:  I have been a head coach for 34 years (Milbank, Rapid City Central, Sioux Falls Washington, Edina, MN, and now RHS.)  I played college football, basketball and baseball at Dakota State in Madison.

Brian Hermanson-SF Washington

Hermanson:  I have been coaching football for 32 years. I have coached at the junior high, high school, college and indoor football level.  I played football at SDSU from 1977-1981.

KR:  What do you enjoy about coaching? Is there anything you don't enjoy?

Nelson:  I really enjoy the off season and the challenge of putting a new team together. It never gets old. Every season brings new players, opponents, coaches, and every team is so different. I love that.
I don't enjoy parents and players who have unrealistic expectations about their ability and playing time. Every player must EARN his playing time--they are not just entitled to play because they are older or think they want to play more than another guy. The best players play. That is the hardest part of my job.

Hermanson:  I enjoy the competitiveness and helping athletes develop to their full potential. There is nothing that I don't enjoy about coaching.

KR: What is your greatest success as a coach?

Nelson:  Having former players come back and tell me how much they enjoyed playing football and hearing them talk about the great memories they have about that time in their life.

Hermanson:  There have been lots of great moments, but being able to have my son be part of two state titles was a thrill.

KR:  Part of your job is to motivate and inspire your players. What motivates and inspires you?

Nelson:  When someone says we can't beat a certain team, or we aren't good enough. I respond to a challenge by working harder and coaching our team harder. The toughest games are the ones that everyone says you are supposed to win.

Hermanson:  Hard work and dedication. I am a person who pays attention to detail. Being part of a football team or program is much like being part of a family. Everyone must accept their role!

KR:  What advice would you give to a 6th grader who wants to play high school football for you someday?

Nelson:  Work hard on ball skills and footwork. Be a fan and a student of the game. Listen to analysts talk about the game and try to understand the little things that can make a difference when you play. Respect the game and your opponents. Don't get too high when you win, or too low when you lose. Make no excuses--work so hard that you refuse to have any. Make your teammates better by being positive, and support everyone on your team.  Players can change a lot from 6th grade to high school, so don't be discouraged if you aren't very big or very fast yet. Keep at it! Be supportive when you are not in the game and support the guys on the sidelines when you are playing. Team - Pride - Trust

Hermanson:  First and foremost you need to have FUN!!!! Learn to play lots of positions, and don't be discouraged if you make mistakes. Learn from them!

KR:  What recommendations would you give a coach in Junior Football?

Nelson:  Each player on your team is equally important and you must coach ALL of them. They are going to remember almost everything you tell them, so make sure it is a positive comment and a positive memory. Winning doesn't matter in Junior Football, learning to love the game and become a good teammate is most important. Success at that level should be measured by how many players want to keep playing next season. Coach for the right reason. Someday, coach a team that doesn't have your child on it. Always try to be fair and teach every player something to make them better every day.

Hermanson:  Be organized, and make sure that you create an environment that is positive. Keep in mind the age of the athlete you are coaching, and be sure you coach all the kids, not just the stars.

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