After a program overhaul, even returning starters can start to wonder about their job security. Will they fit into the new coach's playbook? If not, will their playing time get cut? What if they get on the coach's bad side? All these and other questions enter most players' minds before their first practice with a new head coach. In this second installment in our three-part series, new UTEP Miners head football coach Sean Kugler talks about how players in transition programs should interact with their coach and maximize their playing time. (If you missed it, check out the first installment)
In a new program, everyone starts with a "clean slate." Use the team's transition as a time to make a personal change, even if you were pleased with your last season. "I believe the best way to be fair is to start fresh," says Kugler, "Leaders will have to reestablish themselves as such. Players who feel they have not be given a fair chance or fell out of favor with the previous staff may be energized."
If your talents fit your previous coach's scheme better than your new coach's, don't panic. All coaches want to get the most out of their team, and that means rewarding players who work hard and show an ability to meet new challenges. "Spring ball, pre-season conditioning and skills evaluations are all there to determine strengths and weaknesses," Kugler says. If your coach sees that you're dedicated, he'll work to adapt your talents to fit his scheme and make a spot for you on the field. (See also Preparing for Two-a-Days: Strategies for Nutrition and Hydration.)
Kugler emphasizes that each individual athlete controls his own destiny: "It's in your hands to work hard and do the right things on the field."
Do the Little Things Right
The best way to impress your coach is to deliver at practice. Not just that first one but every single time. Arriving early, practicing late and taking care of business in between will show how dedicated you are. "Kids that finish play," says Kugler, "I am enamored by hustle, intensity and passion."
Before the first practice, set yourself apart by memorizing the playbook and learning your assignments. Arrive in shape by following STACK's Football Summer Training Guide. Address any confusion with your coach before you even lace up your cleats. After practice, ask your coaches where you need to improve.
On-field effort is important, but your actions off the field also speak volumes to your coaches. Be committed in everything you do—with your sport, school and life. Coaches are more likely to reward a dedicated player with middle-of-the-road talent than a hot shot who takes his talent for granted.
Worried that a new coaching staff will mess up your scholarship? Our final installment will address concerns about scholarships and recruiting.