The 10 Commandments of Being a Great Triple Option Coach

The 10 Commandments of Good Football Coaching: A Psychological Perspective For Triple Option Coaches

by Dr. Lou Cella, Sport and Performance Psychologist

1. What you do matters. This is one of the most important principles.  What you do makes a difference. Your players are watching you. Don’t just react on the spur of the moment.

Ask yourself, “What is the one thing I want to accomplish, and is this likely to produce that result?”

2. You cannot be too loving. 

It is simply not possible to spoil a player with Christian-like love.

What we often think of as the product of spoiling a player is never the result of showing a player too much love.

Spoiling is usually the consequence of giving a player things in place of love — things like leniency, lowered expectations, or material possessions.  Enabling is disabling.


3. Be involved in your player’s life. Being an involved coach takes time is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. This frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your player needs to do. Be there mentally as well as physically. Being involved does not mean doing a player’s homework.  Enabling is disabling.

4. Keep pace with your player’s development. Your players are becoming adults. Consider how age is affecting the player’s behavior.  The same intellectual growth spurt that is making your Junior High Player curious and inquisitive in the classroom also is making him argumentative at practice or in the weight room. He might be depressed. He could be getting too little sleep. Is he staying up too late? He might have a learning problem. Pushing him to do better is not the answer. The problem requires better diagnosis. 

5. Establish and set rules. Unless you manage your player’s behavior when he is young, he will have a hard time learning how to manage himself when he is older and when you aren’t around; however, you cannot micromanage your player.  Let the player make his own choices, and not intervene.

6. Foster your player’s independence. Setting limits helps your players develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps them develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, they’re going to need both.  

An autonomy push from players is normal.   Many coaches mistakenly equate their player’s independence with rebelliousness or disobedience. Players push for independence because it is part of human nature to want to feel in control rather than to feel controlled by someone else.

7. Be consistent. If your rules vary from day to day in an unpredictable fashion or if you enforce them only intermittently, your player’s misbehavior is your fault, not his. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiables. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power, the less your players will challenge it.  Many coaches have problems being consistent.  When coaches aren’t consistent, players get confused. You have to force yourself to be more consistent.


8. Avoid harsh discipline. Coaches should never strike a player, under any circumstances. There are many other ways to discipline a player, including having him take a leave of absence from the program, which works better and does not involve over-aggression.

9. Explain your rules and decisions. Good coaches have expectations they want their players to execute.  Generally, coaches over explain to young players and under explain to juniors and seniors. What is obvious to you might not be evident to a Junior High Football Player. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment, or experience that you have.

10. Treat your players with respect. The best way to get respectful treatment from your players is to treat them very respectfully.  Give your players the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to them politely. Respect their opinion. Pay attention when they are speaking to you. Treat them kindly. Players treat others the way their coaches treat them. Your relationship with your players is the foundation for their lifelong relationship with others.


In summary

To eliminate bad habits, remember the following: “Kids only eat junk food if it’s kept in the house.”  

Players respond very well to structure. Practice is totally useless unless you prepare them for it. Tell them, “We are practicing for 90 minutes. We are working on A-B-C today.” Show them the practice schedule. Unless you prepare them, they get bored, tired, and upset by the unprepared state of events.

Coaches forget to consider the player and forget to respect the player.  You work on your relationships with other adults, your friendships, your marriage, and with dating; however, what about your relationship with your players? If you have a good relationship, and you’re really in tune with your players, that’s what really matters. Then none of the above is an issue. –Dr. Cella