by John Unrein
The sign hanging above the exit of the Grain Valley Boys Football locker room reads, “All that is not given is lost.” The message is clear for the expectation of what is to be left on the field by those who play football for the Eagles.
A labor of love keeps you pushing to be the best in a chosen field. Paying attention to details and working outside the defined parameters of a scheduled time period can be tiring. It may also pay future dividends as well. Thus, is the grind of being a head football coach toiling through the offseason.
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius noted that “The secret to victory lies in the details of the non-obvious.” Time spent studying, evaluating, and changing based on what you’ve invested in learning can greatly aid your preparation.
Grain Valley Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie and his staff put together a 9-4 campaign last season in the Suburban Conference, one that produced a six game winning streak from October 11th to November 15th in route to being crowned the Missouri Class 4, District 7 football champs.
One might wonder what that preparation looks like for a successful football program who has not coached before or familiar with the sport. Allie took some time to share a glimpse of what that looks like with Grain Valley News.
Studying film of yourself to identify if you have noticeable tendencies as on offense through formation, motion, or by the play you call on down and distance is a way you to reduce or eliminate your predictability to opponents. It’s can be tedious and time-consuming work.
“In the offseason we do a lot of self-scouting to help us determine the success and limits of plays we ran in 2019. HUDL (filming tool and data warehouse) provides a large number of areas for us to examine, and we try to use as many as we can to help our evaluation for obvious things like down, distance, field position, and hash when it comes to offensive play calling,” Allie said.
“We can also get efficiency reports for individual plays, time of game scenarios, and quick change of possessions, etc. During the season, we also divide it into different parts or thirds, (non-conference games, conference games, and playoffs) and evaluate that way as well. Generating data allows us to be analytical when we break things down.”
“Another area we examine is our success against different offensive and defensive schemes. We want to go into next season comfortable with a general game plan for each team on our schedule.”
Allie added, “One of the challenges that has our coaching juices flowing this offseason is that we are moving into a new conference division and only playing three schools we played last year. We are evaluating film of the other teams on our schedule so that we have a general idea of what we will be facing.”
Football coaches also leave the comfortable confines of their home and families in the offseason to grow as professionals. Most of the major division one college football programs in the Midwest have a history of hospitality when it comes to hosting high school coaches during the spring months. The obvious motivation is that it’s good for recruiting and networking. Past that, knowledge is generally shared freely about how things are done by those who are willing to make a trip to campus.
“As a football coach, we are on a different season schedule than the rest of the world – regular season, clinic season, offseason, and summer. Clinic season is always exciting because we either get to see new things to do or new ways to do things we currently implement,” Allie said.
“We always get a staff pass for the Glazier Football Clinic series. Many of us went to the Kansas City and St. Louis sessions this year. We get to hear a variety of speakers from all levels (youth to NFL) talk about a variety of relevant topics. As a staff, we try to hear as many speakers as possible and then share what we learned with each other to maximize our exposure.”
“The usual offensive, defensive, and special teams’ schemes are a big part of what we watch, but I also feel program culture and strength and conditioning are important topics as well, and we spend a lot of time looking for those subjects.”
“We are lucky to live in Kansas City because we have a vibrant football culture. The Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association general meetings provide an opportunity for the exchange of ideas through guest speakers and collaboration.”
“Another thing we like to do is attend college spring practice. Meeting with coaches about schemes, watching film cut-ups, sitting in on position meetings, talking to staff, and attending practice always allows us to come away with something worthwhile to use.”
Allie concluded, “We were really looking forward to going to Kansas State this month. However, the coronavirus thing has halted that possibility.”
Only one varsity assistant football coach has left during Allie’s time in Grain Valley since he took the helm in 2015. Consistency among a football staff is important because the buy-in is noted by the players. It also allows peers to challenge one another in their thinking, affirm thoughts, ask each other questions, and be a trusted face in a demanding and unforgiving sport.
Allie shared what he looks for in the coaches he works with on his staff.
“Knowledge of the game is important, but you must possess the ability to build relationships with student athletes. That is probably the most important attribute I look for in a coach,” Allie said.
“It should be a given that they (coaches) have to understand that we have to be ‘all-in;’ they have to know they must put in a lot of work along with wanting to get better at their specific duties.”
Allie most importantly wants someone who will put the kids first.
“The key to all successful teams is the strong relationships between staff members, the players, and between the staff and players. Having a positive attitude or demeanor is also nice.”
Grain Valley High School offers strength and conditioning classes during the school day. They are co-ed and have a mixture of athletes and general students. Furthermore, an advanced class is offered that is just made up of co-ed, upper class athletes. Enrolled students typically lift every other day due to block scheduling.
Prior to the suspension of school due to COVID- 19 concerns, Allie was seeing 20-30 students work out after school. The classroom lifting focuses on core lifts while the after school program places more emphasis on supplemental exercises, functional power development, and agility/speed training. Eighth graders are also encouraged to ride a shuttle bus over to the high school to work out after school.
Allie was pleased with the after school turn out he was seeing.
“Coach (Pete) Carpino runs the strength program for the school and oversees the advanced group. He does a good job with our athletes,” Allie said.
“We are also averaging about 30 eighth graders who are coming over to get ready for next season, which we are extremely proud of. The emphasis for those athletes is proper form, technique, and etiquette for how you communicate and act. This allows them to be ready to join the older kids when we start our summer program.”
Allie summarized, “As most coaches understand, our biggest gains in the strength and power development happen in the offseason. The critical mass we build (no pun intended) with our players through the summer months is vital, both from an athletic and teambuilding standpoint. I am glad we have the in season class opportunities, and I think it is possible to maintain, if not gain a little, during the school year. Not to mention having a better opportunity for rehabilitation of sore and injured muscles. But by far our most critical time is January through May and then May through July.”
Balancing academic, social, and extra-curricular activity can be a handful for a high school student of any age. Like a shepherd tending a flock, Allie has a big task in staying in touch with his players during the offseason. The classroom, social media, and face to face conversations are all ways to stay in touch and have a pulse in what’s going on in the lives of players.
“Face to face conversations is what I prefer, and the best place I get to do that is in the hallways, classroom, or lunch duty that I usually have every other day,” Allie said.
“Position coaches try and meet with players every other week that they don’t have previous commitments to stay in touch. We also utilize email, Twitter, Instagram, and text messaging platforms to get out needed communication.”
“Many of us teach using Google Classroom. I have a class set up for our players and use this more and more to deliver paperwork, our monthly newsletter, and other initiatives (especially now). The good old-fashioned method of writing our players notes also works.”
Much goes into building and maintaining a successful high school football program. Allie, his staff, and Eagle student athletes are hard at work paying attention to the non-obvious details.
Eagles Head Football Coach David Allie celebrates with Junior Jack Bailey.
Photo credit: John Overstreet