My rookie head coach season in 1984 was a disaster, a winless season that was even worse than what the record showed. The program had been stuck in a losing culture for decades. I made it worse.
I was hired as an unpaid 26 year-old head coach because: (i) of loyalty; (ii) no one else wanted it. I had suffered through 8 seasons as an assistant coach and four years before that as a player in a program that couldn’t muster even one winning season. Add four years of little league losing and I had never experienced a championship or a playoff game or even a .500 season. All I knew was losing. All I understood was losing. My rookie season was more of the same. Among the reasons was a horrible player work ethic that was passed down season after season for decades. The program was a public school mired in poverty – no JV team, no weight room, no scoreboard, not even a locker room dedicated to the football team. The only lifter was me. Not one player lifted weights. We were weak physically and mentally. Apathy doesn’t just happen. And changing it doesn’t just happen. The symbol of our laziness was slow-motion – we huddled in slow motion, broke the huddle in slow motion, lined up at the LOS in slow motion, and executed the play in slow motion. Yelling changed nothing. Yelling at the players to move faster was a band aid solution. Yelling doesn’t change bad habits.
What’s worse than a winless season is being non-competitive. Not once did we take the lead in a game. The only time we were tied was at the opening kickoff. The good news is that chronic losing has a purpose – it gives you purpose. Purpose is the driving force that effects change. The most compelling purpose is to study losing and find the secret to winning.
Two changes were made in the off-season: (i) my strength & conditioning program was implemented. (ii) a time limit was imposed on huddles. I opened my home gym in the basement of my house to my team and taught a high-intensity lifting program that I designed and followed religiously before and after I got hired as a police officer at the age of 18. The lifting program transformed my life, from an obese 12 year-old, and transformed my team. Then, I raised the speed limit on offense – a 12-second time limit between the referee’s ready-to-play whistle and the snap. We huddled at high-speed but I didn’t have to guts to scrap the huddle altogether. Essentially, we modified the play-clock rules between plays, changing the official play clock to 12 seconds. The result was an immediate positive impact. We won an undefeated championship, the program’s first perfect season. Increased strength and speed were the primary reasons. Strength and speed are connected. Faster tempo starts with mindset transformation, a mental makeover regarding attitude toward work.
The 12-second play clock stuck as our program willingly moved up to higher divisions, become a bigger underdog that we started out as. The program made the playoffs each year and we started a tradition of moving underdog players to the next level. In 1991, I was hired as an unpaid head coach at another high school, my second reclamation project. This time I scrapped the huddle forever and reduced our play-clock to 8-seconds. The result was another immediate positive impact. Another perfect undefeated championship, another voluntary move to higher, stronger divisions, and more players moved to the next level. The secret weapon was breaking the speed limit – tempo and stamina. We stayed stronger longer.
There are two ways to get faster: (i) strength & conditioning. (ii) fatigue management. Outwork the opponent. Force them out of their comfort zone, the mental and physical level of work that they have trained for.
Speeding is an offense in real-life but not in football. Speeding is not an offense because it can dramatically transform an offense. We have never huddled since 1991. Speeding up the play clock in 1985 was part of the evolution of the SWAT no-huddle. Between 1985-1991, the 12-second play-clock was the stepping stone to a warp-speed no-huddle that eventually broke more speed limits. Changing gears from my nightmare winless rookie season as head coach required a dramatic shift in ideology. I had to think farther outside the box until the box disappeared altogether. Once I saw the benefits of thinking outside the box, more changes happened. I changed my entire approach to offense, defense, and special teams.
Speeding is not for everyone. I never have and never will claim that what works for me will work for you. Speeding takes a full commitment. A causal commitment to a faster offense will result in a break-down. Even a wreck. High-speed offense needs high-speed training. It starts in the off-season in the weight room with specialized high-speed lifting. Without a full commitment, trying to speed is the equivalent of trying to race a tank. You’ll blow the engine.
If you decide to break speed limits, the SWAT no-huddle offense is more than a playbook. It’s a system, a lifestyle on and off the field. You can read a preview of the SWAT no-huddle offense at: http://swatfootball.ca/swat-offense/
Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., Level 3 NCCP (Nat’l Coaching Certification Program)
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.
Gino Arcaro is a widely published author. His website, blog, Youtube channel, and list of books are at: www.ginoarcaro.com
His books include:
4th & hell: seasons 1-5, Soul of a Lifter, SWAT Offense, SWAT Defense, X Fitness Workout System, and a 3 business book series called Soul of an Entrepreneur
He also has written 20 editions of 6 law enforcement academic textbooks. A new 8-volume interrogation book series will be released in 2014. And just released, a new children’s book called “BE FIT – DON’T QUIT.” His latest book on human potential called “Hashtag Peace” is at the editing stage. He just finished another book called “Lifter’s High.” Both will be released soon.