My staff and I are heading down to the gym. You can train with us or just watch."
When Coach Kelley gave me this option, my body immediately made the choice to just watch. Over the past 8 hours, I had been on 2 planes, a bus, a train and multiple car rides in order to learn from the "Coach Who Never Punts" at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was also extremely sore from setting a few PR's the day before.
Nevertheless, when a jacked up coach whose team won 5 state championships asks you to train with his staff, you don't say "No".
|Missing a lift is clearly not an option to this guy|
That would make me as soft as the Arcadians who bailed on the Spartans in 300 when they found out the secret trail was compromised.
|"Sorry Leonidas, our legs are sore. Catch us after the deload week."|
Even though I hobbled through my training session, sore and travel weary, I soaked it all in knowing ... this trip was more than just about football.
|Pulaski Academy Bruins Training Facility|
The Coach Who Never Punts
For those of you that don't know, Coach Kevin Kelley is the head high school football coach of Pulaski Academy. The media has dubbed him as "The Coach Who Never Punts" because, as you can probably guess, he never punts.*
To me, giving him this label is a bit of an understatement and is definitely selling him short.
Not only does he not punt, he also does not do any of the following:
- Kick off deep
- Return Punts
- Have long practices
- Have long meetings
- Sprint After Practice
- Arrive Early for Games
- Practice 5 days a week
Even though this seems like a recipe for disaster, this contrarian approach actually paves the way for success.
Being a contrarian myself, I am not going to retell the same stories of Coach Kelley and Pulaski Academy that you can easily find in 10 seconds with a Google search or by clicking HERE.
Rather, I am going to tell you how all of the lessons I learned at Pulaski Academy with Coach Kelley were way more than just about football.
Let the fun begin.
1. Use Data to Make Decisions
"If I were given 1 hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and 1 minute saving it." - Albert Einstein
Every single day, people make very bad decisions because they do so based on emotion rather than logic. It is why people are in the wrong jobs, have the wrong girlfriend, and buy things they don't need with money they don't have.
To be effective at anything, you need to know the real problem before you start implementing a solution. Otherwise, you are doing a great deal of unnecessary work for a problem that doesn't exist.
To know the real problem you need to analyze the data and see where the pain points are.
Coach Kelley's decision not to punt was based primarily on data. Our emotions will tell us that a 30 yard swing in field position will have a great impact on your opponent scoring. On the contrary, the data shows that retaining possession of the ball (by getting a first down) far outweighs the yardage gained by punting ... if you are even lucky enough to get the punt off at all.
2. Know "The Why"
During my visit, I asked Coach Kelley to name a few books he read that made a significant impact on him.
Of the books he named, 3 of them involved understanding "the why" behind human behaviors and emotions.
Those books were "Why We Make Mistakes", "How We Decide" and "Think Like a Freak".
It immediately became clear to me that he simply didn't care that his players made mistakes. He wanted to know "why" they made the mistake.
When you know "the why", you put yourself in a much better position to put in an effective solution.
What is the simplest way to figure out "the why"?
Just keep asking "why" until you can't go any further.
3. Discipline is Freedom
I picked up the phrase "Discipline is Freedom" from Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in Extreme Ownership. It essentially means that the more disciplined you are in the little things, the more freedom you have to be creative in the big things.
For Coach Kelley and his staff, it appears they have created some very simple rules for run blocking and pass protection. Those simple rules allow them to run multiple offensive formations without confusing their athletes, but at the same time, create a nightmare for opposing defenses.
For this same reason, it is why I leave my car keys in the same spot every night, I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, and I put my feet in the same exact spot every time I deadlift.
By not having to focus on the small things, I can devote more time and attention on the big things.
4. Time and Attention: Our Most Valuable Resource
Contrary to popular belief, money is not our most valuable resource. Money is renewable and can often be regained without too much effort.
On the flip side, we can never get back our time and our time is meaningless without attention.
Coach Kelley clearly understands this point. His practices are only 1.5 hours (as opposed to 3 hours) and he only practices 4 days a week (as opposed to 5).
Over a 10-week period, this would mean he practices over 50% less than his competitors (who he routinely beats).
If you had to guess, who struggles more to keep his players attention ... the coach who practices 150 hours a year or the coach who practices 60 hours a year?
To take this even further ... which coach will have players that are more fresh during the playoffs?
5. Focus on the Important
"Perfection is not achieved when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The beauty of not punting or returning punts is that you no longer have focus on those parts of the game. Not only does it reduce practice time, it also reduces the time required to watch film and develop a special teams game plan.
Because he removed so many facets of the game, Coach Kelley is able to have the short practices mentioned above and keep the attention of his players. While this may seem like an obvious side effect, it really isn't.
The average person would simply add other things to fill that void in practice time. By keeping the practice time at 1.5 hours, Coach Kelley does not allow this to happen. This is often referred to as Parkinson's Law.
Parkinson's Law is the reason why college students get the same grade on a term paper, regardless if they start it the first day of the semester or the last day of the semester.
By implementing Parkinson's Law, you are forced to only focus on the important, as there is no time left for the unimportant.
How do you know what's important?
You use the data (see point #1).
6. Life is about Balance
In my very short time at Pulaski Academy, I could see Coach Kelley had a very well balanced life. Not only did he have time to educate me for a few hours, he also ...
- found time to watch his daughter during her field day.
- found time to coach his athletes on the field.
- found time to train.
- found time to bond with his staff and players
While it is not 100% related, it definitely reminded me of the saying listed below about the 3 hobbies you should pursue.
To me, if you can pursue all 3 hobbies and still include your faith, family, and friends, you have a well balanced life.
7. Invest in Yourself
To go and learn from Coach Kelley, I had to make an investment. Not only did I have to pay for a flight, a rental car, and a hotel room, I also had to take 2 days vacation from work and spend time away from my family.
Nevertheless, it was an investment that I know will help me as a football coach, a strength trainer, and in my day job in Corporate America.
For those of you who have made it this far in the blog, think about this the next time you complain about a gym membership fee, early training sessions or the price of high quality protein.
If you want to be great, you need to invest in yourself.
I would like to wrap this blog up by saying thank you to Coach Kelley, his staff, his school and his team for welcoming me to their facility and to educate me on their football philosophies.
It was truly appreciated by me and our St. Peter's Eagles staff back in Staten Island.
You guys are top notch and deserve all the success you have and will achieve,
* To say they never punt may be a bit of a lie. They actually do punt if they have a large lead and they are trying not to run up the score.