A Football Coach’s Guide to Using Your Calendar

The Coach's Calendar: Your Secret Weapon

In 1995, taking over the reigns of the football program at Emporia State I had the opportunity to create the first of four turnarounds in my head coaching career. These processes all had one thing in common…

Discovering Bill Snyder’s Calendar

Strategic planning was paramount for success at every stop along the way. I had been exposed to a process that Bill Snyder utilized in my years as an assistant coach at K-State. Bill conducted daily staff meetings year round (sometimes twice a day) to impart his vision of the program.

Coach Snyder would “course-correct” each area of his program in those staff meetings. He did this by creating notes of what he wanted done by the assistant coaches. In fact, he would fill out various steno-pads with “to-do” lists and always had one of our initials next to the task.

Coming into a staff meeting, everyone (Bob Stoops, Del Miller, Sheahon Zenger, Mike Stoops, Nick Quartaro, John Latina, Dana Dimel, Myself, and others) would look for our initials on these notes. We understood that these actions must be completed to stay the course (Of course, he wrote with a purple pen!). It was sort of an inside joke as to who had the most to get done on a particular day.

Yes, Bill was a micro-manager extraordinaire!

One day I walked into Coach Snyder’s office and noticed a stack of those steno-pads about a foot high and it dawned on me that they were categorized into the areas of focus in his program. More importantly, his calendar was laid out for the whole year with an overview of where we were heading in this monumental endeavor at Kansas State.

As I’ve moved along in my career, I am often reminded of a quote I read back in those days…

At Emporia State, I mimicked everything I had learned from Bill Snyder. From staff meetings to planning and organization. I know my young coaches were working at a breakneck pace to keep up with the master plan. I still get comments from them about putting those initials next to tasks.

But there was just one problem…

In my inexperience, I thought it was all about that “to-do” list. As a result, we found ourselves always reacting to the demands of the day as opposed to strategically setting ourselves up for success.

I had been using my calendar to set important dates and appointments as reminders for myself and the staff – and that’s all I used it for.

The Coach’s Calendar

Take a look at your calendar. Is it optimized for your master plan? Do you have a master plan? How is it aligned with the goals you are trying to achieve?

After my first season, I started asking myself some questions that changed our course at Emporia State and propelled us to a Top 10 program at the Division II level.

From my journal entry on December, 11th, 1995

  1. How will our program be remembered?
  2. What kind of coaches am I developing?
  3. Who am I, as the head football coach?
  4. Is this program a reflection of who I really am?
  5. What type of players am I developing?
  6. What life lessons are players & coaches taking forward?
  7. Am I empowering our team to be successful on and off the field?
  8. Where can I learn more to propel others to extraordinary levels?
  9. How can we sell out our stadium?
  10. How can we engage the student body to support the football program & enjoy the game day experience?
  11. How can we increase funding to be more competitive in the MIAA?
  12. What resources do our players need to become better students & graduate?

Then I discovered the power of the coach’s calendar. It gave me a strategic tool to answer all those questions and gain momentum for the Emporia State Hornets. This tool was an outstanding way to develop the growth of everyone in the program professionally and personally.

Using a Calendar to Create Focus

It’s all about focus. If you don’t know the target you are trying to hit, you’ll just be shooting arrows into the air hoping they land somewhere that’s better than where you are.

You hit what you aim for!

You hit what you aim for!

I have found that focus for a coach to create a balanced life is based on four distinct areas:

Skill Development. This pertains to the following: Improving the fundamental process of developing players at your position of expertise. Becoming a better teacher of the game, based on your role in the program. To help you in this process, I believe journaling is beneficial. I’ve been doing this for more than two decades and I refer to these on a regular basis.

Health. In the high-pressure environment that we deal with year round, a football coach needs to take care of his personal health. If you don’t take care of that, I’ve noticed other areas of life will eventually break down. I categorize my health in the fields of diet, exercise and physical structure. Find what works for you and move in that direction.

Fun. Let’s not kid ourselves, we have the greatest job in the world. My son, Eli often will say that I want to go to the office and play football with daddy. He’s right! I can’t imagine going back into the business world and sitting at a desk all day.

On a serious note, sometimes coaching football is not fun for a variety of reasons. Maybe the job you are in is not aligned with your belief system, or you are around people that you just don’t see “eye-to-eye” with on the staff or administration. You might be so focused on your profession that you don’t take time out for you and the relationships in your life. This all needs to be handled and planned out in your calendar.

Mastery Challenges. Mastery is best described to me in a book I read years ago by George Leonard, called Mastery. I’ve read this book every year in the off-season and I would highly recommend this to you. It’s a great read for all coaches. A mastery challenge is designed to develop an individual in an area that is of the utmost importance to one’s growth. I have actually stumbled upon a source that I use. I’ll write about in the future. It’s a way to propel myself so I can lead others to extraordinary heights – my “unfair” advantage.

Now, as you strategize in each of these areas it’s time for the “rubber to meet the road”. I will show you how I use my calendar to set up for success.

Calendar Optimization

I optimize my calendar with a strategic plan for life balance. This starts with creating Categories of Improvement. A Category of Improvement is an area I will focus on over the long term to propel myself to the type of football coach I aspire. These are broken up into professional and personal areas. These categories are unique to you and they can change in different seasons of your career.

My current Categories of Improvement

PERSONAL

  1. Health
  2. Relationships
  3. Family
  4. Finances
  5. Spirituality
  6. Contribution

PROFESSIONAL

  1. Career Development
  2. Offensive Coordinator
  3. Public Relations
  4. Recruiting

Once these have been established, I follow a process called OPA. 

OPA

The process works like this…

I take each Category of Improvement and apply the OPA paradigm.

  1. What is my ultimate vision in this area? My Outcome.
  2. Why do I want this? My Purpose.
  3. What must I do to achieve this result? My Actions.

I also write up the following…

  1. What 3 areas do I need to focus on to create this change?
  2. What resources are at my disposal?
  3. What are my 1-year goals?
  4. What are my quarterly goals?
Armed with my Categories of Improvement, I move on to a long & short term planning sequence.

Long Term. I view the landscape from my current situation to address where I want to be in five years. Looking at things from a 5-year standpoint puts less pressure on the current situation yet it gives me an opportunity to dream about what is on the horizon.

The next long range view I take is a 2-year approach. In doing so, I can feel pretty confident of where I want to be in 24 months as I sketch out my short term plan. When I do this, I set broad ranging goals that help me work toward my short term planning.

Short Term. This process addresses the next 12 months. My annual review is conducted every December. This is when I set up my next year. However, you can start this at any time.

I set concrete and measurable goals for this period of time that are aligned with my ultimate vision of each Category of Improvement. I write these goals on index cards to review every day I am at the office. On one side of the card is the goal. The other side contains my deadline to achieve the goal… Think Flashcards.

Once the upcoming year has been planned out, I’ll prepare each quarter (3-months). In our profession, each quarter is significantly different from the next. Projects to focus on are then set up in 6-week modules.

Next is the weekly planning process.

In planning a week, I keep everything aligned with the direction I am heading toward. This planning process works best for me at the end of a week, on a Thursday or Friday.

It generally takes an hour to complete this weekly review and it’s important to capture ideas leading up to this time as I progress through my day to day schedule.

It looks like this…

Connect to my Categories of Improvement (15 minutes). Even if I am not focusing on a particular category in the upcoming week, I will take a look at these in case I get any ideas that I’d like to act upon in the future. I keep a running “capture” list for my ideas.

Create a Master Plan for the week (30 minutes). I begin this by evaluating my previous week. I always make a list of the 10-12 things I’ve accomplished or achieved, or I was proud of from that last week. From that point, I review my projects and decide which ones I want to work on in the upcoming week. I create a plan for each of these projects.

Set up Victory (15 minutes). This is when I schedule everything into the types of days that I’ve set up for the next week using my task management tool. In planning each day, I use a concept I’ve created called my “Power Parthenon.” I’ve designated each day in advance as one of three types of days: Foundation, Concentration, and Freedom. More on this in another article…

Daily planning is another process of its own. It works similarly to the regular process & I do it before I wrap up my previous day.

All in all. I believe that you have to be the CEO of your life. The role of an executive is to plan, supervise and follow things to an end. You need to see where you are within alignment to the vision you have set for yourself and the program. It’s important to learn how to cultivate the tension between vision & reality.

I am here to help you develop new strategies to create the life you want coaching football. Take a look at some of these concepts, give them a try and if they work for you, great. If not, take a look at some others as you work to establish the ‘work – life’ balance that is rare in our profession.

I believe you can happily achieve and live the life you desire by optimizing each aspect of your life.

Let’s work together to Propel Yourself to Raise Others to Extraordinary Levels!

Respectfully,

Manny

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2 thoughts on “A Football Coach’s Guide to Using Your Calendar

    • Coach, I genuinely enjoy helping out coaches that are looking for a unique viewpoint. If I can help out one guy on his career path, its worth it.