Starting a football program
The following has been reprinted with the permission of
vanislehighschoolfootball.com. We hope new and prospective football
programs find this profile to be helpful. If you are involved with
starting a football program, or have tips for those who are, we'd love
to hear from you.
This page is here to (a) provide accurate and timely information about
how to start a high school football program on Vancouver Island and (b)
help prospective new programs avoid re-inventing the wheel. Each school
is unique in its personnel and logistical situation. Such diversity
demands unique strategies for putting together a program. There is much
common ground in the endeavor and lots of information to be gleaned from
those who have come before.
WHAT IS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IN British Columbia?
High school Football in B.C. is four down, US high school rules played
between schools at the Grade 8, Junior (9/10) and Senior (11/12) levels.
The senior ranks are divided between AA (Schools with less than 300 boys
in grades 11/12) and AAA (Schools with 300 or more boys in grades
11/12). AA schools have a choice to play in the AAA league if they want
and this entails a two year commitment on their part. AAA schools that
are starting a program may play in the AA league for a period of three
years so as to develop their program. All levels are extremely
competitive. High school Football in BC is governed by the British
Columbia Secondary Schools Football Association (BCSSFA).
Once you have made the decision to pursue the development of a football
program at your school, there are some things you need to be aware of.
IMMEDIATELY - Contact the BCSSFA regarding your intentions. This group
will provide you with the most up-to-date information about becoming a
member, financial avenues, etc.
Late November/First Week of December - The membership gathers the night
before the BC High School Championship game to determine a tentative
schedule for the following year. Non-League exhibition games are
arranged here between coaches. Be at this meeting!
January - The BCSSFA holds its AGM finalizing schedules, conference
alignments, etc. Be at this meeting!
January to May - This is the time to secure the following if you do not
already have them in place:
- A team room on school grounds
- Coaching Staff
- Booster Club (Parents)
- Equipment - player
- Equipment - field
- Annual Planner
- Strength and conditioning program
- Spring Exhibition/Jamboree lined up
- Financial Game Plan
- Media Game Plan
YOUR MIND SET
Your mind-set is your greatest asset! Your approach to the program
is going to be contagious and set the tone for everyone else! A set
Lou Holtz provides a great starting point in terms of philosophy,
"TRY YOUR HARDEST-GET BETTER EACH DAY-DO THE RIGHT THING"
Build a realistic plan and stick to it!
Be relentless and unfailing! Decide that you will not be outworked
by anyone, when others are resting, relaxing and following
off-season non-football pursuits, it is the time to move your
Multi-Task!!! Get started on more than one project, delegate where
you can and when it is not possible to work on one item, switch to
another where you can make progress. Develop the ability to focus on
more than one project at a time. Celebrate the little victories and
understand that everything comes together in the big picture.
Do not resist asking for advice and do not try to reinvent the
wheel! You are surrounded by success stories; research what works
and what fits with your situation. You will find that the coaches in
BC and everywhere else for that matter are eager to give you a tip
when you ask for one!
Do not become fixated on immediate results, a lot of the seeds you
will plant this year and next will bear fruit in year three, four
Hard unselfish work and a climate of self-help give you moral
authority when asking for a share of the school's extra-curricular
resources down the road.
Always be on the lookout for human resources to add to your program,
it begins and ends with people and there is all kinds of talent out
A school without a vibrant football program simply has not fulfilled
its full potential. The difference a well run program makes in the
hallways, classrooms and homes is HUGE!! The sudden appearance of a
football program however, can be intimidating to other established
sports/coaches. It is important to a) provide administration with
your annual plan and as much info as possible about your
program/intentions b) establish from the beginning your intent to
encourage football players to participate in other sports during the
"winter and spring seasons of play."
THE COST MYTH
There exists a myth about the cost of football that persistently
dogs those who seek to start-up programs. Lets take a look at the
facts for facts are stubborn things, they don't go away. Football
equipment, once purchased, has a lifespan of 6-10 years depending on
the item. With reconditioning, field equipment may last for several
decades. So, over the lifespan of the item you purchase your initial
dollar spent really costs you about ten cents per-year. Other than
buying new helmets, your initial equipment purchase does not have to
be new gear, the most expensive brand of gear or the most
aesthetically pleasing. What you want in year one is functionality.
Shop around and try to find used gear that is up for sale, donations
or equipment loans from established programs to get your program
up-and-running. The pretty uniforms and brand-new gear will come! By
following this strategy, you can start football at a fraction of the
cost of buying everything new. Your registration fee/fundraising
efforts will quickly put you in a position to upgrade.
Once you are up and running your costs are quite small. In fact,
football is less expensive to run than basketball! You travel less
as you rarely have more than 4-5 away games, referee costs are
lower, and you are not traveling to tournaments and staying at
hotels! Your dollars generally go back into better protective and
practice equipment where kids get to use it! Your game/refereeing
costs are made up by Booster concession and 50-50 and one or two big
original/ easy to organize fundraising events during the off-season
will quickly put your program in the black. In fact, when you
consider the GST rebate your school gets from your equipment
purchases, you can come close to breaking even or even making a
small amount of money for your school! Remember, once you have
secured your original pool of equipment, your costs drop off
dramatically. GET OUT OF THE MINDSET THAT YOUR ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT
PURCHASE IS A PRICE YOU PAY EACH YEAR, BREAK THE COST DOWN OVER ITS
TRUE LIFESPAN! BCSSFA CAN ALSO STEER YOU TO 1) START-UP GRANT 2) A
CORPORATE PARTNERSHIP WHEREBY A COMPANY BUYS YOUR FIRST 20 SETS OF
GEAR. Contact the BCSSFA executive for details.
BECOMING A MEMBER/GETTING CONNECTED
Becoming a member/getting connected is as easy as emailing contacts
or picking up the phone. You will find that Island coaching staffs
are more than willing to share what they know and help you any way
they can. Each program has a unique perspective based on their
individual school and community circumstances. As well, the BCSSFA
is keen to help you out and bring you into the organization. High
school Football is a small family that is very supportive of those
who want to contribute to this great sport in British Columbia and
beyond. Remember, all you have to do is try, you don't have to
re-invent the wheel and you will never be alone as we all want to
help! You will find that building a program is one of the most
rewarding and spiritually fulfilling endeavors you have ever
embarked upon. You will make a lot of great friends along the way
and most of all, you will have fun doing a great thing for young
people and your community as a whole! Have the courage to try and
the rest will follow!!
KICKING-OFF YOUR PROGRAM
Kick-off your program with a bang! Once you have assembled all the
personnel, scheduling and logistical pieces call a meeting with your
local media. Have a press statement prepared outlining your program,
league, philosophy goals and objectives. Be sure to have your
administration, athletic director, coaches, booster parents and some
players present at the meeting. In addition to announcing your
program, describe and promote your kick-off fundraising activity.
Make it an event that is large in scale and seize the excitement
generated by your start-up to generate interest and notoriety for
your first big fundraiser. By doing this you are starting off your
program as an activist in the school setting that is working to pay
its own way. From a psychological standpoint this goes a long way
towards silencing naysayers and convincing fence sitters that you
will not be a drain on the school's resources. The large dose of
positive press is also a good way to attract players to your program
within your school and catchment area.
Your players no matter how talented will only play up to the level
that they are coached. Look to gain a 1:6 coach-to-player ratio on
your squad. Historically, great military units around the world have
modeled themselves on sub-units of six or less. This is the number
where teaching most effectively occurs. Some programs are fortunate
enough to have a large enough pool of qualified coaches on hand to
employ this model, and some are not. Necessity however is the mother
of invention. If you have quality people who want to contribute as
coaches then your job is as follows: Break down your offensive and
defensive schemes and develop a drill package that directly relates
to what you are trying to accomplish. Get a couple
players/prospective coaches and run them through each drill you have
developed and video tape it! Next, with the aid of drill-book and
video to support you, run your new coaches through their respective
drill packages that you have developed over and over again until
they have mastered them. Only when the coach can run you or someone
you have designated through the drill package correctly and at the
right tempo do you allow him to coach up the players. The drills and
skills being taught are being delivered as you would have delivered
yourself and the overall quality of teaching now meets your
standard. After a season or two your new coaches will be confident
and seasoned enough to take on added responsibilities within your
program. As well from the point of view of unit cohesiveness, your
authority is absolute as "knowledge translates into
authority" and it is your knowledge/philosophy that permeates
the program at its most basic levels.
The most important facility you can have is a "Team Room"
a secure room in which to store player and program equipment. This
is a must as players cannot be expected to carry their gear around
with them throughout the day. Also, it prevents the loss of
expensive equipment. After this has been secured, the rest is all
commentary. Try as a rule to play your games in the most attractive
stadium/field situation possible. A colourful announcer and your
school band or DJ playing music goes a long ways towards making your
games more exciting for players and spectators.
A Booster Club is a group of people, some football fans, some not;
some fanatical football fans, some not; some alumni, some not; some
parents of players on the team, some not; but all with a common
goal..... to have fun while fundraising and otherwise supporting the
Following are some of the things the Ballenas Whalers Booster Club
has done to raise money for the team. Some are year-round activities
and some are once-a-year events. There is a place for everybody in a
booster club. A booster club is limited only by its imagination when
it comes to fundraising ideas. You may find it keeps things fresh
and takes into consideration the desires of various members of the
group if the location of the club's meetings is periodically moved.
Perhaps once at a pub, then at a member's home, maybe at a
restaurant or in the backyard, on a boat.....but whatever the place,
remember...all work and no play is not the booster way.
Frozen meat sales - This is a year-long activity. All you
have to do is find a local restaurant or other supplier from whom
you can buy the meat. They may want to make a small profit for their
trouble or they may forgo that as a way of helping to sponsor the
team. Nevertheless, you need to be sure they will be reliable and
that you can get good pricing. Be sure not to mark it up too much
once you get it so as not to price yourself out of the market.
Remember, aside from helping out your team people generally are
attracted to meat sales because they are convenient and economical.
Somewhere between 5 and 15% is probably workable. Remember too if
you do this year-round it is continual revenue and not a "get
rich quick" vehicle. It is not important to beat Costco or the
supermarket pricing in every event. As long as you are priced
comparably or lower than their everyday pricing you will do fine.
When someone points out that a local store was selling its chicken
for "a lot less" than yours it was probably a sale and you
can point out that yours is "everyday" pricing. The
Whalers Booster Club has secured a "top quality" meat deal
so it has the added benefit of pointing out the grade of meat one is
getting. Make up a price list of what you're offering and be sure to
include how you can be contacted and any other ordering particulars.
This is an easy fundraiser to do and makes for consistent revenue.
Raffle ticket sales - There literally is no end to the types
of things a booster club can do here. Once the raffle item is
selected you must apply to the BC Gaming Commission for a raffle
license. There is a $25.00 fee and you will receive a license number
to be put on the tickets. You can get the form on-line from the
Gaming Commission's website. The trick to this one is to find an
item that people will get excited about both wanting and selling.
Raffles items might include things such as trips, lodging,
furniture, appliances, groceries etc. You should know that the
Gaming Commission prohibits raffles that include firearms or
alcohol. The Ballenas Whalers Booster Club has raffled off a number
of different items. Our current raffle is an idea we borrowed from
our Cowichan friends.....a cart full of groceries. You might get the
groceries donated whether through the store you do the promotion
with or perhaps another sponsor puts up the money. You may decide to
match the donation the store puts forward with seed money of your
own. In other words, if the grocery store puts up say $200.00 worth
of groceries you may want to add $200.00 to it. This is the kind of
raffle item everyone can use and get excited about. Thank you to our
friends in Cowichan program for sharing it with us. Remember too
that everything you do is newsworthy in some respect! Once again,
imagination is the key. For example why not invite the press to take
a picture of some of the team members in jerseys around a shopping
cart full of groceries. Get the store manager into the act. If the
press won't come, stage the event yourself, write a press release
and send it in with your own photo and see what happens! Be sure the
store's name appears on the raffle tickets (get approval first) and
mention them with every ticket you sell.
Spring garage sale - Talk about a "no cost"
fundraiser! Don't throw anything away! Plan a garage sale at your
school. Make sure you let all booster members and parents of players
know about the event. Put some posters up around town letting people
know you are looking for items to be donated to the cause. Put it on
the community programming TV channel.....this costs nothing. What
about a small concession at the event? Coffee, orange juice and
muffins etc. for the early birds and hot dogs for the afternoon
crowd. Don't forget your raffle tickets!
Recycling - Do you have a recycling depot in town? Perhaps
you can arrange with them to start an account for your program. All
year long people can then take their bottles and cans to be recycled
and ask for them to be donated to your team. Check with the depot
periodically to be sure you collect any monies coming to your
Concessions - Every program has someone who can run a
concession. Home games are a must. Be sure you get the necessary
permits from your local health officials. Imagination here is again
key to how successful your concession is. Do you have a hut or
building in which you can hold your concessions? If not, how about a
tent? Can you get one donated? Once set up what else can you sell
other than food? T-shirts, hats, key chains, bandanas, stadium
horns, pom poms?......really, the sky's the limit!
Local sponsors - Boy, this is really an open field! There are
all kinds of possibilities here. One that the Ballenas Whalers
Booster Club is fortunate to have: Captain Jim's, a local seafood
restaurant features a "Whalers Special" on its menu. $1.00
of each special ordered goes to the football program. The special is
prominently featured on the menu with an explanation that the
purchaser is supporting high school football. Whatever sponsorship
arrangements you are able to make in your locale, always be sure to
continually publicly acknowledge your sponsor(s) and the fact that
they are supporting the development of your community's youth
(assuming you have first cleared this with your sponsor!)
Activities - Throughout the course of the season there are a
number of non-fundraising activities to be completed. The purpose of
these activities is to create or elevate an awareness of the
football team in both the school and in public as well as to
"sell the football culture." You will want to have posters
and banners made up for each week's game that can be hung throughout
the school that show support for your team. The catchword is
"spirit." Those who elect to take on this type of activity
might be called the "spirit group." Students from the
school supervised by someone in the booster club are an excellent
arrangement for the spirit group.
You may choose to run a contest or two during the season that helps
people to focus on the football team. Ballenas recently held a
"Who Knows Whose Nose is Whose" contest. A collage of
snapshots of just the noses of the football players was displayed in
the school. Each nose was numbered with a list of the players names
attached to the collage. Participants had to match the players name
to the nose number. What better way to get students to focus on the
football players! The entry with the most correct matches won a Sony
Community service - The Ballenas Whalers Booster Club
maintains that it is important for the athletes involved in its
program to recognize the need to give back a little something to a
community which gives so much to them. Last season the team
participated in the Salvation Army food drive conducted by the local
fire fighters. The team members sorted donated food for sixteen
hours over two days. They also participated in a "Pancake
Breakfast with Santa" on behalf of one of the team's sponsors.
Neither event provided the players with anything other than an
opportunity to experience the kind of giving that is so abundantly
provided to them throughout the year.
BC High School Football limits the amount of time you can practice.
You are allowed nine (9) practices and an exhibition game/jamboree
in Spring Football. You may not start practices in autumn until two
(2) weeks before Labour Day. From the stand-point of when to
schedule team practices, ask around. Some teams practice five days a
week, some only three. Some teams practice at night, some practice
after school. As a general rule, publish and commit to a set
practice schedule months in advance and stick to it. Players,
coaches, families, and school administrators/athletic directors can
count on these times. This is a major factor in eliminating work
conflicts with your players and coaches as they have months of
advance notice to schedule their availability. Most employers are
quite flexible given adequate and reliable information about
availability. As well your practices will be far more effective as a
result! This carries over to game day. It is no stretch to state
that this is also a good model for scheduling weight-room sessions,
THE IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION
Information is your greatest ally. Keep everything you do out in the
open and publish it using every medium available to you. Football is
a huge and equally beneficial/positive undertaking. Get the word
out!! When you do something good, let people know and when something
works for you, share the knowledge! This makes for a healthy
climate. Network your program electronically to other programs and
within your program start an e-mail list at its various levels. The
more quickly you can relay information and gather feedback, the more
effectively you can project ideas and incorporate timely information
into your program. This quickening of information exchange frees up
the most important thing of all, time to train-up your players and
Build a Financial Plan! List your income versus your expenditures.
Project what you think you might have to spend one two and three
years down the line. As well keep track of the equipment/capital
projects you have as assets. This information is a great tool when
applying for grants, gaming events, and when you need to demonstrate
the degree of self-sufficiency you operate at to your superiors.
Often a football budget has huge positive implications for your
school PAC's ability to demonstrate need when applying for a Bingo
license. It is a sure bet that your PAC will not distribute nearly
that amount to your program but in turn will infuse your schools
other programs with much needed cash. Do not let this disturb you
because it in effect makes you a very, very valuable asset to the
school and at an altruistic level...great...it's good to help your
school be its best!