Sports Specialization & Culture Change With Mike Kuchar

Recently, Coach Daryl Weber spoke with Mike Kuchar, co-founder and senior manager of X and O Labs.  Mike has coached football for 17 years and recently joined the staff at North Plainfield High School in New Jersey as the defensive coordinator.

He and the coaching staff are attempting to turn around the program. The first thing they are focusing on is changing the culture.  When changing the mindset of an individual, team or program you must have a clear vision of the principles you wish to instill.

It’s easy to be positive and stay on track when things are going well, but athletes and coaches MUST have a solid philosophy to fall back on when times get tough.  Something that will keep them moving in the right direction.

How do you instill such a mindset?

Changing The Culture of A Program and Creating “Buy-In”:

Coach Kuchar and the staff wanted to change the culture during the off season.

Mike said, “The team has experienced a losing culture and so we are working with the staff to help change that mindset, to develop the internal drive of the team.”

He said, “the first step to building the culture you want is to begin team building in the off-season, in the weight room, etc..”

As a coach or parent, you have a limited amount of your athlete’s time and attention.  That makes it so important to be laser focused with your message and to stay consistent.

Importance of Multi-Sport Athletes:

Coach Kuchar also discussed the importance of playing multiple sports.  In the modern era, there is a lot of focus on kids specializing in one sport.  He sees kids deciding NOT to play multiple sports. He also sees college coaches looking for the kids who HAVE played multiple sports, especially football.

The scholarship percentage is very limited to those who focus on one sport.  Coach Kuchar has spoken to Division 1 head coaches and found that athletes who only play baseball injure themselves due to the repetitive motions that wear out muscle ligaments.

Coach Kuchar talks about how players reap the benefit of playing multiple sports.  We need to educate parents about the benefits.

A Community For The Betterment of Football:

While coaching in 2011, Mike Kuchar co-founded the website The Insiders is an exclusive, membership program that delivers in-depth reports on the trends, strategies and drills that are proven to maximize offensive, defensive and special-teams production.

Mike was formerly a research writer for American Football Monthly. He saw the value of building a community where professional, college, and youth coaches could use the Insiders every week to improve their programs – and their careers.

He researches football schematics and trends and breaks them down for the members of the site.  He also regularly surveys the 60,000 coaches who participate in membership of his site and collaborates with them.

Members submit reports on what is working to develop functionality in their players.  “I’m proud of the ongoing network of coaches who’ve decided to become part of our community,” says Mike.

One “Gable” Nugget:

Wrapping up the discussion, Coach Kuchar asked me to give him “one nugget” about having trained under the Great Dan Gable.

This is a question I get often and never know exactly how to answer it…

I gave him two:

  • Gable didn’t treat everyone the same. He got to know each of  his subjects…
  • He paid close attention to detail, paid attention to the littlest of things… Good coaches do little things themselves and try to get their athletes to pick up on the process.

Be sure to check out Mike Kuchar’s site as he will be covering the topic of “How successful high school coaches are solving the problems plaguing football this season.”  It is scheduled to ready at the end of the year.

This is just a small sample of the insights that Mike shared with me. The entire interview is hosted in the Youth Athlete Academy

About Mike Kuchar:

Mike KucharMike Kuchar serves as co-founder and Senior Research Manager of X and O Labs. Kuchar has spent the last 15 years of his writing career researching and reporting on the newest trends and innovations in the game. His work has been featured in various national publications including ESPN Magazine, USA Today, and as well as coaching trade publications. Since starting X&O Labs, Kuchar has authored several special reports including the Zone Read Study, the Quarters Coverage Study and the 4-2-5 Defense Study.  Aside from his journalistic pursuits, Kuchar has been a coach for 17 years, both at the high school and college level as a head coach and a defensive coordinator. Currently he is the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at New Providence High School in New Jersey.