Nearly every week, I have kids coming in asking about a piece of advice they received from another coach, adult, friend, or even YouTube video. They want to know if it's good advice or good coaching. In some cases they have received good advice. In others, not so much. This got me thinking, what are the qualifications that someone must have to give advice? Not just with quarterbacks, but in any field?
This is fairly difficult to quantify as we don't have strict regulations like say, the medical field. There isn't any one certification that deems a person fit to coach. We'll have to take a more qualitative approach, and look at the questions you should ask yourself before taking advice from someone.
1 - Can they perform the skill themselves?
Would you ever take a golf lesson from someone who could barely swing a golf club? How about a tennis lesson from an instructor who couldn't hit a forehand? It seems fitting the first question is whether or not they can perform the skill themselves. This should also include people who at least used to be able to do the skill but can't anymore due to age or injury or lack of current practice. Additionally, being able to perform the skill isn't enough of a qualification by itself either - I've seen plenty of people who could do certain skills well but were terrible at teaching others to do the same.
2 - Do they have a background in teaching the skill?
One of the toughest things for me to watch is a former player at a position besides quarterback, who happens to be able to throw, try to coach a quarterback. As noted in question 1, being able to perform the skill is just a starting point, but it's not the only pre-requisite. Just because that receiver who graduated a few years ago can throw a football doesn't mean he can coach a quarterback. And, this goes for all skills, not just quarterback play. Just because your buddy in the gym can do a hanging power clean and look fairly good doing it doesn't mean he should be teaching you. That's actually how a lot of high school weight room injuries happen.
3 - Is the instructor responsible and invested?
Coaching is a responsibility - when we begin instructing an athlete on how to play, or throw, or lift, we take their health and future into our own hands. Many coaches take that responsibility very seriously, thinking hard about their lesson plans to try to determine the best course of action for the athlete. Other coaches just throw out pieces of advice or use their pupils as Guinea pigs, with little concern to consequences. If your buddy down the street tells you to throw a football with a bad grip and low arm slot, what are the consequences for him if it leads to injury or poor performance for you? In all likelihood, he faces no consequences. However, a true professional, a responsible and invested coach, will rise and fall with you, and stick around to see how you perform, and think much more thoroughly about the coaching he or she is giving you.
4 - Is there a system or comprehensive approach to the skill?
Anyone can offer a "tip," but real coaches have more than that. Each and every player is different, and where they are along their developmental curve differs just the same. Good coaches have a complete approach that encompasses the entire skill. For quarterbacks, it could start with a stance that matches the drop footwork which matches the throwing mechanics which matches the reads and progressions which matches the type of offense the team runs. It's a complete system of playing the position. A good coach will have all of the pieces in mind when giving advice and developing a player. In cases of poor coaching, the coach will just give random pieces of advice that don't really align with a complete system, just "tips," not true coaching. Tips can often do more harm than good. There's more than one way to skin a cat, but if you try them all at once all you get is a bloody mess. Your coach needs to have one method in mind.
These are just a few thoughts as you receive advice. Many people are well intentioned but not necessarily qualified coaches. These starting questions go for more than just quarterbacks as well - it goes for strength training, for other positions, for academic counsel, for college decisions, and really anything. Surrounding yourself with the right people can go a long way for making your life as successful as possible.
One of my favorite authors is Jim Collins, and among his best books is Good to Great, a piece written with the idea of being more than just good, and separating mediocre performance from those who climb to the top of their market or field. It's a very well written book, and worth a read if you have some free time and an interest.
Collins tends to break down business ideas into metaphors, one of which is his "flywheel." The flywheel is meant to represent how a company breaks through into a success. Imagine an enormous steel wheel, set on a pair of parallel bars on which it rolls along, sort of like a railway. Now imagine there is one guy, pushing this huge flywheel, which weighs thousands of pounds. His first few pushes don't even budge the wheel; the next few make it quiver. One of his buddies comes over and begins pushing too, and the wheel begins to teeter a bit. After some more effort, it begins to roll slowly down the rail. As time goes on, the group of folks pushing the flywheel grows, all pushing tirelessly, until it rolls at a good pace. As it gets faster, more people notice and begin to help until the wheel is humming down the rail. Someone, miles down the rail, sees it coming his way and exclaims how impressive it is, and comments that the people pushing it have had a massive breakthrough.
Here's the point - it wasn't a massive breakthrough. The speed of the huge wheel was the outcome of push after push after push, tireless consistent effort. Lots of the time, people on the outside see a split second of success, that in reality was the product of tons of hard work. This is the way it is in football as well - take Odell Beckham for instance. Prior to his well publicized and hugely impressive one handed catch on Monday Night Football, prior to his top draft status at the NFL draft that year, he was hardly a household name. Sure, those who follow college football with some regularity knew who he was, but he was nowhere close to the billboard icon he is now, as he lights up New York City and graces the cover of countless magazines and commercials. No, prior to that April, he was only known within knowledgeable football circles. What really happened was no breakthrough, no meteoric rise; what really happened is that from a young age, Odell Beckham was active, worked hard, played lots of sports, worked on his craft, and put in hours upon hours towards being a great football player. What the public exclaimed was "what a breakthrough!" What really happened was years of effort that only got noticed once it reached that stage.
The hardest part of that journey to greatness is continuing to push the flywheel when no one is watching, no one is exclaiming how amazing it is, how fast it's moving. But, it's those that keep pushing that eventually achieve greatness. Make sure everyday, you push the flywheel. Make sure you tell your teammates to do it. Make sure you find consistency in purpose, an inner drive to keep pushing even if no one else is looking. If you keep pushing long enough, they'll all be looking.
Quarterback Coach Alex Drayson will put up articles, thoughts, and reviews to help you stimulate your journey towards being the best QB you can be