Can you coach aggression ?

By Rich Ackroyd

In truth I really don’t know. I am not a psychiatrist, neither am I a significant researcher of human nature. But this is one question I think Football coaches wrestle with a lot – let’s face it; much of what we do on the field is controlled aggression. Maybe we should consider how we would go about training aggression.

What would we do ?

We could incentivise players, but this goes wrong fast – the New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal anyone?

We could amp up aggression in training – the Oklahoma drill works great with players that respond to it, but what about those that don’t? – I am one

Maybe it’s in how we talk to our players ? – shout at them loud enough and they will push up the aggression, right ? – maybe, but also maybe they just don’t come back next week. On balance, I figure it is unlikely a coach can really increase aggression in a player where they truly don’t want to.

But here’s the thing – our players choose to play this sport.

They come to us with a level of aggression. What if all they need is for your scheme to let them use that aggression ?

Maybe we need to ask a better questions, replace ‘how do we make them more aggressive’ with ‘how do we let them be more aggressive’.

Here are three thoughts to be sure the scheme isn’t the problem and we let our guys use their natural aggression.

Keep it simple

I can not emphasise this enough. The fastest way to lose aggression in a player, especially offensively but defensively too, is having a scheme that leaves them asking questions once they leave the huddle, or worse guessing on the snap. Anything after the huddle should not need thinking about, it should be repped so much it is muscle memory. That way players can commit 100% to the play – letting them unleash their aggression, and not taking their first steps trying to remember calls or complex rules.

Give the players options

I have lost track of the amount of times I have heard coaches ‘helpfully’ suggest to players to ‘hit the guy harder’ when the scheme is not working.

Really, is that the best you have got ? It is about as useful as asking a fish to hop up on the grill and fillet itself. Your players do not turn out to give a poor performance.

If you want them to beat the guy in front of them you can bet they want it 10 times more. As a coach give them options in training – make sure they have 3 or 4 weapons in their arsenal to beat the common issues they face, changing the point of attack will grow confidence and release aggression.

Encourage a team dynamic

Nothing gets players blocking or tackling harder than seeing their buddy doing it and talking about it as soon as you get off the field. Make sure the players know if anyone screws up it is forgotten. Let the players see you as a coach finding ways to solve the problems when they go 3 and out. Make sure the players hold themselves and each other to account to do the right things well, not only to turn up. If your players are accountable to each other and driven by each other, aggression is a natural outcome. Most importantly, keep them calm and connected with each other – if they are looking over their shoulder each play they can’t given 100% aggression

Of all this, simplicity is at the root of exploiting the aggression your players already have.

Challenge yourself not to have players confused on leaving the huddle, to have a scheme where players do not need to make decisions at the line. Most importantly, build your scheme not only to be successful – an outcome – but to be easy to understand – a process that your guys can learn, repeat and execute with aggression.


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