Monday, December 22, 2008

Preparing a team for postseason play

Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno has led his team to 34 bowl games over 43 years as head coach of the Nittany Lions.

On New Year's Day, PSU takes on USC in the Rose Bowl.

According to this article, "the biggest reason for Penn State’s nearly annual success in bowls might be the coach’s ability to prepare his team. And those methods of preparation are determined each season by what kind of team he has. Paterno sets a practice schedule before the team arrives at its bowl site but isn’t afraid to change it on the fly. If the team looks tired or too amped up, he might cancel a practice. If the players look flat, he might extend it."

Coach Paterno contends that it's all about finding the right balance:

"The biggest problem, the biggest thing that you have to do is be careful you don’t try to become a different team. You have to keep them on a certain level of conditioning. You don’t want to overdo it. You don’t want them getting bored. You don’t want them getting tired. And you want to put one or two little things in there that are going to be a little different so that the other guy you’re playing can’t say, 'Hey, this is what they are going to do all the time.' The biggest thing is not to lose who you are, and to build on that and try to get better, try to get everybody a little bit better, a little bit quicker and play a little faster and do it without having a bunch of tired, bored guys."

According to PSU assistant Tom Bradley, who has played or coached in nearly 30 of the school's bowl games, getting into a routine is critical:

"During the season you have a rhythm, you get in a routine. Now, our kids are going to be in different time zones, there’s travel involved. ... That’s always the hardest thing, getting them in some routine as quickly as possible. [Coach Paterno] has a map that he’d like to follow, but he looks at the team when we get there, looks at them the first time they go out to practice. Coach has never been married to thinking there’s only one way to do it."