Bill Walsh on Setting Standards for Your Program

March 20, 2018

The great 49ers Hall of Fame coach had some strong beliefs on setting standards for your program.  In a day when some coaches are more concerned about only the acquisition of players, Walsh thought that setting the standards of your program was really about attention to detail.

Details, such as shirt tails in, never being seated on the field, helmets in hands (when not participating, and control of profanity were examples of a team’s commitment to high standards.  Walsh believed that the image of your team as a first class organization was nurtured and developed by making sure the little things were done correctly.  The whole coaching staff needs to buy into this philosophy.

Commitment to these high standards will determine how a team finished a game.  “You can win in a solid, cohesive, well coordinated manner or lose while keep your poise.  In defeat you should continue to play and execute and not become unraveled,” Walsh said in his book Finding the Winning Edge. Walsh believed that inappropriate acts of behavior in a loss like fighting, cheap shots, and different kinds of posturing were feeble attempts to get individual attention.  If players are committed to the team and its beliefs, these acts were much less likely to occur.  It is the job of the head coach to make sure these standards are carried out.

“One of the most important steps that a coach can undertake to make certain that a valid standard of performance exists is to make sure that every practice session is conducted in an appropriate manner,” Walsh states.  It is in practice where you teach the players the skills, the work ethic, the behaviors and the effort that the team expects.  If done properly at practice, these standards should be clear to all team members and carried out at all times, including games and other team events.

Finally Walsh believed that the head coach must preach constantly to the players the team philosophy and his own individual philosophy about football and life.  He wanted his players to get the “big picture” and understand the importance of values such as respect, loyalty, responsibility, self discipline and cooperation. These qualities were essential to the building of a winning team that works together for the good of the organization. They were also imperative to living a good life both outside of football and later in the years after their football career is over.