Vertical Athletic Alignment

Successful programs are built around many things. You can order a DVD from Coaches Choice that lists these factors as being key components:

  • Enrollment, boosters, and recruitment
  • Personal contacts, faculty support, and academic verification
  • Standardizing equipment and facility improvements
  • Weight training
  • Multi-participation
  • Know the staff
  • Realistic goals
  • Parental involvement
  • Administration and coaches

What I find interesting is I never see Vertical Athletic Alignment listed as a factor.

Vertical Athletic Alignment occurs where the feeder schools to the high school are teaching the base offense and defense that is employed by the high school program. Their coaches are hired by the high school head football coach, and their players are destined to be the future of the high school program. 

When the middle schools are directly aligned to their high school, they use the exact same terminology and the fundamentals they need to be successful as they begin their high school football journey. Learning the basics and being familiar with the language used at the high school gives them at least a one year advantage on programs who are not in the same situation. When a program does not have direct alignment when a new freshman class comes in, camp is like teaching football for the first time to a large number of the players.

When a high school has multiple feeder schools, vertical alignment is ultra-important. When those players come together as a single team for the first time as freshmen, they all need to be on the same page. They need to have experience in the base offense and defense. They need to recognize the words the coaches use to explain their system. Having experience in the system they will use in high school makes the transition easier because they have built a background to fall back on as coaches install.

Vertical athletic alignment also allows for coaches to move up within the system easier. A middle school coach has a direct relationship with their high school coaches, and if the opportunity arises can make an excellent addition to the high school staff. During a time of shortage in coaches, promotions and coaching development help keep good coaches on staff.

All of this adds up to keeping kids and coaches in the program, which helps with the development and consistency needed to create successful football teams. The players know the system and are well versed in it. Because the players know the system, this allows the coaches to develop their athletes and teams further since player knowledge is higher when they step on campus. 

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