How We Coach: Charlie Means, Denison HS (TX)

How We Coach is a weekly series that deconstructs how coaches run their program: we explore their unique process, habits, practices, and coaching philosophies. Find out what keeps coaches up at night, how they teach, and what they do to improve every day. #HowWeCoach

Current coaching assignment?
Entering his 20th year coaching football, Charlie Means is the offensive coordinator for Denison High School, where he coaches the wide receivers and the kickers.

Could you provide a brief description of your background?
I am in my 20th year of coaching. I was a student assistant at Austin College under OC Bob Stitt (now at Montana) and HC David Norman.  I was at Bells HS in Bells, TX for 3 years and for the last 16 seasons I have been at my alma mater Denison HS in Denison, TX.

Where did you grow up, go to school?
I played baseball at Paris Junior College (Paris, TX) and Austin College (D3 in Sherman, TX) where I received my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.  I grew up in Denison, TX.


How did you end up coaching football?
It’s part of being a coach in Texas.  My background and athletic ability led me to be a college baseball player so I initially started down that path.  I became the head baseball coach in Denison and did that for 6 years.  Each year I fell more in love with the preparation and relationships built through football and my path started steering towards that direction, particularly after my son was born.

Can you give a bit of background on your program?
Led by Marty Criswell, Denison HS won the Class 4A State Championship in 1984 and it changed the entire culture of the athletic department.  In football alone, prior to the state championship, the football team won 3 conference championships the previous 30 years.  In the 30 years after the state championship, the football program has won 17 conference championships. Coach Criswell and his iconic phrase of “Its Great To Be A Yellowjacket!” still echos the hallways of the high school and across the community.

As a team, what are your core tenants/pillars?
DO RIGHT – It is critical to making the right decisions at school, during practice, at games, and on the weekends.  All decisions have consequences, and some consequences, even at a young age, can affect the rest of your life.

WORK HARD – There is no substitute for hard work in life or in athletics. Shortcuts are not the way to go.

BE UNSELFISH – Do what is right for the team. Team goals are the most important, and individual goals are secondary.  Individual sacrifice leads to team success.  You must be a team player!

IMPROVE EVERY DAY – Make it a point every day to get better. Be a better student in the classroom; a better citizen in the community; and a better player.

BE THE BEST – In everything you do, be the best that you can be. Anything but your best is not acceptable.

What’s your main philosophy as a coach?
While I am very competitive and have the utmost desire to win, the true fruit of our labor will not be measured between the white lines.  A winner is a person who is determined to be the very best they can be and gets the most out of any endeavor they encounter. True winning and success will be seen five, ten, and fifteen years from now when these young people develop into successful spouses, parents, mentors, leaders, and professionals. Winning or losing games will make an impression on us at the moment, but developing successful people will impact us long after they have left our campus.


Defensive philosophy?


Offensive philosophy?


Special teams philosophy?


How many is on your coaching staff?
Including our head coach we have 10 at the varsity level.

When does a new season start?
I believe in being pro-active.  I think you have to start planning/prepping for offseason while your current season is going on.

How do you kick off your planning and preparation?
We will make the clinic tour and search for any new ideas that may benefit our program.  We also seek out college coaching staffs that fit what we do. We are blessed to be 60 miles from SMU, 75 miles from North Texas, and 90 miles from TCU.  Their staffs have always been very open and willing to teach us information about their programs. There is also so much great information available on the interent it is foolish not to dig in and help your program. and are a couple of my favorite spots, along with guys like Alex Kirby and James Light who are becoming beacons of football knowledge.

Specifically, how do your coaching staff do your planning?
5 heads are better than one.  We try to have very open lines of communication to ensure that we are doing what best suits our kids and gives them the best chance to be successful.


What is your main focus areas during the off-season?

  • Improve athletic ability
  • Maintain academic progress
  • Find ways to give yourself an edge on your opponents through film study.

Could you provide a short summary of the different phases and priorities?

Our offseason typically has 4 phases:

  • Phase 1 is to develop the base strength-core-speed development
  • Phase 2 we begin to incorporate a few football skills
  • Phase 3 is our Spring football time
  • Phase 4 is our Summer sports performance & conditioning program leading to fall camp

How does a normal week play out off-season? What are the key “milestones”?
We will ensure that we have a balanced, well-structured plan for our athletes to improve as athletes, students, and most importantly young men.  All 3 of those areas are coordinated, detailed, and scripted for success.


How does a normal week play out in-season? What are the key “milestones”?
For us we call Monday our Mental Monday.  We are  in half-shells and do all installation, re-teaching, correction that we need to.  Tuesday is our heaviest workload day.   We are in full pads. Turn up the heat on the athletes and try to put them in as many game-like situatons as possible.  Wednesday we are usually in half-shell again. Less emphasis on contact, but more emphasis on tempo and speed of play.

Do you use analytics as a tool when game planning or self-scouting?
We do both but honestly only scratch the surface of what I think it can do for us.  This is something we are seeking out this offseason to improve our efficiency with.

Do you see this as something that is coming to the HS level any time soon?
I think its already here and just like everything else in the technology world, you must ether embrace it or get your throat step on by it as it passes you by.

How do you run your scout team?
For our defense, we use cards.  For our offense, we will have staff members getting people where they need to be.

How do you work with in-game adjustments?
Its gets back to the open lines of communication, but really place an emphasis on timing.  Its difficult for the playcaller to think when 5 people are talking on the headsets at the same time, so it is something coordinated and emphasized.

How do you work/manage your playbooks today? Paper/digital/don’t use playbooks? Are the playbooks of old still around in 5 years?
We have a playbook installation on HUDL.  I have several things on powerpoint and Playmaker Pro that I use for my teaching.  I am not a big fan of handing things out.  I believe in coaches and athletes creating their own.

I read an article about the Houston Texans and how they work on the gameplan. They said it was a collaborative process – how do you run it in your program? Is it also a collaborative process for  your team?
Yes it is collaborative to a point.  Each coach has game plan responsibilities to work thru during the week. Ultimately it comes back to the coordinator and head coach.

Which tools and process do you use when preparing for an opponent? 
We use HUDL reports.  We usually have game film 10 days before our next game, so the process on the next opponent usually begins before the previous weeks game.  I usually will watch at least a game or 2 of our next opponent on Thursday once the prep and installation of game plan has been completed for that Friday nights game.

What’s your process for post-game follow-up?
A lot of times we will watch the tape on Friday after our game.  Saturday morning, staff will grade tape together, then we will watch it with our athletes.

Young players today are they different from 10 years ago?
No doubt. Technology is their best friend.

How do you maximize their learning and engage them?
The more details you can give them to explore on their own the better off I feel you will be.

What’s your process to getting players into the playbook? 
There isn’t enough practice time anymore, so often times you have built trust with guys you know are putting in the time away from the facility.

What’s your morning routine?
We bring our kids in before school a couple of times a week for weekly awards/helmet stickers and scouting report details.

The last thing on your mind before you sleep?
Running the next day through my mind, making sure that I am not caught off guard by anything.

What’s your go to play on 3rd and short?
Power or power read

If you could only one play for an entire game- what would it be?
Power or power read

If you could run a NFL or Division 1 program, which program, and what would you do first?
Dallas Cowboys.  I would fire the general manager

What are your coaching influences?
Marty Criswell, Bob Brown, Cody White, and Greg Wright.

Who inspires you as a leader/coach?
I have been an assistant coach for a long time and I get inspired by other assistant coaches that do all they can to make the job of the head coach easier and adds value to the program.  I have worked with some great ones.

How do you envision football will change over the next 5-10 years?
I think it will continue to get safer wthout any drastic changes.

Any difference in HS/college/NFL?
I think things will continue to trickle up to the NFL from the HS level as opposed to the other way around.

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Michael Hoglund

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