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
Today we’re talking to Jordan Irsik, Defensive Backs coach at Wamego High School in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter.
Could you provide a brief description of your background?
I am 21 years old and currently live in Manhattan, KS, where I am a Secondary Education-English educator.
Where did you grow up, go to school?
I grew up on a farm close to a town called Ingalls out in Southwest Kansas. I attended Ingalls High School where I graduated with a class of 16 students.
How did you end up coaching football?
I began coaching football immediately after my college football career was cut short due to injuries. I returned to Butler Community College, where I had previously played, and was a student coach there for a semester.
Can you give a bit of background on your program?
Wamego High School is a 4A-1 classification Kansas High School about 15 miles east of Manhattan. The program has routinely had good success in the regular season but has not had much success in the post-season until recently.
As a team, what are your core tenants/pillars?
We follow the “Rule of 5” which is Laser Like Focus, Be a Fountain Not a Drain, 4 to 6 A to B Every Play, Respectful Responsible and Ready, Red Hard Hat Teammate.
What’s your main philosophy as a coach?
Something I stress daily is to be a “Machinehead”. Machineheads give their absolute best effort in every facet of preparation for the game, in the game, and life itself. They don’t make excuses, they just do it.
We want smart, fast, and physical football players. We run a 4-2-5 defense with some different fronts, stunts, blitzes, and multiple coverages.
Offensively we run the spread offense. About 50/50 run/pass. Our Quarterbacks have to be very intelligent and be able to make a ton of reads. Our Wide Receivers have to be great route runners and have solid hands.
Special teams philosophy?
We aren’t too crazy with our special teams units, although we do like to have a few gadgets installed week to week just in case. Our main focus on Special Teams is that everyone does their jobs and we win the field position battle. Our Special Teams units have done a great job since I have been here and I would even argue has been a huge factor in our victories sofar.
How many is on your coaching staff?
There are 6 of us total, with 1-2 K-State student interns depending on the situation.
When does a new season start?
Our next season starts as soon as our season is over. As a staff we attend clinics, have multiple meetings, and consult with other coaches on top of reviewing our own film to get ourselves ready for the upcoming season.
What is your main focus areas during the off-season?
My main focus during the off-season is to develop my athletes as much as possible. We have them in the weight-room every weekday morning for strength and conditioning. We typically follow that with OTA’s to help our athletes develop their fundamentals.
How does a normal week play out in-season? What are the key “milestones”?
Our game week always starts on Friday night for me. As soon as that game is over I make sure to take time and reflect on how the game went and what I may or may not need to change to ensure success in the future. If we lose, I don’t sleep on Friday night. I stay up and begin my breakdowns of our film and the opponent scout film that night. If we win, I will hold off until 7am on Saturday to begin my planning.
Do you use analytics as a tool when game planning or self-scouting? Do you see this as something that is coming to the HS level anytime soon?
As a player and as a coach I have always used analytics in my game planning and self-scouting. Numbers typically don’t lie. I typically develop 4 or 5 data report tendencies every week.
How do you work with in-game adjustments?
The biggest thing is trust. I trust our coaches in the box to be able to be the eye in the sky that I need to help make those adjustments. I also have to trust my players on the field and take their advice in certain situations.
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?
Our game plan process is definitely collaborative. Every Sunday we meet for at least a few hours to develop our Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams Gameplan as an entire staff.
Which tools and process do you use when preparing for an opponent?
We use Hudl as our main source for film breakdowns, game-planning, practice scripts, and analytic reports.
Young players today are they different from 10 years ago?
I would definitely say so. I would even say it is noticeably different from when I was playing High School Football just 4 years ago. Athletes nowadays have taken so much trust away from their coaches and placed them in what I call “The Football Market”. By that, I mean scouting combines, camps, private trainers, recruiting websites, etcetera. The fact of the matter is that only your High School Coach can make you truly successful in your program’s system. Techniques vary from place to place and that is highly dependent on philosophy.
How do you maximize their learning and engage them?
I actually give my players homework during the offseason. I provide them with several detailed powerpoint presentations that go into extreme depth on how our defense works as a puzzle. I firmly believe that the best defensive players know exactly what every position on the field is supposed to do on any given play. I require them to study plays for a certain amount every day, including the offseason.
What’s your process to getting players into the playbook?
I start with my simple coverages. I provide them with techniques, reads, and rules for our cover-2 and read coverages. Once they have mastered those I work them into all of our different forms of cover-3. Then move on to all our different variations of man-coverages. And then into our split coverages such as 5 and 6.
What’s your morning routine?
Believe it or not, I wake up every morning and listen to Motley Crue or AC/DC to get myself good and awake. I typically eat a good, hot breakfast and drink a pot of coffee before I head out for school.
The last thing on your mind before you sleep?
It’s the same every night. I think about my football players first, then my family, and then my faith.
Do you have any beliefs about football strategy that is contrarian?
As a Defensive guy, I can’t stand watching incredibly high-scoring football games. When I watch games on tv nowadays, all I see is just a lot of poor defense. Dudes missing tackles, assignments, and reads on a regular basis. My favorite football game of all time was Alabama-LSU a few years back when the final score was like 6-3.
Who inspires you as a leader/coach?
My former coaches at Butler Community College. Those guys have taught me everything I know about Defensive football. I owe them the world for everything they did for me as a player and as a coach. Another guy would be our current Head Coach, Lee Weber. He has taught me a lot about how to actually coach when it comes to communicating with the kids. He has made me a much better football coach.
How do you envision football will change over the next 5-10 years? Any difference in HS/college/NFL?
I actually don’t see it changing as much as people think it going to. I think our protective equipment will continue to improve, as it already has immensely in the last decade. I’m also really hoping that the FBS switches to an 8-team playoff.
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