Dave Cisar is considered the “Coach’s Coach”. He has spent endless hours helping, teaching and coaching others coaches on how to be successful. All this while coaching his teams to a 62 & 5 record. In the same accommodating, helpful attitude, Dave took some of his valuable time, during mid-season, to complete this interview.
10 Questions with Dave Cisar
Single Wing Sentinel: What drew you into coaching?
Dave Cisar: When I was growing up, the game taught me lessons that I used later in life in school and business. Had the game and coaching not been there and those lessons not been taught, I doubt that I would have enjoyed the success I did in those other areas.
I also attended several youth football games in various leagues in the area in the years prior to getting involved. It was appalling to see so many poorly coached teams and the lack of fundamental skills as well as lack of quality sportsmanship from so many of the coaching staffs. I knew many of these kids were either going to quit playing the game or never learn the same things from the game that I did.
SWS: Tell me about your first year as a coach. What were the results?
DC: A friend of mine had a son playing and invited me to assistant coach with him on an expansion team of all rookie players age 8-10. I was coaching the offensive and defensive backs on a staff of 5. I had very little input on the schemes or priorities, but that was fine, because I didn’t have the experience or knowledge to make it work that first season. Most expansion teams of all rookie players lost every game their first year, we won 3.
The following year I was made head coach of that team and we went 11-0.
SWS: Why and how did you start using the “Single-Wing”? What have been the results?
DC: When I started my own program in inner-city Omaha in 1998, the Screaming Eagles. We had multiple teams in every age group and always coached one or two teams myself. We were playing in the best league in the state. This highly competitive league had teams in it that had won countless “Unlimited Select” National Championships in Daytona Florida .
This was an unlimited weight league with “running back” weights. Many of the teams selected their teams from over 200 kids, the remainder get put on “B” squads. Players like Eric Crouch and Dave Rimington played in our league the best of the best.
We just could not compete running our base “I” formation option football and be competitive in this league. Nearly every team was much bigger and in most cases faster than us as well. We had to make a change as our teams were not very successful in those early years. We needed a system that would allow us to compete with fewer kids, smaller kids and less athletic kids.
My first year running it was an age 8-10 team of misfits that no one gave a chance to do very well. We had just one player over 100 lbs. We went 11-0 and averaged over 30 points a game. The next year I took a “Select” age 8-10 team and we went 11-0 and averaged about 40 points a game. My first 6 Single Wing teams went 62-2 in 5 different leagues, with a different team every year but one.
SWS: Why would a coach use the single-wing?
DC: The way we run it, it gives teams that do not have size or numbers a chance to compete. We always have numbers advantages at the point of attack with double team blocks and easy blocking angles. We pull linemen too, so that gives us extra muscle at the point or attack and is fun for the kids as well.
The Single Wing is a team offense, one that involves all the kids and does not rely on one stud player to carry the team. Last year I had 12 different kids score touchdowns and my leading rusher has come from 3 of the 4 different backfield positions in the last 5 seasons. Unlike many offenses, you do not need a stud to carry the team at certain positions.
It’s deception, power and just fun for the kids and it wins games. Our studies show teams that consistently lose, lose players. It is the single biggest reason kids quit playing youth football, because their teams are losing by big margins every week. The Single Wing helps us retain players.
SWS: How would you describe your style of coaching?
DC: I’m very well organized and I pay attention to details, sort of a perfectionist. My goal in coaching is to get our team and players to play to their God given potential, whatever that may be. So in essence we are playing against ourselves, not the opponent. I’ve had teams that played terrible and won 34-6 and I’ve had teams play great and lost 22-14. It’s about playing to potential, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.
I’m also there for the other team. I care about those kids too, no need to embarrass others or turn anyone away from the great game of football.
SWS: What are the hardest parts of coaching?
DC: Getting players, coaches and parents to buy-in to playing to maximum potential. Playing poorly or less than what you are capable and still winning is not a win in my book. Conversely playing well and to potential and losing is not a loss in my book either.
Having to step away from the Omaha program was difficult, but since we are 90 miles away we had no choice. Unfortunately without me holding the coaches responsible for following the system, those following it have done very well, those that have not as expected have done poorly. As expected, the numbers are down up there. Up until 2004 when I was there all the time, our teams dominated.
SWS: What is your philosophy about coaching?
DC: Play to potential, play to win, coach all the kids and play all the kids. Reward the kids that are listening and working hard with more playing time, but find a time and place in the game for all the kids to play.
Be perfect with an integrated scheme that fits the grouping of kids you get each year. Teach rock solid fundamental football and don’t waste practice time with things that have little if anything to do with football like cals, agilities or conditioning.
Delegate to assistant coaches, duties they can handle. Coach up the coaches and give them tools like detailed parameters and decision trees to make their job one they can have success with.
Have fun accomplishing your goals by being creative, you can often accomplish your goals much easier if you are having fun. Be a role model, you are one if you are coaching youth football. Be beyond reproach and practice “overt” over the top sportsmanship that you can be proud of 10 years after you hang up your whistle.
SWS: I know that you have completed a study on successful and consistently poor youth football programs across the country – what were some of the things you learned from this research?
DC: That could have been a book on it’s own. It was a gut wrenching exercise in many ways, to see such poor coaching and seeing hundreds of kids getting turned off from football. From my business career I’ve always been able to learn what not to do from those at the bottom, the same was the case in youth football.
What I saw literally made me sick to my stomach. The consistent things I saw from the perennial losing programs: poorly organized practices, slow pace, lots of wasted time, lots of mindless non-football agility drills, lots of conditioning, lots of calisthenics, lots of full scrimmaging, lots of different football plays formations and stunts and lots of yelling. What I didn’t see was: solid progression taught fundamentals, attention on WHO to block, precision perfect football plays or any kind of integrated offensive or defensive schemes.
SWS: You wrote the highly acclaimed book “Winning Youth Football”, why?
DC: My own program in Omaha expanded to over 400 kids and I needed a way to teach 70 plus new coaches every year how to coach youth football. The information was available to our coaches in a binder format along with the coaching clinics I did for them.
It was my attempt at helping coaches help kids. Poorly coached teams drive kids away from the game and if kids are not playing, they can’t learn the great lessons the game teaches us about perseverance, dedication, hard work, team work and compassion. It was basically a step by step recipe book for coaching a successful team and showing you how to have fun while doing it.
I had sent out over 100 copies of the binder free to coaches on the internet coaching forums when finally my wife said, no more, it was costing us a bundle. When I let coaches know I couldn’t afford to send it out anymore, several offered to buy it along with my season games and my Single Wing Coaches Clinic Instructional DVD.
How we set the price that first sale was by asking the buyer how much he thought is was worth, and that was how we started. My wife didn’t have any problem with that formula and we were “in business”. The binder was then put into a more readable friendly book format and we added a DVD on Practice Management and Game Day Management as well.
We get a lot of personal satisfaction from all the e-mails from coaches that have turned their losing programs around by using the system. We usually get at least a dozen or so phone calls every weekend from guys leaving messages about their latest win. Some of the messages are kind of fun to listen to, the excited breathless pride in the voices etc My wife and I really enjoy listening to those calls together.
SWS: How can “Winning Youth Football” help a new or a seasoned coach?
DC: It is really a “Recipe” as David Dimmond calls it for successful youth football coaching. It is a step by step detailed plan that walks you through coaching a youth football team. It includes all the drills we do, why we do them and walks you through them in painstaking detail with picture and diagrams, along with detailed daily practice plans. It isn’t fluffy theory or stuff written bay someone that coached 15 years ago or has never coached youth football, it’s something that is current, it works today. Of course it includes our Single Wing Playbook, blocking schemes and adjustments as well as our defensive and special teams schemes. The book includes how to manage your parents, scout, strategically sub, make game day adjustments, how to select players for positions as well as how to manage your coaches and make the experience fun for the kids. For the experienced coach it is maybe a much different approach to the game that maybe you have not considered or even seen.
In 266 pages it takes you through what it took me 15 years to learn by trial, error and research. My thanks to all of those who have helped me with this effort including all the veteran Single Wing Coaches on the Todd Bross forum.
Dave has a passion for developing youth coaches. Dave ’s book “Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan” and his system has help teams get better. It has helped slower teams complete with the speed of its opponent by allowing them to pound the ball and control the clock. The Single-Wing has helped average teams to finally make it to the play-offs, and turned good teams into Champions. His book has helped coaches develop teams that are competitive and well organized, while having fun and retaining players.