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Training the Next Generation of Coaches

Coaches David Lundberg and J.D. Atkins have created two new ways of providing coaching knowledge to young coaches while building relationships with some of the state's best football leaders.

David Lundberg and J.D. Atkins were two young Alabama high school football coaches looking to improve their coaching knowledge in the off season when they both got interested in some of the high school football chat on Twitter. The two didn’t even really know each other. The chat rooms were more beneficial to them than sitting and listening at a clinic because the coaches could discuss issues and ask questions. The only problem was that none of the high school football chat rooms were from the state of Alabama. So the two got together and started their own high school football chat on Twitter and entitled it “#ALFBChat”.

J.D. Atkins played at Opelika High School and later worked on the staff there

We started slow, but it really got to be pretty popular,” said Atkins who works as an assistant coach at Hartselle High School. “We started in mid December after the Super 7 championships and ran it through the last week of July, on Thursday nights at 8:00 pm. Some nights we may have 8 or 10 coaches, but we have had as many as 30 or more on some nights.” Lundberg says, “we have really been surprised by the interest. We look at it as a good way to help mold the next generation of coaches in our state.”

The two say that the chat has been with different groups of coaches- some head coaches, some assistants, some older, but mostly younger. When the session begins, all the participants are asked to identify themselves, so everyone knows who is in the room. There are other advantages of their Twitter chat over clinics. It is free and can take place weekly. You can participate from your own home, or you can be on vacation in the mountains or at the beach.

The structure of #ALFBChat is pretty simple. The two come up with five questions that they propose every ten minutes. Participants type in their responses and others respond to them with comments or questions. “The best thing about it is we never know what direction the conversation is going to go,” says Atkins. “We have tried some themes like ‘off season workouts’ but that seems to limit the audience.”

Atkins and Lundberg say that the subjects are anywhere from schemes to offensive philosophy to culture to organization. The five questions on any given night might have five different subjects. Coaches who might not be able to participate that night can go back on Twitter the next day and use the hashtag, #ALFBChat to see what was said.

The two didn’t stop there. Looking for another way to help the younger generation of coaches learn from the state’s best, they started a “35 Under 35” seminar. Based on a similar program from the American Football Coaches Association, Lundberg and Atkins brought 35 coaches under the age of 35 to the Vestavia Freshman campus in June of this year. The two invited some of the state’s best coaches from past and present to speak to their younger brethren- Jamey Dubose, Steve Smith, Keith Etheredge and Buddy Anderson were just a few. They put the coaches into four groups and gave the presenter a topic like “Building Community Relations.” The emphasis was on question and answer interaction. The participants raved about the format and left feeling they had attended a clinic that was really going to make a difference in their career.

David Lundberg played for the University of North Alabama before becoming an assistant at Vestavia.

“We were really surprised by the willingness of these great coaches to volunteer their time and efforts for the benefit of the next generation of coaches in our state,” said Lundberg, an assistant at Vestavia and a former player at the University of North Alabama. “We also recognize that this thing has a lot of possibilities in the future. We know that we probably can expand it some, but we believe part of the success is keeping it small so that the presenters and the participants can keep that small group feel.”

In July, Lundberg and Atkins approached the Alabama Football Coaches Association about getting some help with the event. The ALFCA Board of Directors was excited about helping the two with speakers and finances to make the “35 Under 35” a first class event.

“David and J.D. have done a great job with this concept, and we all believe it will be a big plus for the young coaches in the state,” said ALFCA Executive Director Jack Wood. The idea of using some of the great coaches in our association to train the younger guys in this format is something we want to be a part of in the future.” Several members of the ALFCA board offered their services as well.

The goal is to establish a one day event again next summer and improve it by providing lunch to the participants. To keep it small, there have been discussions of head coaches nominating a top assistant coach under 40 and having a selection group pick the participants from all over the state. “We want to help them in any way we can,” said Coach Wood.

Some people see a need and complain that nothing is being done. David Lundberg and J.D. Atkins saw a need and did something about it. The next generation of football coaches in our state may one day understand the important contribution of these two to the future of our game.


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