Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo was brainstorming recently in search of unique ways to keep his coaching staff sharp during an unusual offseason when a light bulb went off.
He came up with an idea that would get his coaches back in the meeting rooms and on the field while also providing an opportunity to bring the entire Rams organization together. As a result, the Rams held the equivalent of a typical Organized Team Activity (OTA) Wednesday with the team’s business staff playing the role of the players.
“It was in my mind for a while,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ve done some mock meetings with ourselves as a staff, but the only way to do any coaching out there was we needed bodies. We decided it was a good opportunity to get the organization together and do something fun. We had a great time with it.”
The day followed the same schedule Spagnuolo uses for OTAs. It started with a team meeting during which staffers were assigned positions. Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon then turned on the video projector and taught the group two punt protection calls. Following the special teams meeting, the offense and defense went into separate meeting rooms and then individual position meetings.
With the meetings in the books, the staff headed to the training room where Head Athletic Trainer Reggie Scott and his staff taped each staff member’s ankles in preparation for the on-field portion of the day.
Once the group hit the field, Strength Coach Rock Gullickson led the team through a stretch before Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Defensive Coordinator Ken Flajole led their respective groups through installation periods. Each position coach then ran an individual portion that mirrored drills players do each day in practice. They concluded with a special teams period.
The staff received very detailed instruction on the little things such as how to get in and out of the huddle and make a play call. What they learned is in pro football, even those small details can require quite a thought process.
“People think it’s automatic putting in the huddle, where you align, how you get in and out of it, the cadence, the calls verbally that are made,” Spagnuolo said. “I think if you talk to some of the people who went through it, it’s a little bit more intricate than you think.”
During 7-on-7 and team periods, the staff put into action what they learned during their earlier meetings. The offense and defense were each given a play call that the Rams use, and each “player” had to make adjustments and execute his or her assignment.
“It was great to learn more about each individual position,” Rams Director of Partnership Support & Development Susan Slemmer said. “All the details and the amount of information that you have to learn is what I took away. You see the amount of organization and preparation the coaches have to have and then on the players side how much material they have to process. It gives you a better appreciation for how they do their jobs.”
While both parties benefitted from what was taught and learned Wednesday, the event also provided a team-building opportunity amongst groups that work together but don’t always interact with each other on a regular basis.
“What I enjoyed was the fact that we got the business operation and the football operation together,” Executive Vice President of Marketing & Sales/Chief Marketing Officer Bob Reif said.
“We’re a family. We’re a team. We came together. I think it helped our business people to spend the time with the football side because they’ll have stories to tell when we’re out in the marketplace selling, and it will help the football guys get a little of the rust off. It was good for the whole organization. We’re all in this together and it’s one team.”
For example, roughly twenty members of the team’s ticket sales staff who work out of the team’s Edward Jones Dome office trekked out to the Russell Training Center and created experiences that they’ll share in conversations with potential season ticket holders.
“Things like this build morale and make everybody want to work harder,” Director of Ticket Operations Kanyon West said. “Getting to meet the coaches and say that we worked out with them and talked with them, saw their philosophy, it makes conversations a lot easier. It helps sell tickets, close deals, creates a positive environment in our office.”
As for the coaches, Spagnuolo appreciated the opportunity to get his staff out of their offices and back to doing what they do best.
“It was a good practice run for them,” Spagnuolo. “Remember, it’s been a long time since we’ve been out on the field and had to coach somebody and line up bags, do individual drills, run from drill to drill. We got a lot out of it as a staff, and hopefully everyone had some fun, too.”