Creating Depth Is a Critical Part of Building a Champion

Josh Niblett’s insistence on creating value with every player on his team has brought him five Alabama state titles at Hoover High School, including one this season.

Creating Depth Is a Critical Part of Building a Champion

Josh Niblett’s insistence on creating value with every player on his team has brought him five Alabama state titles at Hoover High School, including one this season.

Josh Niblett knows a thing or two about winning. Since becoming the head coach at Hoover High School in 2008, Niblett has posted a 118-13 record and won five state championships. Over his tenure he’s learned the true value of having great depth, and it shows in his team’s results.

Niblett is an expert at finding a niche for each player, helping them find value and stay engaged even when playing time wanes. When Niblett does call upon them, they are ready to produce.

We had Niblett join us for a Hudl Radio appearance to talk about how depth helped Hoover win the Alabama 7A title in November. Among the topics discussed were his strategy of playing as many players as possible (2:00), utilizing players in different positions based on matchups (6:00), keeping players motivated even when playing time wanes (8:40) and helping every player in the program have an identity (13:00).

Here are a few quick quotes from the podcast, which can be found on SoundCloud and iTunes.

You say you try to play as many players as possible. Is that to keep guys fresh or to get everyone experience?

“I’m big on depth, and I don’t think depth is a guy backing up a guy. If we have to change our calls or change what we do within the framework of what we’re doing in any phase when that guy goes in the game, then we don’t have any depth. Depth is when you don’t have to change what you’re doing and you pick up right where you left off. For us, it’s all about depth.”

When you talk about having a lot of starters and subs, I’m assuming that helps in getting buy-in too, right?

“When you’re in a program where you’ve got 140-plus kids and you only play 11 at a time, it’s about development and the kids understanding the development. It’s about a standard. It’s about a culture we’ve built, and within that culture there’s a pecking order. But also there’s a competitiveness. We’re all about being competitors. We tell our kids, ‘If you want to play and you want to be a part of what we’re doing, just go out and compete.’ I’d love to have 28 guys on defense. Now we can only play 11 at a times, but if I’ve got 28 kids that can play, then we’re going to play them. But we’re not going to put someone on the field just to put them on the field.”

How do you prepare players week to week to play different roles?

“We try hard to put the kids in the best position, and we try to make sure every kid has a role, whatever that may be, so they don’t get lost in the program. That’s what you don’t want. You don’t want a kid to come in and suddenly his year is over or his career is over and he still doesn’t understand what his identity was as a football player. We want you to leave understanding that you had some value, that you added value to our program, and that’s our job as coaches. I take that personally.”

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