By HCR Staff | August 21, 2018
After a record-setting high school career earned him a scholarship to play football at SMU, former quarterback Rand Holdren turned his attention to coaching. In addition to founding Underground Football, a southern California private coaching organization that includes former NFL and elite college players on staff, Holdren was recently named head coach at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Calif.
We recently caught up with Coach Holdren to learn about his background and coaching philosophy:
HCR: What is your football background and how did you get started as a private coach?
RAND HOLDREN: I started playing tackle football when I was 8 years old. Through the years, I moved around and played almost all positions on the field. Once I got to Bishop Diego High School, I was full go as a quarterback and my senior year in 1997 I broke 12 school records and went on to earn a scholarship at SMU. After a break from football, I volunteered to coach at a local high school in Los Angeles. Once I started, I saw a freshman they had who showed clear signs of being able to play at the next level. I started working with him outside of school and 10 years later, we just finished his NFL Draft prep. He is now in the NFL — Chad Kanoff of the Arizona Cardinals.
Working with the kids is truly a passion of mine and it has led to me getting my first head coach position four months ago. With that said, I still have 10-12 quarterbacks I train outside of my high school team. My focus when coaching is on more of the practical side of playing QB. My philosophy has always been to teach the kids as if I was teaching my younger self. Getting them to understand the game and how it works as well as to get them to do the things well that I wasn’t good at. I never had a QB mentor growing up. I would just go sit in the front yard of my high school coach, Norris Fletcher, until he would come out and throw with me.
I am also a big fundamental guy and I am not big with the marketing aspect and the marketing video. It has taken a year or two, but I think the general public, and more importantly parents that never played, have started to realize that it doesn’t translate into scholarships. I see a lot of videos of guys running sideways, throwing footballs — which is more working on getting that one highlight play later down the road and less about playing the hardest position in sports. It is my goal for the QBs I work with to get them to understand their game so they don’t need me in order to correct something that isn’t working… They can do it themselves by understanding how the position works both mentally and biomechanically.
HCR: Which NFL coaches do you most admire and why?
RH: Pete Carroll. I like his energy for the game. His focus on bringing out the most in players is well documented and trying to help players reach their full potential is something I am always striving for. Another reason I admire him is because he has a strong coaching philosophy that he has fine-tuned over the years. In his book, “Win Forever,” he goes into great detail of his philosophy — even structuring it, self-admittedly, like John Wooden’s. Constructing a pyramid on my own coaching philosophy as they did helped me see that I need to sharpen mine even more. I have never met Coach Carroll but I admire his approach to teaching the game, be it for Underground Football, my private clients, or for my high school program.
HCR: What are the most important things you work on with young players?
RH: It varies from QB to QB, but the major issues usually show themselves quickly and I’m talking both mental and physical. You can tell what kind of learner the QB is after the first note is given and they try to implement it. That is always the moment of truth for me: Do they want to work on the details and care about their craft?
Generally speaking, some of the same issues pop up for QBs at certain ages. For example, when youth QBs start maturing, they have to learn how to not take their left arm back with the ball when throwing. I compare it to a youth basketball kid shooting a ball two-handed because they aren’t strong enough yet. There are a lot of examples like that but it is really about the process of fixing something that the human body is doing that works against itself. The learning and growth that the QB achieves is fun to watch for me.
HCR: Underground Football’s mission is to help both player and coaches. How do you work with coaches?
We are positive reinforcement coaching all the way through at Underground Football. We are a group that wants to help players and coaches grow their own game. Anyone can be called a “coach,” but it’s the ones who keep studying and improving their knowledge of the game that I respect the most. All good coaches that I have crossed paths with are always looking for new ways to do things. That is what our goal is — to spread good information about the game and help coaches and players become better at it.