Football Coaching Clinic – Part 5

This is the fifth post of a multi part Youth Football Coaching Clinic presentation that I developed for KYA Football in Keller, TX. In this post I will be discussing what do youth football players want from you and football.  Find Part 1,   Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Below is a great quote from the Chicago Bear’s Hall of Fame Linebacker Mike Singletary.  His favorite part of the game is the opportunity to play. It is not a surprise that your youth football players most likely feel the same about youth football.  They want to play not sit on the bench.

I know sometimes coaches have issues with parents and usually those issues arise because little Johnny is not getting enough play time.  Remember, especially in a recreational league like KYA Football, you must play all your players at least 5 plays per half or more. If some of your players are not ready, then like a friend of mine’s wife says, “Coach’em Up!”

Players want to play.

I usually try to have a starting position for all my players.  This really helps with team morale.  Your players will feel part of the team.  You can always start subbing in players when needed to fix any weak links if the opposing team takes advantage of your weaker areas.  I also try to review my schedule and see what games I can let some of my more inexperienced players get some real game time.  Mid-week scrimmages also help increase playtime reps.

No Standing Around

Make sure in practice all your players are getting the much needed reps to be ready for the game.  Players hate standing around.  If you have a few players that need extra work then have an assistant coach take them over and work with them individually so the team is not slowed down by the more inexperienced players.  It is your job as the head coach to teach EVERYONE on your team football, not just your studs.

What do youth football players want?

Youth football players also want your respect and dedication to coaching the youth football team.  I take pride in learning everyone’s name before the first practice and definitely be the end of the second practice.  The kids really appreciate the effort to learn their names. Over the last 5 seasons, I’ve been letting my players know that I love them because we are brothers in football.  I let them know I am always there for them on or off the field.  Let your players know you care about them.

I always say Play for Fun and Winning is Funner.  That’s because your players really just want to have fun.  Sure, they want to win but not at the expense of not having a great time playing football.  Do not make football a punishment.  So many coaches punish their teams for losing games but I never see the coach running laps. Most of the blow-out losses I see in youth football are coaching mistakes or the other team was just more talented.  You can see from the slide above winning is last on their list even if it is first on your list.

Many youth football players also want to play with their friends from school and or make new friends. Make sure you’re making practice a social event too and let them have some fun and make lifetime memories.  I have ice cream or pizza nights after practice and they are big hits with the players and parents.  This past season we had a water balloon fight with a team we scrimmaged after the scrimmage. That was a ton of fun and the players loved it. Make sure to create a positive and fun social environment for your team.  Also sometimes team parents want the social aspect of the game too.  You may want to have a team parent party and build those friendships too.

Youth football players also want you to teach them the game and challenge them physically and mentally. It is your job as the head football coach to outline your football schemes for them to learn, get them in football shape to play games and set high expectations for them to achieve so they push themselves to become better athletes.  Make practices fun by drills that involve competition. Make sure you coach what you want to run in your games at practice.  Players need reps in practice.  And, running wind sprints at the end of practice is not what I mean by challenging your players physically.  Speed up your practices and create fun drills to get your players in shape.  Chase games and long ball pass drills are so much more fun than wind sprints.  Also, you must challenge your players mentally not just physically. Youth football players can learn more than just 6 plays on offense. Push them to learn the game.  You will be very surprised how much they can learn.

Lastly, please give them a safe place to play.  Make sure your practice field is safe from rocks and holes.  I usually walk my practice space before each practice and mark areas of concern with cones.  Safe also means coaches and parents not showing up drunk or on drugs interacting with your team. Make sure you and your staff conduct yourselves like a responsible adults. Players also do not like to be screamed at and berated.  They don’t mind you yelling at them to get your point across now and then, but remember 10 year old football players are not HS or College football players. How would you like me to watch your game and when you make a coaching mistake, I come over and scream at you at the top of my lungs for a few moments for everyone to hear and embarrass you. I’m sure you would have a few choice words for me.  Remember your youth football players are kids but they are very smart. Much smarter than you give them credit. Don’t lose your team by being a jerk.

So, make sure you play all your players, especially in practice, and Play for Fun and Winning is Funner. And please, stop yelling so much. Positive reinforcement works so much better with youth athletes.

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Pee Wee Football Coach’s Clinic – Part 4

This is the fourth post of a multi part Youth Football Coaching Clinic presentation that I developed for KYA Football in Keller, TX. In this post I will be discussing coaching football fundamentals.  Find Part 1,   Part 2, Part 3.

Football is Blocking and Tackling

You just drafted your youth football team and now the fun begins.  Many of you will focus on your offensive backfield in practices and teaching your running backs all your new fancy plays.  Coaching the running backs is where the glory is made, so you think.  Unfortunately, you have more than 4 or 6 players on your team.  Most of us will have 15 or more players on our roster and just focusing on your 5 or 6 running backs will alienate 60% or more of your players and parents as they watch their kids stand around while you play with the RBs.

I see so many rookie and inexperienced head coaches, with their offensive running backs and where they should be is with their linemen.  An average running back can run behind an excellent offensive line but a terrible offensive line might not block good enough for your stud running back.  So many head coaches forget about blocking and blocking is a a core football fundamental that must be taught to your youth football players.  I get many players Pro Bowls or Sr Divisions players on teams that I’ve coached that have no clue how to block.  Many coaches just tell their players, block the guy in front of you.  While that is better than nothing as a blocking rule, many times the players have no idea what to do next.

And because your spending 75% of practice with the running backs on offense.  You forget about defense and the art of tackling.  Tackling and blocking are the core fundamentals of football.  Learning pass plays and running sweeps all day are not going to win championships.  Yes, you may get lucky and win a few games with a stud running back sweeping to the outside all day until you meet the team that can stop your sweep and tackle.  Then to top it all off, they know how to block and they run off-tackle power plays down your throat the whole game so your stud running back can never get on the field because they held the ball 65% of the time.  They beat you 12-8 when you’ve been scoring 40 points a game against other teams.  They are just more fundamentally sound.   Football Fundamentals

Focus on fundamentals and win championships not just a a game or two. Plus, the High School coaches will love you for teaching fundamentals. So many youth football coaches want to run their High School offensive system so they can prepare players for High School Football.  Do not worry about what offense or defense scheme your HS is running, just make sure to teach the core football fundamentals and your players will be more than prepared to run any system presented to them.  What is the saying, about teach them to fish and they will never starve.  Teach them the basics and then they can accomplish anything on the football field.

Coach Dungy also make another very good point in his quote above. Nurture your team dynamics.  Create that team spirit where everyone is equal.  If you are always focused on your 3 or 4 players, then the other players do not feel part of the team.  As a Head Coach I make sure I talk to each player every practice.  I also make it a point to work with the lineman at practice and let them know they are just as important as the running backs.  We give 2 stickers to each lineman blocking for a TD and only one sticker to the running back for his TD.  The lineman feel like they are part of every play and much more part of the team.  Do not forget to have team activities, many times I will take the team to DQ for ice cream after a big win.  Team movie nights also works great.

Youth Football Fundamentals

For many seasons, I have been discussing developing a curriculum plan for our league.  We are close to implementing such a curriculum template. Above are some Curriculum goals we have discussed.  Each division would have a curriculum that every player must be taught.  You would be so surprised how many veteran senior players I coach that are new to my teams, that do not know hole numbers or positions on the field.  It is unbelievable to me.  I do know talking to our HS coaches in our area, they really want us to work on stance, blocking and tackling.  From watching my two sons play in middle school and high school, we need to do a better job of training our QB and Centers on shotgun snaps and under Center exchanges.

Lombardi Quote Football is Blocking and Tackling

The Magic Pill is Blocking and Tackling

So many head coaches are looking for the magic pill or answer to help them win games.  As Coach Lombardi says in the above slide, “football is only two things, blocking and tackling.”  As a youth football coach if you focus on blocking and tackling and other football fundamentals / basic rules you will be preparing your youth players for High School.  Lay the foundation for your players at the youth level so their future middle school and high school coaches can have a fundamentally sound and smart football player that the coaches can teach any scheme to in the future.  If you become the most fundamentally sound youth football team in your league, you will be winning many football games.  The Magic Pill is not the the new Spread formation but blocking and tackling, and please don’t forget the proper football stance too.

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