Coaching vs. Talent in Youth Football

7on7 Youth FootballCan great coaching in youth football outperform, defeat and or equal a well recruited stacked youth football team with mediocre coaching throughout an entire football season? A recent tweet by Dave Cisar, one of my favorite youth football coaches and authors, “The youth coach who invests a LOT of time recruiting players- he thinks talent trumps coaching. He doesnt know enough to know he dont know” got me thinking about this question; coaching vs. talent. Coach Cisar is right that Talent does not beat great coaching most of the time, but great Talent does beat poor coaching.

Like me, many of you are about to start recruiting or drafting your Fall youth football team. A successful winning youth football season starts with a smart organized veteran coaching staff that considers “coaching” a priority. But, I firmly believe in recruiting and or drafting the best talent your coaching staff can field for your youth football team. Why make it harder on your coaching staff by not pre-planning and preparing for your youth football season through a successful recruiting / draft strategy? My Co-Head Coach and I spend a significant amount of time on identifying local league talent and evaluating them in our league’s grass day drills. I enjoy the pre-season coaching duties as much or even more than the actual in-season coaching. I love planning and strategizing our youth football season in the off-season.

In our youth recreational football league we cannot recruit players in the traditional way. From season to season we can carry or “freeze” up to 6 players that were on our previous Fall’s team if they agree to play for us again. We must then pick the remaining 12 to 14 players in an organized league draft. After a kick punt and pass drill day, we draft players from a pool of youth football players registered for our league. This Fall season the league allowed two wildcard pick options which let us “freeze” or recruit two players from the league’s registered player pool before the actual draft. Since our teams have been in the last 5 Super Bowls this freeze and wildcard recruiting process was not that hard for us.

In the past I coached Select tackle football teams and recently this summer a Select 7on7 football team when I needed to “recruit” players from our area. So I understand how to “recruit” players and most importantly the parents. To be honest I hate the traditional recruiting process; selling parents on your coaching talents and your team’s winning record and potential. It helps to come from a winning program like myself and a recognized website like CoachParker.org. It’s also a plus to have a coach on staff that loves to recruit and has a sales background. If you are not good at sales then make sure you have a coach that loves selling if you must recruit players for your football team. I also have my key players already on the team hand out flyers and contact potential recruits. Youth football players like playing with their friends.

When we recruit players we do not promise players play time or positions. We hold try outs for positions. One of our wildcard recruits this season only wanted to play QB. We told them there were no guarantees and we lost a great player to one of our rivals but not our respect. Once you start promising players and parents positions along with play time then you might as well hand over the coaching responsibilities to them. As a coach you cannot lose control of your team. Parents must know that you and your staff are in charge of every aspect of your team.

So, should you spend a lot of time recruiting youth football players? Well, it depends on what you consider a lot of time. I believe off-season time invested in attending coaching clinics, studying youth football, meeting with your coaches and players, developing playbooks, organizing practices, identifying potential talent, scouting / analyzing potential opponents and recruiting is all part of being a great coach. Your time investment in yourself as a coach and team will pay off during the football season. Champions are made during the off-season.

With all things being equal with great coaching, “stud” talent will beat coaching, especially in youth football. Who wouldn’t love to have the stud running back or QB along with the talented supporting cast of players in their league? Like most the things I do in life with work, home, family etc. I always want the best. Always strive for perfection.

What do you think about coaching vs. talent? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!

Thanks,
Coach Parker
Keller, Texas

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7 on 7 Football Season Update

7 on7 FootballOur 7 on 7 football team had a rough start this season since we were a new team in a veteran elite 7on7 football league in Keller, Texas.  I don’t think I would jump into an established  league again after just one week of practice, but being thrown in the fire really made the team learn faster.   Most of our players played tackle football in the Spring but many of the 7on7 teams played 7on7 in the Spring.  We were 3 months behind most teams in our league.  I hate losing even though I told myself and the team that our first league was a practice situation, it still sucks losing as we get better.  We recently entered a Monday night middle school league and we are doing well.  We even beat a team from our other league that usually beats us handily.  I guess the fire helped.  Ok so maybe I would do it again but only with one team not two.

We are a 5th and 6th grade 7 on 7 football team.  Most of our players will be 7th graders in Fall 2013.  At the beginning of the summer and our 7on7 season, I picked up enough players that we developed a Varsity and JV team.  The larger number of players gives us the opportunity to have real scrimmages during our practices.  We scrimmage for 30 minutes at the end of every practice which is once or twice a week.  In general the other hour of practice is spent on fundamental throwing and catching drills.  Plus before we start practice each player must catch 100 balls with a partner.  The reason we catch so much is that most of the players have not had to catch playing tackle youth football since most youth offenses are geared to running.  7on7 football is geared toward throwing.  For the first 3 weeks or so our catching was terrible, maybe a 30% completion percentage based on poor catching not throws.  We now focus on catching the ball over pass routes, throwing and defense.  If you cannot catch the ball, you cannot move the ball on offense, keep the ball away from your opponent and most importantly score.

I guess this season I learned that the playbook is really not that important if you have a 10 or 12 pretty good throwing plays.  You need a good quarterback but not a great quarterback, although a great QB really helps out.  But, if your receivers cannot catch the football a great QB is worthless, so we work on catching the ball.  We started tracking each play and receptions a few weeks ago and that paid off. We want our completion percentage above 65%.  We are rotating in the hands players vs the speed players.  Our defense is has been very good.  Our goal is to hold teams to less than 28 points since 7on7 is set up to score.  We have been pretty successful at this goal.  We have about 8 defensive coverage sets but mainly play man.  This season, I learned in 7 on 7 football  a good offense is your best defense.  You cannot give up the ball too fast or the other team will keep scoring.  You cannot ask your defense to hold every series in 7on7.

We have 3 weeks left in our 2013 7 on 7 football season.  I am looking forward to getting better each week.  Our wins are coming easier now and we have a good system.  We picked up a few more players in our Monday night league which match up well to our competition.  At the end of the day, I am glad everyone is having fun and enjoying the summer playing some football.  Ya, I hate to lose but its all about PLAY for FUN and Winning is FUNNER.   No, we are not undefeated but a little winning never hurt the fun factor.

See you on the gridiron,
Coach Parker
Keller, Texas

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