Last month, I ran into a few former youth football players and their parents at various restaurants around Keller, Texas. I was so happy they approached me to say hello and talk about football. The young men were bright eyed and excited about the next pee wee football season. I felt so proud to be volunteer youth football coach. I also wondered what I was doing right to be so lucky with 4 Super Bowl appearances and 3 wins in the last four youth football seasons. Why is our team so much better? Why do our players perform so much better for our team than other teams?
I started thinking about motivation and desire. These are two factors in a player’s mental game that effects play more than the physical aspects of football. It is really tough to coach desire but as coaches we can certainly persuade and motivate a player to push their limits to strive for and achieve greatness.
As I looked back over many playing and coaching football seasons, I started to see how I and others have motivated youth football players in the past. Here are some examples:
- Passion – rah rah cheerleading coach, pre-game speeches
- Knowledge – teaching skills and techniques of the game
- Common Interests – also played LB or likes Country Music
- Desire / Drive – fire in eyes and heart, hates to lose
- Awards – helmet stickers, trophies, ice cream Fridays
- Peer Recognition – Voted team Captain, MVP
- Age of Coach – Younger coaches seem to click with younger players, Father figure
- Cultural Backgrounds – Socio Economic and Demographic factors
- Personal Acknowledgement – Pats on the back all the time
- Humor – jokes with players
- Work Ethic – everyone works hard for common goal
- Religion – similar belief systems, prayer
- Punishment – Run Laps / Up and Downs
I know when I was in my twenties, my youth football players loved that I was so young. They saw me as one of them, not a dad. Now at 49, I cannot use my youth as a motivational tool, although maybe to a few they like an authority / father figure. I am not a cheerleader type coach, so I focus on knowledge, desire, awards and personal acknowledgement as my motivators. I am also a pretty serious guy, so humor is very hard for me but I do try to lighten up for the players.
To be honest, as I’ve aged, I try not to use punishment as a motivator like I did as a younger coach. I am less likely to send someone on a run but I am still strict. I also try to tell my players that I love them. This used to be strange to me, but since they play the sport I love, we are all brothers. So, yes I love my players as I love my sport of football. If I do punish a player for jumping off sides 4 times in a row in practice, I let them know they have the potential to be a great player but they need a loving painful reminder.
I’ve made many mistakes motivating players, especially with my oldest son. So, coaches go easier on your own kids. It is tough to be a coach’s kid probably like a preacher’s kid.
How do you like to motivate your players? I would love to hear from you. Leave me comment.
Play for Fun and Winning is Funner,
Keller, Texas / Fort Worth, TX