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 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!

Coach Parker
Keller, Texas

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  1. great piece coach- I agree great coaching and “some talent” will overcome “all talent” 90% of the time. I coach in a Privat School league in KY and sometimes great talent came be hard to obtain- so as a staff we do our best to ensure our kids are put in the best postion to be successful.

    1. Hard work always beats talent…when talent doesn’t work hard. Work hard to get your players ready physically and mentally and you’ll always have a chance to do well.

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