This is the third 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 drafting talent for your youth football team. Find Part 1, Part 2.
Update 7/24 – Video
Draft the Best Youth Football Players
It is very important to draft and pick the best and most talented youth football players for your team. You must take recruiting and drafting players very seriously if you want to have a successful season within KYA Football. Good coaches look “Great” when surrounded by top talent. Why handicap yourself by not organizing and planning your draft process? I spend a significant amount of time evaluating players before draft day. Your whole season can be won or lost at the draft.
I love the KYA Football draft process. The draft is almost as fun as the entire season. The draft process is a 3 to 4 week period of evaluating players from my game notes, grass drill notes, interviews and coach’s referrals. We have multiple coach’s meeting and mock drafts discussing players. Like Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Marino states below, talent is an advantage. I like to have every advantage at my disposal. Plus coaching top tier talent is much easier than coaching rookies.
KYA Football allows teams to “freeze” or roster 4 to 6 returning players from the past two football seasons. These players do not attend grass drills and are placed on their past team’s roster for the upcoming season. Registered players that are not frozen and new players to the league must enter the grass drills. Grass drills is a non-padded field day which includes a 40 yard dash, agility drills, catching and throwing station and a tackling dummy station. Coaches evaluate players based on the drills. Coaches are also allowed to interview the players.
I usually interview players most of the day at grass drills and purchase the video of the grass drills. This way I can watch the players over and over during the drills at home and also get the key info from players when I interview the players. Most of the time we have 3 to 4 coaches at grass drills and some are interviewing and some are also watching drills. But we always buy the grass drills videos. I highly recommend the video package!
Interviewing Players – Desire
During grass drills, I prefer to interview players and get a feel for the player’s desire to play tackle football. Sometimes, they will tell you they do not want to play football but dad signed them up. This happens more than you think. I have a series of questions that I ask players and below is a quick summary of my questions.
- Have you played tackle football before? What Teams? Coach? Years?
- Why do you want to play football? Like? Fun?
- What position on offense and defense did you play? Starter? #?
- Do you like to hit in football? Were you a top hitter on your team?
- Who were the top hitters on your team? Names? Friends? Here?
- Did your dad or brother play football? Positions? Coach?
- What other sports do you play? Select? Dad Coach?
- Who is your favorite NFL football team and player?
- Do you make As and Bs in school? Favorite Class? Conduct?
- Do you like to wrestle? Would you wrestle that big boy now?
I am sure you can think of more questions but these serve me well.
Key Eval Point – Coach’s Referral
My main key when evaluating players is the coach’s referral or my notes on the player’s game play against us over the past seasons. This hard evidence reduces your biases when reviewing unknown players. Many coaches get mesmerized by speed and size but nothing beats cold hard data from a coach’s referral. Yes, you need to play the game of talking to your opposing coaches and give some and lose some but the information is invaluable. I learned how to trade info and this is a critical step in the process. Another key evaluation point over desire and a coach’s referral is age. Older players are more mature and seem to perform better than their younger peers.
I also try to make sure I look for players in the grass drills that are sandbagging and not doing their best. This happens quite a bit so they look bad to other coaches. I try to make sure I have reviewed the registered players and have notes on most of the known players before attending grass drills. Do not trust every coach! Know your data! Be prepared.
I spend a ton of time reviewing my top 20 draft picks and knowing where and how we would use them on our team. We game plan the draft by mock drafts and reviewing past draft data to see where they were picked in the past. We also make sure we rate all the players which are usually 75 to 100 players. I have the above spreadsheet done for every player in the draft. Remember that just as important as your top picks, your “No” picks are also very important to have outlines. Your team is only as good as your weakest link.
I personally like to have my backfield frozen and maybe a shotgun Center. Within my freezes if possible, I do like to have a quarterback with an above average arm, a tier 1 tail back, a good full back, a slot back and a Center. After our freezes, I evaluate other players based on a fullback type profile. FBs block well, have quick feet and an run the ball. So we really go after multi-purpose players after our top skill players. Usually FB types are much better at offensive line blocking than the big beef in youth football because the FBs have quicker hands and feet. And your defense will be very quick with FB types. You can see in the top slide that we did have a lineman rated as our top pick in that draft but look at his 40 time. He was very fast and was a FB type player. He wound up playing TE and DE for us and was a monster player. We actually drafted all four of these players and played in the Super Bowl that season.
Organization Creates Luck
Once again, organization is key to your coaching success with regards to the draft. You must have a draft plan and prepared to draft the top talent within the league. Do not think you can blow off the draft and still have a winning season. The draft will make or break your season. Make sure you spend the 110% effort on the draft for your team!
And don’t forget at the end of the day, being Lucky is great too, but do not rely on luck in the draft. Being prepared and lucky is a winning combination.