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.
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.
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.
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.
Update 7/25/16 – Free Coaching Video