This is the fifth 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 what do youth football players want from you and football. Find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
Below is a great quote from the Chicago Bear’s Hall of Fame Linebacker Mike Singletary. His favorite part of the game is the opportunity to play. It is not a surprise that your youth football players most likely feel the same about youth football. They want to play not sit on the bench.
I know sometimes coaches have issues with parents and usually those issues arise because little Johnny is not getting enough play time. Remember, especially in a recreational league like KYA Football, you must play all your players at least 5 plays per half or more. If some of your players are not ready, then like a friend of mine’s wife says, “Coach’em Up!”
I usually try to have a starting position for all my players. This really helps with team morale. Your players will feel part of the team. You can always start subbing in players when needed to fix any weak links if the opposing team takes advantage of your weaker areas. I also try to review my schedule and see what games I can let some of my more inexperienced players get some real game time. Mid-week scrimmages also help increase playtime reps.
No Standing Around
Make sure in practice all your players are getting the much needed reps to be ready for the game. Players hate standing around. If you have a few players that need extra work then have an assistant coach take them over and work with them individually so the team is not slowed down by the more inexperienced players. It is your job as the head coach to teach EVERYONE on your team football, not just your studs.
Youth football players also want your respect and dedication to coaching the youth football team. I take pride in learning everyone’s name before the first practice and definitely be the end of the second practice. The kids really appreciate the effort to learn their names. Over the last 5 seasons, I’ve been letting my players know that I love them because we are brothers in football. I let them know I am always there for them on or off the field. Let your players know you care about them.
I always say Play for Fun and Winning is Funner. That’s because your players really just want to have fun. Sure, they want to win but not at the expense of not having a great time playing football. Do not make football a punishment. So many coaches punish their teams for losing games but I never see the coach running laps. Most of the blow-out losses I see in youth football are coaching mistakes or the other team was just more talented. You can see from the slide above winning is last on their list even if it is first on your list.
Many youth football players also want to play with their friends from school and or make new friends. Make sure you’re making practice a social event too and let them have some fun and make lifetime memories. I have ice cream or pizza nights after practice and they are big hits with the players and parents. This past season we had a water balloon fight with a team we scrimmaged after the scrimmage. That was a ton of fun and the players loved it. Make sure to create a positive and fun social environment for your team. Also sometimes team parents want the social aspect of the game too. You may want to have a team parent party and build those friendships too.
Youth football players also want you to teach them the game and challenge them physically and mentally. It is your job as the head football coach to outline your football schemes for them to learn, get them in football shape to play games and set high expectations for them to achieve so they push themselves to become better athletes. Make practices fun by drills that involve competition. Make sure you coach what you want to run in your games at practice. Players need reps in practice. And, running wind sprints at the end of practice is not what I mean by challenging your players physically. Speed up your practices and create fun drills to get your players in shape. Chase games and long ball pass drills are so much more fun than wind sprints. Also, you must challenge your players mentally not just physically. Youth football players can learn more than just 6 plays on offense. Push them to learn the game. You will be very surprised how much they can learn.
Lastly, please give them a safe place to play. Make sure your practice field is safe from rocks and holes. I usually walk my practice space before each practice and mark areas of concern with cones. Safe also means coaches and parents not showing up drunk or on drugs interacting with your team. Make sure you and your staff conduct yourselves like a responsible adults. Players also do not like to be screamed at and berated. They don’t mind you yelling at them to get your point across now and then, but remember 10 year old football players are not HS or College football players. How would you like me to watch your game and when you make a coaching mistake, I come over and scream at you at the top of my lungs for a few moments for everyone to hear and embarrass you. I’m sure you would have a few choice words for me. Remember your youth football players are kids but they are very smart. Much smarter than you give them credit. Don’t lose your team by being a jerk.
So, make sure you play all your players, especially in practice, and Play for Fun and Winning is Funner. And please, stop yelling so much. Positive reinforcement works so much better with youth athletes.