Challenging Season Leads to Super Bowl Win

When you think you can’t, you really can if you work hard and stay focused on the prize.

The 2017 Spring KYA Football 12u Senior season was one of my most challenging youth football seasons to coach in all my 20 plus seasons coaching tackle pee wee football. Even before the Spring season started, the challenges began with the loss of two key experienced players to other Spring sports; Middle School 7on7 and Select Basketball. Our top starting running back decided to play 7on7 with his Middle School’s 7on7 team before starting the middle school season, and our top Offensive / Defensive Tackle joined his traveling Select Basketball team for the Spring. These were two very big player losses which had helped past KYA Panther teams reach the Super Bowl each season since the team’s inception at 8U. A few other past Panther players that we usually pick up in the player draft did not sign up to play Spring football which was also hurt our chances for a good season. The final 12U season would not include any of the original players from the 8U Green Panthers team, but a mixture of only 6 past Panther players from the last two seasons. We also decided to gamble with upgrading our QB and did not bring back our starting QB to the team. In hindsight the QB decision was not the smartest decision of the 2017 Spring youth football season.

2017 Spring 12U Panther’s Season Challenges

  1. Loss of Key Players before season started
  2. Loss of Assistant Coach to Another Team
  3. Last Minute / New Coach to Age Group Freezes Top 3 Players in Draft
  4. Unable to Draft “Passing” QB
  5. Average Draft Outcome compared to past Seasons
  6. Too many practice and game absences by players
  7. Mid Round Experienced Player no Shows / Quits season after 2nd game
  8. Starting QB out with Concussion one game
  9. Starting O/D tackles hurts back out one game then breaks wrist
  10. Starting O/D Guard breaks wrist
  11. Played #2 seed Team with only 11 players and won
  12. Revamped Offense backfield to run Wildcat style formations
  13. #1 Seed is a quasi-Select youth football team and beating everyone by 30 points

After player try outs at the league’s organized grass drills a week before the player draft, the ramifications of our player losses and decisions became apparent. Ouch! We thought we would be ok and find a passing QB in the draft and another running back. We did not find a QB. Coach Green, the Co-Head Coach, and myself had always been lucky and very good at the draft, but this season Lady Luck was on the Hurricane’s sideline. The Hurricanes were a new team to the age division, coached by one of our past assistant coaches that had taken his stud son to play Select a season or two prior to the 2017 Spring season. His son was the top pick in the 12U KYA FB 2017 Spring draft until one of the returning 12U coaches decided not to coach just one day before the draft. The league in a bind and short of 12U Spring coaches ask the Hurricane’s coach to take a team. He did along with 6 of the top players in the draft. He froze 3 players; his stud son, a top passing QB and another stud RB. He got 3 of the other top players in the draft based on draft order, other team freeze picks and wrap arounds. The Hurricanes came out with the best draft of talent I have seen in years. I was extremely jealous of their draft. I am sure this is how other teams thought of Coach Whit and myself over past seasons and now it happened to us. A big dose of reality slapped me across the face. I knew this was going to be a tough season. Sure, we would be in the top 4 teams and most likely make the playoffs, but getting to the Super Bowl to finish out the perfect Super Bowl run was going to be extremely difficult. The football gods were going to test us even more throughout the season.

Absences are always more likely during Spring youth football seasons because of Spring Breaks and football being played out of season competing with other Sports played in the Spring. Our 2017 Spring was certainly no exception. Because we win a ton of games and players usually want to play for our teams, we normally do not have very many player absences. We were very surprised this season when players began missing practices pretty early in the season. We had players missing practice due to school, homework, after school events, rides, work, vacations, injuries, and so on. It usually is no big deal but this season was so noticeable even a few players were commenting about the lack of players at practice. One player’s parents never brought their son to practice. Others had to pick him up. Then he just quit after the second game due to grades and then a mysterious appendectomy. Never called or emailed about quitting. Too weird. This missing player really hurt the team since he was the starting play side TE and was named Co-MVP Offensive linemen in the first game. He was a pretty good blocker. He also had great hands. It really hurts the team when a high mid round draft pick quits, because you could have chosen another player to be part of the team. I do not think many parents realize football is a team sport. Missing practice and games hurts everyone on the team, not just little Johnny.

We also had our fair share of injuries this season. We had 3 broken wrists, a back injury and a concussion. Two of the broken wrists were during the season. The starting OD Guard and Tackle played with casts on for half the season. Our star Linemen was out 1.5 games due to a major back injury and had a broken wrist later in the season. Our one regular season loss was when our stud linemen was out. These injuries were tough to deal with game days and resulted in us playing the #2 seed Tigers with only 11 players. Our Center showed up to that game with the flu and almost did not play. But he played thanks to his mother getting him ready before the game. We also had to scramble since one of our running backs which is also the backup QB was on vacation and our starting QB was out with a Concussion. In Pre-game, we installed the FAT formation which was our Pie formation in a Wildcat set since we had no QB. I tried to install FAT in our last practice but the starting TB was out with a school function so we were scrambling in pre-game with only 11 players. I thought oh well, if we are competitive we will be fine; we can still make the playoffs as the #3 or #4 seed. We went on to win that game 20-8 and solidify the #2 seed position for the playoffs. Wow.

After that game, we revamped our offense to a straight Beast / Wildcat type offense. We did not run a “true” quarterback for the next 3 games. Our starting Tailback took over as the Wildcat Beast back and we made it to the Super Bowl as the underdog vs. the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes had beaten us in the regular season by 20 points. To be honest, I wanted to keep the game within 14 points. I knew we had to play a perfect game. We prepared the players and let them know they had to play a perfect game. We must minimize mistakes, turnovers, penalties and most importantly we must pass and catch the football. We had been struggling all season passing the football with less than 30% completion rate. It was terrible.

I knew from my past coaching experience the Power Wing Beast Offense is set up to beat a high scoring offense if we stick to our rushing game plan and take every second to call the play so we use up the game clock. We pound the football for 3 and 4 yards down the field eating up the game clock so the opposing offense can never be on the field. We throw only when we are forced to do so. Defensively we must make them work for each score. We cannot let them score in less than 4 plays. We must make them drive the field with drives over 8 plays and or turn over the football. We also need Lady Luck to let us get an onside kick or two.

Well, I must say the 15-6 Super Bowl win over the Hurricanes was the best win I’ve experienced as a coach. To be honest, the only win that beats this win, is my playing experience as a 9U Select youth football player winning a 1974 Houston City Championship game in Rice Stadium. After the Panther Super Bowl win I was so excited I fell to me knees. Our Panther players stepped up to the challenge and beat the #1 seed. We all coached and played well above ourselves. We transcended expectations and our personal bests. That day, for a brief moment, we reached football Valhalla. Even youth football players and coaches can achieve a moment of enlightenment that will remind them, “When you think you can’t, you really can!”

Remember to Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!

Thanks
Coach Parker

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Youth Football League Organization Comparisons

playerjerseyA few of my readers asked me to discuss youth football league organization and my thoughts on what works and might not work.  I’ll try to do my best and review league organization based on leagues that I have coached within both in Select  / Recreation youth football and some youth baseball and basketball leagues.

First let’s talk about Select vs Recreational leagues and Teams.

  • Club Select Teams Paying Fee to Join Select League
    • Club / Team Managed Completely Independent of Youth League
    • Player Recruiting independent of youth football league
    • Pays Team Fee to join a Select League
    • Might play in different Select League each season
    • Usually a tournament team too
    • Roster size might be game / league specific
    • No minimum play rules
  • League with Select Teams
    • Coaches and Teams part of youth football league
    • League Promotes and Advertises League and Teams
    • Player evals Recruiting done by Coaches / Teams and might also be assisted by League
    • League may control roster size
    • Coaches may leave but Team stays within the League
    • No minimum play rules
  • League with Hybrid Select / Recreational Teams
    • Coaches and Teams Part of Youth Football League
    • League is primary recruiting vehicle for Teams and Coaches
    • League Allocates base set of players to Team but allows some recruiting by Coaches each season
    • Majority of Team’s players allowed to stay intact from season to season
    • Some Minimum Play Rules
    • Teams, Coaches, and Rosters controlled by Youth Football League
  • Recreational Youth Football League
    • Youth Football League Allocates most if not all players to each Team
    • Youth Football League Assigns Coaches to teams
    • Minimum Play Rules – Usually 8 to 20 plays per game
      Team Rosters usually 15 to 30 players per teams
    • Teams rosters reallocated by league each season with possible 0 to 8 freezes (players returning) each season.
    • Teams, Coaches, and Rosters controlled by Youth League

I actually prefer the Hybrid Select / Rec youth football league.  I do not have time to go out and recruit players, worry about team size and do all the recruiting that is necessary to manage a successful Select youth football team.  And in my old age I do not like all the parent politics involved in recruiting top youth football players.  I also like coaching up some of the newer players and seeing them turn into Select players.

Age Divisions

Many youth football leagues are organized based on the following:

  • Age Divisions
  • Grade Divisions
  • Weight / Size Divisions
  • Select Players vs Recreational Players
  • Experience Level
  • Combination of Above

I’ve noticed lately youth football has moved to a standard age division set up similar to US Soccer.  This might have to do with more youth football tournaments around the country.  But the 7U, 8U, 9U, 10U, 11U, 12U age divisions have become very popular in Texas.

Division Size

League Size and Number of Teams in a Division is always a hot topic. A youth football trophy
Division size under 4 teams is to me not worth the effort.  I like Divisions with at least 6 teams so you are not playing the same teams each week.  An 8 team division is my favorite.  I have played in a youth football league with an age Division of 2 conferences of 6 teams and 8 teams and then top teams went through playoffs to Super Bowls.  I loved this set up.  It was a County run league with teams from community partnered leagues that adhered to the County league rules.

Roster Size

Team size and roster size is also another area which is an important are organizing a youth football league.  I hear about team rosters reaching 30 players in some areas.  Wow, now that must be really hard to get players into the games.  I know from talking to these coaches parents are not very happy with these large teams.  I know that my wife would be very upset if our son was on a 30 person youth football team.  Some of the best leagues I’ve coached in keep rosters size below 24.  I prefer a roster size around 18.  The current league I coach in keeps their rosters between 15 and 20 and try to keep them around 16. I prefer less than 20 players on a roster when you have minimum play rules otherwise a 30 player roster with a 10 play MPP rules is very difficult for coaches to manager.

Minimum Play Rules

There is a lot of controversy surrounding play time and minimum play rules in youth football.  First let me say that managing play times can be difficult especially when rosters are over 18 and the MPP rule is over 10 plays per game.  There are only about 60 plays in a youth football game.  We usually have one or two people in charge of subbing and taking care of MPP rules.  Many recreational youth football leagues require 5 to 20 plays per game per player.  My current league requires 5 plays from scrimmage per half.  Special Team plays, penalties and do not count toward the 5 plays.  Select leagues usually do not have MPP rules.  I have found that even with MPP rules, parents still want their child to play about one quarter a game or more.

Player Allocation to Teams

  • Recruiting and Try Outs by Club / Team and Coaches independent of League.
    • League might have game roster / player maximum
  • Recruiting and Try Outs by League and Team’s Coaches with League oversight
  • Players Registered through League and allocated to Teams:
    • Randomly Assigned
    • Try Outs / Player Evals / Questions
      • League Grade and Team Assignments
      • Coaches Grade and Coaches Draft Players (NFL Type)

To be honest, I think my favorite part of the youth football season is evaluating and trying out new players and then drafting the players to my team.  I am not a very good player recruiter but I am very good at evaluating talent.  I’ve had other coaches around me that really knew how to recruit which has been a blessing.  I’ve been in two youth recreational youth football leagues that allowed player try outs and then hosted a formal draft.  One league held a standard drills try out for 2 days and the other league ran the 40 and then released the groups of 10 players to the teams for 30 minute rotating  try out sessions.  I loved the 30 minute try out sessions.  We were able to out the players through our tests vs just having to settle on standard tests.  I prefer my own testing.

Returning Players to Teams

  • Club Select Teams New Recruiting and Try Outs Each Season based on needs
  • League Allows Teams to Stay Together Each Season
  • League Might Allow New Recruited Players Up to #XX
  • League Might Assign Players to meet #XX Roster Size
  • League might to Combo of Above
  • League Reallocates Teams Each Season
    • Random Assignments
    • 0 to 8 players allowed to return to team based on coach and parent approval
    • Player Evals Draft via Coaches or League Officials to allocate to teams

Like I said earlier I prefer the hybrid recreational select youth football league.  I really like to keep my teams together and recruit as needed to fill certain needs.  The current league I coach in lets new coaches bring 3 players with them into the league and returning coaches may hold onto 0 to 6 players from the last Fall and Spring seasons.  Many coaches wind up keep 3 to 4 “freezes” and draft almost a whole new team.  It’s fun and certainly changes up the teams but I know many players and parents would love to stay on certain teams.  Well, the ones that win.  🙂

Issues with Youth Football Leagues

  • Pure Select League
    • Roster / Birth Certificate Manipulation
  • Allowing Coaches to Draft Players
    • Most Rookie Coaches are not good at the player eval and draft process
  • League Random Player Assignments
    • Teams are unequal
  • League Evals and Grades Players and Assigns to Teams
    • Coaches think league is stacking favorite teams
  • Team Size
    • Rosters over 24 are difficult to manage with MPP Rules

Every youth football league that I have coached in has issues.  No one is happy.  So if you are a league commissioner / official, you must realize that 80% of the organization is happy, 15% is ready for a change but silent and 5 % are the difficult vocal ones.  Plus you can never please everyone.  Try to limit the big mistakes and make sure everyone is treated fairly.

helmetThe biggest issue I have seen with youth football leagues is that when the player numbers are low and or the profits are low league officials will stretch the rules for certain teams and or players to allow them on a team to fill out a Division or meet a teams roster size etc and then someone gets upset because rules were broken and then everyone decides cheating is ok and tries to manipulate the system.  If you are in that situation make sure to communicate with all the coaches about why this is happening so no one is surprised by the stud 13 year old that is playing in the 12U division.  Yes, I’ve seen it happen.

Well, I hope I answered a few of your questions about youth football leagues.   I am sure I have left some items off.  If you see a glaring issue or would like to leave a comment or questions please do so below in the comments.

Remember to Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!

Thanks
Coach Parker
DFW Texas

 

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Filed under coaching youth football, Youth Coaching

Best Coaching Staff – Successful Youth Football Coaches

The most successful youth and high school coaching staffs I know generally consist of two main guys – one offense/head coach and one defense. On a minority of staffs, the defense guy is the head coach. There are often other guys hanging around wearing polo shirts with the team logo on the them, but the other two main guys pay little attention to them.

On these staffs, the second main guy is not a father of a player on the team, but relatives or long time friends of the head coach.

Jack Reed
Coaching Youth Football – 2006

 

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December 18, 2016 · 1:02 pm

Practice Schedules; Game Plans vs Teaching Technique

There are two types of practice schedules, those that involve game plans, etc., for specific opponent, and those that involve teaching of techniques in the early fall or spring.

Coach John McKay, USC
Football Coaching – 1966

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December 18, 2016 · 12:00 pm