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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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Youth 7on7 and Youth Tackle Football

Coaching Youth Football Playbooks, Tips and more pee football talkThere is a definite transition going on in Youth Football. More and more youth tackle teams are playing 7on7 football to keep their skill kids together in winter, spring and summer months to sharpen their team passing game fundamentals. Playing 7on7 is a great opportunity for Youth Football Coaches and parents to have the teams QB’s, RB, WR’s & TE’s play another 10 to 20 games per year without the risk of unnecessary contact and really enhance the skill of route running, throwing and catching. Teams that play 7on7 get a better understanding of spacing, timing and defensive alignment or leverage to determine what they can do and what they can’t in the passing scheme. Playing 7on7 year round allows Youth Football Coaches and players to develop team passing fundamentals and concepts to incorporate into their Team Offensive package.

Passing the football in 5th or 6th grade tackle football is not based on a stud QB who can fling the football 30 or 35 yards. It is about running short, quick and precise routes based on timing and correct offensive spacing, like slants, hitches, skinny post, bubble routes and quick outs. None of these are passes over 15 yards and just about every youth QB can execute with a little extra Team practice in a year round 7on7 league.

That is where Leagues and events like ours come in. Now as a team you have another 6 weeks to work with your QB, WR, Slot or TE and RB to practice, rep and go live against other Youth team skeleton defenders of 2 corners, 3 linebackers and 2 safeties. I have seen teams as young as 4th grade that have 10 total plays but are proficient at running those 10 to both sides just shred other teams because everyone is on the same page as they have repped these over and over and the team timing is so good. You would never be able to get that amount of passing game reps in your team’s Fall tackle practice as there isn’t enough time as the physical part of properly teaching blocking and tackling fundamentals would limit these passing reps.

The game of football continues to get spread out wider at every level and youth football teams that start the process early are going to flourish and give that athlete an advantage to learn spread concepts prior to arriving in middle school in 7th grade. 7on7 is a great way to learn Spread concepts.

To learn more about 7on7 Football Leagues, Tournaments or Camps in the State of Texas please visit us at www.texaselite7on7.org.

Shawn Smith
President
Texas Elite 7on7 Football
817-690-8458

Coach Shawn Smith is a contributing writer to CoachParker.org. Coach Smith has over 20+seasons coaching youth tackle football in many of the top Select and Recreation leagues in North Texas and is President of the Texas Elite 7on7 Football League. They hold tournaments across north Texas including Cowboy Stadium. Texas Elite 7on7 is one of the top 7on7 leagues in Texas.


Texas Elite 7on7 Youth Football League

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Pee Wee Football Coach’s Clinic – Part 4

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.   Football Fundamentals

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.

Youth Football Fundamentals

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.

Lombardi Quote Football is Blocking and Tackling

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

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Our Child Wants to Quit, What Should We Do?

Zane and Bear

Many youth sports players are signed up by mom and dad to play sports without asking the potential young athlete the most important question, “Do you REALLY want to play Sport X?” Like me, moms and dads assume their kids will love everything they loved and played in their youth.  NOT!

Communication is key in any relationship, especially with your children and family.  You may think little Johnny loves baseball, but you need to ask him first. Use your indoor words and ask the tough question; do you want to play baseball?  Has he ever caught the ball or hit a ball yet?  Sally may hate basketball and love volleyball but you never knew before asking her.  Did you know she plays volleyball at Jane’s will everyone else plays PIG?  Like me, you may have had a brief conversion with your child and then signed them up for Sports before knowing if they have any “real” aptitude or desire to play the sport. And really, desire is more important than aptitude.  But, both are very important in your mutual decision to sign up and play the sport.

Let’s say you signed your child up to play a sport, and after the first or second week of practice they are constantly complaining about playing and wanting to quit.  Here are a few signs that your child may want to quit a sport.  Certainly I am not a child psychologist but these signs are from my experience as a youth sports coach; flag football, tackle football, t-ball, baseball, basketball, and racquetball.  I am sure there are many more quitting signs and tweaks to each sign.

Signs Your Child May Want to Quit a Sport

  • They ask / tell you they want to Quit, especially repeatedly after first two weeks
  • Complaining that they are not as good as the other players
  • They say they HATE the Sport X
  • Constant Crying before or during practice
  • They say they are too small
  • Hiding or Hiding equipment before practice
  • Not getting ready to go to practice, trying to be late
  • Sick or Pretending to be sick on practice days
  • Lying about practice days and times
  • Begging not to go to practice
  • Skips practices
  • Good Grade to Bad Grades
  • Wetting the Bed or themselves
  • Does not participate in practice drills and sits out
  • Will not make friends on the team
  • Complains about Coach, Players and Practice
  • Depression, i.e. they do not want to get out of bed
  • Tell you they are not having any fun
  • They do not want to talk about the Sport
  • They are now angry at you all the time

If your child communicates to you they would like to quit and or are displaying any of these “quitting” signs, especially 2 or 3 more at a time, then your child may really want to quit the sport.  As loving parents, you should sit down without the TV on and discuss with your child why they are unhappy, how you can help them, and if they are asking to quit, do they really want to quit.  If it’s the first or second week of practices and they are rookies, it may be rookie jitters. But if this quitting behavior continues past the 2nd or 3rd week, then I would consider setting up a meeting with your head coach to discuss your situation and how he and his coaching staff can help motivate your child to play or if the coaches also agree with your child that quitting might be the best decision for them this season.  Parents please don’t quit and stop showing up to practices and games without communicating with your head coach.  Once again, please Communicate.  Emails are easy as a last resort.

If your child’s team is a team sport, you should set up a meeting with the head coach and discuss your options, because your child’s decision to quit the team will affect the team not just your child you’re your family.  Don’t be selfish; think about the other 10 to 25 players on the Team.    If your child really wants to quit and you have discussed the issues with your child and the team’s head coach, don’t be selfish and force your desires on your child if everyone but you agrees that your child should consider another hobby or sport for this season.  It is unfair to the Team, not to mention your child, to force your child to do something that they really do not enjoy and especially on a team because your child will not give the team 100%.

If you are worried about the money, many youth sports leagues, will refund a percentage of the registration fee prior to the first game.  You can easily sell use sports equipment on Criagslist, garage sales, or donate the equipment to the league or Goodwill to take off your taxes.  Your decision to allow your child to quit a sport should not be about the money but your child’s desires to be happy and have fun.  Asking your child to do something they hate or scared of 3 times a week is a waste of happiness.  And really what is the price of happiness.

It may be a surprise to many parents, but our children are not us.  I know, I know that’s a huge ego bust for us.  It was for me.  I just can’t believe my son hits a baseball better than I ever thought possible as a little leaguer but he did not want to be Jack Lambert as I hoped for in youth football. Instead he played Quarterback and was reserved but very competitive in his mother’s way, but I wanted him to be more aggressive like me.  Why doesn’t he talk smack like Bill Romanowski and get into players heads like I did? Why doesn’t he just love to hit to hit?  He would rather throw beautiful spirals for touchdowns and not eat QBs lunch.  Urgghh.  I hated it.  I wanted him to be the “better me” than I was as a player.  Yes, I wanted him to be Super Steve, not Berndt “Bear” Parker.

It hurt when I realized Bear was not going to be Super Steve.  He would always be Bear Parker from Denver, Colorado.  Not Super Steve from Texas, a Texan.  Wow, then I found out he may be smarter than I am too.  Talk about a hit to the ego.

I never “really” asked Bear or Zane if they liked to play football.  I just signed them up.  I am thankful that they love to play football.  I am still frustrated they would rather do kid things like play XBox and Swim rather than training to become the next Roger Staubach, Randy White,  Charlie Waters or even Hollywood Henderson.  These are the players Steve wanted to become and never did because he always wanted to do kid things too.

After playing soccer for two years, Zane my youngest son quit playing soccer his 5U season.  He was asked to play on a developmental Select soccer team after this season, but he told us he hated playing soccer and did not want to play anymore.  Zane was a very good soccer player in Kindergarten, I did not like soccer at the time, but loved watching him play.  I personally wanted him to continue playing soccer because I thought he was a natural.  Everyone in our family was upset about Zane not playing soccer but Zane.  Zane wanted to play tackle football and do kid things.  Everyone told us to force Zane to play soccer but I did not sign him up.  This Spring Bear and I talked Zane into playing recreational Soccer to cross train for football.  Zane agreed and now Zane loves playing soccer.  He was invited to practice with a Select team this summer and really had fun. Now Zane wants us to pay for private soccer coaching so he can try out for Select soccer.  He also wants to continue playing tackle football.

But, what would I have done if Zane or Bear wanted to quit football during a football season.  Well, that depends on many things but for football the main question after asking them if they really want to play or quit, a parent must HONESTLY ask themselves and their youth football player, do you like to hit and get hit?  Are they too scared to hit and will they get hurt?  Are they half the size or smaller than the biggest player on the team?  Do they cry before every football practice and beg not to go to practice?  Or do they pretend to be sick before every practice.  If this was going on and I felt Zane or Bear were going to get hurt because they did not want to play, I would have allowed them to quit.  My child’s safety comes first.

At the end of the day, youth sports is all about making my children happy.  If my kids are unhappy, then I am unhappy.

Thanks
Coach Parker
Fort Worth, Texas


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