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How NOT to Coach Youth Football – The Worst Youth Football Coaches, How Not to Become One
Horror stories of youth football coaches
Most youth football organizations are created and run by volunteers. There are many like those in the Utah Ute football conference in Salt Lake City, where the league and the clubs are very well managed, very well organized and where they place great importance on the development of coaches. On the other hand, there are other organizations where the leadership is self-centered, with many clubs having priorities that don’t make much sense.
A glaring example comes to mind. I got a frantic call last week from a trainer in Florida. His club had four teams. Two of the organization’s teams didn’t score a touchdown last season. The other team had very poor results. On the other hand, our hero’s team ended up going to the playoffs, narrowly losing only 3 games for the whole season. His team had only 14 very average players and had to face much better teams that had between 25 and 28 players. The team that our friend took over had very similar results to the other 3 teams at the club the year before he took over this team. . His parents loved him, 8 different kids scored touchdowns, all 14 kids carried the ball at least once, everyone who played for him the year before signed up to play again this year. You’d think the officials would give this coach a medal and a parade down the main street, right? If not, at least figure out what he was doing differently than the other 3 teams and try to replicate his success, right?
What are these people thinking?
The leader of this organization felt that the reason the organization’s teams performed so poorly was because “they weren’t tough enough”. This people requirement for next season is a universal training plan for the 4 teams that places great importance on “strengthening” players. Now, according to our friend, the 3 teams at this club who did so poorly last season, all they did was ‘toughen up the kids’ in training. While our friend was working out fitness and freezing football games, power hour, and birdog drills, the other teams chased their kids until they were throwing up or scrambling most of practice.
Remember that the only team in the organization that had any success was a team that used my practice system and methodology, which places great emphasis on the taught progression of perfect fundamentals. As many of you who use my system know, we do a significant amount of form and fit and gel work during our practices. We firmly believe that children will only play aggressively if they first know exactly what their responsibility is on every game under all circumstances and secondly they feel 100% confident in the technique they are expected to perform on this shot. Put them in a scheme like mine where even average skill players can add value with every click and even excel and you have a winner. Confidence in role, responsibility and technique puts children in a potentially aggressive position. Add a method where you make it easy for the kids to get in touch so they gain confidence in their skills and their ability to play physical football and you’ve got yourself a team that plays “tough” and aggressive. Obviously, we cover exactly how to do this step by step in the book.
In the two-year study I did of the best and worst youth soccer teams in the region and country, I consistently found that poorly performing teams almost always spent about half their time playing games. practice scrums at full speed. In much of the rest of their training, they often did a lot of full-contact, full-speed “drills” or “hardening-up” type drills or conditioning. On the other hand, successful teams have almost universally done little full speed scrumming, instead they have worked a lot on honing fundamentals and responsibilities.
What really worked
My personal teams over the past 8 seasons have gone 78-5 and we do very little full speed scrimmaging and full contact drills after “strapping” kids’ noses to get the feel of contact in the first few weeks . We use our precious training time to perfect technique and responsibilities, not to overwhelm children by “toughening them up”. In those 83 matches, we were only beaten once. We have never been beaten in out-of-league games or out-of-state tournament games. Our kids love touch and crave touch because they have great technique, we limit it and only give it as a “reward” and because kids can “play fast” because they know their work in our scheme forwards, backwards and to the sides. Kids accelerate into and through contact because they know that with the right technique, they won’t hurt themselves and they’ll be successful. You don’t get this by rushing kids into contact before perfecting the basic form. Once you’ve perfected the basic form, you move on to adding speed, angles, and changes in direction, but you do this in a progression with adjustments. Everything is explained in the book and the DVDs.
Great example of what NOT to do
Here’s an example of what some youth coaches do, that person I’m sure is a very nice and well-meaning person BUT he’s not a very good football coach. Can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture? The bad example of coaching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB0X-G4A-Ic
What’s wrong with this image:
The coach obviously didn’t teach the kids how to execute a form tackle, they have their heads on the wrong side 70% of the time, they have their heads down 60% of the time, they don’t have their knees bent 75% of the time, they don’t close 80% of the time, they don’t have a consistent point of contact 100% of the time. They return the ball instead of returning it with a single ball in the drill and cross the drill instead of around it, using up to 30% of the drill time. They get a repeat about every 45-50 seconds. This exercise should be done with one repetition every 10 to 12 seconds with several balls or without balls, to the point that the children and you, the coach, breathe a little heavily. The kids are bored and the exercise steals so much practice time, but could easily be fixed. Obviously, these kids have never walked through a fit and freeze angle drill.
The biggest sin
The worst thing in my mind is that coaches praise kids who are obviously doing the exercise incorrectly and in many cases dangerously. I’m all for praising children for every little thing, down to tying their shoelaces correctly, BUT praising them for misbehaving is dangerous and counterproductive. This is a great example of how not to exercise and a great example of how to waste time working out with little to no tangible results. At least those reading this article can benefit from how NOT to do a tackle drill.
I realize these kids are very young, but I’m not sure what these kids learned during this “football practice”. These kids are not good at tackling or doing anything football related.
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