Get Your Kids To “See” What You Mean!
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jul 3, 2017

 

FirstDown PlayBook is dedicating Mondays for the months of June, July and August to helping the beginning youth football coaches out there. This is the third installment. If you would like to go back and read #1 It Ain’t About You Coach or #2 Have A Practice Plan Coach!  just tap on the links!

I heard Jon Gruden speak a few years back at our coaching clinic when I was coaching at the University of Tennessee. As is normal with most coaching clinics, I walked away with one thought that stuck with me but it has been a valuable one, because even though I had always used this technique before I heard Gruden, it was great reinforcement coming from him. So I have continued to use it over and over regardless of who I was coaching. When I say whoever I was coaching, I mean everyone from the NFL guys to my great six and seven year old flag footballers at the downtown YMCA in Austin, Texas.

So what teaching method or technique could be possibly be effective with a six year old and a grizzled NFL veteran? Pictures, that’s what! Break it down and analyze it anyway you want, but most of the old adages about visual cues are still true when you coach. You know, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” “Seeing is believing” and all of the other principles that reinforce the importance of making your point with visual aids.

I know a lot of you will not believe this, but the National Football League can be pure drudgery at times. Sure it is exciting and a privilege to be a part of, but try telling that to a six year veteran on day fifteen of training camp or on a 7:30 am Wednesday meeting in November. As a coach, if you are not careful, your players will turn you off and tune you out. It won’t be intentional, but after a while as they listen to you over and over, it will happen unless you, the coach, do some things to grab and keep their attention.

This is where the pictures come into play. As you are installing the plays in your group or individual meetings it can help your players if you don’t just constantly put up the same black and white play drawings and expect them to stay focused and pick up on every little detail that you teach. So let’s say you were installing your pass plays and one of them happened to be:

DOUBLE RIGHT SCAN LEFT 048 COBRA

 

If this was a critical play that you knew your guys had better understand from a point of “we might only get one shot at this play” then this little visual aid would more than likely jump out in your meeting and also stick out in their mind when “Cobra” was called in the game! Sometimes the visual aids can be dramatic, sometimes funny, just as long as they grab your players attention during the teaching phase.

Now before you think that we are advocating scaring the pants off of your youth football team, please understand that this is just an example. When we coached the little guys and gals who were playing flag football we would also use visual aids right before practice. Some of them were football related and some were life lesson related. We would always try to tie the two in with one another (but that’s for next week’s blog…) and we would always show them pictures before practice as we talked to them about the practice schedule and explained to the team and the parents what we were going to work on that day.

This is an example of a day when we were going to work on taking a snap. If you have ever tried to convince a six year old to put his or her hands anywhere near another six year old’s butt then you will totally get why this visual is important. It helps if they see that Tom Brady does it and that it’s all part of each and every football play, particularly when your Centers are not old enough to shotgun snap yet!

So over the next several weeks as you make your practice plans and begin organizing yourself for the coming youth football season it might serve you well to put together a few visual aids to help your team see it before they do it. You will be excited to find that when there is a visual message with your words, it will help your words and your game plan stay where you want it come game time and that’s in your players minds!

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