It Ain’t About You Coach.
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jun 19, 2017


Throughout the months of June, July and August FirstDown PlayBook will take Mondays to focus on some of the challenges involved with coaching a youth football team. We will eventually get to some X & O’s but initially we will concentrate on the very basic organizational skills that will help you before you ever draw up a single play or defense!

It Ain’t About You, Coach.

This is lesson number one for coaches at all levels, but it’s critical to remember that it’s always about the kids when coaching a youth team. Everything that you do when planning your practices or games should be prefaced with the question “Is this helping the players? So let’s take a look at some of the fundamental things to consider as you begin to organize your team and philosophy!

Get to know your team and get to know your roster.

Like it or not, your team is what it is, meaning that you likely can’t go draft or recruit another player if you have challenges with your roster. From a strategy standpoint you should look at your roster BEFORE you decide what offense or defense you are planning to run.  Here are some basic questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do we have a quarterback that can threaten a defense with his or her arm? The odds are that 99% of the time the answer is no in youth football but it’s worth finding out because if you happen to have one, then the defenses will line up totally different against you than they will vs a QB who is run threat only.
  2. Do I have a roster full of larger more physical players or are they small and quick? Let’s face it they are all pretty small at this age but everything is relative, right? Your style of offense should lend itself to mis-direction and a perimeter attack on offense if you are smaller and a power philosophy if you have bigger players who will struggle to pull. The same applies for defense. If you have larger players, then a 6-2 with six hands in the dirt may suit you better than a 4-4, which fits a roster dominated by linebacker and defensive back body types.
  3. How experienced is your roster? This will play into the decision making on a couple of things. It should affect the decision on how complex your plays and defenses are and how many plays and defenses you run. Once again, you will struggle if you make your decision making in this area about you and not them.

Get to know your parents and find help.

Knowing your roster is also about more than assessing the talent. Right now is a good time to get to know the parents and families of your players. Have you already notified them about your practice schedule? Can everyone on your team get to and from practice? The better coordinated you are with your teams’ parents the better chance you are going to have to be practicing with your full group without missing players that will disrupt your planning and even practice setup.

You will also be surprised that if you just ask your parents you will find willing and able assistant coaches who just cannot or won’t take the lead role with the teams’ coaching but will be more than able to help out as an assistant coach at practice. Of course, they should go through the appropriate certification procedures but as we progress into how to set up and organize practice here in the next few weeks, you will see how important it is to have help if you want your team to be constantly learning and working instead of standing around.

You can out coach someone but probably not how you think you can.

Finally, we get to you, the coach. You are not going to out scheme anyone at the youth football level. It rarely happens at the higher levels of football and the chance of it happening with nine and ten year olds is even more remote. You can, however, out coach the other team. You can out fundamental, out technique, out repetition and yes, out execute your opponent. This will happen, if after you have assessed all of the things we covered above, then you choose a very simple offensive and defensive package that you really understand.

Once you understand that package inside and out. Teach it to your coaches and break it down into parts where the assistant coaches become experts at their part. You may break it up into positions like a regular football staff but you also may break your fundamentals up into groups. In other words, one assistant coach is in charge of tackling or flag pulling and another is responsible for proper blocking technique while yet another would oversee ball handling. Once again, if you do not coach your coaches and give them some responsibility, your team will suffer because everyone will be standing around watching you.

Coaching is hard work but it’s hard to find something more rewarding.

Like most worthwhile things in life, coaching a youth football team is going to require extra work and sacrifice on your part. It will require enough work and sacrifice that at times it will be tempting to think that the decisions you are making should be about you and not your players. Fight this temptation and always evaluate your team on how much they are improving at the game of football and as a person and also how much fun they are having as they do it.

You and your team will likely not know or remember the outcome of your second or third game this season but there is a high likelihood that if you run into that kid in the grocery store 20 years from now, they will remember the experience they had playing and learning from you. This is job one for a youth football coach. Teach and coach football and life lessons that will serve your players for the rest of their life.


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