Have A Teaching Progression For Your Youth Football Team
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jul 24, 2017

 
Some of the things that make the game of football the greatest game in the world are the same things that make it the most challenging to teach. This is particularly true if you are teaching young players because there are a lot of fundamental football skills that they have never even been introduced to. Sure, they may have thrown the football around a little in the back yard but odds are throwing and catching the football are the extent of it.

One of the biggest challenges with teaching the game is that there are a lot of different positions and each position has a different set of skills required to play soundly. Granted, there are some fundamentals that should be taught across the board like playing with a base, playing with your eyes up and playing low to the ground. However, it’s easy to see that your Linebacker, Offensive Lineman and Quarterback are all going to have a different set of skills to learn to be good at their positions.

This is why in our previous articles we have encouraged you to empower your assistant coaches because you are going to need them. If you try to do it all yourself, it will not get done and your team will suffer. You want your team to be first and foremost, a fundamentally sound football unit for these three reasons and many more:

  1. It will allow your players to play the game safely.
  2. It will allow your players to be successful when you get them in the right spot.
  3. It will provide the building blocks required to play the game later at a higher level.

So where does a position coach start as he or she prepares to take their unit onto the field and get all of the necessary things taught to make their group successful?

 

List The Core Fundamentals For Your Position

Each position coach should sit down before the season begins and write down a list of fundamentals and techniques for their particular position that are essential to play that position safely and productively. More often than not, these techniques will be similar from team to team regardless of scheme. For instance, let’s say I was coaching the offensive line my list might look something like this:

RUN BLOCKING

  1. Stance
  2. Run Blocking: First – Second – Third Step Progression
  3. Base Block: First Step – Base Step – Power Step Progression
  4. Cutoff Block: Position Step – Base Step -Power Step Progression
  5. Reach Block: Position Step – Base Step – Power Step Progression
  6. Down Block: Position Step – Base Step – Power Step
  7. Pull Technique: Open Step – Positon Step – Travel Step

FIT TECHNIQUE (Technique used on contact for a block)

  1. Fit Posture For A Run Block
  2. Climb Technique Off Of A Run Block Fit
  3. Finish Technique

PASS BLOCKING

  1. Stance
  2. Pass Set vs a Man On
  3. Pass Set to a Gap When Uncovered
  4. Pass Set Vs a Wide Rusher

This is just a partial sample list but you get the picture. You will obviously have your list and it will vary slightly from coach to coach. The key point is it is essential that you have a list before you go to practice so you can check the fundamentals and techniques off as you teach them throughout the course of your summer practices.

 

Have A Teaching Progression

After you have your list of what must be taught now you want to start developing the progression for getting these skills taught. The progression is normally taught better if you break the skill down into parts. For instance, with the offensive linemen above we would teach them their stance and footwork first either on air or bags and then we would teach them how to fit up on a block in a totally separate drill.

The “Fit” teaching progression allows the young players to understand what the body position feels like when you enter contact on a block and what the footwork and technique is after you make contact. Once the young player understands the stance and footwork and they understand what the point of contact feels like you can put the two together to teach the complete stance-footwork and block.

Breaking it up into parts helps a player focus on one thing at a time and as they learn the muscle memory required for the technique.  Let’s face it the act of taking your body and blocking another human’s  body is not the most natural thing for a young kid and breaking  it up into parts helps to keep it from seeming to be an overwhelming task.

 

Make It Practical

There’s that word again…practice, practical. It’s important that your teaching progression fits into the bigger picture of what your head coach wants to get accomplished on that day in practice. This is why it’s important for the head coach and or the offensive coordinator to have a plan also so that you will know ahead of time what needs to be taught in your individual periods.

It is hard for your players to understand why they are asked to go to a group or team period and execute a technique that they have never been taught or practiced in their individual period. It is also confusing for a player when they work their tails off on a technique in individual period and get to group or team period and never use it!

 

Don’t Try To Do Too Much

This is a sensitive topic at every level of football because all position coaches are at the mercy of the head coach and coordinator to some point when it comes to how much you decide to install and teach. Hopefully your situation will be one where the big picture plan matches the amount of time you have to get the fundamentals taught. If not, then you may find yourself spending all of your time walking through plays so that your players will know their assignments and that is never good.

Like with a lot of things. communication is the key here. The entire coaching staff should understand what plays or defenses will be practiced that day so everyone can have their unit taught before they get to group or team period. It is also important for a position coach to remember that if you try to teach too much, you run the risk of having your players return for the next practice remembering nothing about what they were taught as opposed to returning with one or two techniques solidly entrenched in their heads!

So if you haven’t already, pull out that piece of paper or computer and go through the process of:

  1. List your core fundamentals.
  2. Design your teaching progression.
  3. Fit your practice plan into the big picture.
  4. Cut back on the volume if you need to.

If you discipline yourself to go through this simple exercise you will find yourself to be much better prepared when you hit the practice field and you and your players will be way out in front of the process as you begin installing your 2017 game plan over the next few weeks!

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