What Does A Good Youth Football Practice Look Like?
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jul 10, 2019

FirstDown PlayBook has re-posted several of last years blogs designed to help youth football coaches who are new to the arena! This is the third installment. If you would like to go back and read #1 It Ain’t About You Coach or #2 What’s Your Practice Plan Coach?  or #3 Prepare For Youth Football Practice With Pictures just tap on the links! We also have a Free Youth Football Chalk Talk that we would love to have you participate in on Tuesday nights at 9:00 EST.

Okay, You have evaluated your youth football roster. You know what style of offense and defense you want to teach. You have made a practice schedule out for all of your coaches and you have even planned out what life lesson you plan to incorporate with your first practice. Now what? Well, now it’s time to practice!

What Does A Good Practice “Look” Like?

If you have ever watched a good football practice and a bad football practice here are some things that will definitely stand out between the two. If you watch a bad football practice you will see some of the following things:

  1. A lot of standing around by the players and the coaches.
  2. Players and coaches walking from drill to drill.
  3. An abundance of talking by the coaches without much player activity.

On the other hand, when you see a good football practice it often looks like a production. The team will come up with the coach before practice and at some point there will be a whistle or a horn that is blown and when that happens everyone is moving!

The field and equipment is already set up and every coach has his or her drills ready to go so that when the the team breaks down on the word of the day it is time to work! It looks like organized chaos but make no mistake it is organized!

This one simple thing can set the tempo for your entire practice and the mindset of everyone on the field. Your practice should be full of movement and your coaches should be coaching effort and hustle as they get the players to their individual areas. Of course, in order to do this you and your coaches have to know where and what you are doing when the whistle blows too!

Empower Your Assistant Coaches

When it comes to your coaching staff, who is most likely made up of parents and volunteers, this is the epitome of “help them help you”. As the head coach, if you do not give them a specific assignment or job then your assistant coaches are going to be standing around with your team watching as you try to teach everything and actually accomplishing nothing. Here’s how you can avoid that.

  1. Make your assistant coaches an expert at something. If you are coaching tackle football designate someone to be the “tackling” coach and someone else the “shedding blocks” coach and yet another to be the “stance” coach.
  2. Once you have designated who will teach what then you should set up a circuit. By setting up a circuit, the players will always be moving from station to station while the coaches stay put at their area and teach their designated skill or technique. This will help you avoid having to spend all of your time setting up your drills because that assistant coach will stay with his or her individual drill.
  3. You will probably want to incorporate at least one water break into your practice and when you do this the assistant coaches can be re-organizing the field setup from offensive drills to defensive drills so that once again the players are never standing around as the coaches set up a drill.

Teach & Work Your Players. Don’t Lecture Them.

Once the players get to a drill, quickly teach them what they are working on and the best way to do that is to show them a picture by example. Either you (be careful) or some of your more experienced players should demonstrate the technique or drill and then get busy working on it with the whole group. If you spend more than a minute or so talking then you are already losing the attention of your group.

Let’s face it, we all hate to stand in lines and that includes kids. If you want to lose the attention of a young football player in the year 2017 just have them stand in a line for more than thirty seconds. Set your drills up so that if at all possible the players are always involved and the only time they are not is when they are catching their breath in between repetitions.

Trust us when we say that your players will listen to you but players do not normally like to listen to a coach as much as the coach enjoys listening to himself. Avoid falling into this trap. Keep your players moving and practicing not constantly listening to you talk.

Why Are You Stretching That Ten Year Old?

So you may have noticed that at the beginning of practice we have made no mention of stretching your football team. Let’s be honest, there are two reasons youth football coaches stretch or condition their team before practice. The first one is because that’s what their football coaches did at the beginning of practice back in the day when they played and the second reason is it buys the coaches time to get organized for the practice.

Both of these reasons are bad ones. If you want to create a bad experience for a youth football player start practice off by making them lay down on their backs looking up into the hot sun as they stretch the muscles they barely have at this point on their lives. Your youth football players don’t need to stretch and if you want to condition your team do it at the end of practice.

Honestly speaking though, if your practices are organized properly and your players are always on the move you will have little to no need for extra conditioning even at the end of your practices. Your team will be completely exhausted from working on actual football related activities as opposed to running laps around a football field.

When Are We Going To Run Plays?

If you are a new youth football coach there can be the nagging insecurity that when you organize your practices to teach your football team the proper fundamentals,  you are getting behind because they are not learning any plays or defenses. Rest assured that FirstDown PlayBook is going to delve into this part of practice next Monday as we talk about how to install an offense, defense and special teams plays. However, understand that without the training we describe above your youth football team will be lacking the fundamentals and technique work that no scheme can overcome.

So stay tuned as next week we look into how to gradually move your youth football team from “Individual” periods to “Group” periods and finally to “Team” periods!

FirstDown PlayBook is the only Digital Football PlayBook that gives you access to over thirty five thousand football plays, schemes and technique help all designed by coaches and players with NFL experience. FirstDown Playbook is also the official PlayBook resource of USA Football and Football Canada..

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