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How NOT to Coach Youth Football – The Worst Youth Football Coaches, How Not to Become One
Youth football coaching horror stories
Most youth football associations are started and run by volunteers. There are many in the Utah Ute Football Conference in Salt Lake City, where the league and clubs are very well run, highly organized, and where they place a premium on coaching coaches. On the other hand there are other organizations where leadership is self-centered, with many clubs having priorities that don’t make sense.
A vivid example comes to mind. I got a frantic call from a coach in Florida last week. His club had four teams. Two teams in the organization did not score a touchdown last season. The second team’s result was much worse. On the other hand, our hero team went to the playoffs and only lost 3 games the entire season. His team only had 14 very average players and had to compete against many good teams with 25-28 players, the team our friend took over had the same effect as the other 3 teams at the club the year before he took over. . His parents loved him, 8 different kids scored touchdowns, all 14 kids carried the ball at least once, everyone who played for him last year signed up to play again this year. You’d think the people in charge would be giving this coach a medal and a parade down the main street right? If not, at least find out what he was doing differently from the other 3 teams and try to replicate his success?
What are these people thinking?
The head of this organization felt that the organization’s teams performed so poorly because “they weren’t tough enough”. This individual requirement for next season is a universal practice plan for all 4 teams that places a huge premium on players “toughening up”. Now according to our friend the 3 teams at this club did very poorly last season, all they did was ‘tough on the lads’ during practice. While our friend was doing fit and freeze football plays, power hours and birddog drills, other teams were running their kids until they threw up or doing most of the practice.
Mind you the only team in the organization that had any degree of success was a team that used my system and practice method, which placed a premium on progression that taught absolute fundamentals. As many of you who use my system know, we do a lot of form and fit and freeze work during our practice. We strongly believe that kids will only play aggressively if they know exactly what their responsibilities are on every play in every situation, and secondly, they feel 100% confident in the technique they need to execute on that snap. Put them in a scheme like mine where even average skill players can add value on every snap and also excel and you have a winner. Confidence in roles, responsibilities, and techniques positions children to become potentially aggressive. Add in a method where you ease the kids into contact so they gain confidence in their techniques and their ability to play physical football, and you have a team that plays “tough” and aggressive. Obviously we cover how to do that step by step in the book.
In a two-year study I conducted of the best and worst youth football teams in the region and the nation, I consistently found that the underperforming teams spent half their practice time in full-speed scrimmages. For the better part of the rest of their practices, they often do full speed full contact “drills” or “toughening up” type drills or conditioning. On the other hand, successful teams almost universally did little full-speed scrimmaging, instead working hard on fundamentals and responsibilities.
What really worked
My individual teams have gone 78-5 over the past 8 seasons, and we do full speed scrimmages and full contact drills after we “bleed” the kids’ noses to get a feel for contact in the first few weeks. We spend our valuable practice time perfecting techniques and responsibilities, not beating the kids to the floor by “toughing them up.” In those 83 matches, we were eliminated only once. We were never out of any league match or non-state tournament. Our kids love and want contact because they have great technique, we limit it and only give it as a “reward” and because kids can “play faster” because they know their work forwards, backwards and sideways in our scheme. Kids speed up contact and contact because they know they won’t get hurt with proper technique and are going to be successful. You don’t get that by hastily approaching kids before completing the base form. Once you’ve completed the base form you’ll move on to adding speed, angle and direction changes, but you do it in progressions with fits. This is all explained in the book and DVD.
A perfect example of what not to do
Here’s an example of what some youth coaches are doing, I’m sure this guy is a very well meaning person, but he’s not a very good football coach. Can you tell me what is wrong with this picture? Example of Bad Coaching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB0X-G4A-Ic
What’s wrong with that picture:
The coach clearly hasn’t taught the kids how to run a form tackle, their head is on the wrong side 70% of the time, their head is down 60% of the time, their knees are not bent 75% of the time. Time, they don’t wrap 80% of the time, they don’t have a consistent contact point 100% of the time. They throw the ball back instead of running it back by putting only one ball into the drill and running through the drill using up to 30% of the drill time. They get a rip off every 45-50 seconds. This drill should be done with one rep every 10-12 seconds with multiple balls or no balls, so the kids and your coach are breathing a little heavier. The kids are bored and the drill steals so much practice time, yet it can be easily fixed. Obviously these guys never ran through the fit and freeze angle form tackling drill.
The greatest sin
The worst thing in my mind is coaches praising kids who are obviously doing drills incorrectly and in many cases unsafely. I have been praising children for every little thing, right down to tying their shoes properly, but praising them for mishandling is dangerous and counterproductive. This is a great example of how not to drill and how to waste practice time with little or no tangible results. At least those reading this post can benefit from how not to do a tackling drill.
I realize these kids are very young, but I’m not sure what any of them learned during this “soccer practice”. These kids fail to handle anything football related well or at all.
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