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Acting Like a Maniac When Coaching Youth Football, Should You Ever?
All people are different, God made us unique for a purpose. Therefore, no two youth football coaches will have the exact same sideline behavior. Some coaches are witty and animated, some are quietly confident, some are aggressive and loud, and some are just soaking it all in and enjoying the moment. All expressions of who we are may have a time and place when we are coaching youth football, but there are certain expressions that we must keep to ourselves. Many of these people won’t do your reputation or your team much good.
Here are some examples:
About 16 years ago I started coaching youth football as an assistant coach in an 8-10 age group expansion team. Like most expansion teams with all rookie players and rookie coaches, we struggled the first year. We knew we were going to struggle from the start, as most expansion teams in the league usually lose every game. Our head coach was a highly respected real estate executive from one of the largest firms in the state. He had given presentations to large crowds and given dozens of live reports, a very knowledgeable man. Our first game our players were nervous as you can expect from all first year players. Before the game I saw the head coach with grime on his face and his mug doubled over with a green tint. I asked him if he was sick, he said his stomach was killing him and he was feeling nauseous. I asked him if he was sick this week, he said no, the game was making his stomach churn and making him nauseous. This grown man, a big shot, was letting the young football game come to him.
The head coach leads by example, the players are always taking their cues from him and our head coach was nervous and sick before our first game. It was a time when our kids were feeling the same emotions, needless to say we were blown away that day. Our coach was so wrapped up in how the team would do, he made himself sick that day and it affected his team’s performance and enjoyment of the game.
Another youth football coach I know is so emotional before his game that he gets out of his car, sits in the park and cries before the game to let all his emotions out. Obviously this guy may need some kind of professional help and I wouldn’t let a guy like that coach with me, but many youth football coaches let their emotions get the best of them.
While it’s normal to feel a little cranky before games, if you’re making yourself sick or overly emotional before games, you may be taking it too seriously. Do some of us get up in the morning and run to work thinking about a football game or ways to improve our youth football teams? yes Do most of us put too much time and effort into improving our teams and as coaches? for sure But thinking about youth football and making yourself a better coach has little to do with taking advantage of your emotions before a game.
We all want our teams to do well and our kids to have a great experience, but life won’t change dramatically and the earth won’t stop spinning if you don’t coach the perfect game. If you put in the time and learn from others and your own experiences and become a good football coach. Your teams will play better in the end. Over time if your teams are coached well and play well, the wins will take care of themselves. As a head football coach you can control your teams preparation and plans and adjustments, you cannot control the weather, the refs or the performance of other teams.
Are you clueless if that means your youth football team loses? No, it means you control what you can control and that’s all you can hope for as long as your team performs and plays well. In the end, playing well usually wins the game, but fretting about it accomplishes nothing and actually hurts your team’s performance. If the kids see that you’re not enjoying the experience, they won’t be able to enjoy it, and a team that doesn’t have a smile on their face is a team that’s playing poorly.
Don’t forget to get a good meal in you before the game and bring yourself some Gatorade too. I pray to God on the way to the game or on the morning of the game for wisdom, patience, and long-term focus on my actions. I also ask that God be glorified through my actions and the actions of my team that day. I’m not sure God takes sides in youth football games, I never pray to win, but I do pray that all my kids show up and that no one on either team gets injured that day. For those not so inclined, perhaps seeing how you’ll be remembered 10 years after the game is over is a good approach to guide your day’s actions. Of course I’m also mentally reviewing my game plan, key adjustments and substitution plans for the day.
For most of us the level of discomfort in any task is inversely related to how well we have prepared for that task. The first few public clinics I did I was quite nervous, I had never done a large clinic in front of strangers and the presentations were with new material. (like having a new team or playing your first game) I didn’t get time to practice presentations or where to ask additional questions or get feedback even if the presentations were well received (a lot of not doing fit and freeze reps or even scrimmages). As you might expect, the first few clinics were okay but could have been better. Now I always practice the presentation live and now I am calm and confident in front of a crowd of 190 skeptical youth football coaches in Boston.
As it relates to your youth football team, the better prepared your team is, the less nervous you will be. The more you prepare yourself and your youth football team, the less anxiety you will have. Easy to say, hard to do for some. Either way, once you’ve put in the effort in yourself and for your team, you have to tell yourself that there’s only so much you can do. A book about De LaSalle High School’s 151-game winning streak states,
“There’s comfort in knowing you’ve given it all you’ve got”. In the end you just have to let the game play and see the results. If you do the research and put the time into any other endeavor, you will likely become a successful youth football coach.
This premise is probably illustrated by my teams early game results, we are always well prepared, calm and confident. Even in our first game, our football plays look crisp, our alignment is perfect, we always have 11 on the field, we block and tackle well, we run very well and are rarely penalized. We almost always win our opening games by wide margins, even against the best youth football teams in our league
Previous years scores
We are able to do this because of the wise use of practice time, our integrated plans and the progressive nature of the teaching methods we use to develop our team. We go into these games with a lot of confidence. Often we are literally months ahead of our first game of competition. We have been told many times by our opponents that our boys are very relaxed and very confident. My thoughts are that we show up because we are, the guys know they are ready to play the first game. Our coaches are all calm, cool and confident before the game because as we all know, the kids are all taking their cues from us, that calm demeanor is part of coaching good youth football. If your coaches are anxious and worried, so will the kids. Even if you don’t believe inwardly that any of your football plays will work that day, you need to outwardly show up for your youth football player and your team.
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