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Being a "Contrarian" When Coaching Youth Football
Upstream wading in coaching youth football
Many of the “mature” youth football programs that have been around for 10+ years or more, have these features. It often happens that some of these clubs have their own identity or even a “brand”. Most leagues are made up of various recognizable “brands” or clubs. Everyone has their own unique personality and way of doing things.
Most youth football leagues are made up of a variety of unique “brands”. There is often a friendly and sometimes almost friendly and uneasy rivalry between the coaches of the various clubs.
The Nature of the Beast
As most of you coaches know, running a youth football program takes some time and effort. While most of the “heavy lifting” is done by “parent coaches”, there needs to be continuity in order for long-term stability to occur, and that means some leadership that will last beyond the “lifetime” of their own children’s involvement. Unfortunately, for most organizations, those types of resources are somewhat limited. Thank God for these people, without them we would all have to start from scratch every few years.
Unfortunately, some of those who have been around for a long time also bring with them some unnecessary baggage that actually hinders the organization’s ability to accomplish its goals. Some of these well-meaning coaches will train against you, and they don’t like change or anything that shows their organization in a bad light. They will always be your biggest critics. Any kind of “change” means they have to learn how to defend a new plan or defend against techniques they’ve never seen before.
Being a little different
My own teams are the most filmed, studied and talked about in the league we play in because we run something very different than the others, we consistently score a lot of points and we consistently win. I’m sure those opposing coaches are tired of hearing from parents; “Why can’t we run or score like the Eagles? Or why don’t we have those great football plays like the Eagles? Or why can’t you get the ball to as many players as the Eagles. Or why can’t our kids block and tackle and play lights out like the Eagles? No?” They get tired of listening and sometimes show their frustration and embarrassment. Unfortunately if these coaches can’t stop you, they will try to discount you or become the king of excuses.
We get to hear so many interesting stories from your coaches via e-mail, over the phone, and in person at clinics. Doing this, hearing these amazing stories and in some cases helping out in a small way is probably the most fun part for me. Some of the situations you face are difficult and stupid in my opinion. At many levels, youth football is shrouded in ego and background. On the one hand there are fantastic leagues with great and committed people reaching out to kids across the country, and on the other hand there are also small-minded, egotistical, jealous “human barriers”.
Over the past few months while doing some private clinics I have had the privilege of working with several quality organizations and several groups of simply excellent trainers. Coaches who weren’t just great X’s and O’s players, but coaches who were in youth football for the right reasons. Some of the things I’ve seen: teams overflowing with kids, everyone coming back to play (great retention numbers), enthusiastic coaches, open-minded and committed coaching staff. He was universally respected and admired by his children, a very easy group of children to work with. You could just tell, the kids loved playing sports, couldn’t wait for football practice to start, and hated it when practice ended. In fact, one group of coaches was able to marshal a group of 20 or more players overnight for the next day’s practice. It was smack in the middle of baseball and lacrosse season, you know they’re doing something right when they can pull it off.
Youth football drama unfolds
One thing I want to share with you is that I was told in an “off-hours” discussion at one of these clinics that I recently had by a coach who introduced our system for the first time last year: After our classroom clinic and field demo, we met with the coaching staff for lunch at a local restaurant. went One of the more experienced coaches shared with the group many humorous stories from his first season running my offense in a very animated manner. Last season he was playing scouting for an opponent and heard several coaches of next week’s opponent talking about his team. The rival coaches had no idea our friend was the coach as they bragged without knowing how they were going to crush his team the following week. These opposing coaches seemed to enjoy how they were going to stop the ‘stupid’ offense and blow up the “wedge” play and everything else for that matter with ease. They were talking about how “stupid” people are driving wedges. And how there was no opportunity to work against their defense. In fact these coaches engaged our friend in conversation, showing him how the linemen get down and come up together, again mocking the offense. imagine The following week, they were shocked when they saw the same coach come out to introduce and flip the coin.
Our friend is quite a storyteller, he is one of those people that everyone laughs at and can keep you on the edge of your seat, you know the guy, the life of the party. As he told the story, he was a flurry of activity, standing, sitting, moving around the table, arms flying, sound rising and falling, and of course lots of laughing and giggling. The results of the game were almost as interesting as how the story was told. By the time the game started our friend was a bit fired up and had his mind set that he was going to start with a wedge play to see if this other team really had all the answers to their coach’s bravado. The first offensive snap went 70 yards for a Wedge touchdown, the coach was smiling a little and very happy. After holding the other team to a 3 and out, the next play for our friends’ team: you guessed it, a 63 yard wedge touchdown. On the inside, our hero was glowing, fists in the air, silencing his poor informants, but on the outside he seemed calm and confident, perhaps with just a hint of a knowing smile on his face.
He considered running a wedge play to prove a point on every play in the first half, but he was a good guy and stayed away from what was probably an elegant course of action. By halftime the score was 35-0 and our hero summoned the dogs to make it a 42-7 final. At the end of his story I joined the roaring crowd, which was probably loud enough to startle some of the restaurant patrons. Thank goodness it was Florida and a fairly low-key place the group frequented. I think I laughed that part of my lung is still on the floor somewhere in that restaurant. These weren’t his only critics, after all, his team finished an improbable 14-1. Based on the game tapes I’ve seen, he beat at least 7 teams that had a lot more talent than his team. It was a magical season for a youth football team with no winning tradition and great coaching.
While I have met some of this team’s coaching staff many times (very high quality people), I have never met this coach. Our introduction includes a warm heterosexual embrace, which comes from sharing a common bond or experience. I am always amazed at the warm welcome I receive from people I have never met. But, being a Midwesterner, for me that’s the biggest benefit of doing what I do.
Know It May Come Your Way
Be prepared, I’m trying to reach you. When you don’t run as well as most teams in your league, you can be the target of some jabs. If you have more talent than anyone in your league, it makes a lot of sense to run what everyone else is running if you’re happy. But when you’re out of sync, you don’t have the best talent, how are you going to compete to run the same content as most of your competitors? When you score a lot of points and win a lot of games like many or most of our teams do, unfortunately there will be a feeling of jealousy from some. Hold off, of course, but know that these jabs may come your way.
Finally many curious and critics of our hero in this story are now taking his team seriously. When you have success, it is impossible to ignore no matter how much anyone likes it. The teams at this club that ran our system won a combined 23-1 and now other teams at the club are looking to adopt some of what they are doing. I know this coach is eternally indebted to coach (KMJ) who brought this system to this institution. I’m sure the parents are glad the coach was open enough to listen to the coach (KMJ) who did the research. Learned and brought the system to his attention. Mind you, I’m not taking credit for this team’s success, the coaches and players just did a great job, their execution was almost flawless.
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#quotContrarianquot #Coaching #Youth #Football