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Youth Football, Who Goes in What Position in Youth Football? How to Put Players in the Right Spots
Evaluation of youth football players
Evaluating youth football players for either the draft or position is one of the most important but most poorly done tasks by many youth football coaches. Often a player is assigned a position because he “looks” like the position without considering the skills required for that particular position. Often boys who look like football players or are the sons of coaches are preferred and chosen for “skill” or glory positions. Another mistake many youth football coaches make is that they evaluate the skills of children in a way that has little to do with what the critical success factors are for performing well on the football field. Often a player is assigned a position based on only one essential attribute of that position without considering the skills required to play the position.
I Made the Same Mistake
The end result is that we often have youth football teams that do not perform anywhere near the potential of the group as a whole. So a lot of times when I’m asked to come in and teams that are playing poorly have trouble shooting, they have guys in the wrong positions and the disparity between the players is obvious if you know what to look for. Early in my coaching “career” I too was overwhelmed by the physical appearance of the players. A 10-year-old boy in one of my first years of tough talk training showed up to our first practice with a mohawk haircut, ripped shirtsleeves, a scowl/I want to rip your head off look on his face, and he was. A stock but solid 120 lbs. Oh, I would have guessed from his attitude that he had a pack-a-day cigarette habit, we were kicking at the thought that he might be playing football for us. On the other hand, this skinny kid with a crew cut, and only 8 years old, probably weighed less than 65 pounds. He looked like one of the guys most coaches probably pray they don’t get at first glance.
Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane
The Mohawk kid wasn’t in great physical shape, which isn’t really a big deal, but he was also an excuse maker. He was the one who questioned every drill and when he didn’t win the drill (we do almost everything as a competition) he had an excuse, he slipped, he started late, another kid cheated, he ate too much that day. Apart from that, he didn’t have very good body control. He could go fairly straight but when he went to make the cut off turn it felt like he was trying to turn the Titanic, he just couldn’t do it. His original strength was terrible and his crack was terrifying. While we can do some technique and core strengthening moves to improve this, dramatic improvements will still result in the player being down 20% in this critical area.
Looks like Jane, plays like Tarzan
On the other hand, the shy 8 year old felt natural when we did our games/drills which revealed core strengths. During the dummy relay races, he was able to not only pick up and keep the balance of the dummy, but he ran with it, where others were floundering. During the towel game, he always drugs his opponents on the cone, showing great leg strength, natural leverage and heart. He also showed great trunk and leg strength, tenacity and great natural leverage in the sumo game. In my opinion the deer hunter game is the best and most fun way to determine the players “speed of football”. Football speed means being able to change direction and control your body, start, stop and accelerate in a small space to escape the “hunter”. Our eccentric 8-year-old excelled at this drill, while our Mohawk was first.
Making an accurate assessment
It’s just that you can’t judge a book by its cover and you have to measure the kids to reveal their football skills, how fast they can run the 40 yard dash or how many pushups they can do. How often do kids run 40 yards in a football game? And how often is 40 times exact? The answer to both is rarely, never. What does a pushup prove? While upper body strength does little to help your lineman with his blocks, a proper block places more emphasis on foot speed, trunk and leg strength, as well as attitude and aggression. Some say you can’t test toughness, flexibility, tenacity or aggressiveness without kids wearing pads, which isn’t true. So according to those who believe, you can’t keep the kids in that position unless you wear the pad for at least a week. For them it’s a crap shoot until the second or third week of practice. Towel games, sumo games, dummy relay races, and to some extent deer hunters all reveal these features without wearing pads.
If you’re drafting players, knowing what to look for and how to look for it will give you a huge advantage. If you don’t have a draft, being able to properly evaluate guys is still a huge advantage because you can assign positions earlier, implement your plans sooner, and you don’t waste a lot of time switching players from one position to another. Take a church social cake walk until you find the perfect spot for the poor confused player.
Making it fun
It’s an added bonus if you can make the assessment process fun for the kids. During the first week of practice, children and parents focus on the fun factor and you. If you can make the assessment fun, you can make some big deposits into parents’ emotional bank accounts that week. We use all of the fun assessment games mentioned above during my team assessments and they are all found in my book. I have found that the drills/games are so effective that we are able to get the kids in the right position with a 95% success rate after the first practice.
In the first game we are almost always significantly ahead of our competition, even though we always practice less. Being able to accurately and effectively evaluate and recruit players early is a big factor.
An assessment should be done beforehand by making sure you have a very detailed description of the requirements for each position on your team so you know what skills you are looking for to make the best fit.
Ultra in an unusual but effective evaluation drill/game
Here is a very interesting method that one high school uses to evaluate their players, the rabbit catch. Bobby Bowden thinks this unique assessment method may have merit. Consider how closely this activity mirrors what successful football players do on the field on game day. Notice the 4 state championship rings on the hands of head high school coaches.
For those of you using my system, doesn’t this look a lot like our deer hunter drill/game? Evaluate your players well and you’ll not only stay ahead of your competition, you’ll have happier players and parents.
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