The high school season is just a few weeks away but already youth football (13 years and under) is gearing up all around the country. In many states the youth leagues begin late July or early August. There are junior high leagues, middle school leagues, Pop Warner, JFL, and Pee Wee. Whatever your community calls it, it’s that time of year.
First of all, let me say a big thank you to those of you who volunteer your time to help coach these youngsters. We appreciate your efforts and the time you will be putting in this season. Good luck to all who coach our kids. Many of you are veterans but I’m sure there are more than a few of you who are new to this world of coaching football and might be looking for a little guidance. If you’re like most of us, you learn as much as you can from those who have gone on before you. I coached (and taught) for thirty years and in my thirtieth year I was still learning as much or more as when I first started. Be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as you can. Books, DVD’s, clinics, periodicals, and talking to other coaches are all ways to learn. And don’t forget about a website like www.chiefpigskin.com that has tons of free resources from championship high school and college programs. There are many key concepts to working with youngsters but the following are a few I learned over the years.
· Be an encourager. Pre and early teen boys are at a very fragile stage with their self esteem. Be positive and enthusiastic.
· Be organized. I always had my practice plan in my pocket. I used it to stay on schedule and remind myself what I wanted to teach. Every coach on the field should have his plan on him.
· Keep your offense and defense simple. Don’t get too complicated. Know what you want to do, believe in it, teach it, coach it, and execute it. Every offense and defense is effective if executed correctly.
· Teach, teach, teach! Coach, coach, coach! Kids are there to learn so teach them the skills and strategies necessary for them to be successful. The best teaching and coaching comes in breakdown time. A big part of practice should be devoted to position time. Keep team O and D to a minimum.
· Pre teen kids roll out of bed in shape. Don’t get carried away with “gettin ‘em in shape”. The big, heavy kids will improve their conditioning over time by working hard in drills. We incorporated our conditioning into our football drills. They are there to learn how to play football, not run cross country. (I like cross country, but it’s a different sport.)
· Be patient. If my players didn’t do a drill correctly, I figured I didn’t do a good job of teaching. Reteach and try again. If it still doesn’t go well, move on.
· End practice on a positive note. Congratulate them on a job well done. Make them feel special for the effort they just gave.
· Have fun!
Good luck this season and remember that what you are doing is very important. We thank you for working with young players. If you have any questions at all or any comments, I can be reached through the chiefpigskin.com website. I love talking football.
Sample practice plan
The following plan is just one example.
4:00-4:10 Warm up and flexibilities
4:10-4:20 Agility stations 4 or 5 stations (Teaches athletic skills AND conditions)
4:30-4:55 Individual O or D
Backs, receivers, line all go to own areas to work on skills and assignments
Incorporate running with your drills. Learn AND condition at the same time.
5:00-5:15 Front drill (Running plays only – receivers work on passing game in other area)
Keep this drill moving-coach on the run. If it’s up tempo, players will learn offense and get legs in shape.
5:20-5:40 Team Offense
Again up tempo-minimize standing around and giving speeches. This can be a time of execution AND conditioning. Give water breaks as need.
5:40-5:55 Perfect plays
Run 10 perfect offensive plays against air, no defense. First 5 yards simulates play then sprint last 35 yards straight ahead. This is execution and a GREAT conditioner. Essentially doing ten 40 yard dashes but with a football purpose.
5:55-6:00 Bring them in, take a knee, final instructions and break.
A defensive practice would follow the same type of schedule.