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How NOT to Coach Youth Football


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Youth Football Coaching Horror Stories

Most youth football organizations are started by and operated by volunteers. There are many like those in the Utah Ute football conference in Salt Lake City, where the League and Clubs are very well run, very well organized and where they place a premium on training coaches. On the other hand there are other organizations where the leadership is self centered, with many clubs having priorities that make little sense.

One glaring example comes to mind. I got a frantic call last week from a coach in Florida. His club had four teams in it. Two of the teams in the organization didn't score a single touchdown last season. The other team had very poor results. On the other hand our heroe's team ended up going to the playoffs, narrowly losing just 3 games for the entire season. His team had just 14 very average players and had to compete against much better teams that had between 25-28 players, The team our friend took over had very similar results to the other 3 teams in the club the year before he took over this team. His parents loved him, 8 different kids scored touchdowns, all 14 kids carried the ball at least once, everyone that played for him the previous year signed up to play again this year. You would think those in charge would be giving this coach a medal and a parade down main street right? If not that then at least figure out what he was doing differently than the other 3 teams and try and replicate his success right?

What are These People Thinking?

The head of this organization felt the reason the organizations teams had fared so poorly was because “they weren't tough enough". This persons requirement for next season is a universal practice plan for all 4 teams that places a huge premium on “toughening up" the players. Now according to our friend the 3 teams in this club that did so poorly last season, all they did was ‘toughen kids up" during practice. While our friend was working fit and freeze football plays, power hour and birdog drills, the other teams were running their kids till they threw up or scrimmaged most of practice.

Mind you the only team in the organization that had any amount of success was a team that used my system and practice methodology, which places a premium on progression taught perfect fundamentals. As many of you that are using my system know, we do a significant amount of form and fit and freeze work during our practices. We are firm believers that kids will only play aggressively if they first know exactly what their responsibility is on every play in every circumstance and secondly that they feel 100% confident in the technique they are supposed to execute on that snap. Put them in a scheme like mine where even players of average skill can add value on each snap and even excell and you have a winner. Confidence in role, responsibility and technique puts kids in a position to be potentially aggressive. Add in a method where you ease kids into contact so they gain confidence in their techniques and their ability to play physical football and you have yourself a team that plays “tough" and aggressive. Obviously we cover exactly how to do that step by step in the book.

The Study

In the two year study I did of the best and worst youth football teams in the area and the country I consistently found that the poorly performing teams almost always spent about half their practice time doing full speed scrimmages. In a good portion of the rest of their practices they often did lots of full speed full contact “drills" or “toughening up" type drills or conditioning. On the other hand the successful teams almost universally did little full speed scrimmaging, instead they worked a bunch on perfecting fundamentals and responsibilities.

What Really Worked

My personal teams over the last 8 seasons have gone 78-5 and we do very little full speed scrimmaging and full contact drills after “bloodying" the kids noses to get the feel of contact in the first few weeks. We use our valuable practice time perfecting technique and responsibilities, not beating the kids into the ground by “toughening them up". In those 83 games we were only out-hit once. We were never out-hit in any out of league games or out of state tournament games. Our kids love contact and crave contact because they have great technique, we limit it and only give it out as a “reward" and because the kids can “play fast" because they know their job in our scheme forwards, backwards and sideways. The kids accelerate into and through contact because they know with the proper technique they aren't going to get hurt and they are going to be successful. You don't get that by rushing kids into contact before perfecting base form. Once you've perfected base form then you move onto adding speed, angles and changes in direction, but you do it in a progression with fits. It is all explained in the book and DVDs.

Great Example of What NOT to Do

Here is an example of what some youth coaches are doing, this person I'm sure is a very nice well meaning person, BUT he is not a very good football coach. Can you tell me what's wrong with this picture ? :

What's Wrong With That Picture:

Coach obviously has not taught the kids how to execute a form tackle, they have their head on the wrong side 70% of the time, they have their head down 60% of the time, they don't have their knees bent 75% of the time, they don't wrap up 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 with just one ball in the drill and run through the drill instead of around it, using up 30% of the drills time. They get one rep off about every 45-50 seconds. This drill should be done with one rep every 10-12 seconds with several balls or no balls, to the point the kids and you the coach are breathing a bit heavy. The kids are bored and the drill steals so much practice time, yet could easily be corrected. Obviously these kids have never walked through a fit and freeze angle form tackling drill.

The Biggest Sin

The worst thing in my mind is the coaches praise kids that are obviously doing the drill incorrectly and in many cases unsafely. I'm all for praising kids for every little thing, down to tying their shoelaces properly, BUT it's dangerous and counterproductive to praise them for tackling improperly. This is a great example of how not to do a drill and a great example of how to waste practice time with little or no tangible results. At least those reading this post can benefit on how NOT to do a tackling drill.

I realize these kids are very young, but I'm not sure what any of these kids learned during this “football practice". These kids fail to tackle well or do anything football related well at all.

Dave Cisar-

Dave is a Nike “Coach of the Year" Designate and speaks nationwide at Coaches Clinics. His book “Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan" was endorsed by Tom Osborne and Dave Rimington. His personal teams using this system to date have won 94% of their games in 5 Different Leagues.

To Sign up for his free tips and drills newsletter or to view 325 free youth football coaching tips go to: Football Plays

A Video Taste of Dave's teams:
Youth Football


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