Landscaping and Coaching Youth Football - Are They Really That Different?
I've been doing a bunch of landscaping projects recently at our home. I'm certainly no expert at doing any of this, but over time the projects have steadily improved. If you are like me, once you've actually completed one of these countless projects, you like to take a look at it and admire your work a little bit. After completing the latest project, a rock pathway down to our pond, I was doing that admiration of work thing, when it dawned on me, doing these projects really isn't that different from my experiences at coaching youth football.
The Landscaping Projects
I remember when we first moved here 4 years ago, the landscape was pretty barren, the previous owner had built the house well, but after living in it for just 18 months, they hadn't had the time or money to do much landscaping. While I had done plenty of this type of work with my dad when I was younger and even worked for a company that did some of this kind of work when I was in my teens, that was over 25 years ago. My previous homes were all fairly mature from a landscaping perspective and much smaller, I hadn't had to do much with them. So I had some experience as a helper, but it was old experience. We are on 20 acres now. so the possibilities are fairly endless. We started off real small.
The first few projects were small tree plantings, pretty simple stuff, but we even managed to mess that up from a placement, spacing and staking perspective. I had used the advice of the people we bought the trees from as well as did a quick search on the internet to find a few tips, but that wasn't enough. The following year I got a few books on trees for Christmas and got real friendly with a man that owned a tree farm. I even went with him on a few jobs. We planted another 100 trees that year and not only did we do a much better job of placing and spacing the trees, it went much faster as well. By the third year, we were pros. We bought our trees in bulk directly from a tree farm and even helped a few of our friends buy and plant trees. We even cut our mulch costs by 70% while increasing the quality.
On the landscaping front, we built raised flower beds, rock walls, gardens, trails and even a soon to be small waterfall. To be quite frank, the first few projects were disasters. They were disasters in design and execution both. I would see something I liked, go out and buy the materials I thought I needed (often wrong) and start building. I can't tell you the number of trips back and forth to Home Depot these projects took or the inordinate amount of time they took. In the end, I was frustrated and most of the projects didn't look very good either. I would have been much better off hiring the work out, it would have been cheaper even if I valued my labor at a modest $5 per hour.
We then looked at the amount of money many of these projects took, (rock, trees and treated lumber are not cheap) and thought there had to be a better way. While I was antsy to start more of these projects, I decided to take a step back and do some research. I found some excellent books on the subject in the internet and I took time to watch some expert landscaping crews do similar projects. We also took the time to review some homes we thought had cool designs and copied some of the better ones for our own use. We then even invested a whole $30 in a DVD which turned out to be much better than any of the books I had read or the spying I had done. In the end, the projects got much better, we had fewer trips back and forth to Home Depot, the projects took much less time and they were far less frustrating.
Coaching Football Is VERY Similar
How different were my landscaping projects from my first year of coaching youth football? I had played the game in High School and College, but I hadn't played in about 12 years. I thought I knew what I wanted to end result to be and I remembered some of my old High School stuff. As you may have guessed, we had very mixed results that first year.
Every year I improved my coaching skills a little, primarily through trial and error. By year 5 I felt fairly competent as a coach but by then I also knew enough to know my teams were not as well coached as they could be. I “knew enough to know I didn't know". That is the path that led me to doing the extensive research as well as trial and error that led me to where I am today. Now we rarely get out coached, we retain over 95% of our kids and win about 94% of our games.
Typical Youth Football Coaching
So often we see youth football coaches go into their seasons with just the experiences they had as a High School player to rely on. A few may get on the internet and do a little research, some guys may do some planning the weeks before they start or go to a clinic, but most just “wing it" and then are surprised when their season turns out to be a disaster. They wonder why their teams get beat by teams with seemingly less talent and often just chalk it up to luck, the referees, or the other team having better “jimmies and joes".
Most youth football dad coaches don't have 10-15 years to mature into descent coaches, or want to spend hundreds of hours of their precious free time doing their own research, their sons “age out" of youth football well before that happens. Most youth football coaches will spend from 110-160 hours of their lives on the field this season, yet most of them will spend less than 2 hours planning for the season or getting better as a coach. In the end, it comes down to how much do we value that the kids we are coaching have a great experience? How much do we value our time? If we give little value to either, then it makes sense to just wing it and hope for the best.
What Value ?
For me, I valued the quality of my landscaping projects and I valued my time, so I invested in getting some expertise so I could do a much better job. I went with something I knew worked and was doable by an average Joe like me.
If you value your sons youth football experience and your time, do yourself a favor and invest in a proven method and process, if not from my web site, then from someone else. Why bother with the hundreds of hours of research and years of trial and error when it has already been done for you? Do all of us really have the amount of free time it takes to put a comprehensive youth system together? Do we want to take that time away from our families? In the end, the time savings, frustration savings and improvement in quality will be more than enough to justify spending the money on coaching materials. Don't be the guy who at the end of a disastrous season filled with sniping parents and quiting players, wishes he would have gotten some help earlier.
I doubt there is a single youth football coach out there anywhere that after a disaster season had not wished in retrospect he had been better prepared or gotten help. The funny thing is that most youth football books and most of the DVDs are less that the average youth football player entry fee or even the cost of a descent pair of tennis shoes or coaching shirt.
Dave has a passion for developing youth coaches so they can in turn develop teams that are competitive and well organized. He 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.
For free video clips of Daves teams in action : Youth Football Playbooks