Winning Youth Football

Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Blocking Fundamentals

Probably the single most important group on your football team is the offensive linemen. Without a solid offensive line the team will struggle to move the football regardless of how outstanding your athletes are. As the players get older and elevate to each level, the offensive linemen become a very important part of your football team.
At the youth level usually most coaches will put the biggest and slowest players on the offensive line. That's fine, but a lot of times these players don't know their blocking assignments, can't move, and basically use their size to push their opponents out of the way. Its important that we give them a little bit more than that. In the end we will all benefit.
From day one work on their three point stance. Make sure that they have good technique and get in it properly, reset their feet until they get it. make sure they have a nice flat back, butt down, with head up. As they set in their stance make sure they don/t have too much weight on that front hand. Once you've established a good stance, now work on getting them to take their first step. Footwork is probably one of the most important thing we neglect to do with our linemen at the youth level. If they cannot move their feet properly then we cannot expect them to get to or maintain their block. Footwork drills out of a three point stance should be done every practice.
The rule of thumb with linemen is that their first step is a short six inch step followed by a second larger power step as they engage their block.

First step ties, second step wins.

Teach them to hit and stick, not to   pop up out of their low stance and drive their man until the whistle blows. At the youth level a shoulder drive block should be practiced with their head tucked on their block play side. Once they have a solid stance and are moving their feet introduce to them the holes where your going to run the football whether it be a numbering or letter system, coach them up to where the ball will possibly run based on your plays. Some coaches even name their holes such as dive, smash, slam, etc.  Its important they know where the ball is going!
Once they know the hole numbering system or whatever you go by, introduce some basic blocking rules such as Gap, On, Over. Basically, your linemen will line up knowing where the ball is going and then apply their rules in order to open up a hole. The rules reflect their biggest defensive threat. Before the snap they read the D-line and by checking where the defence is aligned. First check inside gap, nobody there, so check to man on, nobody there, so check to man over, ah there he is , that's your man to block.
There are different blocking rules you can apply based on what your philosophy is, the main thing is to give them some rules and make it easier for them. You'll notice it when your running back is exploding up the middle for big gains!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Specialty Teams

A wise old coach once told me years ago "you can't cheat on special teams". He was absolutely right!

For youth football ,its important that you invest at least 15 minutes per practice into a specialty team. A lot of teams now will have a pre-practice specialties listed in their practice plan. Its as important as your football systems! Coaches expect their specialty players to be up on the field 10-15 minute prior to practice working on specialty fundamentals. Long and short snappers snapping for punt and field goal, holders holding,kickers kicking, and punt returners catching balls. With some programs limited to a 90 minute practice this pre-practice specialty time is invaluable and the return( no pun intended) will be noticed on game days.

Some youth coaches view specialties as a time to get some of your younger players on the field and give them a chance to play. They are making a mistake and setting these players up for failure. As special teams are such a big part of the game you need to have your best athletes on the field. Usually in real close games special teams will determine the difference.
Having your younger players out there sets them up for failure as most teams put out their best. You'd be asking them to do something their not ready to do yet, and set them up for some physical punishment. Like the old coach said " don't cheat on special teams".

Like all football systems, special teams have their individual assignments as well. Evaluate and choose your players wisely. Don't be afraid to shuffle the deck until you get the look you want! Make sure they know their assignments and hold them accountable to them.


Football Game Planning

Game planning is an important part of getting your team ready for a game. Game planning is your strategy on how you will  deal with your opponent, some of their key players, as well as their different looks,plays, tendencies and how you will coach your team up to counter.

Attend a game between your up-coming opponent and another team. Bring along a parent or a friend to video tape the game. Video is great to have to view and confirm a lot of things that you observed or missed when scouting the match. Chart their plays and formations. Who are their key players? What are their tendencies in different situations and who are their go to guys. Identify players with poor fundamentals or technique and make a note. Record who the play-makers are and what positions.

Now review your notes, film, play charts, and begin your game plan. Set up your defence in order to be consistent with your opponents strengths. Perhaps they are a running team  first, so you set up your defence to be tough on the run, or perhaps they have a quarterback that likes to run more than throw so your game plan would be to contain him in the pocket, force him to throw and have good downfield coverage. Your scouting notes have indicated that the quarterback will hurt you more running than throwing so you make him throw the ball. Prepare your defence for situations for short and long yardage and what their tendencies are.

Offensively identify areas or players of their defence you want to attack.Set your offence up to run quick passing plays to counter a blitzing defence or run some trap plays inside to counter an aggressive defensive linemen.

One thing about good teams is that they do things well consistently all the time. The downfall to this is that because of it, opposing teams get to know their tendencies and players. The bottom line is that your players still have to play the game and stop them or move the ball, but, knowing your opponent and preparing your team for them will increase your odds and assist you in your game decisions.


Friday, February 26, 2010

The 6-2 Defence

If you want to have a solid run stopping defence one of my favourites is the 6-2 defence. This defence puts 8 men in the box and with outside linebackers gives you good contain. For youth programs that face teams that like to run the football the majority of the time, it's the defence you' want to play.

The defence is basically designed to pressure the offence into making mistakes by filtering the running back into the middle where you have lots of help to stop the run. Basically to sum it up, you coach your two outside linebackers to line up about two yards from the outside shoulder of the OT. On the snap of the ball they explode straight up field about 5 yards or to ball depth, their job is to contain and force the running back to cut back inside. Your two DTs line up in the A gaps and are coached up to shoot the gap hard on the snap of the ball. By doing this they pressure the center and two guards to stay in and block which means you have two of your defensive linemen occupying three of their offensive linemen.

That's a good trade off!

Your two DE's will align straight up on the OT's in a three point stance and on the snap of the ball will play two-gap responsibility, jam the OT, read and rip to ball side. The defence is set-up to protect your two middle linebackers which means they are able to flow to the ball and punish the running back. I like the secondary to play man to man and read their receiver. If they release cover them, if they stay in and block step up for run support.

This defence gives you solid inside protection against the run, as well as good contain.

The problem with this defence is that you are vulnerable to give up the big play from time to time. If they do bust through the Line of Scrimmage it's usually for a big gain. Excellent defence to run against teams that like to zone block.



One of the most frustrating things to deal with as a coach is poor officiating. Things can unravel pretty fast when the officials are having a bad game. A big gain can be nullified; a score can be called back, non-infractions called infractions, non-calls turning into points for the other team, player and coach ejections.

At some point, we've all seen it!

I have come to the conclusion that referee's are like our players. There are days when they look great and days when they are going to miss calls and look terrible. There are poor officials and officials who are outstanding. Same as coaches.

But what do you do when you get poor officiating?

My experience has taught me to roll with the punches. To be patient, and to try and make your point as quietly as you can without embarrassing the official or yourself. Remember, your players will look to you to be rock solid when things go bad. Yelling at the official doesn't help. I must admit I was at one time one to let the officials know what I thought! I learned the hard way that they will soon let you know who's in control! You'll never win that battle!

A few tips that have helped me over the years:

Try to make your point with the official by using your captains to question, politely, of course, their call or non call. Or, perhaps after a score when the official lines up in between the benches for the kick-off you can quietly ask him whether or not he saw an infraction that you felt led to the score against. If not, ask him to please watch next time. Don't publicly embarrass them!

I was told by an official that screaming and yelling is a sign of the coach not understanding the game or as last resort when things are not going well, blame the officials. Use the linesman to your advantage; he's always in front of your bench. Ask him to watch a certain player or play or to relay your message to the Head Official for them to discuss at half-time.

Attend an officials Rules meeting and get into some discussions on interpretation. Most leagues have these meetings. Attend and build respect. You'll find that you'll get this respect back especially on the playing field during game day. Question the calls based on good knowledge of the rules. Don't grasp at straws and vaguely only know. Know the rule inside and out! I always am flipping through the rule book.

Once you get the reputation within the officials circle as being knowledgeable and under control I find they communicate, approach the bench more, and are more willing to engage you in discussion through-out the game.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Football Tips:Rebuilding Your Program

Sooner or later you'll be faced with the challenge of re-building your program. Usually, this follows a couple of seasons where you had a solid team and were a legitimate contender. Or perhaps, you're the new coach taking on a new program. Either or, you got a lot of work ahead!
The challenges in the early parts of the rebuild can be immense as you get to know a whole new group of players and parents. The first thing that will stand out is how young and inexperienced they look compared to the team of the previous season.

Get over it quick! There's work to be done!

It's important that you get a handle on the static factors which basically would be the size, height, weight, and age of your players. Then test them! Have a practice with just shorts and running shoes in the gym. Test their speed and agility, their strength, vertical leap, and time them, in a shuttle run type activity while recording your results. At the end of the day, have a game of 4 on 4 basketball. Include all of your players including your big guys. Basketball is a great game to watch and see who can move their feet and who the athletes are. After this type of practice you should have a basic understanding of players and what group they should be placed in. The next practices assign them to their groups.

In the coming practices emphasize fundamentals and more fundamentals keeping in mind that a young team will need more of these than ever. As they gain confidence in their positions, introduce a simplified version of your system. Remember, that your finely tuned system from last season graduated or moved on with the departing players! Start slow, be patient, as this is all new to them. Praise them steady.

Finally, in your first game expect them to make mistakes and to look tentative. Re-enforce your systems between plays or quarters. Coach them up and most important encourage them to go out there and compete!

Usually, a young team will not be confident and will be a little intimidated in the early part of the season. They will look at you hard for guidance and it's important that you give it to them and talk to them steady. They will probably take their lumps early but as the season goes on you'll see the team emerge and the confidence grow. Sometimes they will look solid while other times they will be just awful!

The main thing is to get them to buy into the idea that they are young and will learn a lot in their first season .Despite their youth and inexperience they are expected to compete and to know their assignments win or lose. The main thing is that the experience they gain will be invaluable for the following season.

A solid rebuild will take 2-3 seasons.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No Fear Mongering Please

Sports are great for our kids. They give them a great sense of being part of a team, working together towards one goal, building everlasting relationships, social groups, and friends. They learn what's it's about to make a commitment, to be dedicated, responsible and to give their best effort.

All stuff that will help them go on and be good community members.

They learn how to work within a system. They learn about respect and how to receive constructive criticism from their coach. Again, all things associated with life. Certainly sports have been a great tool that shaped a lot of our lives.

But what are the pitfalls of sports?

Well, we know that it can be expensive for sure. But, probably the worst thing about sports is that a player can become injured or worse suffer a serious life long injury or even in some cases death.

Does that mean we should keep our kids sport free, lock them in the house and only let them out during very close supervised activities with no running, jumping, or contact of any kind.

Of course not!

We cannot as responsible parents protect our kids from everything life throws at them. Sure they can get hurt seriously playing sports. But they can get hurt crossing the sidewalk or hurt pretty well anywhere or anytime, on their bike, or even in school. Does that mean we have to shut them down to protect them? No!

I kind of got a pet-peeve going about fear mongering in sports. Basically, anybody that writes about the serious consequences of being involved in sports. Sure, people have the right to know, but to take it to the extreme is nothing more than fear mongering. If we wrote articles on "the what if" and "what can" happen whenever you leave the house, nobody would leave!

Yea, sports like everything else we do has downfalls, but really there are certainly a lot more upside to sports, more positive than negative. We take a chance every time we leave our homes but we don't read about it, or are reminded daily of it. Hell, we'd be so stressed out we'd never go out!

All we can do is manage the controllable! Like, look both ways before you cross the street or as parents make sure that helmet and gear fits properly or as coaches make sure they have good technique before they begin contact drills or as parents meet with the coach and indicate what your concerns are. Perhaps you don't feel your kid is ready to play or needs more work or doesn't have the confidence yet. A good coach will respond to your concerns and never put your kid's health and safety on the line.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The 3-4 Defence

A lot of coaches in the NFL are currently switching to the 3-4 defence. The trickle down effect is that a lot of coaches in Middle School and High School are switching to the 3-4 schemes as well.

Why the change?

A lot of coaches like the way the defence has the ability to pressure the offence by showing many different looks, blitz's, and stunts. With only 3 down lineman, you can mask different coverage's and bring blitz's from all over the field confusing the O- line and quarterback, pressuring them into making mistakes, creating fumbles and turn-over 's.

Life in football land seems good!

There are drawbacks to this scheme.

First of all you need to have a solid Nose-Tackle who is a football player and is strong enough can take on the double team. If you haven't got one of those guys, you're in trouble especially against teams that like to zone-block. By zone-blocking they will double team one of the D-lineman at the point of attack and then one of them will chip off and get one of your linebackers. Or they will down block in the same direction get all the defence flowing in one direction and try to "wash down" the defence while the running back looks for a cutback. This is usually what knocks you out of your 3-4 defence.

I like the 3-4 defence. When things are going good you can pile up the sacks and fumbles. But beware of the downfalls. Probably is a good idea to have a 4 man front somewhere in your defensive scheme to counter against a good zone blocking offence.


When Players Clash

Whether you like it or not at some point you will have some of your players clash.

Consider the fact that over the course of the season, the ups and the downs, the bumps and bruises, and the challenges along the way, it's bound to happen. When you have your players being accountable to you in their assignments, the next best thing is that they become accountable to each other.

This is a good thing!

It will begin at a practice or during a game. You'll hear the chirping between players as they challenge each other not to miss their assignments, to play hard, to make a play. They'll start to expect the very best from each other. Then, when assignments are missed, or bad plays are made, they'll chirp at each other. Probably, somebody at this point will get mad, pride is on the line, and they'll get in each others face.

Time to step in and manage this situation.

Remind them that they are team mates and neither one of them shows up every practice and game determined to make bad plays or veer out of assignments. Tell them they need to communicate better if they are not clicking and reinforce that they are both good players that play hard, with passion, and emotion, and that they as a tandem, bring the best out of each other.

Forgiveness can come easy between these two. Probably you'll see it when they do score or make an amazing play by their big grins on their face. Best friends again!

Don't ever try to figure it out. Just manage it as it comes. It goes away just as fast!


Football Minor Programs

Recently, I read a post on line from a Middle School Coach who was peeved at the Head Coach of the High School football Team who wanted him to implement the same systems as he had at the High School Level. His rational was that the players of the middle school were going to eventually end up there anyway so it would benefit the players if they knew the High School system coming in and in the end make them more competitive. The Middle School coach was upset at the idea of this suggestion.

For the most part I can agree with both coaches but not with one or the other. I understand why the Middle School Coach wouldn't want any part of the High School Coaches systems. The point being that they are in Middle School so running the High School system would be probably too complex and unrealistic to do for that level. Keeping it simple, doing it well, while working on fundamentals would be the ideal situation. Players arriving at High School with good fundamentals would be just as important.

The other hand is that while not adopting or mirroring the systems of the High School program the Middle School could use some of the same terminology, some of the blocking schemes, and a few of the plays that aren't too complex for them to handle. That way they would have some foundation when trying to make the jump to High School. Ideally, both coaches would respect each others ideas and come to some common ground.

Guest coaching would be one alternative to introduce some basic schemes and drills or even having a combined practice. This has worked well for me in the past keeping in mind that the age groups stick together when doing the drills. It seems to break the ice between programs and removes the "unknown factor".


Monday, February 22, 2010

Team Awards

Like all programs, at the end of the year or season there usually is a team banquet or awards night. Parents and players gather for an evening of speeches, awards, gifts, and presentations. Players are honoured individually in various categories and receive their awards with big grins as parents snap the moment up with their digital cameras and go home happily to celebrate their selection.

One problem though! Not everybody goes home as happy!

Chances are someone is disappointed in the award selections and the whole season just went down the tubes for them.

Its tough selecting individual awards. Especially after preaching the team concept to your players all season. Do it for the team, take it for the team, the team, the team. Team systems, team play, don't be individuals, play like a team!

You see what I mean?

I'm not a big fan. They are nice and everything, but an individual award seems to go against all the principles that you laid in place all season long. You ask them to play like a team and then reward individuals. It doesn't seem fair!

I'm bad for players sharing awards or awarding the team as the MVP Defence or Offence. I also like to get certificates for players for their team service, kinda honors them for their commitment. Still, not everyone goes home happy but hopefully the majority does which is really the only thing you can hope to accomplish


Reading into your Loss

Sometimes you will play very well, work hard and execute your systems with limited mistakes, play tough, out-shoot your opponent and still suffer a loss.

Kinda sounds funny doesn't it. This will happen to you and your team  eventually at some point.

Certainly nobody likes to lose a match particularly when your team has for the most part played well ,but it is possible for your team to play well and still come up on the short side of the score.

That's just the way she goes!

The main thing is not to try to read into too much with the loss. Probably the worse thing you can do as a coach is to shake things up at this point. You don't want to send your players the wrong message! Especially if the effort was there and they competed hard within the team system.

Probably the best message to give your team is that losses can happen even if you play hard and play well. The only thing is that nobody said you have to like it and certainly use it as motivation in your next match-up.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Benching Your Players

  Sooner or later, you'll come to your wits end, after endless reinforcement, after endless practices, after endless conversations, after endless pleading, you'll be forced to bench one of your players. Depending on the age group, the "benching" is a message being sent by you, to the player, to basically "smarten up" and "do your job assignment".

With younger youth players, probably missing a shift would suffice and give them a moment to reflect on your message without disrupting too much. The older players probably need to sit a little longer. The most important thing is that they get the message and they understand the benching. Probably, they already know. But sometimes you need to communicate the reason. Don't make a scene when you do it, quietly inform the player of your decision.

Chances are they already knew it was coming.

The benching time is entirely up to you. Bottom line, be fair, but be firm. They have to get the message! The downside is that they could get emotional and make comments. Ignore them and discuss the comments after the game or before the next practice. For the most part consider the benching like a "time-out". Tell the player to reflect on his responsibilities and assignments. Let them think about it awhile. Then, pat them on the back and send them out to try it again.

That's about all you can do.


Be Cool Under Fire Coach!

Let's face it, we're only human. We can get fired up as easily as our athletes.

One problem though.

When we get ourselves fired up, we  tend to get caught up in our emotions, and like our athletes make bad decisions and hurt the team. So as coaches we need to train ourselves to be cool under fire.
We have to be rock solid when we face big challenges, game time decisions, poor officiating, and anything that can throw our team off their game. Our players will look to us for leadership and if we lose it, chances are they will as well.

It's important we are solid!

A good tip would be to discuss with your coaching staff all the possibilities of what could go wrong and how you as a coaching staff will handle it. Play it out before it happens. That way it makes it easier on you when the situations develop and you can make the right call. The point is you've already discussed the scenario from the comforts of your office under no pressure and made the decision. It makes it a lot easier!
Discuss the same possibilities with your players and tell them how you expect them to react.

Play through it or even better coach through it!

Oh yea! Chew lots of gum during the game. It really helps!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Big Win Bad Habits

It's tough being a coach. Your team has just demolished its opponent, a lot of players scored points, parents were happy, fans were cheering, and you got the win. On the way out you are greeted by all who are elated with the win and the score, even receive a few pats on the back for a job well done. The atmosphere is very positive with fans, parents, and players, all going home happy.

As you cross the parking lot to your car you already know that despite the win, you're not happy! On the way home you analyze the game. Your wife is waiting for you when you get home, greets you at the door, and congratulates you on the win, only surprised to see that you don't seem to be too happy! She shakes her head having been through this before and tells you supper is ready.

Sound familiar?

I know!

Your team won, but, as their coach you felt that they did not play well against an inferior opponent. Your team systems broke down as the game got out of hand, too many individual efforts, and not enough team efforts. Yes, you scored and won but your team picked up a lot of bad habits along the way. Your players got excited and veered out of the team systems, took chances, and were sloppy at times. You know, that against a more solid opponent, that your players never would have gotten away with it.

The best advice is to let your players have their moment, but, at the next practice you need to explain to them the downside of their victory and reinforce the system once again. Explain to them that against the better teams that they cannot veer away from their assignments and pick up bad habits that will hurt the team later. It's all about getting better each practice and game and not take any steps back even in victory.


Play with Passion!

Give your players this message, and if they do it, you're going to be a tough team to play against! The only problem is that not every player can do it and there's nothing you can do coaching wise, to get them to play with passion.

All you can do is to challenge them!

I like passionate players, they never quit, they play hard, and it means something to them. It's important! Combine this passion with raw talent and look-out; they'll make you look good. They are ultimately your competitors! But there are some pitfalls that as a coach you need to control.

It can be a double edged sword and you can live and die with them!

The key is to be able to keep your player emotions under control; otherwise they will veer away from your systems and become more a liability more than an asset. As well, they can lose focus and become undisciplined, and take bad penalties. Not good! The good thing is that they will compete game in and game out! Preach to them to play on the edge but not over it, and to maintain control of their emotions.

Sometimes it's a trade-off and you hope that because of their passion they do more good things than bad. You'll just have to deal with it as it comes. Either way I'd rather have a passionate team.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Holding Players Accountable

Within your team system there are many positional assignments. Players are coached up to be responsible within the system and are expected to execute their assignments. By doing this they put the team in the best situation in order to be successful. Breakdowns occur usually when a player veers out of his assignment and as a result the team is exposed or out manned giving your opponent the advantage. Usually what happens is that when one veers out, another player will veer out as well in order to cover the mistake. Now instead of just having one player miss his assignment, you now have two players and things begin to unravel in a hurry as the system breaks down. Your players now are running around and the end result is usually a penalty, foul, or a score.
As a coach its important that you as the administrator of this system hold each and every one of your players accountable to it and their assignment. When break-downs occur its usually the result of one player making a mistake and another player trying to cover it for them.

Now instead of dealing with one mistake your dealing with two mistakes.

Its important that you point this out to your players, they need to be disciplined within the system and their assignment. Mistakes will occur at all levels. Its bound to happen. But, if you can limit the mistakes and play within your assignment, you increase your chances of being successful.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Team Goals

Now that you have your system in place, its time to set up some team goals with your players. Team goals are basically minimum standards that you set as the coach in order to challenge your players to play and compete at a high level at all times. Team goals could be the number of shots you have on goal or the number of shots you give up on your own goal. It could be the number of penalties, the number of yards gained per run or given up or even the percentage of power play opportunities that you capitalize on in your games. It could be the percentage of points scored from the foul line or even the number of wins you need to make the play-offs or to secure first place overall.

Whatever it is, they are set by you as the coach and set the bar as far as how you want your team to compete each and every game.

For the most part, if you meet your team goals every game, chances are that you have had a good day. As well, team goals can be motivation for your players and a great coaching tool. It can keep them focused and motivated to play within the system and not take plays "off" which can happen frequently at the youth level.

It builds a sense of pride within the team to meet the challenge of the team goals. The main thing is not to set the standards too high or unrealistic, otherwise it can back-fire on you.

In other words don't ask your players to do something that their not capable of doing.


Groom Your Role Players

Within your system you will have players that are naturally stronger or more talented than the others. They seem to play the game with ease, have good athletic ability, and contribute offensively without missing a beat. The game is easy for them to play. This group would be identified as your core players and you will rely on them to carry a lot of the load during the games. Most teams have their core players and the more core players you have the more depth you have on your bench. Usually the larger programs have more core players as a result of the higher numbers.

Does this mean that the smaller programs will not be able to compete?

Not at all! Every team will have their core group. What's important for the smaller programs with less depth is to surround your core players with solid role players and give them assignments that they must do within the system. For example, the less offensively talented players will be assigned a defensive role whereby each and every time they are engaged in play their role is to play tough defensively, be physical and pressure the opposing team into creating turn-overs and make mistakes that could possibly generate a score. They would have a primarily defensive role and when they get their time on the floor, field, or ice surface, they know their role which is to be defensive first, be tough in their own end and not give up any points. This would be just as important to the team as scoring and if they fulfill their assignment each and every time, they will limit the scoring of the opposing teams core players.

These role players are important to have on any team and usually play against the top core players. For the most part if your role players are stronger than the opposing team, than chances are you will have a good day. My experience with the role players is that once you explain to them their specific assignment within the system that they thrive within it, and become confident and key contributors. Remember, in the tightest of games it's usually the role players that determine the outcome.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Implement Your System

A big part of your practice plan in the coming weeks will be system implementation and doing it without sacrificing working on fundamentals. The best tool to begin introducing your system is to use your chalkboard or dry-eraser board in the locker-room or classroom. Start off with your defensive system. If you're good in your own end defensively, chances are that everything else will fall in place. Draw it out on the board for them and explain each and every assignment position wise to each player. Reinforce it over and over in practice time. Don't be afraid to blow the whistle, stop the play, and explain the do's and don'ts of your system, and start again. Repetition is the key. Drill it in them and ask them to buy into your system, make a commitment to it, and make good decisions within it. In the coming games, go over and over it again. Challenge the players who veer out of it, and go over the importance of team play. You'll soon see the results and for the most part the majority will get it. Be patient with the slow learners; again, reinforce it until they get it. A good team has good systems and your better players will thrive in a team orientated system as they will get more support compared to a run and gun system. Your average players will gain confidence within the system and become better players that in the end will make your top players perform better. Praise their efforts at all times and when you get your wins, praise the team system!


Put your mark on the Team

Well its time. The try-outs and training camp are over and you've selected the team. Now the work comes to shape and mould the team . Remember you picked the team and it will be a reflection of you and ultimately you will be the face of the team, accepting all the good praise as well as criticism that comes with the job of being coach.
As coaches, we all have our favourite systems and philosophies in how we want our team to play.
However, all things aside your player selections will dictate what kind of team you will have. The worst thing you can do at this point is to implement a system that your team doesn't have the tools to execute. You need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your team and develop a system based on these traits.
For instance, maybe you have good size and fundamentals but lack team speed or maybe your undersized but have good speed and skill. Ideally, you would like to have a combination of both types of players; however, the reality is that this is not always going to be the case. The other point to consider is that you might be strong defensively in your own end but lack the scoring in the offensive zone or vice versa. The whole point of this is to evaluate your team and come up with the system that reflects their abilities and for the most part keep it simple, but do it well.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Get a Dry Eraser Board Coach!

When it comes to your system, comunicate it, reinforce it, and reinforce it again. And when you think they are getting it, go over it again. One of the best coaching tools available to  reinforce your systems and team play is the dry eraser board. Most sporting good stores carry them and they come in various sizes and for specific sports as well. If you have'nt got one, then get one right away.

Take it with you everywhere!

A lot of players today are very visual so by drawing out systems and team play on the board they're more likely to get it. Great during time-outs or between series.

Oh yea, and make sure you have a good supply of dry markers!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Equipment Must Fit Properly

Have you checked out the gear thats available today for your kids? A far cry from the hand me down equipment that we all wore back in the day when used equipment was the norm. Besides, nobody really cared what kind of gear you wore back then, we were all just happy to be playing! Not that way now! Equipment design today is pretty cool and the prices are can be reasonable. However,the sky can be the limit when it comes to buying equipment.
Theres really no need to be paying through the teeth for gear, but at the same time you want decent quality, so that your athlete is protected. In the end you can never go wrong by buying quality gear. For the most part it protects better and is more durable. If your budgets tight there are some pretty good used equipment stores around, and you can by high end gear that is hardly used and still give quality protection. The main thing whether its new or used gear is that it fits properly. If its too big or too small its no good. It must fit properly otherwise it won't protect! Improperly fitted gear can take away from performance. Too big and it flops around, too small or too tight and you can't move, or its uncomfortable.


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Game-film tells no Lies!

Have you ever had the problem with players that no matter what you say to them they will argue to the end the fact that they are playing well and playing within the system?

Have you ever exhausted all methods in order to try and get them to play well, and they still just don't get it and they look at you like you have two heads for saying so? Really, they are confused!

Bring in the film!

A lot of programs will get parents to tape their games and use it as a coaching tool in order to improve team play. Coaches then view the tape, make notes, and then bring in the team or individual to view the game-tape pointing out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A lot of players are surprised when they watch themselves play on video. Some of them can't believe it! They are shocked to see themselves look slow or lacklustre, and making mistakes all the while thinking that they are doing fine and having a good game. It can be a tremendous coaching tool but it's not for everybody as it takes some resources to implement and let's face it, its one less thing to worry about on game day. But if you can swing it, go for it, you won't regret it!


The Last Picks are the Toughest

Sometimes, the last picks of any team are the hardest to make and it can drive a coach crazy.When it comes down to the last few spots, the players can pretty even.

Here are a few tips to help:

Evaluate position wise what they would bring to the team, evaluate what their work ethic is like, as well as their commitment to team systems. Do they have a good work ethic and are they character players that will give you high energy play. Do they have good size and do they use it? Let's face it, there are small players that do play big and bigger players that play small. In the end it's what you want for you team and what kind of role you want them to play.
What are they like in the dressing room and around the other players? Are they leaders? Schedule an exhibition game and give them lots of playing time even if it means sitting down your top players. Put them in situations where they have to make decisions and see how they handle them. This should give you a pretty good idea on those final picks. Make your cuts, keep your notes, and start planning your next practice. Move on and don't look back wondering if you made the right selections. If you don't, it only will be a distraction even if the player has success elsewhere. Understand that perhaps the player had a bad try-out, which is no ones fault,or a bad work ethic while others flourished around his poor effort. Again, your coaching log will reflect this and in the end you'll support your own decision not to keep this player.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to prepare your Football Team

A coach for the most part is like a salesman. They have to sell their systems and motivate their team to perform and make them feel that they are getting the best deal in town. A coach likes to be in control of the game and if you're in control you usually are having a good day.

But, what about the uncontrollable?

For instance, how talented, big, and good is your next opponent?

How do you prepare your team?

Well, you have to emphasize to your players the controllable. Like, be disciplined, play the system, limit your mistakes. Don't take bad penalties to give them any extra advantage and most importantly choose to outwork and out hustle at all times.

Talented teams play the game with ease and if you let them have time and space they'll hurt you. But when you force them to work for that time and space it can close the talent gap and keep things close and give your team a chance.

Finally, emphasize to your team, that you cannot control how good the opponent is, or their size, or their team record. You can only control how hard you work, whether or not you choose to execute your assignment, and the fact that hopefully,their talent will challenge your athletes and will bring the best out of your players.


Team Selections

Try-outs or Training camp can be a complicated process. Player evaluations can be tough at times and stressful for both the parents and players involved. But it is part of the process needed in order to choose and shape your team and your practice plan should reflect this. Meet with your coaching staff and manager prior to the first practice. Assign one or more the job of running the practice sessions. Plan to either sit up in the stands or on the bleachers with your pen and clip-board. Pay attention closely to the each player's skill level by evaluating them when they do drills emphasizing fundamentals. Evaluate how hard they work in drills. Pick out the ones that seem to struggle in the different individual skill drills that you have scheduled and make a note of them, as well as the ones that do the drills with ease. Watch them closely during team drills when they have to work in tandem with other players. How do they respond? Does it appear that they could play within a system or do they struggle? As well, note their effort in drills where they are pressured and have to battle, do they battle hard, or do they shy away, this will measure their character. Finally, after practice, meet with your staff once again and discuss each player individually. Some will stand out immediately while others will have you wondering what they can do. Talk about their strengths and their weaknesses and what they would bring to the team. In the following practices pick the tempo up and evaluate them once again. You should soon start to see the separation begin and you will start to get a pretty good idea of how the team will shape up. Keep a log of your players during this process. This will help you in the end with your selections. Also, if you are challenged by a player or parent on your selections you can refer to your log on the player in question. Usually, o a challenge once you dig out your log this puts an end to any sceptics.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Its a lot faster down here!

Did you ever notice when you sit up in the stands how the game seems to slow down? There seems to be a lot of time for the coach to make decisions, adjustments, and the game just seems to be easier to read from the stands. I've noticed it many times. But I also know that down on the bench, or sidelines, that the game seems to be going at a faster rate and theres not much time to make decisions or evaluations. Did you also ever notice that a lot of teams have a coach up in a booth,or a spotter in the stands or on the clubhouse roof that communicates directly with the bench? Why? Because the game seems to slow down, you see more from above, your away from the pressures of managing the bench,your more focused and can make good decisions without any distractions. As well, you can see more clearly team play which sometimes is harder to evaluate at court, ice, or field level. Most team now tape their games from the stands. This has become a valuable tool for the coach to view the game afterwards from the comfort of his couch, with no game pressure and evaluate his team play. Kinda like sitting up in the stands!


Football Practice Plan: Be Organized!

Your first practice is a few days away, you're excited about getting out there and getting things going, working with the youth in the hour plus time allotted. Wait a minute... an hour... how do you fill the time in? Well, let's get started. You need to be organized and you need to have a practice plan. You cannot do it off the top off your head. You need to have a practice plan that accounts for every minute of your planned practice. A good practice plan will cover all aspects of your specific sport: warm-up, conditioning, fundamentals, skills, team play and systems. Account for at least a minimum of 10-15 minutes per category. Too much in one area and the players will lose interest and you will lose out in the other areas that you want to cover. By having a practice plan and following it, you will have good flow to your practice, maintain player concentration, and get the most out of your practice by covering all aspects. A poor practice plan and you will have down time which invites fooling around and lack of focus especially at the youth level. Follow your plan! If you are working on a specific fundamental or system and things are not working out after your allotted time frame, move on to the next scheduled assignment, and after practice make a note of how each session went and what you need to continue to work on in practice. Keeps a practice log recording your thoughts, ideas, and player evaluation and development. Refer to the log prior to planning the following practice so you know what you need to schedule. It's important that you work on fundamentals of some sort for each and very practice, do not omit this in order to work on something else. Solid fundamentals such as passing, shooting, tackling and blocking are very important. You need to do fundamentals well in order to be good in your systems. Remember you play like you practice!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The New Coach, What Next?

Hurray! After wondering what was going to happen with that coaching application you've been notified that you've been selected to be the Head Coach. What next? Well, for starters, get yourself organized as try-outs will be soon and you want to have all in order prior to your training camp. Surround yourself with good people. Select yourself a good team Manager that is organized and reliable and most of all will have your back. Select somebody that is a good communicator as a lot of their work will be communicating practice times, game dates, tournaments, schedule changes, co-ordinating parent volunteers, etc. Understand that your manager will be as busy as you are coaching so it's important that they are as motivated as you are. A good manager will complete the package as far as what it takes to run a good and successful program and take on a lot of duties that are necessary to run a program. This will free you up to do what you love to do and that's coach.
Secondly, surround yourself with a dedicated and knowledgeable coaching staff. Explain to them your philosophy and give them their coaching assignments. Allow them to have input within your philosophy and system. No input and they will lose interest. Yea, you're the Head Coach alright, however, their input is important, and offer another point of view especially when game adjustments are a factor. My experience with assistant coaches was to let them do what they do best and that was to coach. Challenge them to be better but never in front of the team. Face all challenges as a team, trouble-shoot together, debate scenarios, and support each other. Ultimately, there will be times that you will be challenged as the Head Coach to make the final decisions. But if your coaching staff has input it can be a lot easier.


Points to consider before becoming a Volunteer Youth Coach

Hi, once again. Today, I would like to blog about the responsibilities preparing to be a coach, and the things that you should consider prior to, becoming or applying for that position.
First of all, the most important point is that you have to be passionate about the sport that you will be coaching. Do it because you love it, not because you feel obligated to become involved for whatever reason, but for your true love of the game. Be enthusiastic and positive and you'll find it becomes contagious with the people and players that are around you. Understand that there is as much work outside of the activity as there is in it. Administrative paperwork, registrations, team and league meetings are time consuming for a volunteer and can be costly at times. You almost have to look at your coaching assignment as being a hobby. Like all hobbies that we enjoy, they do in the end cost money, but all in all the enjoyment that we get out of it is worth the cost associated with it. In some coaching assignments, one can be reimbursed for their costs, however, for the most part; a volunteer youth coach receives little or no compensation. Understand that you will be dealing with a lot more than your players. There will be issues at times, questions to answer, happy and unhappy parents, fans, grandparents, etc. Accept the fact that the role of the coach will have its ups and downs and you will never make everybody happy. For the most part if you can keep the majority happy most of the time you're doing a good job!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Vintage Trophies The Coolest Things

I kinda got this infatuation with old Vintage Trophies. You know the kind that you probably seen in the trophy case at your old Junior High School. I think that they're the coolest things! They represent to me a by-gone era before the modern technology explosion when people actually went out and participated in sporting events either as an athlete or a spectator. Did you ever look at the craftsmanship of these old trophies? Simply beautiful! You can well imagine the pride that went into these as well as the pride of receieving one of these and placing it up on the living room mantle. The hardwork in the craftsmanship seems to equal the hardwork that the athlete put into winning it. No plastic in these babies and built to last for sure! To me they represent an era where maybe, without the distractions of today, an athlete was more focused on the task at hand, the days seemed longer, and life was more simple. People talked more and athletes seemed to be more humble!


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Keep it Simple Coach, Do it Well!

Keep it simple coach! Being a coach is a year round job. It becomes a big part of your life and an important part as well that is very satisfying and enjoyable. But, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment on your part. There are many dedicated youth coaches in our communities that shape the development of our children across the country and they play a vital role in their character development. It's important that they do a good job. As a coach it is was always important to me to be prepared, knowledgeable, and organized. The internet has a vast amount of information of coaching philosophies, strategies, systems, practice plans, whatever, for the aspiring coach. However, for the most part I find it can be too technical, too costly, or too philosophical for what I want to do at the youth level.
My philosophy has always been to keep it simple or for the most part and use the" KISS" philosophy: "Kiss" being" Keep it simple stupid! And of course, add in "Do it well".
By keeping it simple in both practice and game systems your players should better grasp their roles, be confident in it, and perform at a higher level. By keeping it simple, it is easier for you to make practice plans, game adjustments and get the response out of your players that you're looking for. To be able to adjust is the key. And its fun! To recognize what your opponent is up to and being able to adjust to it is very fulfilling, and gives you and your player's confidence. A simple system allows this to happen. Finally, become a student of the game and dedicate yourself to that commitment. In the end your players will benefit, win or lose.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Coaches Chair

Hi, my name is Dave and I have been a youth and minor coach for over twenty years. I have always been passionate about coaching kids at the minor and youth level as well as High School, and I have learned a lot along the way through my mistakes,and experiences. I was always particularly committed to being organized and I wanted my players to get my best effort and have a great experience. My commitment to them was to have them prepared,physically, mentally, and teach them good team systems so that they could play at their best. I only asked them in return to be committed, be open to my coaching philosophy, and to work hard. I love to coach and watch kids develop and go on to contribute at a higher level. My blog " The Coaches Chair" will give me a chance to talk about coaching in general, give advice and tips based on my own experiences. Perhaps my thoughts and ideas in the coming blogs can be helpful to you or at least give you some insight from a different point of view.