Many of you get players that seem not to want to be involved in youth football. Many times these problem situations can be turned around:
Youth Football isn’t right for everyone, but we all have seen this problem turned around many times with a few simple steps. Quite often the kid is afraid of contact or has no friends on the team or just doesn�t have a genuine interest in the game. Pair the kids up with a partner before they ever start their first practice. Every day ask the kids the “question of the day” which they must ask their partner and know the answer. Every day there is a comprehensive test and if you don’t know the answer about your parther, you run.
Questions start with the players: name, school, number of brothers and sisters, favorite football team, food they hate the most, pets, phone number etc etc. If a player has a contact, a friend he can talk to, he will often come back. Don�t let a kid get set apart due to little “social clicks” in your team.
The next thing to try is; overt praise, pick out something the kid does half way right, like a descent stance or even something that he does, like shares his water with a friend. Praise the heck out of it in front of the team, make him the model for that activity. We like to put kids like that out front during warm-ups and see how they respond. If the kid is having a real bad day we may even do our �bad day� drill. We bring the team in and let them know we are going to run sprints but if the team can come up with 10 things they like about player X, no sprints. Start it out with something like ” The reason I like player X is because he gets into a nice stance and isn’t toooooooo ugly”. Then let player X do the end of practice “break”.
If it is a contact issue, we rarely have this problem. With our form teaching methods and emphasis on drills like the “splatter drill” where we do not take the player to the ground eases players into contact. With very little live scrimmaging and being careful about matchups in live one on one drills, this shouldn�t be an issue.
If the problem persists, talk with the parents to see what the issue is. Talk with the player at this point if there is still a problem and let him know he will run anytime you see him loafing or not paying attention. Let him know it isn�t fair to his teammates or even to himself if he doesn�t straighten up.
To be quite frank, we rarely ever have to go beyond step one, that usually works. Make sure that if he is leaving the team it is not for the competitive benefit of the team, but for the sake of the player. I’ve often seen the light bulb go on for no apparent reason in a player half way through the season and the kid turns out loving the game.
But if you have gone through the other steps and still get no response, look at asking mom and dad to take him off the team. If it’s late in the season, consider just riding it out. In fifteen years of coaching hundreds of kids that has happened to me just once, it should be a very rare occurrence. If you do everything you can to help this player, 10 years from now you will still be able to look back on that season in a very positive way.
In 2002 I was an assistant coach in our Orgs short handed 13-14 B team. We had a set of twins on the team Richard and Ronald, they weighed just 76 pounds and had never played football or any organized sport. They were very timid, would not engage at all and were slow on top of it, they did however come to every practice. Several of the coaches suggested we ask grandma and grandpa (they didn�t live with mom and dad) to take them off the team for their own safety. I stood my ground and said no and we even found a way to get them into every game for a few plays.
To make a very long story short, by seasons end they started to make some progress. In the runner up “championship” game we were short handed due to injuries and we had to put Richard in at safety. We had a tiny lead and the other team was gouging us with its 150 pound stud fullback. On 4th and 15 at our 34 with less than a minute left in the game, the fullback breaks into the open into our secondary. We all closed our eyes, expecting a sure TD, but Richard to our surprise made a perfect form tackle at the knees to save the game for us, one of my very proudest coaching moments.
Just last week I saw Richard, now a Senior in High School diligently working the drive in window at McDonalds. I didn’t recognize him but boy did he recognize me, all smiles and full of information. We held up the drive-in line jabbering away until the cars started honking. Those are the great moments, when you can look back and know you did something right, that made my day.
Don’t give up on a kid because he doesn’t seem to want to be there or he doesn’t look like a football player.