Many youth football players in the 5-8 year old range and many first year players often have problems remembering when to go out on the field for their special team’s duties. Many times in the excitement of the game or because of distractions, the young or rookie player will forget they are supposed to be on the field. Your team ends up playing 10 on 11 football, which is rarely a good thing and embarrassing for most coaches. You could burn a timeout and then try and figure out who is missing, or just sub in a player on the fly that has not even played that particular position. We have all seen or experienced this firsthand, it can be very frustrating. That’s why guys that have been doing this awhile have little hair left on their heads and wear baseball caps all the time. We need our timeouts and we don’t want to play players out of position, it is a preventable problem.
In chapter 6 of the book we go into great detail how to excel in special teams as well as methods to prevent this problem from happening. Special teams is an area many well coached youth football teams can “steal” games from more skilled opponents.
I picked up a great tip from coach Devo at the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in Orlando this year to solve this problem. He was attending one of my sessions and let me know of a trick he uses with his youngest group to solve the problem:
Young players are very visual; they remember pictures, images and colors much better than names and numbers. In chapter 7 of the book we talk about how to attach certain images to plays for younger players.
Taking that a step further, Coach Devo assigns a color to each of his special teams groups. So his kickoff team is his “Red” team, his kickoff return team is his “Green” team, his field goal team is his “Blue” team etc.
Coach Devo then places small pieces of colored electrical tape wrapped around the players face mask that correspond to the color of the teams the player is on. So if little Johnny was on both the kickoff and kick return team, he would have a piece of red and green electrical tape around his facemask.
When it is time for the kickoff team to take the field, coach calls out, “Kickoff team, Red team”. You could obviously take this a step further and call your first team offense your gold team, second team offense silver, first team defense, black etc etc. To help your players to get on the field at the right times encourage all the players to not only look at their facemask for the corresponding Red marker but for those NOT in on that particular team to check around for their team mates to make sure no one with Red tape is standing on the sidelines. Remember to have extra tape on hand on game day so if someone is missing you will have to “promote” someone to fill the missing players spot.
While your facemasks may look like the colors of the rainbow, you should have 11 players out every snap and lots less confusion on your sidelines. Your players would now have a tool to help them remember, removing some of the stress they have of having to remember so much and so they can just enjoy the game. Less confusion and less stress means a much more enjoyable game for the kids and you. This is your choice, style over substance or fewer headaches, decide for yourself.