Youth Football coaches can learn lessons from good and poor coaches in every sport.
This Spring I finally had enough time to let my oldest play baseball again after a 3 year absence. I could only coach part time because of the Football Clinics I do and other obligations, so without any research we joined the local “B” team that plays about a 16 game schedule. The coach has been in the organization for 5-6 years and is known locally as a “baseball” person. I agreed to be the part-time “hitting” coach.
I knew there was a problem at the first practice, as the kids warmed up “coach” was providing zero instruction. The first “drill” at the first practice was lining all 14 players up at third base to take grounders. Never mind that the kids had yet to be instructed how to get into a proper stance, how to approach a grounder, proper glove placement or proper throwing mechanics. This age 10-12 group had 4 players that had never played mind you, they were green rookies. “Coach” went straight from hitting grounders to putting players in positions and hitting infield.
As you may have guessed this was not his only fault, his batting practice would have consisted of 1 player batting and 13 shagging balls. His organizational skills, practice flow and teaching skills are poor and poor is being far too kind. No player was being held accountable to any type of standard because no standard was set.
As a first time assistant with this team, I bit my lip and followed along. The first game saw not one of the players got into a proper stance, no one hustled out to the field, players played out of position, players questioned balls and strikes and the first baseman
(coaches son) made 4 errors because of poor basic fundamental catching skills. The game was a total disaster, the team lost 22-2. Coach blamed it on the other team having all “6th graders”, typical of how “blamers” try and deflect attention from their poor coaching skills.
I blame myself for this quandry, I should have gone out and watched this team practice last year or at least asked the coach about his practice philosphhies. Had I ever attended one of his practices, it would have been obvious in the first 5 minutes, that his teams are poorly coached and not a good choice for us. While I do not claim to be an expert baseball coach, I head coached baseball in Omaha for 3 years before we moved, that Omaha league is considered by most to be the best Little League in the State and often has State Championship teams. By following to a “T” what Coach Olsen put together in his baseball coaching clinics, studying a few youth baseball coaching books and tapes and studying how the best teams in the area practiced, my teams didn�t lose a game in the 3 years I coached.
My guess is there are well meaning guys just like this coaching youth football in a similar fashion. The movements are not broken down and taught properly, the kids are rushed into playing before the basics are perfected, and time is being wasted. In baseball, my teams did lots of base drills without gloves or balls to perfect basic movements before we ever put the gloves on or took a live ground ball. We did lots of “gator” to bucket drills before we ever added the throw to the drill. Before we added the throw we worked “fit and freeze” drills to perfect the proper throwing mechanics. This “baseball” twilight zone we landed on has done none of that.
I graciously shared my baseball coaching DVDs with “coach” before the season started and he claimed to be appreciative and watched them. Well he either didn’t watch them or someone dubbed in a Bad News Bears movie on my DVDs because not one concept from the DVDs has been used.
I�m not going to create a stir with this coach, it’s my fault for not doing the research. Either do the research or head coach the team will be the lesson I learned from this wasted season.
I�ve coached youth sports for 15 years and heard lots of horror stories of poor youth coaching, but never seen it up this close. I feel for the guys stuck in those spots. Now I can say I’ve walked a little in your shoes and it feels like I have a sand burr in one shoe and a sharp pebble in the other.
I might add that this is not the talk of a disgruntled parent, “Coach” had my son as an infielder when he is probably the 10th best fielder on the team. My son is a very smart and coachable kid, but is no infielder. I suggested to “coach” to have my son play in the outfield and not to start, as I felt he was not one of the best 9 players.