Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Youth Coaches Clinic Overview

There were no posts this weekend due to my committment to do a private youth coaches clinic in Florida.
Here is how it went:

Here is a breakdown or a private youth football clinic I did for an age 7-8 team this weekend:

This weekend I had the pleasure of working with a great bunch of coaches and Youth Football Team in Florida. The team was made up of all first year players and the coach had 11 of his 22 players there. The goal was to train the coaches on the base offense, defense, base blocking, tackling and show the coaches how to do an evaluations and player placements.

Half of the coaching staff had attended the Orlando Coach of the Year Clinic, so they had already seen our Offensive, Defensive, Offensive Line and Practice Organization Presentations. Since that February clinic the head coach of this team had bought all the materials and studied them well, he is one of the most thorough people I�ve ever met, he is going to be a great coach.

The head coach had a very good understanding of what we were trying to accomplish on offense and defense, why we were doing it and how we were going to do it. This is his first year as a tackle head coach. He obviously had taken the time to review all the materials well and had lots of very good questions for me right from the time I got off the plane and into his waiting vehicle. I think that first night we were up to about 1:30 am.

I�m going to review the field portion of the Saturday clinic with the players present. This was held at a very nice complex complete with lights, multiple game fields, beautiful landscaping, and bleachers. I�m sure this is quite the site on Fall weekends with all the teams in their uniforms and fans present.

We started at 9:00 am with a group of about 11 players age 6-8 with some of the 6�s turning 7 over the summer. None of the players on this team had played tackle football before. While that may sound very challenging, that fact is softened by the fact this is a very sports crazy area and nearly every player on the team has played organized sports of some type. In fact, one player squeezed in an hour of our event in-between a baseball game and lacrosse game. The parent involvement was over the top as every players parent stayed and watched the entire 4 � hours we were there.

It was warm so we had plenty of breaks scheduled and stayed in the shade as much as possible. We started off with the ready/focus talk, I�m not quite sure they were as aggressive with adhering to this as I would have liked, but the coaches will square that up in the Fall, I’m sure. Our version of warm ups went very well as we taught the stance and the “no play”. The kids as usual jumped the “no play” the first time, but on the second and third tries did it perfectly. In fact, when we ran “no play” 2-3 more times when we put in the plays, they didn’t jump on any of them, that was very impressive. As we progressed into angle form tackling, we were having some problems keeping the players low and wide, but most of the kids were “getting it”. More importantly the coaches understood what we were looking for and how it needed to be taught.

As the kids attention spans started to wander we got into the evaluation teaching part of the clinic as we played the “Deer Hunter” game, and “Towel” Game. The Deer Hunter was not quite the perfect evaluator as the “Hunters” often had friends that were deer that they chased down relentlessly to get them out of the game, rather than taking the easy shots against slower opponents. We had to keep a close eye on the movements rather than just doing the evaluation from who the last 2-3 standing were, because in this case the last player standing was a player no one knew, hence he was left to the last. But we did see some great chases and got to see the quick feet and elusiveness of the kids. As we moved to the “Towel Game” in the shade, we saw a few surprises. One player “J” I had slated from early on as a backup wingback type, he was small in the 20th percentile of the team and had just average speed, but when it came down to the Towel game he finished second in the group. Another player that was very tall and very fast and powerful finished a lot lower than I expected and a player that showed just average speed (but is much faster than what he showed) finished on top. The kids had a blast with these two games.

We moved to the snap progression drills, again to show the coaches what we were
looking for and to continue to teach the coaches how to do evaluations. While the kids were doing everything we asked, they were not accelerating to the hole or past the point where we had to coaches standing with blocking dummies giving the ballcarrier a squeeze. I placed “chasers” to chase the ballcarrier to the hole and another chaser after the dummy squeeze. This gave us a much better picture of what we had and taught the coaches how to teach the players to accelerate immediately upon getting the ball, through and after contact.

We moved on to our base offensive line blocking progression and probably went a little long on that one and didn�t get to get to a dummy fit and drive. The first 2 steps which are critical, we got that in along with the arm and head movements. With limited time and keeping the flow to maintain the players interest, required us to leave certain things out. To maintain the interest levels we then went to the “Splatter” blocking drill so the kids could get some contact and we again could judge the aggressiveness of the players.

During the planned breaks we started with the basics of offense = blocking, defense = tackling, then moved to play calling numbering schemes. They picked up the numbering system right off the bat as the one break we just did the backs numbers. The next break we did the line hole numbers and the next one, we brought the two together. Coach had plenty of cones and one of those �firehose� line spacer markers, which was very nice. We did the “Sumo” drill/game and “Splatter Tackling” to build some more momentum and this reinforced my thoughts on which players were playing where.

We taught the coaches how to put the defense in first and the kids got a little bored as we spent a lot of time working with the coaches on the whys and hows of each position. We put the kids in at positions based on the position descriptions in the book and our evaluations to those descriptions. This team will be very good defensively as they have 2 very smart and obedient defensive ends, 2 EXTREMELY coacheable kids. These kids were 100% obedient, in my book in the defensive ends player descriptions, these kids pictures should be right there. One of these kids you would have never figured out was a defensive end, small and not overly aggressive, but this player was perfect in every drill technique wise and he was the one that surprised everyone by finishing second in the Towel game. The other defensive end is tops in his class at school and nearly perfect in technique and rarely made the same mistake twice, he was listening and adjusting to me as he went through the drills. Not as fast as his brethren in the backfield, but probably one of those kids that will play faster once he is 100% confident in what he is doing, my guess is he is a perfectionist. I love coaching kids like these 2 defensive ends, a coaches dream, no complaints, above average athleticism, smart and attentive. This team played flag football last year and struggled to contain sweeps from certain teams, I do not think that will be an issue with our defense and having these 2 at defensive ends.

We put in the “Gunner” and “Claw” stunts and the coaches and kids picked it up real well with the exception of the bearcrawlers. We had not had a chance to work any bearcrawling, and know that is a simple technique to teach in 10-15 minutes.
We did not put in the “Cross”, but suggested to the DC to add it later on if they were perfect on the other stunts. As I thought about it on the plane ride home, with the intelligence level of his defensive ends, the cross is a definite game 2-3 stunt this team can pull off. Those smart little defensive ends will work with the corners to make sure both are doing the right movement on that call.

We did some fit and freeze defense versus a “scout” offense of myself and a couple of other coaches. The kids seemed to enjoy that and once we got the defensive ends coming off the ball and getting to the “Sweet” spot, all was good. The coaches and corners understood our “slow play way”concept and followed it real well in the scout period. The little buggers shut down our reverse and bootlegs cold, so that part was very effective. The defensive coordinator cracked a few smiles when he saw how both stunts were going to be very effective for this team. This team has some speed and aggressiveness coming off the edge that should mean a fair number of turnovers and lots of negative yardage plays. All that was missing was one more defensive tackle, but with 10-11 additional kids showing up in August, there should be at least one that can handle that position. We broke for lunch for 30 minutes with a very nice spread of food provided by Mrs Coach.

When we picked it back up we went to offense with the offensive line doing their first 2 steps. We were running out of time so we did not have time to review and rep GOD blocking with the line, but the head coach is doing the right thing and coaching the line even though his background is as a skilled position player. He has a very good grasp of the blocking rules. We started with the 16 power and struggled a bit with the fullback getting to the corner without running into the blocking back. Once the blocking back got it into his head to sprint to his kickout block(the blcoking back is the very coacheable defensive end), this was not a problem. The wingbacks blocks looked very good and the play started to look pretty good. We alternated the wingback to tailback and he was able to pick up both positions. The player I had slated to start at tailback seemed to be a step or two slower than the wing, but was very strong in the sumo and towel game and is thick in his thigh area as the wing is pretty thin and taller. Interesting was the fact that the wingback and tailback raced and in a 20 yard sprint the tailback won. A good dose of �chase� drills should cure this tailback of not hitting the hole at full speed. The 22 wedge went in without a hitch and the fullback got the concept of pushing on the right guards back down pretty well towards the end. We put the 31 tap in next and as usual the blocking back wanted to leave early, ahead of the pull. Once we got him to sit for his 1,001 count the play looked real good. The 43 reverse looked great right out of the chute, very nice exchanges and excellent kickout blocks by the blocking back. The fullback struggled a bit with his aiming point to the backside but once he figured out he needed to come at 100% speed off the hip of the blocking back, it worked out just fine. The 18 sweep went in perfectly right off the bat, no issues and the kids all had their heads on the correct side of the dummies we had at the point of attack. We next put in the 38 buck wedge, the blocking and fakes were good, but the blocking back was hesitating some and not going as deep as he needed to so we set up a landmark cone and it seemed to go better, although I wasn�t happy how slow that play came off. The 18 sweep pass was a play we struggled with, the patterns were pretty good and the fullback was coming out on his block of the defensive end pretty well, The tailback was not getting deep enough on his sprint out as we like him to get wide of the right end and about 5 yards deep, so as he approaches his throw he can take 2-3 small steps towards the line of scrimmage before the throws the ball. Near the end, the pass to the blocking back in the flat seemed to be reasonably consistent, the kid can catch. With some work that play has merit with this team and often looks pretty ugly right out of the chute.

We broke, then wrapped things up with the “Mouse” series. I thought this would be the most difficult of the plays to do, as it involves motion. The wingback and tailback meshed real well and they got it right off the bat. We put in Mouse 16 Power, Mouse 32 Wedge, Mouse 22 Wedge and Mouse 47 Sweep. Even the 47 sweep looked good, I think we had just one poor exchange. They really were clicking on this series and even the log block of the weakside defensive end by the blocking back looked good. We were about 10 minutes ahead of schedule at this point, because the kids had done such a great job on the “Mouse Tailback “Spin Series”. We put in the 32 wedge, both versions, the 32 wedge fake fumble and the 32 wedge fake 18 sweep pass, the kids were perfect on these from the first rep.

Suggestions for this team: They have another stud blocking back “D” that had to leave to go to a lacrosse game he was quicker than “C”, have the other blocking back “C” start at right guard and alternate at blocking back. �J� the smaller obedient kid that had perfect technique and had to leave early, start him at right end on offense and train him as a backup wingback. “B” the tall quick kid who got sick and had to leave early, move to power tackle “J” and “B” together on double teams will be a very nice combo. “CH” is a fit at right tackle, bigger, stiffer and not good feet.

During your tackling competitions, the 2 best go to inside backer, move the next 2 to corner. The 4 we had playing on Saturday are all so close, no way to figure out who was the best without pads. If “K” can handle both corner and linebacker postions, line him up to the tight end side ( no wing) to get big plays on “gunner” calls.

We put in the offense in just 80 minutes, in what takes most teams 4-5 weeks to do.
What looked good enough to run:
16 power
18 sweep
22 wedge
43 reverse
31 trap
Mouse 16 power
Mouse 22 wedge
Mouse 47 sweep
Mouse 32 wedge
32 Wedge

Plays that need work:
38 buck wedge

Plays that need a lot of work:
18 Sweep pass

Other things that needed work: head placement of blockers, it has to be enforced 100%. Lower shoulder and wider feet on both blocking and tackling, it has to be enforced by every coach on every rep. Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

The goal was to teach the coaches how to teach the offense, defense and base techniques and we accomplished most of that, so the clinic was a success in my mind and the coaches seemed happy with the results.

It was a bit too long for kids this age, but scheduling is difficult at this time of year. All in all a lot of progress for a group this young with zero tackle experience or Single Wing background. With this coaching staff and group of kids I would expect they will do quite well this upcoming season and surprise a lot of teams.

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