Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Style Over Substance When Coaching Youth Football

Style Over Substance in Youth Football:

Our entire society seems to be enamored with style to the point it is often more important than substance. I’m not sure why our society watches over every move Paris Hilton makes, she has not done anything of any consequence. She has no great accomplishments, can’t sing, can’t act, no business or sports acumen, not pretty (looks like a poorly fed lizard to me) really where’s the beef? I’m not really sure when or how this nonsense began permeating our great country, but it has. It has even impacted our beloved game of youth football and even some of those that coach it.


In my mind the goal of the youth football game is to have fun, teach fundamentals and life lessons through the game and compete to win. Some style over substance youth football coaches think it’s more important to “look good” than win. These are the teams that have 10 different formations, and 45 different football plays yet score just a touchdown or two a game. Quite often these coaches pride themselves on the fact they are running something like what you see on TV in the NFL on Sundays, never mind the fact that they are completing just 15% of their passes, losing most of their games and not moving the football.

If these coaches took the time to see what was important to their players, they would find that the kids want to win. The kids would much rather win than look pretty emulating a system they do not have the maturity and skills to execute. Mind you a spinner blocking back wedge play for a TD with defenders running all over the place with no clue has the ball is a thing of beauty as is a “T” series trap play. Of course our play action passes off these football plays are usually wide open after we establish the run and look pretty. But we do not look like the Colts or Patriots, who cares? The style over substance guy cares.

We played a team like this in an early game 2 years ago. His team came out in 5-6 different formations in their first two “drives”, which were both 3 and outs. They used motion on every play and threw 4 of those 6 downs for zero completions, zero yards a sack and a turnover. When looking at film of this game, it was obvious these kids didn’t have any basic fundamentals down at all. Their stances were atrocious and they had no clue who to block, their blocking scheme had to be the infamous “block the guy across from you, non blocking, blocking scheme”.

This team had very big line splits, any kind of stunt by our defense resulted in lost yardage or turnovers, it was like shooting fish in a barrel for my defensive coordinator. We were up by 3 TDs in the first 8 minutes of this game and in order to not completely humiliate this team we did not use a single stunt after the first quarter and subbed very liberally.

Even by doing so, this team failed to make a first down until the fourth quarter, even with all of our subs in and having players play out of position. We were up 36-0 at the half in a game we could have easily won by 80 points, but mercifully did not. I did my best to keep the score reasonable and had 14 different kids carry the ball and even resorted to playing with 9 players on defense in the fourth quarter to try and get the other team a first down. I really felt bad for these kids, they were trying their best and giving a great effort, but they had zero coaching.

This team had a coaching staff of 9, how did I know that? They all had identical uniforms of very well done team polo shirts with team colors and logos, a team baseball cap and team coaching pants. After the game what can you say? I told the coach sorry, we were doing our best to sub and I congratulated the coach on his players effort. I did not know this head coach and asked in a very friendly and non condescending way if he went to the big coaches clinic everyone goes to in June here. He said he found out about it late but they didn’t go. I asked if he wanted to be on the mailing list for the one held next year and he said “no that’s ok, that costs $25 doesn’t it?” I said yes, but for a whole day of High School and College coaches, it is a bargain, he declined my offer.

On the way home I thought about it, those fancy shirts, pants and caps had to cost nearly $100 for each coach. As a group they probably had $900 tied up in those outfits, yet as a group they wouldn’t spend $225 to go to a football coaching clinic. I wasn’t quite sure how those fancy clothes made his youth football team any better, but I know a coaches clinic would have. Heck, for $900 they could have gotten a private all day clinic and really learned something.

I have nothing against youth football coaches wearing team gear, but not at the expense of getting better trained to make your youth football team better. Personally I don’t own a Screaming Eagles cap, a very nice one was given to me about 5 years ago as a gift and I lost it in 2005. In 2003 I was given a very nice Screaming Eagle coaching shirt, which I have worn just once. I have 3-4 Screaming Eagle t-shirts, the year end ones with the players names and our scores etc, but I only wear those at football practice. I was given an Eagles windbreaker by the parents which I will wear in the rain because I don’t own another windbreaker. To me wearing that team gear is like going bowling and bringing your own bowling ball. If you have your own ball and shoes, you had better be a darn good bowler. If you have your own ball and shoes and bowl a 90 it should be an embarrassment, if you are using an alley ball and bowl a 90, no big deal.

Now if you’ve invested money to make yourself a better coach and your team can execute well, have at it, wear the team gear. But the guy that would rather look pretty and spend his money on clothes rather than to make himself a better coach for the kids sake is a style over substance guy. He deserves the poor results he has sown through his poor choices. That poor guy I coached against I’m sure doesn’t own a single coaching book or DVD. My guess is his lack of priorities obviously carries over to how he conducts practice and runs his team. In the end the kids suffer for this coach who obviously would rather look good than properly teach his players the game of football.

I look at my “Complete Package” set of materials at $90 that includes the 266 page book, a 2 DVD Coaches Clinic Set and the 2006 Full Season games 2 DVD set and think how cheap is that? In an 11 game season that’s just $8 per game to really help a team out. $8 for a lifetime memory, what a bargain and far less if you use it in season 2 or 3, then the cost would go down to $3 a game. Split it between 2-3 coaches and it’s now $1 a game, darn right ridiculous. But hey I’m a results and reality based guy, maybe I’m wrong and should go out and buy some fancy coaching duds. Nah, my players memories and development and my memories will last well beyond the lifespan of that team gear hat and shirt. That stuff never gets worn after the season anyways.

Coaching youth football well is all about priorities, make sure you have the right ones.

Copyright 2007 Cisar Management and //winningyouthfootball.com republishing this article without including this paragraph is copyright infringement.

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