Assistant coaches are the lifeblood of youth football programs, they can make or break a head coach. I understand how valuable they are, so I�m not bashful about recruiting them when the situation presents itself.
Well this last month the situation presented itself in a big way right on my doorstep:
A former University of Nebraska football player moved back to the area and into my little community. He, his wife and two children attend the same church as we do and his wife is in my wife�s Titus group. His kids go to school with my kids and low and behold he has a boy that is of youth football playing age.
Former NFL Player to Coach Youth Football
This former NU great was an offensive lineman and played in the NFL for 6 years. When I e-mailed him, he quickly and readily replied and agreed to help coach next year. He had �heard� of the program and some of the success we had locally. Needless to say I was excited about the prospect of having someone of that caliber coaching with us. It will be fun learning from someone with that kind of experience under their belts.
I would encourage all you youth football coaches to recruit good assistant coaches to help you in your efforts, you can�t do it by yourself. You can�t even do it very well with 2 guys, for a 22 player team, 5 is about the right number. You should chase down guys that know football, but don�t be surprised if some of the men you coach with don�t turn out like you thought. It�s not what you know that is important, it is what your players know that counts.
It’t Not What You Know, It’s What Your Players Know
There are High School coaches I know of that can talk circles about 3 techniques, Cover 3, Shotgun Zone read and know every football term and scheme forward backward and sideways. But many of these guys have 90 play playbooks and are going 0-10 or 1-9 every year. This amazes me, but then you go back to the adage �It doesn�t matter what I know, it matters what my players know�. And with youth football teams it�s important for the kids to not only know what you know, but for your knowledge to be applicable to youth football.
When coaching youth football, you have to be able to break down and progressively teach aspects of the game in a way that the kids can grasp, retain and actually do within a limited amount of practice time. The youth game is not High School, College or Pro Football, there are so many other considerations and contraints that those teams never have to deal with. While the youth game isn�t about just learning some basic plays, it also isn�t about learning how to run the zone read or the West Coast Offense either.
Former College Coach Fails in Youth Football
In my first years of coaching youth football, my former College Head Coach was coaching his grandson in our league. This former Division II Head Coach was very well respected, his teams had been very competitive and he had even been an assistant coach at the Division I Level in the old Big 8. When the coaches in our league found out he was going to be coaching against us, they immediately figured his teams would dominate the league. It turned out my former coaches team was one of the worst in the league, only winning 2-3 games and they looked pretty shabby doing it.
Successfull Youth Coaches Come in All Shapes and Sizes
On the other hand I�ve had assistant coaches that knew nothing, absolutely nothing about the game, we even had a few that had never even played the game. Many of these guys were happy to just hold dummies or just play any role we needed them to. Other guys got in to their elbows, did the research, read the book, listened hard, watched the DVDs and tried to build themselves into solid youth football coaches. These guys came into the youth game with open minds and only taught what they had just learned, which was youth football schemes and techniques. You would be surprised how many of these �rookie� coaches went on to be great coaches. Richard Marian a guy that had never played High School football did an incredible job as head coach of my age 8-10 �Select� team in 2005.
The moral of the story is: don�t judge a book by its cover when looking for youth football coaches. Some of the best ones are right under your nose, they just need to be asked, inspired, trained and given responsibility to shine. Some that appear to be great from a pedigree standpoint don�t always work out and some that don�t look like your prototypical youth football coach end up working out well.
I was able to add another former University of Nebraska player last year on the defensive line and he worked out just fantastic, I�ve also had former college players that didn�t work out at all. Just because you were a great player doesn�t mean you are automatically a great coach. Quite often the lesser skilled players make good coaches because they had to rely more on proper technique than raw skill.
My new guy is going to be great, he�s asking all the right questions, what are my expectations, what are the goals of the team, what role do I want him to play on the team etc. He�s obviously a very smart guy and I expect it will work out very well.
Looking forward to next season already, is it August yet?
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