Making Changes In Systems in Youth Football
After every season most good youth football coaches try to figure out ways to improve their teams or coaching methods. Most take time to reflect a bit at this time of year on the past season.
Most of us ask ourselves;
Did I do a good job?
Did my team do as well as they should have?
Did we meet our goals as defined before the season started?
Where are areas we didn’t do very well in?
What could I have done differently?
Should I be making any changes?
Once that is done, we figure out where our deficiencies were, prioritize the deficiencies as they relate to reaching our goals and then search out solutions to address said deficiencies. I’m not talking about adding in additional football plays, I’m talking about doing an assessment and review of the season.
Here are some things we are doing in 2008:
Changes We Made In The Past
Back in the 90�s I coached the only way I had ever known, �I� formation power and option football. We picked up a small shotgun spread package as an augment to our �I� and we ran a simple base 5-3 on defense. We ran the same offense and all the same drills I had run as a youth football player in the late 60�s and in the 70�s as a High School player. We even did a few of my old College drills for good measure. Unfortunately, our offensive production was always tied directly to the levels of talent we had and often the size of our offensive line.
When we had great talent and some size, we won and won often. When we didn�t, we were average or worse. On defense when we started our best 11 on defense and didn’t sub on defense, we were usually in most games. But when we did sub to get some of those two way starters a breather or get our weaker kids some snaps, we would struggle. Of course when we played the best teams, we wouldn�t do very well.
You know what they say about people that do the same thing over and over again, but expect different results don�t you? That is often the classical definition of the word “insanity.” Unfortunately it seems is if many of our fellow youth football coaches suffer from this player decimating affliction. They keep doing the same old thing year after year while ending up with same frustrating poor or choppy results. In my first few years of coaching youth football, I went through the above post season assessment. My answer was always that I needed better football players as the solution to my problem. My thoughts were that all I needed was a better x player, better y player, kids with more motivation, more size etc etc. It was always the kids fault, I just needed a �good team� and we would do well.
What turned my head away from that “lottery” mindset was that in the league I coached in then, the same teams with the same coaches won year in and year out. Some years these teams had talent, but often the talent levels they had were very average. Within the organizations that were consistently winning, there were specific head coaches within those organizations that always won, no matter what team they took. Humbly, I came to the conclusion that coaching and scheme really mattered in youth football and I needed to make some changes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said �A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds�. Wise and humble people make changes to what they do if what they are doing is not yielding the results they want. One would hope that goes for those coaching youth football as well.
Changes We Are Going to Make in 2008
I�m now in the process of doing research to fix areas of deficiency in our program. I�m working to develop better methods of communicating with my coaching staffs. I feel we are not leveraging the talents of each coach as well as we could or utilizing the unique skill set each of our coaches innately has as a human being. I�m looking for answers everywhere; from great coaching legends to the captains and innovators of American Industry. We are also leaning too much on our coordinators to do all the basic reads, adjustments and game planning. There has to be a more effective and efficient way of doing things than we are doing today.
As our organization has matured, we now have a few guys that have some experience under their belts and we are getting a few knowledgeable new guys into the program. We want to use their input where it makes sense while making sure that all our kids are �maxing out� on the unique skill set each of us coaches bring to the table. This is a big change from when we first started and had a lot of skeptical rookie �daddy� coaches. While we probably do a better job of this than most youth football teams, we want to be the best at it, that is our standard. One of the great benefits of speaking at all the Nike and Mega Clinics is I get to sit in on other speakers sessions. I get to see (research) how various successful High School and College teams do things. I’ve been fortunate to hear coaches like Bobby Bowden, Pete Carroll, Jim Tedford and Les Miles as well as top High School and Lower Division College coaches. Maybe more importantly I get to talk to thousands of youth coaches at these clinics and of course through e-mail as well.
By doing a better job in this area our kids will have a better experience, get better instruction, be better prepared and have more fun. Coaching youth football is about X�s and O�s but it�s also effectively and efficiently communicating with your players and your coaches. This is a neglected area in most programs that should reap big payoffs. I assure you we will figure out how to do it better and share that information with you once we have proven it works and have all the bugs worked out.
Other Big Change Stories
Many coaches look at their goals, do research and come up with alternate solutions to reach those goals. Many of you think of Tom Osborne as �Mr. Option Football�. Well that really isn�t him at all if you look at his history. He was brought in by Bob Devaney to spice up the passing game of Nebraska in the 1960s. Bob Devaneys Unbalanced T formation running teams of 1967 and 1968 had struggled. Those teams complied back to back 6-4 seasons that included a homecoming day 12-0 loss to lowly Kansas State in a game NU had just 1 first down. Osborne, relying on his prior NFL receiver background, brought in a spread passing attack and �I� formation base running attack and dumped the run 90% of the time T formation.
Spread Passing Attack
Osborne recruited future NFL quarterbacks, Jerry Tagge, Dave Humm and Vince Ferragamo to lead these offenses and NU threw the ball. In 1970 NU was a 50% run 50% pass team, and were split pretty much down the middle from 1969 to the late 70s. NU won National Titles in 1970 and 1971 using this “spread passing” system. Johnny Rodgers even won the Heisman Trophy in 1972 as a receiver at NU. But while Osborne�s 1970 and 1971 team had won National Titles (both teams had incredible defenses), his teams in the mid and late 70s were getting beat every year by Oklahoma and often didn�t fare well in Bowl Games. While NU�s teams were winning 9-10 games every year, that wasn�t the goal, the goal was to compete for National Championships.
Change to Option Football
Osborne studied the landscape of college football and in 1980 he decided to make a colossal change to option football by recruiting Fort Worth Texas native Turner Gill. Not only would Gill be NU�s first option quarterback, he would be NU�s first starting black quarterback. Osborne had done a detailed statistical study of the offensive production of college football and it�s correlation to wins. He looked at the kinds of kids he had available locally as well as the type of kids he could recruit nationally and decided to take the then risky plunge into option football.
Change Yields Big Results
In the early 90’s Osborne also made huge changes on defense. He went to an attacking 4-3 with smaller and faster players, a huge change from the 50 bend but don’t break strategy of the previous 20 years. Most of you know how the story ends, over 250 wins in 25 seasons, 3 more National Titles and named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Would Osborne be where he is today if he hadn�t made the big change to option football in 1980? I doubt it and certainly the Nebraska Football legacy would have been a much different one.
While I don�t compare to the worst of College coaches, let alone one of the best, we made a similar wholesale change a number of years back. Eight seasons ago I decided to move to the Single Wing Offense and a much different practice methodology, a 180 degree turn from what I knew. We went from having up and down seasons to going 78-5 and consistently winning and retaining nearly all my players. Had I stayed with what I knew before and just recruited or hoped for better players or added a few more football plays, no doubt we would have been suffering with the same up and down results. The kids are better off for it and I know I am too.
Let me know if you have other topics you want me to address at firstname.lastname@example.org
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