Youth Football Coaching Lessons Learned From Coaching Girls Sports?
Many of you youth football coaches out there have daughters playing sports, we do too. Like many of you I’ve coached these sports almost against my own will, I just can’t get very excited about that communist plot designed to take over the world also known as soccer and it’s fellow traveler, t-ball. But I love my kids, so that will take precedence.
Most of the time I agree to coach the girls because I hate turning my kids down since I spend so much time coaching youth football. The other reason I coach is because of the atrociously poor level of youth coaching out there.
My Name is Dave and I’m a “S” Coach
Last spring we did the “S” word. I agreed to coach, (try not to throw up guys) bought a book, watched a couple of videos, suffered through one coaching clinic, got on the internet for tips and went to study a few practices of the best and worst soccer clubs in the area. We decided to concentrate our efforts on several critical success factors and skills and broke down all the movements into progressions just like we do in youth football. We then developed these progression and skill development drills into fun games, just like we do when we are coaching youth football. We also used many of the player management techniques in the book as well as parent management and game management philosophies.
The net result was we had a very competitive team, the kids had a blast, everyone played a ton and the parents were very happy. The parents got happier each and every game as they got to see the lack of organization, lack of “fun” level and lack of skill development of the teams we played. Up until this experience, I had never watched more than 5 minutes of a soccer game, let alone ever have played the game. Hopefully I won’t EVER have to watch another game again unless the kids decide they want to play another season. I’m very prayerful that they will choose something else. I am proud to say that All of the kids on the team looked forward to coming to practice and the games and all of the players gave me a nice hug before and after each game (coaching girls is definitely different).
On The Other Hand
On the other hand, this year the girls decided they wanted to play t-ball. Since I do so many football coaching clinics in the Spring, I couldn’t coach them. The mistake was I took them to the first practice. The previous 2 weeks I had been working with the girls on some of the basics, defensive stance, approaching grounders, scooping grounders, ball transfer, correct throwing motion, batters stance, plate relationship, grip, batting progression, base running, pop flys, and playing catch. Mainly I was just spending time with them so they knew I was interested and cared. I was also trying to give them a baseline skill set so they wouldn’t be nervous or afraid at their first practice.
We arrived early and saw that practice was about to start and there was only 1 coach there for 12 kids. I asked the “coach” if she needed any help, she said no. I asked her in a very friendly manner what was on the agenda and she replied “We just want to make sure the kids don’t get bored, we will probably let them all hit some”. Well during the first 10 minutes all the kids played “catch” with each other, which was more like fetch, there was zero instruction during this time period. Some of the kids were so green. they were still struggling to keep their gloves on properly. I knew we were in trouble.
Then to my amazement, with ZERO training on how to approach grounders, field grounders, ball transfer or even a stance, she assigned each player a position and started hitting infield. In the meantime, those not selected to play infield went to the outfield and were “catching” pop flies from the second coach that just arrived, again with zero instruction.
As you may have guessed, the infield drill was a disaster as she would go from player to player and instruct them individually after they flubbed up. I guess this was her idea of making sure the kids didn’t get bored. After about 30 minutes of this nonsense, it finally came to an end as she started batting practice. Each player was brought to the plate with ZERO instruction while the other 11 players shagged. Only after the player struck out did the coach come up to offer some help. There was no group reps, no group discussion, no progressions taught etc. Mind you the kids were SO BORED many were sitting down or even looking away from the batter as they took “batting” practice, even when 1 of the players ( coaches son who was 2 years older than anyone on the team) came up to bat and was spraying the infield with laser guided rope line drives. This was a huge safety issue and a lawsuit waiting to happen, the kid was a swtich hitter ahd hot over 80% line drives.
Dental Work Required
I was gritting my teeth so hard during this that I thought my teeth would be nubs by the end of this travesty they called a practice. I literally called my wife on the cell phone and faced away from “practice” until it ended. The next day we called the league president and calmly requested that my kids be placed on a team that would be safely and competently coached. To my delight the next practice with our new team saw 4 coaches playing catch the correct way with players divided up in groups of threes. The coaches tossed the ball to each player only after the player got into the proper stance, then the ball went back to the coach. I saw nice bucket drills being done with good “alligator” grounder scooping technique being taught. What a relief, I did not want to have to coach t-ball this year and the girls were now in competent hands.
What separated the first team from the second team the girls played on? One was coached by someone that took the time to learn how to properly coach the age group he was coaching. The other team may have been “coached” by someone that knew the game, but they had no clue of how to effectively and efficiently transfer whatever knowledge they had to the kids. They had no clue on how to organize an effective practice or how to make it fun. They also made the game boring and drudgery for most of the group, of which my guess is most will never go on to play beyond that first horrific experience.
Effective Youth Coaching
What do little kids t-ball and soccer have to do with competitive tackle football? The moral of the story is effective coaching has many universal truths that transcend each sport. Most guys that are very effective basketball or baseball coaches can be trained to be effective football coaches. Most of them understand how to organize practices, set priorities, break down movements and most importantly seek out help. When I was in Omaha I coached baseball too. The last 3 baseball teams I coached were the best in the league and didn’t lose a single game and I’m not a very good baseball player. We just took the same approach to coaching baseball that as we did in football and it worked out very well.
We all know that at the youngest age groups the first rule in coaching any sport is “Do No Harm”, but when a team is coached that poorly even though there is no negative intent, harm is done.
I hope never to be the coach that inspires teeth grinding in my players parents, no matter what sport I’m coaching.
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