Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

The Top Ten Things Youth Football Coaches Do to Mess Up Their Teams



Top Ten Things Youth Football Coaches Do to Mess Up Their Teams

Back in the day, I used to drive a lot for business. I would often have to do a number of drives where I got up at 3:00 or 4:00 am, do a number of meetings and in order to maximize the efficiency of the trip drive to 10:00-11:00 pm that same night. Needless to say it was tough trying to stay awake so I would channel surf and listen to talk radio, the more outrageous it was, the easier it was to stay awake listening to it. There used to be a woman named Dr Laura that was on that I would catch from time to time, who had a somewhat famous book published called “ Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives”. While the book title seems pretty harsh, it was right on target, detailing 10 very common but absolutely preventable (non common sense) things women often did to destroy their own lives. I often thought there ought to be a book out entitled “Ten Silly Things Youth Football Coaches Do to Mess Up Their Teams”

Common Threads of Failing Teams

Unfortunately there are a number of things that are often common threads to poor performing youth football teams. After coaching for 15 years in 6 different leagues and fouding/managing several youth football teams I’ve seen a bunch of bad youth football teams. I even took two years off of coaching to study the best and worst youth football programs not only in my immediate area but nationwide. While there certainly is more than one way to skin a cat, there seemed to be a lot of commonality in the teams that were consistent bottom dwellers. These are teams that were consistently year after year in the basement of the standings and having a real problem with retaining players. It was painful watching some of these teams practice and play games, I really felt for the poor kids that had to play for some of these coaches, unfortunately it was obvious many of the kids were playing what would be their last youth football season . In many cases these teams had plenty of  talent, more than I had imagined, but they were being coached so poorly they had no chance at having much individual success and little if any team success. While some of the coaches were obviously well meaning but lost, there were also plenty of coaches that looked like they were very confident in the abilities and their approach, in spite of their overwhelmingly poor results. While I could write volumes on why these teams did so poorly, I’m going to attempt to give you my version of the top 10.

 Top Ten Things Youth Coaches Do to Mess Up Their Teams

10) Scrimmaging too much. Some of these poor performing teams were scrimmaging for half of the practice and did not do a single fit-and-freeze or bird-dog rep.

9) Too much conditioning. Most of these teams were spending from 25% to 40% of their practice time doing non-football related conditioning type drills. These youth football teams would have been great had they been competing in a cross country meet or push up contest, but when it came to playing football, they were getting crushed every week.

8) Poor Defensive schemes– These teams used defensive schemes that were designed to stop college football offenses and college or pro football players, not youth football plays or offenses and youth football players. Let’s not even get started about those that have minimum play rules and how their defenses rarely accomodate the playing of these players on defense in situations where they can execute and provide team value on each snap.

7) Blaming the kids. The coaches blamed the kids lack of “effort” or lack of talent for the teams lack of success. Many of these coaches were “the grass in greener” guys. Coaches that think they had to have the best talent or big size to compete. Any lack of success was attributed to being a ‘Jimmies and Joes” situation where their team got “out athleted”. Rarely did any of these coaches take personal responsibility for the teams lack of success, it’s always the kids, the refs, the weather, the breaks, player sick, the other team, cheating, the dog ate the homework blah blah blah

6) Lack of coaching effort. While the typical youth football coach will put in between 110-160 hours per season in practice, travel and game time alone, many don’t put a single hour into doing research about becoming a better youth football coach. Fewer than 15% of youth coaches ever purchase coaching materials. When these poor performing coaches were asked about coaching materials, most had no idea these materials existed and didn’t own any. The other flavor of coaches kind of laughed it off like they knew everything they needed to know and didn’t bother to own any either, in spite of their teams consistent lack of success.

5) Silly Playbook. These coaches playbooks often looked like the best 25 plays (or more) that the coach had seen on TV on Saturdays and Sundays. There was no series basis to these offenses, most plays stood on their own and often were paired with a variety of formations. Other offenses included those that had no chance of succeeding unless their team had a monopoly on the best talent in their respective league. These offenses didn’t fit the talent or the age group of these respective teams. The playbooks were often in excess of 40-50 plays of which not a single play was executed to perfection.

4) Blocking schemes were either non-existent or poorly coached. “Block the guy across from you” seemed to be the basic approach, but of course that is not a blocking scheme or rule. None of these teams would pull, down block, double team, trap or even cross block. Blocking obviously was not a priority and usually not assigned to the head coach.

3) Teaching in a non-progression fashion. Many of these coaches had played football, but they had no idea how to transfer their knowledge to their players. In the end it doesn’t matter what the coaches know, it matters what the players know. These coaches had no idea how to teach in a progression and often were trying to teach techniques that the average youth football player would have very little chance of executing consistently well even if it were taught properly.

2) Teaching age inappropriate techniques. Many youth football coaches are clueless as to what average kids in certain age groups can and can not do. Many coaches get frustrated because the average youth player can’t do what coach did in High School at age 18 with 9 years of playing experience under his belt, not to mention the body maturity and year round practice schedule that most High Schoolers do now. Others (very few) underestimate what can be done, yes age 8-10 kids can pull, trap, throw short passes on the run and play zone defense, but no they can’t throw 20 yard outs or reach block 9 technique defensive ends.

1) Very poorly “designed” practices/Poor Priorities. Too much standing around and at a pace that makes a snail look like an Indy 500 car on race day. No wonder the kids are bored and they look like they haven’t practiced much, they wasted most of practice with large time spaces between drills, reps, everything. Poorly planned and poorly executed practices that seem to place a premium on wasting time. Emphasizing and spending valuable time on non critical nebulous factors instead of concentrating on perfecting the critical success factors of developing youth football teams and players. Instead of perfecting technique, holding players accoutnable to perfect technique, perfecting schemes and developing players, time is spent elsewhere or needlessly wasted.


Please don’t be offended if you are doing one of these things. The reason I know this list so well is not only did I observe poorly performing teams doing all these things, I was gulity of doing them myself until I saw the light 8 seasons ago.


Copyright 2008 Cisar Management

Republishing allowed if Links are kept intact.

For 325 free youth football coaching tips: //winningyouthfootball.com


About The Author

Related posts


  1. SD5

    In youth sports, the head coach and assistants are oftentimes a parent of one of the players. and most times the result is their own son is playing out of position. The most often scenario is the head coach’s son is the quarterback. I have also seen a head coach’s son playing out of position at defensive end because the head coach played defensive end in college. I have seen the smallest player on the team playing at starting offensive tackle because his daddy was the offensive line coach. The boy had a lot of heart and was a starter but not at offensive line. The end result is bad for the boys and bad for the team.

  2. admin

    Coach, that would be reason #10a, it was very close to making the top 10. I always saw kids playing in the wrong positions, I had no way of knowing who was related to who.
    That is a very good reason to have very detailed position descriptions and requirements as well as drills/games or evaluations that reveal and test for the skills needed for each position. That’s another reason we do almost all of our drills in a competitive format in multiple groups that reveal who the top players are. Of course those are all detailed in the book.

  3. Jason

    concur 100%! great notes! I was the head coach of a middle school level team last year in Germany. All the kids were tied to the military bases in Stuttgart. We played teams from the other US military installations all around Germany. We went undefeated and won the Installation Management Command-Europe Championship. I wasn’t a perfect head coach…but, as I review your list, i think I was lucky enough to have stumbled myself into doing all of the above. Bottom line: if you’re a new coach or one that’s struggling to find the winning formula–print out these points, get together with your assistants and make sure you’re plan for this coming season incorporates them all.

    futhermore…I recommend solidifying what your team goals are now and have a plan to visit them during the season. Personally, I stole all mine from Bill Snyder, head coach of my beloved Kansas State Wildcats. //www.kstatesports.com/16goals/

    my experience? your athletes will benefit from them and your parents will appreciate you caring as much or more about the character development of the kids as you are about winning.

    my 2 cents.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *