Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

How to Keep the Fire When Coaching Youth Football

sep_18_0611-cpl1Deep Into the Youth Football Season

While most of us coaching youth football are finished with our seasons, there are still a number of teams out there still competing. For some teams their goal is a league championship, for others it is a Pop Warner National Championship in Orlando, or for unlimited teams the NYFC tournament in Daytona or the AYFL Championships in Florida. No matter what tournaments you are playing in or distance you are traveling, the common thread is you are very deep into your seasons.  For some of you your season won’t end until mid December.

Dealing With Player Fatigue

I have coached teams this late into the year and it is quite a challenge, more so if you are coaching north of the Mason-Dixon and have to deal with the cold weather. But regardless of weather, anyone practicing this late in the season has to deal with player fatigue. This is both physical and mental fatigue with the more dangerous culprit being mental fatigue. While we all get caught up in the thrill of packing up and going to far away places and playing teams from other areas of the country we know nothing about, many youth football players just get worn out at this time of year. For many of us we have been practicing for 4+ months and for most teams that have made it this far, you have won some emotionally draining games. Heck I even heard from one coach whose team was on the path for a Pop Warner National Title that his kids were “fried” after winning their first 12 games. He wasn’t sure how he was going to keep them up for 4 more games if they made it to the title game.

How do you keep your kids enthused at this late date?

Limit practice time to 60-75 minutes. Keep the pace up but the duration low.

Reduce full contact to 10 minutes per practice, consider doing a no-pads practice once per week. Let the kids know they will only be hitting for 10 minutes so they know there is a known end point, but they need to go full bore that 10 minutes,

It’s time to add back in 10 minutes of “game time” back into your practices at the end. Games like deer hunter, towel game, slam dunk and rabbit chases from the book are great and keep the kids conditioning up without “running” them.

Loosen the kids up a bit with games like this as well as “situational” games. We like to set up a PAT kick. If the kicker makes it, practice is over, if not we go another 10 minutes of running base plays on air or covering kicks. You can do the same on passing drills, if X completes 10 passes in a row, the kids get a water break and the coaches run a lap.

Run defensive recognition against odd offenses you may see at the tournaments or even “one trick ponies” like the Polecat or Swinging Gate.

Cross train players, if you play in places like Daytona you may play 3 games in 3 days.

Practice a “last play of the game” play or “last play of the half” desperation play, you may need it and it gives the kids something new to learn.

If you are up north make sure and reserve a gym or other indoor practice facility so you can get some quality reps in. You won’t be playing in the cold if you are traveling South.

Heck you may even want to skip practice altogether one chilly night and all go out bowling as a team. Make it competitive but interject some fun back into your season. It may be just the boost the kids need at this late date.

Travel Games

Remember to have fun, that is the ultimate end goal. If you are traveling, make sure to schedule several fun team excursions as well as some down time. We enjoyed the sand football games almost as much as the games themselves. Many of the kids will remember the side trips and pool parties as much as the games, it also gives them a bit of a respite from the pressure of the big fanfare tournament games and the monster teams you usually draw when playing in unlimted weight football.

You want your kids going into these games with a passion still in their hearts for the game of football. You want them going in with smiles on their faces, not throwing up in the parking lot, or worse yet, “mailing it in”. If you are still playing at this time of year, msure to keep a close eye on your teams pulse and make the necessary adjustments so they finish out strong.

Copyright 2008 Cisar Management, all rights reserved

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