If you are coaching youth football, high school football, college football and even professional football ( according to Lombardi) the team that blocks and tackles the best will usually win most games. If anything, a team that is fundamentally sound and executes the base fundamentals well will always be a competitive team over the long haul.
So one would logically conclude that if you teach great fundamentals, your kids learn them, embrace them, buy into them and execute them, your teams would be competitive. In turn if you wanted to field competitive teams, your emphasis would be tilted very heavily to coaching great fundamentals.
I COULD NOT AGREE MORE.
In the leagues I’ve coached in the teams that were fundamentally sound in technique and scheme were almost always very competitive. On a rare odd-ball occasion a freakish group of players would come together and do well in spite of their fundamentals and coaching, but those occasions were very rare, much rarer than most youth football coaches would like to admit. I saw that odds defying freak group of kids in less than 10% of the games I’ve watched.
What Happens in Real Life
I have however seen far more very average skilled but extremely well coached teams consistently beat teams chocked full of better athletes who weren’t coached well and were not fundamentally sound. I see those kinds of teams winning far more often than the freak group.
Beware of the Excuse Maker
So why should you beware of coaches that preach fundamentals? I’ve seen too many consistently losing teams who have coaches that preach, “ I don’t care about wins, all I care about is teaching fundamentals”. They try and cover for their losing ways by preaching that they are not going to concern themselves with winning, but for the higher purpose of teaching great fundamentals.
The only problem with that equation is that if a team is being taught and has learned great fundamentals, they will be competitive over the long haul. Again there may be a “perfect storm” mix of very unathletic players and some injuries that can short-out a season, but that shouldn’t be the case year after year. The last thing you want for your son is to have him play for an excuse maker. Is excuse making what you want your son to learn, embrace and emulate? If the game is really about more than wins and losses and X’s and O’s, I would hope that your answer to the above question was no.
I’ve gone to many youth football practices to observe and learn from both great teams and very poor teams. In 2004 I remember going to Lincoln, Nebraska to watch the practice of a team that was failing miserably. This team had some athletic talent and good size size and coach was adamant that he was teaching “nothing but fundamentals”. What I observed at his football practice was much different than what he had told me. They were doing about 30 minutes of stretches and cals followed by about another 30 minutes of agility drills that had very little to do with any fundamental football skill.
The remaining hour was filled with about 40 minutes of inneffective live scrimmaging, with about 1 play being run every 90-120 seconds, an extremely slow pace. The last 20 minutes was all about an impressive showing of the teams conditioning, lots of gassers. They were in great physical shape, had this been a conditioning or cross country competition, they would have won hands down. Instead they were losing all their football games, which is what they should have been preparing for.
Unfortunately this team and many others are coached by guys that have good intentions, but have poor priorities. This coach either didn’t know what great fundamentals were or maybe he didn’t know how to teach great fundamentals. My guess is it was a little of both mixed in with a huge dose of not understanding his critiacl success factors and putting his practice priorities in place. Just doing a specific drill, done without precision over and over and over again wrong, does little to improve the fundamental skill level of youth football players. Practice DOES NOT make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
Good Fundamentals are taught by coaches that know how to break each fundamental movement down into small teachable steps, then they encourage, trouble-shoot, adjust, rep and develop each player along a path where the player can learn, develop and perfectly execute those skills in practices and games.
It really doesn’t matter if you as a coach know the skill, what is more important is do your kids know the skill and do you know how to teach it?
How many of us have seen great salesmen that made terrible sales managers? Not everyone can teach or manage well, even if they have the technical skills down pat. Can you as a coach develop a player and unit with great communication skills? Then can you put each player in situation where they can use those skills to add team value on each snap and so each players can experience some individual “success”?
If you do that, your teams aren’t going ofer the season. Teaching great fundamentals and winning aren’t mutually exclusive, they go hand in hand. Beware the excuse maker coach that tries to sell you on the illogical excuse making argument that they are teaching fundamentals at the expense of wins, that is preposterous.
The problem is not every coach knows what good or appropriate fundamentals are in youth football or how to break it down and teach it. Or put their kids in a position to best utilize the fundamentals they have been able to master. Hence you have a youth coach who on the surface looks like he knows the game, but has teams that are consistently not competitive.
What Really Happens to These Kids
I might add it is very rare that a team that loses every game and only scores a handfull of points will retain kids “at the next level”. There are too many options for kids these days. When they get blown out every week playing for the “teaching fundamentals at the expense of wins” coach, they rarely end up embracing the game. That’s one of the main reasons that 70% of kids playing youth football today will never play High School football. They think they aren’t any good, they aren’t having fun getting creamed every week and they move on to something they feel they can succeed at.
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