Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

First Year Coaching Mistakes

A Mistake the First Year Assistant Coach Usually Makes
Many dads starting out coaching youth football for the first time make the same blunder, they try to “connect” with the kids by trying to look like them, talk like them or be their best buddy. In most cases the coaches intentions are noble and good, the rookie coach wants to be able to effectively coach and for his players to have fun. But  in other cases, the coach is just trying to be popular and be well liked by his players.
What The Experts Say
The biggest High School Football coaches forum in the US asked its members what is the number one mistake rookie assistant coaches make and by a HUGE margin the number one answer was: Coaches trying to be their players “best friend”. In the end it made the coach less effective as a coach and less respected by his players.
What Is Reasonable?
Youth football players need to know their coaches care about them, but that doesn’t mean you have to adopt their slang, their mannerisms or wear your baseball cap backwards. You can show you care without acting like a little kid or arrested development adult. Because once you start acting like a kid, they no longer look up to you or respect you, you are now on their level. They don’t know much yet and now they think you don’t either.
How To Do It
A player understands that you legitimately care about them when, you know their name, make eye contact, you encourage them enthusiastically and help them set goals.  You will never be able to reach your full potential as a coach unless you’re able to establish that relationship. Once you have that level of trust, now the player is looking at your level of expertise and commitment. He is thinking; if I follow the coaches directions, will I become a better player? Or if my team follows the coaches directions, will we be a competitive youth football team?
The nice thing about most youth football players is they don’t know much, so they have little to compare you with. Most of them don’t know the correct steps to an efficient reach block or the proper way to run a Cover 2 coverage scheme. Since the players don’t know much, they “judge” you based on what they can understand; how organized you are, your confidence level, how committed you are and your level of enthusiasm. After they know you care, they will gravitate to you if they think you can make them into better football players.
In The Real World
Look at a team that is “lost” and most likely you will see kids that think their coach doesn’t care about them as people. You will also find players on that team who think the coach doesn’t know what he’s doing. On the other hand seek out a team that is excelling, these players will have “bought in” to the coaches system and methods. The kids trust the coaches and their instructions more than they trust their own instincts because not only do they know the coach cares, but they trust his expertise as well.
I realize it’s popular parenting these days to try and be your kids best friend. Unfortunately most parents I see doing this have kids that don’t respect them and have kids whose lives seem to always be unraveling. Kids already have friends, what they need are real parents that will guide them in the ways they should go. The same goes for coaching youth football.
If you follow that guideline, in the end you will have players that not only love you, but respect you as well.  This will save you from looking like an outdated pandering buffoon to your kids and parents. Don’t get me wrong on this one, we have plenty of fun in our practices. I love a good water balloon fight, wisecrack or timely practical joke as much as the next guy, but the kids need to know you are their  coach, not their bestest buddy.
Copyright 2009 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. Republishing allowed if links are kept intact. For 400 Free Youth Football Coaching Tips or to Subscribe to Dave’s free Youth Football Coaching Tips Newsletter go to : //winningyouthfootball.com

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  1. art marche

    Hi coach – I am a recent “convert” to your program even though I have coached for 33 years – or as I tell the parents – “I have been coaching for 200,000 hairs!!” I just read the above article, and one of my requests to my assistants – is to NOT to wear sunglasses at practice so thy CAN make eye contact with the players – which you advocate in the above article. Yet, in all your websites and DVD’s, you are wearing them!! Comment???
    Coach Marche

    1. davecisar

      Coach, you have me on that one. On game days we play in the afternoon and I have an eye condition that makes my eyes very sensitive to light, hence the glasses. I will flip them up from time to time when I need to make eye contact or emphasize a point. Our practices are in the early evening, so the light is not nearly as tough to deal with then. I wear the glasses about half the time then. Many of the DVDs we shot on Saturdays in the daylight etc. Good point though, make sure your kids can see you care.

      I also like to use the term ” I see you”. When I see someone doing something right, I want the player AND everyone else to know I “caught” the player doing something well. ” I see you Jimmy Smith”, lets Jimmy know I am stroking him for something good and lets the team know I am paying attention to everything they do. A little trick I pikced up from Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini.


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