Practice Pace Problems in Youth Football
We are finished with our coaches clinic season for 2009. Many thanks to the folks in Chicago, Sonoma California, Cincinnati and Seattle over the last few weeks who had me out to their areas for public and private coaching clinics. We look forward to answering your questions and hearing your results. We hope to top our 153 worst to first stories from the 2008 season.
After doing over 70 of these over the last 3 years, we see a common thread and problem area with all but 1 of the teams (Jupiter Florida) I’ve ever worked with. Slow team pace, most coaches really don’t understand what is possible from a pace standpoint. I’m talking about some very good coaches, experienced, successful coaches who don’t understand the value of a very fast pace or what kids can really do when you hold them accountable to a fast pace.
Unpopular at First
Some coaches seem to be almost put off at the pace we force. I’m not really sure why anyone would want to waste any practice time at all. I don’t want to practice 5 days a week, I have a real life outside of youth football with job and family responsibilities. Guess what, so do most of you and your kids parents. You can get so much more done in a practice than what most people think is humanly possible. I feel very confident we can get as much and in most cases much more done in the course of 2-3 practices a week than the coach that is practicing 5-6 days a week. Add in the freshness of our players and the enthusiasm of parents who aren’t chained to taking Junior to practice every night and you have a recipe for enthusiastic kids and supportive parents.
Why Waste Practice Time
A fast pace allows you to condition during the course of practice instead of setting time aside at the end of practice to do it the old fashioned way. It allows for more quality reps, which improves comprehension, concentration and retention. When we are doing a fit and freeze play rep every 12 seconds and another team is doing 1 rep every 60 seconds, we are getting 5 TIMES as many play reps as them. How is that going to affect execution?
Get Maximum Efficiency
When a coach has 25 players doing a one-on-one drill where only 2 players are involved at a time when I’m doing a very similar drill with 7 kids involved at a time, my kids are going to get 250% more reps than his kids. If we have 5 groups of 5 doing that same drill AND we force a fast pace, there is a good chance my kids are going to get 1000% more reps than the other coach. In my mind if your kids aren’t breathing a little hard (not heaving) throughout their entire practice, the pace is too slow. We go fast enough even in our angle form tackling drills that the kids are breathing a bit heavy.
Forcing a Fast Pace
How do you force a fast pace? You expect it, you require it, you hold the kids accountable to it. You use no huddle, you call the offensive cadence yourself, you require kids to get reset immediately after the play concludes, you sub from the sidelines in an all out sprint, you call your defensive plays the same way, you have every coach holding a set group of kids accountable to their assignments/techniques and you stay consistent.
It will be a real struggle at first, kids will not be set, coaches and players will feel rushed or feel that they can’t do it. But like anything else, once they see you are not letting up, and are going to hold them accountable, they get used to it. After a full week of the fast pace, it is the norm, it will be business as usual, it will be the standard. Why would you want to practice at the same pace as the “norm” in youth football? Do you really want your team to be just like all the other teams in your league? Don’t your kids deserve better? There are many very well coached youth football teams out there, there are also many more that are poorly coached, do you really want to be like them?
Hilarious Parent Story
Driving a fast pace takes more effort for you as a coach, heck I lose at least 10 pounds every season. But in the end, if you force the pace we suggest, your kids will be in great shape and your execution will be off the charts. Nothing brings this together better than a story I have from a game film I watched a few seasons ago. Our paid cameraman sets up right in the middle of the stadium with seats on just one side. Usually our parents are on one side of him and opponents parents on his other side. I always ask him to leave the mike on so I can hear their comments. No one really knows who he is, he isn’t a parent obviously, you get to hear some great stuff. During one game, it was near the half, we were up something like 28-0 and had just scored another touchdown. I hear a sarcastic remark being thrown from one of our opponents parents to one of my parents, it went something like this “Well how much DO you guys practice?”, my parent replied, “Three days a week until school started and then 2 nights a week for 2 hours”. Their parent responded in a very exasperated and surprised tone “ We are going 5 nights a week and we get this?”. They weren’t very happy to say the least. Based on our execution, the opposing parent was expecting the answer to be 5 nights a week and year round practicing, instead what they got was we were practicing about half as much as they were.
It call comes down to the pace you want to set and what you are willing to settle for.