What to Say to the Local High School Coach, Pressuring You to Run His System?
I love going to places where football is important. The Bay Area has good football and there are plenty of good youth football coaches I’ve met over the years from that area. My wife and I had the good fortune of being told by one of these great guys of some great off the beaten path places to hike and enjoy some great scenery. We did last weekends clinic in Concord California, one of those places where football is important. Concord De Lasalle High School is there, owners of High School football’s longest winning streak, they won 151 consecutive games.
I’ve communicated with Concord De Lasalle (DLS) Head Coach, Bob Ladeceur a number of times. I like to study and learn from those that have had significant success over the long haul. I like to see how the successful have achieved success. When you do that, you often get the benefit of decades of experience and thousands of hours of the other coaches research. While none of us will have the exact set of circumstances and resources of a team like DLS, there is much to learn that you can apply to your own youth football teams.
In studying DLS the key ingredients to their success per Coach Ladeceur is an expectation of perfect effort to the whistle on every play. When you watch their game film you will see all 11 players playing from whistle to whistle. When they are on offense, they only run 4-5 plays, but they execute them perfectly. They sweat the small stuff like coming off the ball and pad level, rarely do you see a DLS player get beat off the ball or play higher than his opponent. Sounds like anything those of us coaching youth football need to hear?
Coach Ladeceur admits he’s not much of an X’s and O’s guy, his claim to fame is he has pared down the game to a few critical success factors and he has prioritized his time and efforts in those areas to the exclusion of almost everything else. Like many of the great High School coaches I’ve spoken to, Coach “Lad” as he is known to his friends, is not a stickler for youth football schemes. He is all about developing a passion for excellence and perfecting core fundamentals.
This weekend a youth coach at the clinic asked me about how he should work with the High School coach in his area who is pressuring this volunteer youth coach to put a quarterback under center. Mind you this youth coach had taken over a floundering youth team and in just one year this team went from worst to first using my Single Wing system and methodology. This youth coach told the clinic group how every boy on his team carried the ball and 15 different kids scored touchdowns last season. He also passionately shared how all the kids on his team signed up to play again this season. The High School coach who wants this youth coach to “copy” his offense has NOT WON A SINGLE GAME IN 3 YEARS. So for the benefit of a single player, this High School coach wants the youth team of 9 year olds to scrap the fun direct snap offense that is working so he won’t have to train a quarterback how to take an indirect snap.
This youth coach asked me what he should tell the High School coach. While we all want to do our best to work with people that will be involved with our kids as they move up, whose to say a coach who has won 3 games is going to be at this school 7-8 years from now when little Johnny is eligible to play varsity football. I’m not sure about the wisdom of copying a program that is winless over the last 3 years either. Our goal as youth football coaches should be to help develop a love and appreciation for the game in our kids. I’m not sure kids do that when they don’t win a game in 3 years.
With 15 different kids scoring and winning a league title, my guess is our youth coach friend has a mess of kids that have a love and passion for the game. I’m betting he as a great nucleus of kids that are darn good at coming off the ball, have great pad level and block and tackle well. I’ve heard they have excellent effort and good execution. Sound like anyone’s team that you know? I bet Coach Ladeceur would love to have some of these kids and wouldn’t give a second thought as to what offense or defense they played when they were in youth football. Good coaches are very confident in their ability to teach, they don’t pawn that off on the youth coaches in their area. Tell the High School coach, your mission and goals are different than his. Your job is to teach great fundamentals, have fun, get everyone into the game and to develop a passion for the game in your kids. If the High School offense or defense doesn’t help you fulfill YOUR mission, then you need to run something other than what they are running.
What the High School coach can’t teach is what youth football coaches can- a love and passion for playing the game. A player either has that or doesn’t by the time he reaches High School, sadly many a player NEVER makes it to play High School football because he moved on to something else. He never developed that passion, maybe his youth team went 0-30 the 3 years he was “trying it out.”
Success breeds success, choose carefully who you follow and emulate.
I spoke to a couple of coaches about this from what many consider to be some of the most competitive High School football leagues in the Country. Rick Darlington is Head Football Coach at Apopka High School. Apopka is near Orlando and competes in 6A, the largest class in Florida. His teams compete against the like of Miami Northwestern, a team often times loaded with 10 or more Division I players. Week in and week out, Rick’s teams compete against teams loaded with DI players. Rick’s teams have been rated in the USA Today Top 20 poll, consistently winning district titles and won a State Championship in 2002. Rick is a well respected speaker on the Nike and Glazier Coaches clinic circuit and his teams run the Single Wing offense. He is a very competent coach, extremely entertaining and talented speaker and a friend. He has been featured in Sports Illustrated and is a nationally known High School football expert.
Question: Do you suggest the youth program kids run your offense?
Coach Darlington: No, I have no idea what position they play in little boy ball. They come to me in the summer before their freshman year and we PLACE them where we think they will HELP THE TEAM. FB’s become guards, WR’s become DE’s, tall slow players become OL.
I honest to goodness have never seen one single players of ours play before he gets to me. I live 40 minutes away and my free time is spent with my family, not “stroking” future players who still do not have armpit hair….
And we have won a sporty percentage of our games on freshman, JV, and varsity levels, so me not seeing them or them not running our system does not seem to be an issue.
The ONLY thing I care about a youth coach instilling is desire, discipline, humility, and the realization that the boy is going to be a part of something BIGGER THAN HIM! Character qualities, not schemes or positions. That is what matters.
Jim Rackley is the head football coach of Converse Judson High School. With an enrollment of 3,600 students, Judson competes in 5A, the largest class in Texas High School football. Judson one of the most storied football programs in the history of Texas high school football. In eight years as the Rockets’ head coach, Rackley has amassed a record of 77-26, including an astounding 18-5 record in the state playoffs. His teams have reached the playoffs in six of his eight years at the helm. In 2002, he led Judson to its sixth state championship. His 2004 team reached the state semi-finals and his 2005 and 2007 teams reached the state finals. In all, Judson has advanced to the state finals a record-tying eleven times in the last 26 years, winning six state championships.
Question: Coach Rackley, how important is it to you that the youth program runs the same offense as your High School team?
Coach Rackley: I couldn’t care less what the youth program runs. All I care about is that those kids learn how to block and tackle well and get on the field. If a player comes out for me as a Freshman and he enjoys playing the game, myself and my coaching staff can train him to do the things they need to do to be successful on the football field for us. We have a real good coaching staff here at Judson, many of them have been with me for a very long time.
Dave, I appreciate what you youth coaches do, but just make sure the kids have fun and learn the basics so they will go out for High School football. We tell youth programs not to get all caught up in trying to copy our schemes, just teach your kids to be great blockers and tacklers, we can do the rest.
A clip from the ever passionate Coach Rackley during the Texas 5A State Title game:watch?v=nSUdj6QY6Ac
When coaching youth football, don’t fall into the trap that your 8 year old player has to run the local High Schools offense in order for him to “play at the next level.” The top football minds in the country don’t think that way and neither should you. In the last 2 years 3 of my former players have won DI scholarships and none of them ever ran the same offense or defense as their High School. My kids represented nearly 15% of the total number of Nebraska kids winning DI scholarships in the last 2 years, while I coached less than 1% of High School Seniors playing in the state, you do the math.
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