Coaching Youth Football-Keeping Your Kids
Youth football can do so much to help a young man develop his character and confidence, we hate to see anyone quit. Pride yourself in keeping everyone and make it your personal responsibility to retain all the kids, no matter their ability. Last year I head coached 3 teams and had 75 kids in a very competitive youth football league, we ended the season with 74 players. The one player we lost broke his wrist helping us out holding a bag on a blocking drill. This year I have 21 kids, we still have them all, but as an organization we’ve lost 1 so far and almost lost another the second week of practice.
What do you do when someone wants to quit? You can always tell them the deadline to quit was August 10th and that no one is allowed to quit after that date. If that doesn’t work, maybe you can remedy the problem by finding out the real reason WHY a player wants to quit.
This season an assistant coach for another team asked me to talk to one of his players, who wanted to quit. I took the boy away from where everyone was at but still within sight of the parents, he was crying as he talked. I smiled real big and told him everything was ok, did some deep breaths with him and asked him what was going on. He said, “I just don’t like it, football, I want to quit.” I let him know that EVERYONE that has EVER played the game has wanted to quit at some point in time, that his feelings were 100% normal. But pointed out all the things he would be missing out on if he quit, time with his friends, learning the game, the pride of getting better, the pride of being part of something some people aren’t willing to stick with etc. He still said he wanted to quit because “I don’t like it.” I let him know I was going to let him quit IF he gave me the real reason he was quitting, “I don’t like it” wasn’t going to be enough. I asked him if it was something I did or any of the coaches, that if he quit because we did something wrong, we wanted to make sure we didn’t make the same mistake with someone else. I did tell him that we correct all players to help them improve. I kept it up until he finally admitted he had gotten smacked around a bit in a full contact drill early in practice. When I did a little more investigating, a newer coach who had not been at our first 2 practices due to vacation had put him in with an older group, because this kid was tall and the coach incorrectly assumed this kid was in the older age group.
I apologized to the player for my coaches mistake, letting him know in football you DO get knocked around a bit, but that it was just temporary. I let him know he WOULDN’T be practicing with those older boys every day, that it was a mistake on our part that would never happen again. I then went to his head coach and the coach in charge of the drill, we got their assurance it wouldn’t happen again and the player walked off, still moping a little. He DID show up the next day and slowly but surely has progressed nicely to be in the 70th Percentile of players on his team as we enter week 9.
Can you salvage each drop in youth football? No, but if you calm a player down, let him know his feelings about quitting are normal, get him to trust you and find out the real reasons why he is quitting, you may be able to salvage the situations. I’m always getting e-mails from former players and parents about how close they came to quitting but were SO thankful that they didn’t. You never know how much the game can affect a child, it can be a catalyst for greatness. That’s why you do everything you can to keep them on the team- as long as they are meeting your attendance and discipline requirements.
When your players see you doing your best to retain even the weakest of players, they see you care about them as people, not just what you can do for the team. Make a point of letting the whole team know after the second practice that doubting yourself a little bit, getting down sometimes and even thinking about quitting is NORMAL, everyone has thought about it. But quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and those feelings pass with time.
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