When Your First Youth Football Game Goes Poorly
Many youth football coaches panic when their first game goes poorly. Some panic and make massive changes in scheme and personnel, while some add in lots of plays and stunts and still others stick their head in the sand and do nothing. Maybe none of those options is the best choice if your goal is to turn your problem around.
The first thing to do is identify your problems and then prioritize their importance. If one of your problems is poor fundamental blocking your solution shouldn’t be putting in a veer scheme that week or perfecting a screen pass play. If one of your problems is weak open field tackling, the solution isn’t adding in additional stunts and blitzes on defense.
Poor play in youth football in most cases can be boiled down to alignment, assignment, effort and base technique issues. If you don’t solve the base issues, you will have the exact same problems in the new scheme- with lots more lost practice time AND coaches, players and parents who don’t believe in you.
Dumping schemes or making wholesale personnel changes won’t solve your problems, in most cases it will only make the problem worse. Is it ok to tweak the depth chart a bit after week 1 or 2 ? Of course it does, but making huge changes shows you were clueless in your ability to correctly evaluate your players. If you were clueless, you need to get better at evaluating players, search for the posts in the blog about how to do that.
While most of us have a pretty good idea what our problems are when our youth football teams don’t do well, sometimes we don’t. Film is an invaluable tool in helping you figure this out. During the course of the game, things move fast, you don’t have time to see everything. You are too busy getting kids into the game, watching keys, making adjustments and coaching kids up. What you see on the film may really surprise you, once you slow the game down and watch frame by frame. Film reveals all and will tell you exactly what needs to be worked on.
With limited practice time, it is sometimes an overwhelming task when you look at all the problems you need to solve before the next game. Instead of trying to solve them all and ending up solving none, choose just a few of the most important ones and make big strides with them. If your team was 0-5 passing, but made just 3 first downs because your linemen weren’t coming off the ball well and had poor pad level, it isn’t the time to spend a lot of time on perfecting your passing game or pass blocking. If your linemen aren’t coming off the ball hard, do lots of first 2 step drills, do the tennis ball drill. If they are getting manhandled, work crab blocking hard that week. If your backs are running hesitantly run lots of gauntlet, squeeze, chaser and power hour drills. Make sure and ELIMINATE all needless non football stuff from your practice schedule like cals, agilities and conditioning. If you have some basic alignment and assignment issues get rid of all scrimmaging for the week and do rapid reps on air or fit and freeze reps- you can do an offensive or defensive rep on air or fit and freeze rep every 10-15 seconds, whereas a scrimmage rep versus your scout team is one every 2-3 minutes. Reclaim that time to make your kids better football players instead of pushup, scrimmage and cross country champions.
Coaching youth football well requires you to be a good decision maker and that means setting the most optimum priorities. Don’t panic, identify the problems, look at the base issues, prioritize the problems in order of importance, develop a plan and solve them.
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