Building Great Youth Football Teams
One of the ways to get better as a coach is to study successful coaches. When I watch games on TV I like to carefully study how coaches coach. One coach that caught my eye last week was Kansas State’s Bill Snyder. Coach Snyder engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in College Football history at Kansas State. KSU has never had a winning program. Nestled in the prairie in a small town, difficult to get to, with horrific weather and no mountains/oceans/lake/scenery and very low population base, KSU doesn’t have much to work with. In the 14 seasons prior to Coach Snyder arriving in Manhattan, the team went 32-119-2. Coach Snyder’s teams went amazing 142-74 during his tenure and played in 11 Bowl Games, including the Fiesta Bowl.
What is most interesting about Coach Snyder is his attention to detail and to the process of making teams better. He doesn’t confuse end results to making sure the team is perfecting base fundamental football and playing to full potential. This couldn’t have been more evident than in last weeks thrashing of Kansas on ESPN. It was 4th down and 5 and KU was on the KSU 48 yard line. KSU had its punt return team in, but KU at the last moment went into a base formation and ran a play. Coach Snyder was visibly upset that his team did not align properly on the KU offense, as 2 players subbed in late. The end result of the play was the KU back fumbled and KSU ran it back for a touchdown. Many coaches would have been happy with the end result, Coach Snyder was not. Even after the score, he got with the 4 mixed up players and the assistant coach and did some “intensive coaching” while KSU aligned to kick the PAT.
If we as youth football coaches allow poor fundamentals and less than stellar play to continue, just because the end result was positive, we reinforce poor play. Nothing is worse than having a player do something incorrectly and have a positive end result. The player now thinks doing things “his way” is acceptable. Not all touchdowns or great defensive plays are “good plays.” The opposition could be aligned wrong or made a bad play. To become a great team, you have to play like you are playing against your best imaginary opponent every week. If your standard is just beating whatever team you are playing, you run the risk of playing to their level and not improving. However if your standard is the best imaginary team, your team will get better every week AND you will be prepared for any monster team that shows up on your schedule.
Thanks Coach Snyder for your reminder and best of luck with your second time around with Kansas State. My team will be traveling out of State to play in a tournament at KSU in November to play in the stadium named after Coach Snyder. It will be a privilege to play there.
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