Attention to Detail When Coaching Youth Football
One of the things I love doing at the Pop Warner and AYF National Championship Tournament is finding out who the best coached teams are and then to spend time watching them practice. If you’ve been to the Pop Warner National Championship game the last couple of years, one of the teams that really stands out is Pt St Lucie, Florida Pirates. Last year they convincingly won every game, winning the Junior Midget National Championship. This year, with a completely different team because of losses of players to High School football, the Pirates went 17-1 at the Midget level. They blew out their first two National Tournament opponents and lost in the finals in the last few ticks of the game.
What I like about this team and coach is, while they have a few athletes, they do not have any one on their team that makes you go wow. They have average size, above average speed and superior coaching. From their special teams to their offensive line play, defense, kicking game, offensive execution; you won’t see a team that gels quite like these guys. They don’t get penalized, they don’t turn the ball over and they give great effort to the whistle on every play, all eleven players.
Head Coach Jeff Miret didn’t have an easy task in 2010. He took a group of kids that had gone 1-15 the previous 2 years AND he had 8 kids that were brand new to football. Now you may get away with that when kids are 8-9 years old, but when you have that happen to you in the 13-15 age bracket, it usually means you’re in for a VERY long season. Well not only did Jeff not have a long season, this team dominated in league play and made it through an extremely difficult regional and won their first two games at Disney in overwhelming fashion.
Jeff’s teams are always very well disciplined and it’s easy to see why after you attend one of his teams practices. Jeff coaches the details, he expects and requires great effort and precision on every rep. As Jeff and I talked during warm ups, twice he interrupted our visit to correct two of his kids doing a simple angle form tackling drill. I have no clue how he could even see them out of the corner of his eye, I thought he was looking right into my face. Here it is December and his team has already won each of the 16 games they’ve played and Jeff is holding them accountable to a tiny coaching point on a simple angle form fit tackle warm up drill. Later in the practice he got after one of his kids not going to the level of effort he required on a thud pad drill, on another the angle of attack on a kick-out block. No detail was too small, Jeff does not go through the motions, when they practice, they practice to get better to the atomic detail. Don’t sweat the small stuff? Don’t mention that to Jeff, he and his coaching staff know what perfection is, know how to teach it and hold the kids accountable to it.
I got to spend some time observing Jeff’s team during halftime of both their games as well as after both wins. While he acknowledges the good effort and the success, he’s never satisfied. He’s always looking for that perfect game, getting the very best each player has to offer. In one game his team was leading by four touchdowns at the half, you would have thought his team was losing. He knew they were better than the team they were playing, but that his kids were capable of even more. Boy am I glad I’m not on that island by myself, sometimes assistant coaches and parents think I’m a bit off because my standard is the players best, not the team we are facing. After listening to Jeff’s halftime and post game comments, it was comforting to know there are at least two of us that think that way.
Jeff is a great teacher, great motivator, excellent game planner, great game day coach and a supreme football coach. More than that he is the consummate gentleman, humble and good sport, his kids love him. He has to be the most popular opposing coach I’ve ever met, all of his opponents talk of him like he is one of their old buds from college fraternity days. While there are lots of very good football coaches coaching in both tournaments at the Pop Warner tournament, few can hold a candle to him. It was fantastic watching his little machine clicking on all cylinders during their practice. I’ve been coaching youth football for over 20 years and seen hundreds of teams practice, his practices may be the best I’ve seen.
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