Coaching is coaching, the great ones learn from others no matter the sport. A youth football coach can learn from a great basketball, wrestling or even martial arts coaches when it comes to organizing, motivating and communicating effectively with kids.
My own kids take martial arts lessons with a local program headed by a very experienced and successful coach. While I know nothing about martial arts, I do know something about coaching and this guy knows what he is doing. With kids as young as 4 years old, he has them listening, learning, hustling, having fun and working together effectively.
Many of the techniques we use to manage our teams as well as our teaching methodology could be seen in his practices if you looked hard enough. Some variations of our ready/focus approach as well as our progression teaching methodology and key word visualization process were being used by him at every practice. My kids were having fun, they were listening, learning and being held accountable, all in a very positive and encouraging environment. This is a FAR cry from some of the simply atrocious coaching I’ve seen them suffer through in volleyball, baseball and dance. I’m not joking I got nauseous the few times I had the time to watch my kids practice baseball. I actually got in the car and turned it the opposite way from the fields so I wouldn’t have to watch the nonsense they were being “taught” and the absolute waste of time their “practices” were.
One thing that we’ve borrowed from Mr G’s martial arts classes is how we teach our “no play.” The “no play” for your review is the play we use when we see teams jumping our snap count. It is simply a freeze play with a hard count that gets the defense to jump offsides. Mr G uses a freeze process to help condition his kids to obey his commands and to settle down and be quiet. He does this with a group of rowdy rambunctious 4-5 year olds to perfection at every practice. We do this during our dynamic warm-ups with the entire team facing each other in 2 lines, our normal set up. We tell the kids that in 10 seconds we are going to freeze so it’s time to get all the shakes and movement out of their bodies. This is a fun time where they move their arms and legs any which way they want to, to get all the movement out of their systems, it’s kind of a fun and silly 10 seconds.
At the end of this 10 seconds we ask the players to stand tall and at attention with feet touching each other, hands at the sides in complete silence. On the cadence of shift, down, ready, set go, they are to stop moving when they hear the word shift. For the next 10 seconds the player has to remain perfectly still, no movement at all, no sounds coming from them and they are looking straight ahead. We count to ten so the entire group knows where we are at. The player is allowed to move, only after they hear a whistle or hear the words “time out.”
This is helping us teach our “no play” play by conditioning our kids not to move when they hear the words “no play.” It also helps condition them to follow directions while continuing a portion of the dynamic warm up of getting blood flow to the muscle groups.
To make it even more interesting and to better prepare the kids for game conditions, have coaches try and distract a player with sudden close movement or sounds or for the real young kids maybe even silly faces. See how prideful the kids will get about not moving an inch when you use this approach to teach your “no play.”
Don’t be afraid to borrow from other coaches when you are coaching youth football and that means successful coaches who are coaching other sports. The process improvement process never ends if you want to be a great coach.
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