Getting Your Self In Trouble by Selectively Recruiting Youth Football Players
Recruiting youth football players is a necessity for many youth football programs. If you are starting a youth football program from scratch, you have to recruit kids to play. If you’re in a program on a downward spiral and your numbers are low, you have to recruit to survive. If you have 30 players in one age grouping and you want to split that team into two different teams, you probably need to recruit.
The problem is, most people go about recruiting kids in a way that sets the organization up for failure. Many programs go out and purposely spend most of their time and energy recruiting the best athletes they can find. In that gambling story from South Florida last week, we saw there were teams actually paying kids to play on certain teams. When you set out to recruit only the best players, the balance of power in that relationship clearly falls on the side of the player and the family. You want them because of the expected athletic value he will add to your team. Selectively recruiting kids is also illegal in many leagues. Now what happens if “Mr Sought After” doesn’t get the ball as much as he would like? Does dad and player threaten to take their talents to another team? You were chasing them down, pursuing them like a fat man chasing down a platter of cheeseburgers. Of course they are going to hold you hostage, you wanted us, now you are going to do like we want or we are going to take our services to your nearest competitor. How about God forbid, you need Mr Superstar to play a position other than what he wants to play to help the team? Are you going to make this happen when you recruited this kid to play a position he has played before and has his heart set on playing?
Good luck with that conversation, my guess it goes something like this: Coach; “Mr Drama Dad, I know we talked about Jamie playing Quarterback for us, but it looks like we don’t have anyone that can catch the ball very well. We do however have a second team Quarterback that is pretty solid, I think we could score a whole lot more points if we had your son at the slot instead of Quarterback.” Mr Drama Dad: “Are you out of your #$%*&#! mind? Junior has played Quarterback since he was 6 years old, you are destroying his “career”, you con man. You sat down in our living room and told us what a great QB he was going to be for you, now you want him at slot, over my dead body. I don’t care if you win a single game, you said he was going to play QB, the fact you have no receivers is a YOU problem. Get out of my face, I’m taking him over to the Jaguars, I know they will let him play Quarterback. See you in 6 weeks when the two teams play.”
You won’t have these type of problems if you RECRUIT EVERYONE, regardless of who they are and what athletic talent or lack thereof they bring to the table. Sell your prospective players and parents on your programs mission, (you MUST have a mission statement) being part of a team and the unique qualities your program has. When these parents see you don’t recruit a better athlete instead of a lesser one, they see they have no power to hold you hostage because of the athletic prowess of their son. When you then treat all the players the same in practice, valuing every child the same, no matter if he is the worst or best player on the team, the parents will “get it.” Showing your true colors that you are coaching youth football to develop young men, all of them, will help you turn the tables.
I understand you have to recruit to get started or to get your program out of a rut and my free e-book can help you do that with some very unique and creative ways to recruit players, you can get that here:
I used these methods to start two brand new programs in areas where I didn’t know anyone. One was in an inner-city neighborhood I had lived in 20 years prior but had virtually no contacts as I had lived in other states since then and commuted over 60 miles each day to practice. The other program was in a place I had never even heard of about 90 miles from my previous residence, literally not knowing anyone in a somewhat closed rural/suburban good ol boys place. We had no children attending the local school and attended church about 25 miles away, we didn’t know anyone when we moved there and knew only our across the road neighbors 6 months later. In both places we struggled to gain a foothold with my youth football program and we took every warm body that signed on the dotted line. In time the players, parents and community saw what we were all about and now we don’t even have to hand out flyers at school to get enough players to fill out our 4 teams.
This November we were already full on 2 of my 4 teams for the following year. This was due to all but 2 of our players signing up to play again the next year and our existing players having their brothers, cousins and neighbors sign up through our web site. By showing that we care about every player regardless of ability and do not selectively recruit, we have no shortage of parents that want their kids to play on our teams. We always take the first 25 players who sign up at each age group, then put any overflow on a waiting list, you would be amazed at some of the phone calls I get. When I tell mom we already have the 25 kids signed up, mom proceeds to tell me the exploits of little Johnny, how big and fast he is, how he plays select baseball etc etc, really amazing stuff. They always tell me who they know in our program, name dropping is always the second approach they use. They seemed shocked when I explain that we aren’t trying to be rude but that we really don’t care how good anyone is, that isn’t important to us in the least. When I try and explain that every player is equally important to us and we will be competitive with whatever we get for players, they think I’m some type of lunatic, really amazing conversations.
We compete with two other programs for kids, one of which practices on the very same fields we practice on. After you establish yourself and you are doing everything you can to build trust, show you care about all your players, do all you can to retain your players and you’re teaching good fundamental football- you really won’t have to recruit anyone. Our Team Chemistry, Character and Confidence program has been a big help in that regard as has our mini-team concept as well as our unique practice methodology and academic program. But if you are in a position where you have to recruit, don’t set yourself up for failure by selectively recruiting only the best players.
I’ve also found that the guys that put a lot of effort into selectively recruiting players often times don’t do very well. They put so much effort and stock into the ability of the kids, they get down when they don’t recruit a very athletic class. They focus so much on the pieces they are missing, not understanding that while there are some teams out there with better athletes, no team is without missing pieces. The best coaches, approach every season as a challenge to make the best team out of whatever whacky hand they are dealt.
Personally in the last 15 seasons I’ve only gone out of my way to selectively recruit 2 players, both in my last 2 seasons. One kid was an autistic child my wife came in contact with while assisting in my daughters reading class. He would not engage with anyone and was in a real rough spot. The other player was an ADHD kid with Aspergers Syndrome a light form of autism, who came from a single parent household. He was a loner and being bullied, both players are minimum play kids who get much more out of playing on the team than we get athletically from them. However football can be such a catalyst in the development of kids like this. Just think 20 years from now, how much impact will football have had on the life of your players. Don’t miss the boat by passing on kids like this. Then coach your tail off and win too, it’s possible, my own teams have gone 132-18 with kids like this in a 100 team league and we have zero parent problems, because they see we are going to do well regardless of the player equation. We view it as a challenge, not a curse. It’s possible, not idle talk or fluffy theory by someone who has never coached youth football.
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