Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

How to Screw Up Your Youth Football Team- Assume

Assuming In Youth Football

Too many youth football coaches assume their players understand the game and even a lot of football technique terminology. For some coaches, they must think their kids are either much older than they are or are somehow students of the game who have poured over lots of old coaching manuals and been loyal attendants of the coaching clinic circuit.

I remember going to a youth football game a few years back in Lincoln, Nebraska. A guy I knew was coaching and his team was doing very poorly, he asked me to come and talk to his team. Talking to his team before understanding what was wrong with his team made little sense, but I agreed to observe. The interesting thing about this team was the coaching staff seemed to use every football buzzword known to man. They were constantly shouting instruction to their kids and the kids seemed to be listening, but not executing any of the buzzwords shouted. I heard: run your feet, play one down at a time, read your keys, roll your hips, contain, keep outside leverage, play our game- not theirs and fill the alley for starters.

The team I was attempting to help was chocked full of athletes, had nice size and they were good kids. They were attentive and listening, but they were awful. They were 0-4 at that point and they had only scored 2-3 touchdowns total. When I arrived just before halftime, they were losing to a much smaller and less athletic team 20-6. When a player that had been shouted instructions came to the sidelines I would smile and ask them, what they thought the instruction meant. When I asked one Linebacker, “what does run your feet mean to you”, he replied that he thought it meant he should run faster. When I asked a struggling Cornerback what “read your keys” meant, he shrugged his shoulders and gave me the “I don’t know” answer. As it turned out, most of these kids had no clue what their coaches were trying to tell them, the coaches might as well have been speaking in Mandarin.

While the coachspeak made the coaches look like they knew what they were talking about to the parents, the kids didn’t have a clue. It reminded me of the first year I moved up to the age 9-10 age group in baseball. It was an older group, lots of kids I didn’t know and it was coached by a guy who was old school and kind of hard nosed. About 10 minutes before the first game, he reviewed his signals with us, take- I knew that one, steal- knew that, bunt- no problem, then he got to hit and run. When he gave us this signal in the meeting, everyone nodded, I had no clue what hit and run meant. I didn’t watch baseball on TV, I thought it was boring and I was too embarrassed to ask in front of the other kids and to the hothead coach what the heck hit and run meant. I guess he thought all 9 year old kids inherently understand how to do that, like we know how to breathe coming out of the womb etc

In youth football DON’T ASSUME and get off the coachspeak. I’ve found some kids don’t understand even simplest terms like feet shoulder width apart. Maybe do something like show them with your feet spread as wide as you can- that this is too wide, then put your feet touching each other and let them know this is too close, then put your feet at shoulder width and let them know, this is what you meant. When you break things down and explain what you mean step by step, your kids and you are going to have a much less aggravating season.

Copyright 2011 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included. //winningyouthfootball.com

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  1. MoveForward

    Great post Dave. Last year, I heard a fellow coach during a 5-6 year old game tell his O-line to “just block down” on every play. That inspired the question from the kids “block down where?” The kids had no idea what he was talking about.

  2. Daryl Fanney MD

    So true…as a physician I know patients want things explained in language they can understand…not medical jargon. Kids are the same.

    Sadly, I will sometimes ask coaches for advice online and there is so much coach speak I can’t understand what they’re trying to convey.

  3. Andy

    I remember a clinic you ran in Atlanta where a coach used names of Cartoon characters for plays. Like 16 Power was Power Rangers. Kids understand what they already know. We have so much to teach them, it makes way too much sense to speak to them in their own language. So long as you are teaching them the fundamentals of the game, making it fun and interesting only goes towards building their love of the game. After all, isn’t that what youth football is all about?


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