Coaching Youth Football, Football Practice Shouldn’t be fun? Really?
I hear a number of youth football coaches turn their noses up at the idea of those of us that think we should try to make football practice “fun” if we can. Many of them seem to feel that football is inherently fun so there is no need to get creative to make practice fun. That group seems to feel a kid either loves football or doesn’t and we as coaches can’t influence the players opinion very much either way. While football may be fun in the eyes of many coaches compared to the mundane work world they face every day, football practice isn’t always fun in the eyes of those who matter, your players. Now I’m not talking about sacrificing building competent players and teams in order that you make practices fun. On the contrary, what I’m suggesting is making practices fun, so the kids effort harder while building great fundamental football skills at the very same time.
When you’re conditioning, what kind of effort are you getting if you run gassers at the end of practice? Not much in many cases and worse yet, many of your players have been “saving up” their effort in the previous 30 minutes so they can survive gassers. To top that off, how often do you see a football play that goes 30 yards in a straight line? Doing something like Deer Hunter or Hawaiian Rules football is going to give you “football conditioning” of short bursts of 5-10 yards with lots of changes in direction. The kids love playing it, at the end of the game they will breathlessly ask to play some more. How often do kids running gassers ask for more gassers? What harm is there in getting your kids to run the way football is played, in a fun way, while getting great conditioning in?
Get creative; if you are teaching open field tackling, what would be the harm in playing tackle baseball? You are developing the same skill as an open field tackling drill, but the kids are having a blast playing a competitive game against each other. If you are trying to develop some open field blocking skills or running through traffic skills, what is the harm in playing a game of slam dunk instead of developing that skill in a mundane drill?
The end result is you have kids who love to come to practice and who love to compete. They also know how to play the game due to you helping them develop the underlying skill set required to play the game well. All of those drills and more are in my book, “Winning Youth Football, A Step-by-Step Plan.” Football practice does not have to be a stoic torture session to prove your “toughness.” Having fun and having success on the field are not mutually exclusive, in fact they can co-exist very well together.
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