How Some Youth Football Teams Swoon Late in the Season
At this time of year many coaches are deep into playoff runs or wrapping up their seasons. Many of us will know who we are playing or at least have a good idea of who we are playing well in advance. For many of us that means we have film on those opponents and maybe a scouting report or two.
While it makes reasonable sense to put together scout play cards to familiarize your youth football team with what the other team is doing, don’t forget the fundamentals. Too many coaches at this time of the year go nearly 100% scheme during practice to prepare their teams for the nuances of the teams they are going to play. The problem with that is many times kids get a bit lax with their fundamentals.
I’ll never forget my 2002 team of 9-10 year olds. We were 11-0 going into our last game against another 11-0 team that had very comparable scores versus common opponents. The final 2 weeks of the season we did little but prepare for their offensive, defensive and special teams schemes. Our offense was averaging nearly 40 points a game at that point, we didn’t see the need to refine, polish or maintain our offensive fundamentals, we were unstoppable to that point. We lost that game 46-6 in a game our offensive line failed to come out with our quick 2 step, low pad level, rule blocking approach. We didn’t wedge or pass block well either. While we had the right plays called and our defense was almost always in the rights spots, but we didn’t execute our base fundamentals well. The following year we were in the same boat against the very same team, but learning from our previous years mistake, our practice in the week leading up to our 10th game of the season, we went 35% scheme and 65% fundamentals. We won that game 46-12, handing them their only loss of the season.
Does that mean you shouldn’t change anything you do as you progress through the season? Not at all, you can repackage the very same fundamental drills you did in week 1 to make them appear a bit different, while helping your kids reinforce and refine what they’ve already been taught. Add a progression to the end of an existing drill, make a new competitive contest out of an existing drill or add in a new drill that helps your kids develop an underlying skill in a different way. Just last week I added a drill that I saw a really well coached team do during their pre-game warmups. You don’t have to be some youth football coaching genius to do this, just get a little creative and be open minded to how others do things.
Just don’t fall into the trap of going super heavy with scheme at the expense of continuing to stay sharp fundamentally. Even if your kids are sharp with fundamentals, those skills are like a sharp knife, you have to continuously sharpen the blade. Even a sharp blade goes dull and a dull blade won’t be able to cut anything but the ripest of bananas, cupcake teams.
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