Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

What Other Sports Help Develop Youth Football Players Best

The youth football season is over for most of us, so now what? See what we do in my next newsletter. Many of us look to other sports to help players develop into better athletes, better football players and better teammates. With so many different sports to choose from these days, which make the most sense?

The answers may be skewed a bit based on where you live. Wrestling is huge in the Midwest and Northeast, not so big in the South or West Coast. Lacrosse has always been huge in the Mid Atlantic and parts of the Northeast, now it’s spread to certain areas of the South and of course the West Coast. Hockey is huge in the Upper Midwest and Northeast and almost non-existent in the South. Our opinion on each sport doesn’t have anything to do with our geography, you will have to factor in that for yourself as well as the all important quality of coaching and programs in your immediate area.

Pros: Great sport that teaches how to use leverage and lowering the center of gravity. Excellent in developing body control, strength, endurance and aggressiveness. Helps develop confidence and a “warrior” mentality as wrestling is a true contact sport. I’m not sure there is another sport out there that teaches mental and physical toughness like wrestling does. The season does not overlap with football.
Cons: Not good at helping a player gain weight and mass, especially for those programs that encourage kids to cut weight to make it into a lower weight classification. If a player starts at a later age like 11-12 in some areas of the country, unless they are a super star athlete, they will be very far behind and typically won’t do well. Less of a team sport than others.

Pros: Contact sport that requires teamwork, short bursts of speed, hand eye coordination and endurance. Very good for receivers in helping them making cuts, locating the ball and anticipating movement. Excellent team sport. Season usually does not overlap football.
Cons: In certain areas of the country, there is pressure to play year round and in lots of long distance travel tournaments. In some areas of the country where lacrosse is relatively new, the quality of the coaching and competition is poor.

Pros: For pitchers and catchers it’s probably a reasonable use of time, however for the rest of the kids it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Good at developing some hand eye coordination and mental toughness. For quarterbacks and receivers, there is some residual value in being able to throw, locate and catch a ball.
Cons: Don’t jump on me for these comments, I played baseball from age 7-18 and I’ve coached it for many many years. However, remember John Kruck’s famous quote, “I’m not an athlete, I’m a baseball player.” Baseball does little to develop the athleticism or physical skills that are important in football. While the traditional baseball season usually doesn’t interfere with football, the baseball season seems to start earlier and end later every year. There are also a small group of baseball fanatics that think their kids should play year round and have even started fall baseball leagues and encouraged kids as young as 9 years old where I live to drop all other sports for baseball.

Martial Arts:
Pros: Helps develop body control, strength, endurance, confidence and self discipline.
Some Martial Arts even allow for light or even heavy contact, which is great in helping players develop a warrior attitude and develop self confidence and a bit of a swagger. Most programs allow you to jump in and out year round, so missing for 3-4 months for football is usually not a problem at all.
Cons: Sometimes the groups are full of non-athletic, non athletes. Iron sharpens iron and if your son is in a weak group, the instruction is going to be of little use. Make sure to sit in on a few sessions to see the makeup of the group and the quality of the instruction, the instructors vary from very good, to quite bad. This is not a team sport, but the player will learn cooperation, sportsmanship and respect for opponents.

Pros: Basketball is great for developing footwork, hand eye coordination, endurance and body control. It may be best for kids playing Receiver, Running Back, Quarterback or Defensive Back. Excellent team sport.
Cons: Maybe not the best sport for bigger linemen. Many basketball coaches have followed the selfish lead of some baseball coaches and want their kids playing basketball year round at the expense of other sports. Like baseball, basketball seems to start earlier and end later every year, so you can expect the beginning of basketball to overlap many football seasons.

Pros: Helps develop straight line speed, explosiveness and muscle development, when coached properly. Helps develop endurance. Does not overlap with football.
Cons: Not always conducive to developing mass, good coaching is very spotty. Requires little teamwork.

Pros: Helps develop mental toughness, muscle development and endurance. Does not overall with football.
Cons: The explosiveness required for football and the muscle development for swimming are not the same. While it is a team sport, most of the competitions are individual in nature and require little teamwork.

Pros: Great for developing foot speed, body control, endurance and some explosiveness.
Most of the time, soccer season doesn’t conflict with football season, but in some areas of the country it does.
Cons: It’s soccer, while some will argue it’s a contact sport, when contact is made in soccer, often times it’s considered a foul, contact isn’t the norm. In football contact is made and expected to be made on every snap, there is a different mindset, oil and water when you compare the two sports. Youth soccer coaching varies greatly, from very good to very poor, many times teamwork simply doesn’t exist.

While having a kid play any type of sport in the off-season is better than having him sit on the couch, it seems some sports may benefit football players better than others. I’m a fan of letting kids be kids and try a variety of sports. I’m also a proponent of having the player play that sport in it’s traditional season. And in an effort not to be the hypocrite, we gave up our spring flag football league back in 2007 to let the kids play other sports and in an effort to NOT be selfish and exclusive in relationship to other sports.

No matter which sport you decide to allow your kids to play, make sure you do your homework. Go watch the team practice or play games the year before you enroll. See the quality of the coaching and the quality of the league and competition. Talk to parents to see their level of satisfaction and to see if it is a fit for you. As always the organization and the coaching make all the difference in the world, just like youth football.

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


About The Author

Related posts


  1. Kevin Romberg

    Last year a player on our team found youth Rugby, 4 of us joined, it was so much fun, and challenging for the boys to learn this “new” sport. We ended our football season 2 weeks ago and Rugby starts tonight. I think the sport develops better football players far more then anything I’ve seen before.

    Pros: doesn’t overlap with football, no pressure to play year round, very affordable, no equipment to buy, everyone has the opportunity to be the star player at any point in the game. The big guys feel right at home, the small quick kids get even quicker running from the big guys, no weight restrictions, and a meal after every match where the home team hosts the visitors.

    Cons: few and far between, we have to go only 1 city over but we do travel upto 50 miles for matches.

    Think your list should add Rugby, it’s formatted like soccer with u8 touch rugby all the way to U19.

    1. davecisar

      I’m a bit torn on this subject. It’s great that the big kids who aren’t playing baseketball and baseball have something to do. But we don’t want to burn kids out on the game either. I see so many of these year round baseball and basketball programs just running kids into the ground in many cases. If you use the time to develop, not to just win games AND limit the practice time, it may make sense. Especially for those kids changing positions or newer to the game.

      Best of luck.

  2. Jimmy Benham

    I couldnt agree more with Coach Dave’s concerns…In my opinion, playing basketball at an early age will make children better athletes in most sports, barring gymnastics, ice hockey, etc. Yes, I know all about Michael Jordan’s experience with baseball.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *