This is the continuing story of my “Worst to First” youth football coaching experience in Reno, Nevada this year. This is the pilot season that was shot for the reality television show “Worst to First” I took an 8th grade team that had won about six games in the last six years to the Semi-Finals in the largest and most competitive league in the Reno/North Nevada area. As we headed into game two how would our youth football team handle success? Following a pattern established over the last six weeks, not very well at all. It all started with film, no one was watching it. We had four-five kids out of 23 that were watching the game film on Hudl. We had talked about how important film would be to our team’s development and their own individual development, but they wouldn’t watch. I was shocked to see our minutes watched via the Roster function on our Hudl account. This team had never filmed games in the past or used Hudl, but this wasn’t last year. If you are serious about coaching youth football, you have to film your games and know how to use film to make your team better.
While the film’s value is infinitely more important for my coaches and my use, I was disappointed to see that my players were getting little value from the four hours of notes and telestrations I had put over our film. That disappointment was compounded by a lack of effort and precision in the first two practices and for the most part our coaches were complicit in the problem.
It was like somehow the kids thought we had passed the final test and we were now just biding our time until the all-star game. We won ONE game over a really bad opponent, in my mind we had passed a very simple ten question refresher quiz. This team was in unchartered waters, they had won their opening game and they had won it by mercy rule. The parents were all smiles and some of the coaches were thinking we were going to win them all. The real story was we had no idea where we stood. There were thirteen teams in this division and we had only beaten one of them.
I gave our “undefeated” team a little bit of room on their first day back, but during the water breaks talked to them about the importance of getting back to our process of building a championship level team. After practice I got with the coaching staff and stressed the importance of sticking to our standards of precision and pace. I didn’t see the sense of urgency and aggressive coaching our team needed to get where we wanted to be. I almost pleaded with them to help get us back on track. Maybe we were off because we were missing two kids because of a school function. I was hoping it was an aberration. We talked to the kids about getting back on track on day two and shared with them my disappointment.
The thought process was to let this one pass a bit, stay positive, let them get a bad practice out of their system and hope the second practice of the week would be better. Hopefully we were having one of those off days and we would bounce back on the second day to our upward trajectory path. If you’ve been coaching youth football long enough, you just have one of those days a couple of times a season. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. We started off having a terrible practice on day two. Kids coming late to practice, when they got to the field instead of being dressed and jogging to where we were at, they were taking five minutes to get ready. The kids who were practicing seemed to be just going through the motions, trying to get by with as little effort as possible.
If they only knew, we had so much to work on. We had done a lot of things well, but we had three bobbled snaps, our open field blocking was average, our PATs were weak, we needed improvement in our Punt and Punt Return game, our pass coverage was poor and our passing game was still very weak. We didn’t have to do much open field tackling in game one and I was still very skeptical of our abilities there.
We also needed to spend additional practice time in indys and group with our Quarterbacks and Receivers. Right now we had one Quarterback who was less than average and only a single Receiver that could catch more than 50% of throws against AIR. The net was, we were a nice looking car if you saw us from a distance that needed a lot of work under the hood.
Praising those doing well in practice seemed to do little inspire the rest of the team, it was just like the day before, maybe even worse. The overall sloppiness was soul crushing, I was so disappointed. So we started running, it started first with those that weren’t finishing out drills during the every day drills portion of our individual position group drills portion of our practice. As we moved into group, those twenty yard sprints by a few kids here and there turned into group runs to the fence and back. While in most groups five-six of the seven would be doing it right and meeting the effort standard, but it was never all of them. While I’ve always been against punishing a group for the antics of a single player or two, what I had been doing wasn’t working, so I went that route. There was some improvement, as some of the leaders got into the grills of the kids making them run.
As we moved into team we again regressed into less than standard practice mode. They just didn’t get it, the standards were for their benefit, they weren’t temporary. We got little done in day two and ended practice with a very uncharacteristic set of ten jump up twenty yard sprints. Instead of one step forward and two steps back, which had been the norm for this youth football team, it was two steps back. It would be another long night in that Reno hotel room trying to figure this team out.
With just a single practice left prior to game two what could I do to get this team back on track? All this in the week leading up to a game against the defending league champion Galena. More on them in the next post. To see how this all started, catch up here: //www.winningyouthfootball.com/wp-blog/?cat=551&paged=3