To help youth football coaches understand how to consistently put together championship seasons, the 2015 SEASON blog posts give coaches details on how a season worth of those practices look like. Games are rarely won by a great adjustment on game days, they are won on the practice fields in the weeks leading up to the games.
This is a template you might try to copy and some insights. This info isn’t fluffy theory, it’s exactly what my own 8-9 year old team did this year, winning a league championship in a 17 team highest competition “A” bracket. After the first practice which is also detailed in this blog, I took all the ratings sheets our coaches had filled out and started assigning positions. Every one of the eval drills like Sumo, Hawaiian Rules Football, Towel Game, Deer Hunter, Dummy Relays, Pro Agility. Pass Catching Relay game, map into macro football playing skills like: explosiveness, body control, football speed, power, aggressiveness, ball skills and leverage that help determine which position groups every player is assigned to on day 2. The drills are very good at exposing talent and weaknesses and its fairly hard to fudge or miss out on which player is a 9 and who a 5 is. The nice thing about the sheets are that with 20 coaches ( 4 teams 5 coaches each team) if a player has a dad on the staff, his rating is only 1 of the 20 sheets.
Night 1, like most of you youth coaches night 1 is always a combination of hope and despair. Rarely do non select youth football teams have all the pieces in place that you want. It’s ALWAYS going to be a game of robbing Peter to pay Paul to get the most efficient and effective aggregate of kids on the field. Yes, that means you may have a player who is better suited at Corner playing Linebacker or the like. Or sometimes it may even be panic, you only have a single “striped” big kid player or no obvious Quarterback or a real shortage of “skill” position kids. It is what it is, you have to make compromises. This isn’t the NFL., College or even High School where you can send kids down or cut them.
So the initial breakdown into position groups of: Linebackers, Defensive Backs, Defensive Ends, Defensive Tackles and Nose Tackles was underway. With detailed position descriptions of those positions for our defense already written down and agreed to, some of the selections were no-brainers. Others were fairly obvious and others were still a bit up in the air.
With a full week in no pads to start with, we were still very open to any position changes. The stake in the ground was nailed in loose spoil and only down about 6 inches. While our no pad Day 1 position assignments based on this eval approach is usually about 80% accurate to the last game position assignment, we are always open to making changes based on a players progress or team needs.
The problem MANY youth coaches get into, is they take 2 weeks doing evals, evals that don’t really measure real football playing skills or they look at a kid and place him based on he “looks” like a Fullback etc. If you pigeon hole based on looks rather than the true needs of the position, you are going to have a less than optimized team. Most guys coaching youth football don’t even have their position descriptions written down or agreed to, let alone having them mapped to specific quantifiable drills or competitive games.
Once the initial list was compiled I e-mailed it out to my coaching staff for their input. After the first practice I asked them about a couple of kids I was a little unsure about. Sometimes they were able to share useful info about a player they may have coached in basketball or baseball. We were still on the fence about a couple of kids and whoa we were short linemen. With just 1 kid that looked like a striper and 2 returning starters on the line things looked shaky. One of those kids I was moving into the backfield and a lot of first year 3rd graders on a 3-4 grade team assigned as linemen so the line would need a ton of work.
Day 2 was all about defensive indys. The dynamic warm ups took 12 minutes instead of the end season goal of 7. The initial all team one and two step tackle fits and angle form tackle fit drills gobbled up another 20 minutes. Individual drills for position groups would take up all but 20 minutes of Practice 2. Ten minutes of that last 20 minutes was for a defensive team alignment and the last 10 minutes was for our game time/team development/conditioning module. More on our Defensive including our daily minute my minute written practice plans, defensive indy and group drills, defensive scheme and defensive implementation here:
All youth coaches can consistently succeed if they focus on the big P’s:
Priorities- Where you invest your practice time.
Progressions- The ability to teach effectively and efficiently.
Precision- The Quality Control factor.
Pace- How fast you can go.
At the end of the day the coaches who master the four Ps- are the ones who will consistently win and retain players.