Our Pre-Season Youth Football Camp
This is the story of our 2016 season, with the hope you can take away some things to help your own youth football team this coming season. Again, this is a fourth grade team with 8 returning players and 16 kids new to football. This was the remnant of an undefeated 3-4 grade team that is now playing in a single “A” team bracket.
We weren’t able to do any speed training prior to the season, something we have been doing for the last few seasons. About 40% of our kids had consistently participated in past seasons, but due to some consulting projects I had in the books, there was no way speed training was an option. If you can make speed training work for your team, I HIGHLY recommend it. If rules are a problem, make sure to make it an open training deal- yes we’ve had players sisters and non players as part of our speed program.
The week prior to the August 1, first day of practice we decided to do an overnight camp. The goal was to do a two day evaluation camp while bonding as a team and have some fun. We rented out a Christian Camp that had dorms, a huge meeting room and some fun activities. They had a water slide, archery tag, obstacle course, canoeing, basketball and a lot of open space for the kids to be kids.
It was extremely important for me to see these 16 new kids and determine where they would play prior to day 1 of practice. I didn’t know any of them from Adam. For the coaches of my other 4 teams, they needed to see their kids too. Our single grade third grade team had 25 brand new kids. The older teams had only a couple of new kids, but kids do change a bit from year to year. Some get better, some stay the same and others get passed by, it happens. You can’t go into every season thinking all of your youth football players made the same geometric progression, especially for those kids on the edge of or into puberty.
This wasn’t about putting in football plays, or going into our youth football playbook. Another goal of the camp was to help the new players understand how to interact with their coaches and what our standards are. While we wanted to make sure everyone had fun, we also wanted everyone to understand the level of: attention, listening skills, effort, precision, pace and discipline were going to be the standards for them to participate in our program.
We started with the good old standard kickoff talk detailed word for word in the Winning Youth Football- book. We talked about paying attention using the ready- focus approach and the standard. I calmed down the new kids by letting them know how all the other rookie players felt when they were in their shoes and how everyone was going to enjoy being apart of something special and bigger than themselves.
As always, we started with dividing up by age group, but all together in one mass 100 player dynamic warm up routine. This would include our dynamic routine as detailed in the book and Practice Organization DVD, which typically takes 4 minutes or less. Today, with all the new kids, it was about 15 minutes because as part of the cadence/high knees drill we were teaching about 45 kids stances for the very first time, using progressions. After that we did one and two step tackle fits, then angle form tacking fits. Normally this would all take less than 10 minutes, doing it with all these rookies took us about 25 minutes.
Next was water. Prior to the camp starting, I had placed all the cones, balls and dummys in various stations and assigned coaches to each station. Each coach was given a cheat card for his drill and we rotated stations every 10 minutes. Cheat Cards Here
Our goal was to determine FOOTBALL playing skills, like: body control, athletic explosiveness, football speed, ball skills, football aggressiveness, tenacity and leverage/strength, not how fast someone could run in a straight line for 40 yards. So we did the following “drills”: Deer Hunter Game, Sumo, Hawaiian Rules Football, Towel Game, Pro Agility Races, Dummy Relay Races and a Tackling Station with doughnut dummys.
All of the coaches we issued clip boards with their rosters attached and pens. All of the teams were broken into two groups, bigger kids in one, smaller in the other. All of the players had their names taped to their chests. Players were graded from 1-9 on each drill, representing an educated guess as to where they fit percentile wise compared to their peers in that drill. With two or more coaches working each drill, the guys were pretty close in their assessments. The 5 head coaches of course stayed mostly in the Deer Hunter and Hawaiian Rules football stations or followed their 2 groups through the stations.
After the event all the kids cooled down with some time in their huge water slide contraption or had some watermelon. The team moms organized water, pizza and fruit for dinner, then the kids fanned out to play archery tag, basketball and the rest.
The coaching staffs got together to trade notes. I had about 20 of my kids slotted, but still was on the fence with 4, so on day 2, we concentrated on evaluating those 4 kids. After everyone got showers we watched “Rudy” in the big room and played some bottle flipping games before turning in for the night. We were all getting a feel not only for what the kids could do on the field, but who the “alpha males” were by seeing them interact off the field.
Day two was more of the same. We had a big buffet breakfast at 6:30 prepared by the moms. The evals were similar to day one, but we added some ball catching relays and varied the tackling drills on bags, while taking full advantage of the camps obstacle course. The day ended with a HUGE water balloon war between the teams and a parent pick up.
At the end of the day we got what most guys coaching youth football want: an ACCURATE understanding of where each player should play on each side of the ball. The kids also knew what we expected AND they had a great time. The parents loved seeing the kids having a great time at the end with the water balloons, lots of smiling players AND parents.
Consider putting on a pre-season youth football camp for your youth football team this year. Don’t get bogged down with doing player evals for a whole week like many failing teams do. On day one of practice be ahead of the curve, in position groups and gaining ground on your competition- not bogged down with a bunch of old fashioned assessments that waste time.
All of these drills are in the “Winning Youth Football” book and Practice Organization DVD. Winning Youth Football Book