What are the best coaching youth football tips for rookie and first time coaches?
Here are my 10 Coaching Youth Football Tips for Rookie & First Time Coaches. I have coached youth football and sports since 1994, written about coaching youth football since 2008 and given coaching clinics to my local youth football league. These are some of the top best youth football coaching tips for new and inexperienced youth coaches. I narrowed my list of 20 tips down to these top 10.
10 Coaching Youth Football Tips
Here are my 10 best tips for first time youth football coaches.
You must have a plan to succeed, otherwise you plan to fail. Have a written Practice Plan!
Even after 20 plus years coaching youth football, I still use a written practice plan. It helps me stay focused on what the team needs to work on and accomplish. Even though I may detour from the original practice plan every now and then, the written plan helps me plan the next practice. I usually use a Microsoft Word or Excel document / template to write out my plan my practices. I have used the same practice plan template in MS Word since 2006.
Writing out the practice plan allows me to organize my thoughts and prioritize what needs to be worked on during that practice. It also allows me to share the document with my other coaches and parents too. I will usually email the practice plan out the night before or a few hours before practice. This helps keep everyone on the same page. The parents also love to see the practice plans and sharing your practice plan with the parents makes you look great. If I had a busy day at work and show up to practice without a practice plan, I will grab a piece of notebook paper or index card and write out my practice plan in my car. Even a quick plan is better than nothing when coaching youth football practice.
You can read more on practice plans and find a free practice plan template / eBook here.
Proven Playbook / Schemes
Rookie Coaches should find a proven youth football playbook for Offense, Defense, and some youth schemes for Special Teams. Do not be a Unicorn and try something new and unproven your first year of coaching youth football.
I see many inexperienced coaches looking for plays and asking about what formations they should run with x and x Johnnies without a real since of direction. They get focused on the new shiny object of the day instead of learning about what works at the youth football level. Youth football schemes are not like high school, college or the NFL football schemes. They are similar but tweaked for kids and their limited football abilities which are nowhere near the abilities of paid professionals even though parents think so along with some coaches. Get a proven youth football playbook when coaching youth football!
In 1994, I started coaching youth football and installing my high schools Power I Offense with my first 8U team. We struggled for a few weeks through scrimmages before reading on football bulletin boards about coaching youth football and what works at the youth level. I learned about the Single Wing and the Yale Single Wing formation. The Loud Rowdy Monkey Beast was born from a playbook I found in an electronic football game. We tweaked our Power I formation to make it simpler and installed the Yale Singe Wing Beast. We also tweaked our 52 Defense and moved to a 5-3 Defense and did not worry about passing as much. We installed some basic onside kick schemes for Kick Off and Kick Return. These changes helped us take the undefeated #1 stacked team and eventual Super Bowl winner to a triple overtime game. We lost in the semifinal game in the last seconds trying to score a two-point conversion with our #1 Beast back out since the 1st quarter. We were very close to a huge upset. We also won PSA Coaching Staff of the Year.
If I would not have researched about coaching youth football and found proven offense, defense and special team schemes that worked at the youth football level we would have lost just about every game. I am sure I would have continued to try to option pitch the football at 8U.
When I started coaching my first son in tackle football from 2006 to 2008, I purchased several coaching youth football playbooks and general coaching books. These coaching youth football books from authors like Reed, Cisar, Valloton, Gregory, Lawson, Flores, and Weiner took my coaching to the next level. Much of this information from those books are embedded in my own Offensive, Defensive and Special team schemes to this day. As of today, I’ve read and studied over 200 coaching books. Invest in yourself and your program.
Today there are so many youth football coaching resources available just a Google search away. Research a few proven youth football schemes, offense, defense, and special teams. Download or Buy a few books to read about youth football. Invest in yourself. Find a proven youth football playbook and use it. Do not be a Unicorn and try to do something new coaching youth football your first year.
You can also ask another Coach in your youth football league what are successful schemes in your youth football league. When I started coaching youth football in Denver, I took the league commissioner out to lunch to discuss how the league works and what has been successful within the league. That knowledge helped a ton.
Choose your coaching staff and team mom wisely. Surround yourself with great people that love football, believe in your leadership and will follow your guidance. Routinely communicate with your staff. Get an experienced Assistant Coach if you are new to Coaching.
Choosing the right people to surround yourself with for the next 3 to 4 months is very important. They can make or break your team and drive you insane or make the experience a lot of fun. I choose FUN when coaching youth football.
Spend the time meeting and interview anyone that wants to become a Coach on your staff. Make sure they will follow your direction and not cause internal problems. Have several meetings with potential coaches up front and find people that match your vision. Many leagues will also have background checks on coaches so, get these out of the way also. I had an issue with a coach once so before officially naming them as a coach get the ok.
Everyone on your Coaching Staff must accept the fact that you are the captain, and your decisions about coaching youth football, examples: the Offense and QB are final. You can’t have your staff questioning every decision. If they are strong willed and have definite ideas about how to run a team and they do not match your vision, then they are probably not the right fit for your team. Make the hard choices upfront, you will be glad you did.
Team moms can also be tricky since many think that their volunteer time makes their son an automatic starter. Make sure to know your team mom and that she is a fan. Some years we do not pick a team mom and until we get to know a few of them on the team.
Once you have you coaching staff in place make sure to have coaches meeting. We usually meet once a week over a coffee or adult beverage after a practice for about an hour. It is very beneficial to have these meetings when coaching youth football.
Each Coach should also know their role on the coaching staff, O-Line Coach, Defensive Coordinator, Special Teams Coach, Spotter / MPP sub’er, Offensive Coordinator, Assistant Head Coach etc. This is where practice plans come into play, they will all know what they must do at practice. If you can delegate responsibilities this will also help them to buy into your vision.
One last thing, if you are new to coaching youth football or even new to the league, find an experienced coach to assist you as co-head coach or one of the coordinator roles. Since I was new to the area and league, I did this in Denver and it worked out great!
Parent Communication and Management
Your first parent meeting is very important to set the tone and your expectations on player issues and most important parent behavior at practices and games. Maintain a zero tolerance policy on bad parent behavior.
When you first get your final roster from the league, make sure to quickly contact all the parents. Our league requires coaches to call parents the day rosters are released. Many of the Parents and Players are waiting to find out. Set the tone that you are organized; call them and email them your information. We usually have the Team website and text app set up. Parents love all the communication.
Each year, parents are tougher to manage. I love coaching youth football and absolutely hate dealing with crazy sports parents. You must have a parent meeting before or at the first practice and second practice. This is to make sure all parents attend. All parents must attend the Parent meeting or meet with you and sign your leagues Parent Conduct Contract and yours if you have one. Be tough and stern early otherwise you will get run over. I have a complete 3-to-5-page parent packet that I send via email and have copies available at the meeting.
Make sure to have a 24- or 48-hour rule about Parents approaching you after a game or heated conversation. I let Parents know that I am always available via email, but I may not get back to them that day. Let them know they are not allowed to show up at your house unannounced.
And remember, you can’t please everyone when coaching youth football. There are always one or two parents on the team that will be upset about something, even if you are undefeated. If you are losing count on many boo birds whistling at your ear. Welcome to youth football.
Roster / Talent Draft Development & Recognition
You still need the Studs! Even the best youth football coaches need the best players. Recruiting, evaluating drafting, and putting talent in the right positions can make or break your season.
If you can recruit and or draft players in your youth football league, focus on getting speed, older players for their age group, experienced players, high football IQ players and a few mad dogs with the mean gene so it rubs off on everyone. I also like to get a Shotgun Center and 2 or 4 quick footed big linemen. Big Basketball players are great. My simple rule is to get a team of Fullbacks & Linebackers with a few speedy guys mixed in. I can be very competitive with that set up when coaching youth football.
Many youth coaches play Daddy Ball with coach’s sons and or made promises to parents about positions. Doing this will kill your team.
One or two speedy running back studs on a youth football team can make that team’s season. Some first-time coaches get lucky with a stacked team, and it all seems easy. I was very lucky with my first team to have a few top running backs. Some youth coaches may not have one fast player but have an outstanding offensive line. Both teams can be competitive with the right coaching, talent recognition and player development.
If your league just hands you a football team, putting players in the right place is a must! Player position recognition is almost an art form and can be learned over time. Make sure to get your players in the right positions. And make sure you develop your Center. Also, at younger ages the QB can be just a manager, you do not need to put your best back at QB unless you are running him a lot.
If you are lacking the stud running back talent focus on getting the right players in the right place and coach those fundamentals to perfection. I’ve gotten to a few Super Bowl and Semi Final games without a true Tailback. Make sure your Defense and Special Teams are sound and you can block. But the key was making sure we had our players in the perfect positions to win games without worrying about what position mom and dad wanted them to play. Coaching youth football is about the team not the individual.
Find a Mentor / Student of the Game
Rookie coaches must try to find a mentor that has coached a youth football team successfully. Successful youth football coaches study how to coach youth football beyond what they already think they know.
If you are a first time Rookie coach, ask your league commissioner / rep if they can assign you a mentor and or meet with you a few times to discuss coaching youth football. Sometimes, the league will hold a Coaching Clinic for new Coaches. When I started coaching in Denver, I met with the League’s VP for lunch and met with my commissioner about once a week to discuss our team’s progress. At my current league, I set up our Rookie Coaches Clinic. It has been a huge success in increasing our Coach’s coaching youth football IQ.
I did not have a Mentor in my first year of coaching, but in 2006 I did have a coach that motivated me to become a better coach and a student of coaching youth football. Coach Wright in Denver had the best team in our youth football league. I decided to get better and started studying coaching and youth football. I also started writing a youth football coaching blog to force me to write about coaching youth football and learn even more. After studying a year, our team scored on his upper division team in a league scrimmage. His teams had not been scored on in several years. He was not happy, but our team was elated.
Reading this coaching youth football blog, buying coaching books, attending coaching clinics, meeting with other youth coaches, Google and YouTube research and time in the saddle as a youth football coach will help you make the leap from Rookie to a successful youth football coach. Invest time and money into yourself and make the leap to becoming a successful winning youth football coach. Your team and players will appreciate your efforts. Plus, Winning is so much more Funner!
One last point, if you are thinking about coaching youth football soon. Volunteer to coach on a team to get experience coaching before taking on a team yourself. I had coached other sports before taking on my first youth football team, so I had some experience with coaching before jumping off into the deep end. And it still took 3 to 4 games to hit my stride and 4 seasons to feel like I was a good youth football coach.
Progression Teaching / Demonstration / Video
You must be able to teach the fundamentals of football. Break down fundamentals for progression teaching. You must also Demonstrate to teach. Video training is becoming more important.
Coaching is Teaching! Teaching youth football players football’s fundamentals blocking and tackling is important to develop your players. Being able to say the same thing multiple times and in different ways is key to teaching youth football players. Repeat, Repeat and repeat again!
One must also be a good teacher when coaching youth football. Youth football players do not know how to do all the football fundamentals, nor do they know what the terms mean.
I do believe anyone can coach football. But if you have played the game, it is much easier to coach youth football players. If you have not played football at any level, I would recommend becoming an assistant youth football coach a few years before taking a team as a Head Football coach. I say this because knowing football’s fundamental techniques and being able to demonstrate them to your players is a major part of my success as a youth football coach.
A coach must break down the fundamentals into parts so the young players can see how to do things. Expecting them the Rip and Swim an Offensive tackle from day one is not going to achieve the results expected. These techniques must be taught in parts and put together in progression teaching.
Also, today’s youth football players are very good at using YouTube, so sharing training and technique videos is a must. I have a set of videos I share that correspond to our techniques. I also create my own videos for our players / team to get them up to speed on areas. The use of video is highly recommended.
Film Games and Practices
Film everything. Film has no bias. Find your hidden Gems on Film.
We try to film everything especially for the first few weeks of practice. We film scrimmages and buy the scout game package from our league.
You will find so many issues and hidden gems in the tape. I am almost addicted to watching film. I love watching game film and scout film.
Like Special Teams, focusing on Film study will give your team an added edge.
Do not Forget Special Teams
Great Special Teams will win many youth football games!
So many inexperienced coaches focus so much on the Offense and forget Special Teams. I have won many youth football games with our Onside Kicking Schemes. I have also lost a few games by our Punt Return team muffing a punt. Make sure to practice Special Teams. You will be glad you did!
Thank Your Wife
You will be spending a ton of time away from your wife coaching youth football. Make sure to thank her as much as possible!
I spend 20 hours a week focused on coaching youth football during the season. I spend a ton of time away from my wife and family. Make sure to thank your wide and set aside some family time during the season. Happy Wife equals Happy Life!
Check out Coach Parker’s other Coaching Clinic Tips and Videos. Also make sure to check out my private coaching youth football forum on Facebook. Please answer the membership questions so I know you are not a spammer.
Did you find these coaching tips helpful? What another coaching tip that I left off my list. I would love to hear from you.
If you have any questions about coaching youth football, please contact me or leave a comment below.