Youth Football Coaching Basics 101
This is the youth football coaching basics 101 clinic; Introduction to Coaching Youth Football. You can also find more about youth football clinic presentations over at CoachParker.org. This information will be a part of my upcoming ebook; Coaching Youth Football Coaching Manual or something like that. Still working on the title for my youth football coaching book.
What is Youth Football?
I consider youth football 6th grade and under or 13U. Once players hit 7th grade many states have football programs at their local middle schools. Plus, puberty starts to take hold in Jr High players and the football game evolves from a heavy youth football running game into a more diverse offensive and defensive game. The passing game really starts to unfold in 7th grade football and the players are more advanced than younger recreational youth football players at the 5u to 12u youth football age level.
There are several variations of youth football. You have flag football, 7 on 7 football and tackle football and recently a hybrid of tackle and 7 on 7 football called Flex football. Currently this site and eBook are mainly focused on youth tackle football. There will also be a few articles on the other youth football variations.
Youth Football has a few other league type variations. There are Non Competitive youth football leagues that are focused more on young & new players. They might not keep score or winning records. They also may not have formalized teams but practice as an organization then assign teams each weekend for organized scrimmage type games. Usually each player rotates through the various football positions on offense and defense. These leagues are great for 4, 5 & 6 year old players who just want to have fun playing football.
Competitive / Recreational youth football leagues are youth football leagues that usually have rules around minimum plays per player. Many times these are 10 to 15 plays per game per player. Usually the league assigns players to the team that have signed up through the league. Many Rec leagues will prohibit open recruiting are allow some maybe 1 or 2 players to back fill empty roster positions. Sometimes, Rec leagues will reassign teams each season and or allow a few returning players to coaches / teams.
Competitive Select youth football Leagues are leagues that run as an organization but usually teams are formed by independent coaches that bring teams into the league. The Select teams will recruit players to their teams usually independent of the league. These team will sometimes switch leagues and or play tournament football. The Select teams are similar to “travel teams” in Soccer and Baseball.
Three rules for coaching
1) Surround yourself with people who can’t live without football.
2) Recognize winners. They come in all forms.
3) Have a plan for everything.
~ Bear Bryant – University of Alabama
Winning Youth Football Coaching Basics Are:
- Organization & Planning
- Coaching through teaching and demonstration
- Matching Offense and Defense to Talent
- Focus on Run not Passing
- Effective Practices with detail plans and high rep drills
- Setting High Expectations
- Weekly Goals / Improvements
- Great Recruiting / Drafting Team
Youth Football Coaching Basics
The 10 winning youth football coaching basics are simple but many find difficult to implement to be effective. As a youth football coach you too must learn to practice skills that you night not be a good at in real life. But as the CEO of your little league football team, you’ve got to be an organized leader. If you don’t plan then your plan will fail. It is that simple.
Over the last 30 seasons, I began to enjoy the planning and organization process almost as much as the actual season. I’ve been very lucky to have fellow coaches that are as committed to coaching youth football as myself. We meet in the off-season to discuss the past season and upcoming seasons. We plan out of next moves in our roster, recruiting, draft, opponents etc. I started writing a youth football blog, writing books, and reading tons of old football coaching books to make myself a better football coach in coaching youth football basics and more.
As a top youth football coach, you must be able to teach football fundamentals. And when I say teach, you must be able to speak with authority and demonstrate the skill if needed. If you have never played football then you need to learn the game before you consider coaching a youth football team. If you have never coached youth sports before then consider becoming an assistant coach before jumping in as a Head Coach.
In my first year as a youth football coach I was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator, which took a ton of pressure off of me. I could just coach and not deal with the parents and league issues. I had coached adult flag football before coaching my first youth football game and played youth football 10 years since I was 8. I was coached well by my pee wee, jr high and HS coaches and understood youth football coaching basics.
Many coaches will force their vision of offense and defense upon a youth football team. Remember to match your offense and defense to your roster. The is one of the key youth football coaching basics. If you try to force an sweeping outside running offense on a full back laden roster then you might be in for a long season. I have seen too many coaches try to run wide without a speedy tailback or pass every other down without a quarterback receiver combo that completes more than 50% without much success. Make sure to match your schemes to your talent / roster. Your roster should drive your schemes.
Many youth football rosters are not filled with top college quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Many times, your roster might have 4 good running backs if that. I’ve had rosters with only 2 “starting” running backs. So be careful trying to come out in an Air Raid Spread offense or Triple Option offense thinking your going to run the table on your league. This is probably not going to happen unless you have a junior John Elway on your team along with the receiving corp to match. I would recommend to focus on running the football at least until 12U.
I cannot stress enough to have printed organized practice plans. Your practice plan will help you stay focused during the craziness of pee wee players running around screaming. Keep the times to 15 to 20 minutes and the younger the players the less talking your should do. Keep them moving and busy. I like to talk a lot and for younger players, I learned to talk during drills. demonstrate and talk during the drill. Also for younger players have more helper dads / assistant coaches. Practice plans are a key youth football coaching basics for any good coach.
I hated to be yelled at as a youth football player. I tried my first season to a be a “nice” coach and I had to adjust after the 2nd week. Young players like discipline. You do not have to scream but set very fair understandable ground rules and enforce them. Be fair and your practices will run smoother. We have a strict no talking while coach is talking rule. Players will run to the fence about 100 yards away. And make sure to discipline all players even your favorites, this is another key to coaching youth football basics maxim.
Scouting is a very important to youth football coaching basics that gets overlooked by many experienced youth football coaches. Mainly because scouting is hard to do. If your football league sells a video scouting package, make sure to buy it. It is gold! If they do not offer a scouting package then ask a dedicated parent to film next weeks opponent. Set up a schedule so everyone gets on film or at least the top 3 or 4 teams. Scouting alone will help you win 1 or 2 more games. The video below is from my youth football coaching clinic.
Make sure to set high expectations for yourself, staff and your players. If you think your lineman cannot learn 8 blocking calls then they will never learn 8 blocking calls. I finally learned in 2008 that lineman were as smart or smarter than the skilled running backs. Even though I was a youth football lineman back in the day, I just never pushed my guys until one day in 2008 I pushed them to learn a few blocking calls. They were 9 and 10 years old. Even I had to learn this important youth football coaching basics fact.
Not only should you have season goals, but you should be setting weekly goals and improvements plans based on your last game, week of practice, roster changes, injuries and next week opponent. Too many times, I see coaches working in the same fundamentals and skills each week. Many times, coaches will not add anything to the practice plan that they do not like to do. Sometimes, the thing you need to focus on is doing that thing that is difficult to coach.
The last youth football coaching basics, is to make sure you are a good player recruiter, player evaluator and know how your leagues draft or player assignment process works in fine detail. For teams to be successful over many seasons, your coaching staff must become an expert in this process. I am not a great recruiter, but my team parents, staff and assistant coaches have been very good at recruiting players. I am very good at evaluating players and how to draft players and then where to place them in positions on your team. Make sure to round out your staff with these skill sets in recruiting, evaluating and drafting
Youth Football Coaching Manual
Next Page – 10 Basic Keys to Winning Youth Football Coaching
This page – Youth Football Coaching Basics 101