There are thousands of good youth football coaches worldwide. However, there is a big difference between good coaches and GREAT COACHES. Coaching youth football requires preparation, commitment, enthusiasm, integrity, and communication. Great football coaches are a positive influence on every single player that they coach. A great football coach is not only known for his win-lose record, but he is known as a coach that makes a difference in all of his players lives. Here are 10 keys to becoming a great youth football coach.
10. Football System. It is absolutely critical that you select a youth football offense, defense, and special team system that accommodates your team’s skill set. Whichever system you elect to run, make sure you understand the system. It is also important that all coaches understand the system and their assigned responsibilities in the system. In youth football you need balance. On offense, you need to be able to attack inside, off-tackle, and outside. You must be able to throw the football every so often as well. Defensively, you need a defense that has a nice mixture of aggressive blitzes and mixture of safe looks that are focused on not giving up big plays. I would recommend using a system that utilizes deception. Deception is important not just on offense, but on defense and special teams as well.
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9. Discipline. Place high value on discipline. Doing the little things right can be the difference between winning and losing. It can also be the difference between safe and unsafe. Players and parents need to make sure they focus on eating a nutritional diet and proper hydration before every practice and game. Getting enough sleep the night before a practice and game is also vital for overall performance. Coaches need to address any disciplinary problems from the start. Install a team first environment, bulling and negative comments should not be tolerated. Set the tone from day one! Out of the 10 keys to becoming a great youth football coach, discipline is one of the most important keys.
8. Reward hard work. Like many other youth football coaches my staff and I put in a ton of time. My staff and I do scouting, spend hours watching film, and planning practices. So when a player is committed and works hard, we will reward them with additional playing time. We reward our hardworking players with playing time, hard worker of the week awards, and weakly captain honors. Preach to your players that in football and in life, when you work hard, good things will happen.
See Also: Playing Time in Youth Football
7. Resilience and Sudden Change. When something goes wrong, do you tend to bounce back or fall apart? True character will revile itself when things are at their worst. Pride yourself on coaching your best when things are at their worst. Always keep a positive attitude and never panic. When the game or practice is not going well, winning youth football coaches will keep their cool and keep their players focused. If you cannot handle the pressure, it will rub off on the kids. Winning youth football teams are able to handle adversity and always stay together as a team. Resilience is needed to flourish in football and in life. Resilience is a trait needed to succeed in our social society, work places, sports, and all levels of education. Anytime something goes wrong we use the word “reload”, which means we physically and mentally move onto the next play.
The goal should be to win every single game and get better after every single practice. Football is a very competitive game. Players and coaches should never quit and always coach hard throughout the entire game, regardless of the situation. Implement competition among players in practice and always compete with yourself as a coach to get better. In order for kids to compete on game day, they need to practice competing in practice. Always strive to be the best. Always give a 100% effort. However, never win at the expense of the kids.
5. Communication. Coaching requires excellent communication skills. When communicating with kids, be sure you have a loud tone and you keep things moving fluently. When coaches are not prepared or do not fully understand what they are teaching, that is when communication becomes a problem. When you fully understand something, it is a heck of a lot easier to teach it. Communication with parents is vital! You must be able to interact with the parents fluently. Be organized and make sure you and the parents are all on the same page. It will make life a lot easier when you are friendly and get along with the parents. Here is a suggestion, make a letter to the parents, outlining goals, contact information, and write a little about what they can except from the coaches. This will make you look professional and it will make a strong first impression on the parents.
4. Enthusiasm. Keeping things upbeat and fun is recipe for success in youth football. If you lose the attention of the players, it is difficult to get it back. To avoid having the kids lose focus, coach with a positive- upbeat tempo, and have some fun. Kids react to emotion and energy more so than anything else. Having a well planned practice will allow the kids to keep busy and stay focused. Be sure to script practices so that they are organized and move fluently. Have fun, be upbeat! Coach with positive emotion.
3. Be Organized. Practices must be organized and upbeat. All assistant coaches must understand their job/plans and must be able to execute. In youth football, practice time is limited, being organized is crucial for getting the most out of each practice. Have a plan for every practice and game. Never just ‘wing it’. When you are disorganized it will make you and your coaching staff look really bad in front of the players, other coaches, and parents.
See Also: Youth Football Practice Planning Guide
2. Have Integrity. Be honest with all parents, coaches, and players. When coaching youth football, coaches need to handle themselves with professionalism at all times, win, lose, or draw. The coaches and player must always compete within the rules of the game, cheating is just pathetic. I have a saying, real recognizes real. When you are not honest, people will recognize it. Also, running up the score has no place in youth football. Coaches must ALWAYS lead by positive example. I have another saying, and this goes for all players, coaches, and parents, if you don’t have anything positive to say, then keep your mouth closed.
1. Fundamentals & Safety. Out of the 10 keys to becoming a great youth football coach, fundamentals and safety is by far the most important. You must be fundamentally sound in every aspect football. It is vital that kids play with proper fundamentals when blocking and tackling. This is not just needed for successful football play, but for player safety as well. It is extremely important to rep the basic fundamentals at every practice. Successful youth football teams play with great fundamentals on a consistent basis. Spend less time scheming and more time on fundamentals. Coaches need to educate themselves on player safety. Everything from minor bumps and bruises to concussions. In order to coach youth football, most leagues require their coaches to go through rigorous coaching certifications and classes. I recommend you take those certification classes and seriously. Keep in mind that most injuries occur at practice. It is critical that coaches implement safe drills. Have a plan of action for injuries.
Final Thoughts. Coaching football is all about the kids. All coaches need to coach with the best interest of the kids in their hearts. Coaching youth football requires preparation, integrity, discipline, enthusiasm, and communication. Coaches should attend coaching clinics that teach safety, technique, systems, drills, and overall practice optimization. The well being of the kids physically and the well being of the kids mentally (encouragement), should be the # 1 focus of every single youth football coach. Coaching youth football is one of the most gratifying things you can do. I would like to note that with the exception of safety, all of these 10 keys to becoming a great youth football coach are arguably equally important.
I would love to hear your feedback on our 10 Keys to Becoming a Great Youth Football Coach. Comment below…
Have fun and good luck this season!