Our friends at My Sports Dreams have written a guest article for us on 5 common mistakes that youth football coaches should avoid: Every football coach dreams of being Bill Belichick or Don Shula, getting the Gatorade bath and celebrating on a podium with the Lombardi Trophy. But when it comes to coaching youth football, success is almost secondary to making sure that kids learn, develop, and have fun. However, coaches sometimes make major mistakes that can turn a fun activity into a dreaded one. By avoiding these five mistakes, coaches can instead make football an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
Five Mistakes For Youth Football Coaches To Avoid
Mistake No. 1: Channeling Rex Ryan. It’s fun to watch coaches get all worked up and yell at officials, right? Of course it is, but in the NFL, coaches and players are making millions of dollars and a blown call can change a season. At the youth level, you have to remember that your biggest indicator of success is whether the kids learn something, and believe me, they can learn bad habits even more easily than they’ll learn good ones. Yelling at referees is unethical and counterproductive to your teaching role as a coach. If you have a legitimate complaint about an official (whether it be bias, irresponsibility, lack of knowledge, whatever), wait until afterwards to discuss them. Be calm and ask for an explanation. You can also call the league office or talk to directors about it. Some refs just have bad days, but some leagues have bad refs – and your job is to not only know the difference, but also how to handle it.
Mistake No. 2: Forgetting That YOU are the Coach. Youth football is perhaps more competitive today than it has ever have been, and that means that parents are often more competitive than ever. All parents naturally think their child is the next Tom Brady, even if he can’t tie his own shoelaces. So what’s the best way to deal with overzealous parents? Ask a handful of experienced coaches, and they’ll tell you that it’s best to sit down with them before the season and explain your philosophy or team plan before they have a chance to be unruly. Also, it’s best to make them remember that THEY shouldn’t channel Rex Ryan; tell then that any comments they make should be positive and that it is not acceptable to yell at the referees, opposing team, or youth football coaches. Mistake No.
3: Raising the Bar Too High. As I said, every parent thinks their child is a supreme talent. That’s understandable, as is a coach believing that some players are better than others. It’s nature. However, placing lofty tags or expectations on certain kids can have an adverse effect. Even worse, saying things you think are supportive – things like “you guys should shred this defense today” – can be construed as expectations. Studies have shown that in situations like that one, athletes often think they have to be perfect, and are letting you down if they aren’t. Overly high expectations can cause athletes of any age to focus too much on the results, and that often leads to easy frustration. While you can’t control a parent’s expectations, you can remind your players that if they’re doing the best that they can, no one can ask for more.
Mistake No. 4: Winning At All Costs. Again, everyone wants to win, but trust me – more players will remember that you gave them skills for the future than any single victory they have. So, instead of making winning the primary goal, focus on more manageable objectives that help kids focus on development. For example, instead of asking your players to score on every drive, urge them to look for the other team’s tendencies, identify formations, etc. Learning “on the job” is sometimes the most effective way to build skills for the future. And, most importantly above all, remind players to let go of mistakes quickly. There has to be a winner and a loser on every play even – and no one in history has ever been perfect.
Mistake No.5: Thinking You Know It All. Just like your youth football players, you’re bound to make mistakes. It’s part of life. But, in your duty as a coach, you can do things to help your own development as well. Even if you have in the past, watch or play the sport you’re coaching. Sometimes, people (usually parents) get thrown into coaching sports they’ve never really played. Sure, you might know the basics, but very quickly, you can realize that you know very little about the dynamics of the sport. But if you can’t or haven’t played football, spend as much time as you can watching high school, college or pro teams and focus on the coaches. If necessary, put yourself in their position and think of the game as if you were coaching. You’ll gain from the experience.