In youth football the team with the most “athletes” will win more than they lose, regardless of coaching. But on the other hand, good coaching can win games, regardless of talent. Every coach should have a prepared and competitive team on the field every game. Coaching matters the most when you have two athletically equal teams.
Here are a few preparation tips for the practice week leading up to the big game:
Scouting! Knowing what your opponent does offensively, defensively, and in the special teams phase is vital. Knowing what they are going to do will allow you to prepare your coaches and player for it during the practice week. It will help your kids tremendously when they are practicing against what they are going to see. Having film on your opponent will allow you to find tendencies in their play calling. There are many tells, you just need to know what to look for. Sometimes coaches will even rotate their best linemen to the side they are running to. Know what they do on third and fourth down. The goal should be to commit to stopping the things/plays they do well.
Have a solid week of practice. If your team has a solid week of practice, it will carry over into game day. Have the kids practicing hard, put those kids to work. In moderation though, do not beat up or overwork your players. Practice must be fluent, smooth, organized, passionate, and productive.
Do not give up the big play! It is important that you do not give their offense anything easy. Defensively, you want to bend but not break. Regardless how good the team is, making them have to go 10+ plays and score is very difficult. The more plays it takes them to score, the more likely it is that they will eventually make a mistakes (penalty or turnover). When you give up big plays the game will begin to get away from you. Bend but don’t break!
Attitude! Football is all about attitude! Tell your players it is going to be a tough game. Get all the players and coaches excited. Coaches and football players should live for the big game!
Develop your player’s confidence and belief. Have your team practice with confidence. If you talk about good things and work hard for it, good things tend to happen. There is an old saying, “the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get”. You will be surprised how well your kids play when they are playing confident. Be real with your players as well. If the team is dominate, they probably will score. Make sure your kids know that they need to handle sudden change and play with resilience. Develop confidence and belief that you can win.
Each week we have the “word of the week”. The word of the week should be a word that represents what your team needs to improve on. For example, say you lost a game so the word of the week could be “resilience”. It is a cool idea, which works. The word of the week should be talked about throughout the practice week. You can even take tape and but the word on their helmets.
Steal Possessions. We put an extreme amount of emphasis on creating turnovers. The less amount of time the dominate team has the football, the better. Work on stripping the football, pursue drills, and onside kicks. If you can steal 2 or 3 or even 4 possessions it will greatly help your chances. When you are facing a superior team, you will need to generate turnovers if you want a shot at winning.
(See Also) The Strip Drill
Special Teams. The last thing you want to do is give up big plays or scores on special teams. Do not kick to their “stud players”. Again, this comes back to scouting. Scout your opponent and know who not to kick the football to. Winning the special teams battle is critical.
Remember, the team with the best athletes will win more than they will lose. But, having a well coached team that is prepared can upset “dominate” teams. Always remember in win or defeat- if your kids played hard, that is all that matters.
(See Also) Winning the Field Position Battle
It is our job as coaches to put a prepared and competitive team on the field every single game, regardless of team talent.