Esquire’s hit television show, “Friday Night Tykes” has taught me a lot about youth coaches.
Many of them don’t have a clue on how to teach kids the fundamentals of the game.
There are some youth coaches out there that get it. They instill the fundamentals into the kids, teach them to play football the right way, build sportsmanship and last but most importantly, prepare them to play high school football. Unfortunately, those excellent youth coaches are few and far between.
As a high school coach, it is disturbing to see youth coaches instill “a win at all cost” mentality to these kids. Rather than teach proper techniques, they focus on winning by any means necessary. There are coaches that just ride the back of a stud running back who maybe bigger, faster and stronger than his peers that he faces every Saturday. The coach feels proud because he is winning, but when that kid gets to high school and hasn’t learned the craft of being an effective running back, the question is always asked in the community that he came from, “What happened to that stud running back?”
He disappeared and became an ordinary football player, because when a kid gets to high school, the playing field tends to level out. There are players there just as big, as fast and as strong as that stud running back so the days of running over smaller kids and beating a defense to the sideline are over.
Youth coaches need to teach their players the basic fundamentals when the kids are younger (7yrs-10yrs) and as the kids get older (middle school) begin to introduce more advance fundamentals. With the spread offense and zone read scheme being a big part of the NFL, college and high school, youth coaches at the middle school level should introduce zone blocking schemes for offensive lineman and zone blocking running for running backs.
Preparing your players for high school should be the ultimate goal of any youth coach. Yes, winning championships and collecting trophies and accolades are wonderful, but 20 years from now, will anybody really remember who won the local youth championship?
Kids that come into high school mentally and physically prepared have a greater chance of getting on varsity quicker and playing, thus allowing them to get film to send to colleges. The goal for any player should be to get to varsity as quickly as possible.
Playing Junior Varsity isn’t a bad thing and sometimes a player may need time to develop down there. However, college coaches don’t care about a kid running for over 1,000 yards on JV.
My advice to youth coaches: surround yourself with extremely knowledgeable coaches that can teach you. The game of football has evolved and it changes constantly. Many of the local high school coaches would be more than happy to have you sit in on their meetings and talk football. In fact, it’s a boost to their egos. There are some college coaches that will talk with you as well and will allow you to watch their spring practice to learn.
Plus, many of the coaches’ clinics allow youth coaches to attend for free. There really isn’t an excuse as to why youth coaches can’t get better. If they become better coaches, then they can “coach up” their players and prepare them for the next level.
Photo: “Friday Night Tykes”; Esquire Network