Teaching Skills

Teaching Skills

4 things you should NEVER do

By Greg Robinson

Program Setup Coordinator I Youth Football

 

Skills Training1.  Make a player feel bad about not successfully executing the drill/activity:

I wish I could give you a penny for every time a coach gets negative on kids. Have you heard these: “Come on Tommy! You’re killin us!” “We can’t win if you don’t catch the ball.” “You took your eyes off the ball!”

Remember, you are dealing with very fragile egos and confidence levels. Always be the encourager!

2.  Don’t assume the drill you are running is age or skill appropriate:

As an example, let’s say you are having the kids try to catch the ball before going out of bounds. This a very athletic task. If your players are only catching the ball 70-80% of the time just standing there, the success rate of trying to catch the ball heading out of bounds is going to be less than 50%. If you continue to permit this dropped pass rate at your practices, soon your players won’t even want to TRY to catch.

3.  Don’t worry about the details:

Yes, I think that is a double negative but you NEED to worry about the details. How do you get better at something? “Practice!” But make sure you are practicing the correct things. If you want your players to catch the ball at higher percentages, you must break down what happens when the player actually drops it. Are his hands or elbows too wide? What is he looking at when the ball comes to him? Are his pinkies or thumbs together? Is his confidence so low he is turning his head?

Do not continue to let your players fail at the drill without analyzing why they are failing. Break it down into small parts.

4.  Treat every player the same:

Shouldn’t I treat every player the same? Not in skill training. Every group you teach will be different. Very rarely will all of your players be at the same level. Do not make other players feel bad about their skills at the expense of trying to improve your best players. However, your goal should be to challenge every player, at his individual skill level. You can do this by splitting the group or making a drill more challenging for skilled players.

There is nothing wrong with telling your players that once you get good at this part of the drill (whatever that may be), you can graduate to more difficult steps/levels in the drill. Examples of making a football catching drill more difficult would be things like: catching with one hand, running a difficult route before making the catch, or doing pushups before the catch.

Coaching Addiction

Warning!

Prolonged Exposure to Coaching can become Addictive

 

Danger SignThis past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Minnesota to meet with Coach Mike Rowe and in the process, see his Rocori Spartans play in the State High School 4A Semifinals in US Bank Stadium.  The Spartans quickly found themselves down 14 points early in the 1st quarter.  With so many things going wrong they continued to fight to the point that they held the lead until the final 1:21 of the 4th quarter.   Having gotten to know Coach Rowe over the last 4 years, I have no doubt his team’s resiliency in large part was a byproduct of his Character Program.  The Spartans ultimately ended up losing and in defeat Coach Rowe perfectly summed up how I feel as a youth coach after a tough season ending loss.

“So proud of these young men and how they handle adversity. Came up short today, but the loss is not why I am sad. All I ever want is one more day to coach these kids and hangout with my coaching peers.”

Getting a chance to watch our young players grow, become more confident, and to learn to fight through adversity are some of the most rewarding parts of being a youth coach.  Adding in the opportunity to build relationships with other coaches coaching can become quite addictive.

Youth Basketball Practice Plan – Part 2

Youth Basketball Practice Plan – Part 2

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

Basketball PracticeWith the new basketball season upon us we thought we should expand on one of our previous posts concerning Youth Basketball Practice Planning and provide details on how we build our practice plans.  First, we determine what areas we want to focus on in every practice.  Like many Youth Basketball teams, we have limited practice and gym time so we know we can’t be great at everything.  Thus, we narrow our focus to 3 areas. For our teams that means attacking the basket off the break, defense, and rebounding.  If we do nothing else in a practice, we are going to work on those 3 areas.  Next we like to prioritize what other areas we want to focus on.  For example, half-court offense, out of bounds plays, press break, etc.  We then build our schedule in 5 – 10 minute segments.  It is worth noting that at times when we are introducing a concept or drill, we may go longer than 5 or 10 minutes, but we strive to go no longer than 20 minutes.  Below is a sample of the format we have used that has worked well for us over the years:

Wall Time Duration Drill Notes Drill Example Coach
7:30 PM 5 Defensive Closeout (No Ball) Coaching Points https://youtu.be/6iHZPCNR6Ac Coach

Wall Time

We include Wall Time help us keep on schedule.  As much as we plan and try to stay on plan, there are times where we might get off script.  When this happens and we want to get back on schedule we use Wall Time to simply determine where in practice we need to be.

Duration

Duration is simply the number of minutes we are planning for that portion of the practice.  Again, we strive to keep these in 5 to 10 minute segments wherever possible.

Drill

The name we use to refer to the Drill.

Notes

We use the Notes section for any Coaching Points we may want to emphasize for that Drill.

Drill Example

Video link showing an example of the Drill.

Coach

Coach assigned to running the Drill.

 

To further illustrate we have included a complete Sample of one of our early season practice plans:

Fullscreen Mode

If you are curious to learn more about the system we use, we encourage you take a look at our Attack the Tin System. If you need more drill ideas, we recommend you visit our library of youth basketball drills.

Special Teams In Youth Football

Special Teams in Youth Football

 

For many Youth Football Coaches Special Teams are one of the more challenging phases of the game to coach.  In our post below we share some of the strategies and tips that we have acquired and used.

Kickoff

Unless we have a commanding lead, we prefer to utilize onside kicks to keep the ball away from the opposing team’s best players in space.  Below is the “A” option of our version of the “ABC” kickoff which is combination of an onside kick we learned from winningyouthfootball.com and Ted Seay’s “ABC” kickoff.

For additional details, check out our ABC Kickoff – Onside Kick Strategies blog post.

 

Kickoff Return

Over the years we have used a couple of different Kickoff Returns, but the one we favor is the Trap Return from Coach Cisar at winningyouthfootball.com.  Below is an example of one of our teams running this return.  You may notice that there is a flag on the play that was due to an unnecessary hold.

Another return that we’ve had some success with is John T. Reed’s Off-Tackle Return.

Punt Return

For us a good Punt Return has always been a little difficult to get setup, but one that has worked best for us has been the Wall Return.  We have used it both when basing out of the Wide Tackle Six and the Gregory 6-3 defenses.  Below is an example of the Wall Return out of a 6-3 alignment.

Wall Return

 

Punt Block

Our Punt Block attempts to attack every gap in hopes that one of our players is able to have a free run to the Punter.  Below is an example of our Punt Block when basing out of the Gregory 6-3.

Punt Block

If your league observes ball carrier weight restrictions, but allows players over that limit to punt but not advance the ball, we like the following Punt Block.

Punt Block 2

 

Punt

Much like our Kickoff Return, we do not want to kick the ball to one our opponent’s best player in space.  For that reason, when we are in situations where we absolutely have to punt we instruct the punter to angle the punt to a sideline to cut the field in half and lessen the amount of space that has to be defended.

 

Punt Fake

Because we like utilizing Wedge Blocking, we also like to leverage it as part of our Punt Fake.  Below is an example of a Punt Fake that we employ that we acquired from winningyouthfootball.com.

 

PAT Block

Our PAT Block looks very similar to our Punt Block when the Punter is over the ball carrier weight with the exception that we move our Mike inside the DE and CB on the Kicker’s plant foot side.

PAT Block

Our logic is that since many leagues award 2 points for a kick verses 1 for a run or pass, the chances for a fake are very slim.

If you are searching for additional help with your Special Teams, we encourage you to take a look at our Special Teams (Long Snapping, Punting, EP/FG) clinic, as well as Coach Parker’s site.

Helmet Award System for Youth Football

Helmet Award System for Youth Football

 

Helmet Award SystemAs a youth football player, I loved receiving recognition in the way of helmet stickers.  What I didn’t like as a lineman was the disparity between awards for “unskilled” verses “skilled” positions.  One of my most vivid memories as a youth football player was our Quarterback receiving 7 stickers for scoring 7 touchdowns in one game and all I received for blocking for him on each of those scores was 1.  Because of this experience we came up with the following Helmet Award System to be more team focused and recognize the contributions of all players:

Offense

Team

  • Score on the First Series of the game.
  • Score on the First Series of the second half.
  • Score 21 points or more.
  • No Turnovers
  • Victory

Lineman

  • Every wedge play that goes for 10 yards or more.

Individual

  • Center

    • Perfect Snaps
  • Receiver/Running Back

    • Pass Catch
  • Running Back

    • Pass Completion
    • Tackled while carrying out fake.
  • ALL

    • Defender legally blocked to the ground.

Defense

Team

  • Only allow 7 points or less.

Individual

  • Force a fumble
  • Fumble recovery
  • Interception
  • Tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

Special Teams

Team

  • Punt Block
  • Extra Point Block
  • Kickoff return for a Touchdown.
  • Punt return for a Touchdown.

Individual

  • Force a fumble
  • Fumble recovery

If you like us love to give out Awards to your team and are looking for high quality Helmet Stickers, we highly suggest you visit our friends at SportsLiveDecals.com.

Minimum Play Tips and Tricks

Minimum Play Tips for Youth Football

 

Minimum PlayersWith the new season just around the corner and as a follow-up to our recent blog post concerning Minimum Play Goals in Youth Football, we thought it might be valuable to share some of the Minimum Play strategies we have picked up through the years.  Please keep in mind that the intent of each of these strategies is to maximize player involvement while still being competitive and may or may not apply to your particular situation.

Time Management

Assuming a typical youth football game has around 60 plays and you have 2 Minimum Play (MMP) type players on the field for each play, that gives you a total of 120 (60 x 2) plays to meet your Minimum Play requirements.  If you are like us and want everyone to get their plays in prior to the 4th quarter, you really only have 90 plays to work with.  Since you can’t put more time on the clock, what can you do to increase the number of plays?

Tip #1

Consider going No Huddle with your Offense.  Think about the amount of time used during a game just huddling.  There are many advantages going No Huddle and one of those is the ability to run more plays than a huddling team.  If you just increase the number of plays run during the course of a typical game by 10%, you have added an additional 9 (90 x .10) plays that can be used to satisfy your play requirements.

Tip #2

Use your timeouts at the end of the first half to stretch out the game and create more play opportunities.  At the higher levels of football, it is a sound strategy when having the ball late in the first half without much chance of scoring to run out the clock so that you don’t give your opponent an opportunity for a big play.   Unlike the higher levels, we as youth coaches are concerned with getting plays for all of our players.  For more detail concerning this tip, we suggest you take a look at Coach Dave Cisar’s Creatively Managing the Minimum Play Issue in Youth Football blog post.

Offense

Tip #3

Leverage formations to help your weaker players.  Some examples:

  • Use an unbalanced line and place your weaker players on the “Quick Side”.Unbalanced Line
  • Split a Receiver or Running Back out wide.  This will typically move a Cornerback out away from the point of attack to cover that player for fear of a pass.  Split Formation

Tip #4

If you prefer a balanced line, consider flipping your offensive line and having a strong/wall side and weak/quick side placing your weaker players on the “Weak Side”.

Flipping O-line

For more detail concerning flipping your offensive line, we suggest you take a look at our Flipping Offensive Lineman blog post.

Tip #5

Consider creating a Beast or Wedge team made up primarily of MMP players.  This is especially an effective strategy when coupled with Tip #2.

Defense

Tip #6

Consider utilizing the Cisar Wide Tackle 6 or Gregory 6-3 where you can utilize the two Defensive Guard positions to rotate players in.  If you prefer an odd fronted defense instead, we suggest you take a look at the 73 Bandit and 7-Diamond Defenses.

Tip #7

Designate boundary and field Cornerbacks.  This strategy allows you to rotate players at the Cornerback position when the ball is either on the left or right hash where they don’t have to defend as much space.

Special Teams

Tip #8

Utilize onside kicks on kickoffs.  We suggest taking a look at our version of the “ABC” kickoff where three spots can be utilized for MMP players.

Tip #9

On kickoff return utilize the two positions on the front line nearest the sidelines for your MMP players.

Kickoff Return

As youth football coaches, it is our job to try and find places where all of our players can add value and find success.  Though each of these tips will cause more work for your coaching staff, in the end they will hopefully help make it a more enjoyable experience for your players.

Minimum Play Goals

Minimum Play Goals in Youth Football

 

If you have visited our site before, you know something that we feel strongly about in Youth Football is getting all our players on the field. We also strongly believe that whether your Youth Football league mandates minimum play rules or not each team should have minimum play goals.  Below is a guide that we have used based on our roster size:

Number of Players Number of Plays
31+ 8
23 – 30 10
18 – 22 12
17 and fewer 14

If you are looking for minimum play strategies, we recommend that you take a look at one or our past twitter chats where coaches shared various ways they keep all of their players engaged, as well as one of our past blog posts covering Flipping Offensive Lineman.  If you are looking for help tracking minimum plays, we suggest that you visit youth-football-plays-and-formations.com and check out their Minimum Play Planning Worksheet.

More Fun with Youth Football Formations

More Fun with Youth Football Formations

(Using Formations and Adjustments in Youth Football)

 

If you have visited our site before you know we like playing around with Youth Football Alignment Rules and Nuances, as well as Formation Adjustments to try and gain an advantage over the defense.  You will also know that we are big believers in understanding the advantages a formation or adjustment gives you while maintaining the ability to run much of your base offense.  In this blog posts we are going to explore a Single Wing formation adjustment that we stumbled upon when watching Ishpeming High School in Michigan a few years back that we believe will give youth football defenses fits.

Ishpeming

If you are a fan of Single Wing football, you might notice that this formation looks very similar to Coach Dave Cisar’s Double Formation with the Quarterback/Blocking Back moved onto the line of scrimmage.

Formation Advantages

Besides having some of the inherent advantages of the Single Wing Formation/Offense, we believe the formation gives you these additional benefits:

  1. Is it Balanced or Unbalanced?  Many youth football defenses struggle to recognize unbalanced formations and we believe this further adds to alignment recognition challenges.
  2. There is now an additional gap to be defended between Q and the left (E)nd position.
  3. For leagues where the end man on the line of scrimmage must be under a certain weight limit (ball carrier weight), we can get a larger player at the left (E)nd position since we are covering them with Q.  This allows us to get a little more push on (F)ullback Powers or ISOs than we would get otherwise.  More about ISOs later.

Ishpeming

Formation Disadvantages

When using a formation to gain a certain advantage you typically also introduce some disadvantages:

  1. Because Q is covering the left (E)nd position they are no longer an eligible receiver.
  2. Because Q is typically a blocker on strong side plays in our base formation, we are losing a blocker at the point of attack.

Ishpeming Power

Run to the Bubble

So we’ve seen some of the advantages and disadvantages of this formation, but how Ishpeming School appeared to use this formation is what really intrigued us.  What Ishpeming seemed to do with a great deal of success was have the (T)ailback and (F)ullback look for bubbles in the defense and run ISO to those gaps with either F leading for T or vice versa.

ISO

For those teams already running No Huddle with a Single Wing Offense/System this looks be a simple yet powerful add.

If you are looking for more information concerning the Single Wing, we highly recommend that you visit winningyouthfootball.com.  In our opinion there is no better or more complete Single Wing system for youth football than you will find there.  We also suggest that you take a look at our Single Wing Clinic recordings.

If you are interested in checking out some of our past posts concerning youth football formations, see the links below:

 

 

 

Youth Football Drills

Youth Football Drills

drillsIt’s that time of year that many of us youth football coaches are deep into planning for our upcoming season by working on our practice plans and thinking about what drills we will use.  Over the last several years we have been able to compile a list of quality football drills.  Our list includes drills for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  We have even included some Flag Football drills.

The Breakdown Stance in Youth Football

The Breakdown Stance 

(Teaching Fundamentals in Youth Football)

By Coach Alvin Poole

 

Coach PooleSo, here are a couple of scenarios to consider.  The first one goes like this:  It’s third and long.  Your defense is on the field and you really need to stop the offense on this play so you can get the ball back and hopefully score quickly.  The offense lines up in a one back set.  When the ball is snapped, the quarterback drops back and all the receivers go out on their designated routes, occupying all of your defensive backs.  While the quarterback is looking downfield and your defensive line is attempting to apply pressure, you notice the back making his way out towards the near sideline.  All of a sudden, the quarterback turns in his direction and throws him the ball on a swing pass/bubble pass.  You now see that your trusty middle linebacker saw this and has drawn a bead on the running back.  The running back catches the ball and turns up field.  Now, you know that your linebacker is going to make this tackle, but to your horror, you watch your linebacker leave his feet four yards away from the back in order to make that “killer”, big hit.  Unfortunately, the running back takes one step sideways like a champion bull fighter dodging a charging bull and all your linebacker comes up with is a mouthful of grass.  The running back goes up field gaining enough yards for the first down and then some, before the other defensive backs manage to bring him down.

Or . . . consider this:  You are on offense and it is third and short.  You know your offensive line has been dominating the defensive line, so you call Iso right.  Your lead back comes out of his stance standing straight up, and hits the hole running way too high.  The linebacker reads the play and steps up to meet your lead back and because the linebacker is lower than he is, stuffs your lead back into the hole causing your ball carrier to get stopped short of first down yardage.

You reevaluate to discover what happened in these two scenarios.  You conclude it was the correct defense called.  You called the right play on offense.  However, you realize that your players have a bad habit of blocking/tackling too high.

Fundamental Fundamentals

Fundamental techniques play a very important role in youth football.  It’s always the fundamentals that separate the champions from the could haves/should haves.  The breakdown stance is one of those fundamentals for me.  As a matter of fact it is THE most important one for me. It is THE most Fundamental of all the fundamentals. It is so important, it is the first thing I teach on the first day of camp or practice.  I also continue to teach it and go over it every practice and pre-game warm up.  Breakdown stance is the basic fundamental stance that almost every sport is played.  Think soccer, basketball, tennis, well . . . maybe not golf.  But definitely football.

Breaking down Breakdown

When I begin teaching the breakdown stance, I break it down into four different phases.  I use USA Football’s terminology.  We start with “Feet”.  When I yell out feet, the players check their feet to make sure they are shoulder width apart and pointing straight ahead.  Second, I yell out “Wings”.  This means their chest is out with shoulder blades squeezed together, arms straight and behind back with palms out.  Third is “Sink”.  This tells them to bend hips and knees to 45 degrees and head up.  Knees should be straight, not bowed in or out.  Finally, I say “hands”.  This means bring your arms forward, with elbows bent and tucked in to the sides of the body and hands up and open with thumbs touching and fingers spread apart.

In the beginning we do this several times to get the players used to the progression.  At each progression we fit and freeze so coaches can check proper position and technique.  Eventually we progress to just yelling out “Breakdown” and the players snap to the position.  We may give a “ready” call prior so the kids can get their feet in position. Finally, we can give the single command of “Ready, Breakdown!!”  Once in this position, I commonly have to correct those players who become lazy and don’t want to bend hips and/or knees to “sink your hips”.

Muscle Memory and Muscle Strength

Try this experiment.  Stand up, if you are not standing.  Now, relax your knees.  As you can see, you are able to maintain a standing position with your quad muscles in a nearly complete relaxed position.  Just take your hands and poke or squeeze your thigh muscles while standing up.  They are pretty loose, aren’t they?  Standing does not require that much firing of the leg muscles.  Now, put yourself in the perfect breakdown stance as described above.  Now, feel your quads.  Here’s the challenge.  Hold this position for ONE MINUTE!!  This is what we do to our team first, on the first day of practice and every day afterwards for several reps each day.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it helps us as coaches determine which players have weak leg muscles, so we can address this during our practices (somewhat).  Secondly, freezing in this position for prolonged periods, creates muscle memory.  Youth ball players don’t take to this position naturally.  That’s why you see linebackers and defensive backs standing up straight, or in what I call the baseball player stance – knees straight, bent at the waist and hands on knees.  Weak legs is why you see a lot of youth linemen in horrible three/four point stances – butts high in the air or in a frog stance.  They cannot maintain the midrange muscle position that the proper 2/3/4 point stance requires.  Also, you must remember having weak legs (quads and glutes) is the main culprit in poor blocking/tackling habits.  So, work on that leg strength.  Create muscle memory.  Fit and freeze in breakdown.  Spend a few minutes every day in practice on this.

Cocked and Ready to Fire!!

While you are doing your own personal experiment with breakdown on yourself (it works really well in front of a mirror), and your quads are screaming and burning like fire, poke your quads with your fingers or try to squeeze them.  As you can tell, your muscles are fully engaged and are firing at 100%.  Your muscles are now ready to literally SPRING and EXPLODE into action when it is time to move.  When your muscle fibers are relaxed, they first have to “cock” into firing position before they can go into action.  This takes time.  It’s just like a revolver handgun.  If the hammer is already back in the cocked position, it takes less effort and time to squeeze the trigger and fire the gun.  However, if the hammer is in the relaxed position, it’s harder to squeeze the trigger and takes more time because the hammer has to “cock back” and then go forward to hit the bullet in the chamber.  The same goes for your ball players.  When they are in the proper breakdown or 2/3/4 point stance, it takes less time and effort for them to get off the ball!!  Also, they will have more power generated at the point of contact.

Perfection!!

Although we hardly ever see the “Perfect” block or tackle, as coaches, we should always set perfection as our standard and goal.  Also as coaches, we need to work really hard to make sure every player on our team can do a perfect breakdown stance.  From there, we should strive to make sure our players can perform a perfect 3 or 4 point stance.  Remember, Fundamentals is the key.

Breakdown for the Tackle

In the first scenario above, the linebacker actually left his feet and the RB did the perfect ole`.  But what if you as the coach had trained him to “breakdown” on the tackle?  When a player is able to run up to an opponent then breakdown, bringing his body under control, the tackler or blocker, will be able to adjust their position “under control” to what the ball carrier or blocker is about to do.  Therefore, your player has a less likely chance of missing at the point of the attack.

A Case In Point

Back in December, I went with my family to watch the last two Texas High School State Championship games at NRG stadium, here in Houston.  The last game pitted a local powerhouse, Katy High School and another powerhouse Austin Lake Travis.  Both teams were undefeated on the season.  However, Katy proved to be the better of the two mainly because, in my opinion, Katy is both fundamentally sound and very physical.  A very rare combination.  During the course of the game, the Katy quarterback threw an interception.  The defensive back who made the pick was making his toward a pick six, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the quarterback (of all people) made the most perfect tackle I had seen all year at any level of football.  He came up, broke down, made contact and exploded through the ball carrier.  They replayed it on the jumbo tron a couple of times to the delight of the Katy fans.  As I said, Katy is a powerhouse in Texas.  They don’t have a lot of superstar athletes, but they have made back to back to back to back trips to our state’s championship game.  They have won several championships (eight I think) in recent years and routinely go through the regular season undefeated.

Take The Time

As a youth football coach, I know how tempting it is to jump right into the x’s and o’s of your playbook.  However, execution of said plays is highly dependent on proper technique.  As a coach, I set very high but attainable standards for my players.  I make sure they are able to accomplish whatever task I give them by equipping them with the proper tools.  The Breakdown stance is one of those tools.  If I discover that our players are having problems with the breakdown stance, because they have weak legs, we do things to build leg strength and power, like free standing squats, mountain hiking, froggers or bunny hops, lunges, all during conditioning camp.  During the season, we may do more sled work if one is available.  But we still fit and freeze in breakdown.  If you, as a coach ignore this, it causes bigger problems down the line, like poor 2/3/4 point stances.  Poor blocking and tackling technique and a host of other bad habits.  So, take the time as a coach to focus on fundamentals.  It pays off in dividends in the long run.

So, now everyone, get your feet ready, aaaannnnndddd . . . BREAKDOWN!!!

Coach Poole’s Bio:

I live on the north side of Houston, TX in the Spring area.  Professionally, I am a Physical Therapist Assistant and work in a hospital in the Spring area.  I have been coaching youth football for the past twenty years.  I coach in the All American Youth Football and Drill Team (AAYFDT) league, www.AAYFDT.org.  For the past thirteen seasons, I have been affiliated with the AAYFDT Westfield Cowboys and Cowgirls, (www.WestfieldCowboys.com) as a coach or board member.  I have two kids.  My daughter, who is a high school senior this year, and my son who is a high school freshman, and one heck of a football player!!  My wife of twenty years, Kandi, is a high school choir director in a nearby district.  We both love working with and mentoring the kids in our community.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at:  akpoole@sbcglobal.net

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