Lesson #4 from a Youth Football Coach
Lessons from a Youth Football Coach
By Coach Ronnie Atkinson
I’ve coached many youth sports over the past few years, but nothing near the magnitude of a tackle youth football team. I learned a few valuable lessons in year one that other rookie coaches could surely benefit from.
Lesson #4: Youth Football Practice should be fun!
As mentioned in a previous post, my priorities for our youth football team are the following:
Fun is the greatest motivator of all. Few kids will give it their all if they are not having fun especially at the younger age levels where they have not yet quite grasped the benefits of hard work. Based on this idea, hide conditioning in games/drills wherever possible. The benefits of this are two-fold. First, kids will try harder because they are having fun, and instead of wasting valuable practice time with sprints, etc… you can be teaching a skill. A good example of this is Tug O’War. We use Tug O’War to teach kids to stay low, while also building up their strength. They love this!
In most of my individual competitive drills, I like to split the team into three groups. If you win your match, you move down a group. If you lose, you move up a group. Eventually each group is full of comparable players which mean they have a better chance of winning and thus having fun and building up confidence.
As an example of what NOT to do… do not introduce contact with high speed drills such as the Oklahoma drill, Hamburger drill, or Bull in the Ring. These drills tend to make the top two or three kids a little more confident, but the rest of the team tends to become timid. Better ways to teach contact are drills like the Popsicle drill, Splatter Tackling drill, or Tee Time. These drills allow kids to focus on technique and get over their fear of contact. It also helps if you divide the kids into two or three groups based on size/skill level so that they continue to improve while building confidence.
At this age, coaching is about teaching fundamentals, instilling confidence, and creating enthusiasm for the game. If these goals are accomplished the wins and losses will take care of themselves.
Coach Atkinson coaches a 4th Grade team in Edmond, Oklahoma.