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Getting Started With Your Youth Football Team

By: Coach Dave Cisar

Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

Most coaches start off on the wrong foot by just digging in the first day of practice without setting ground rules for the players and parents. I’ve found that most people will put up with most things as long as they know ahead of time that’s the way it’s going to be, most people hate
surprises.

It’s something I learned in business. Let’s imagine for a moment that you are selling a product that has a quality rating of 1-10, with 10 being the best. If I have a product that is let’s say an 8, most customers will accept that as a fair product for the price I am quoting. However if I tell them the product is a 9, while 8 is acceptable they now have the EXPECTATION of 9. Typically even though 8 is just fine, they are now expecting 9 and receive an 8 and are dissatisfied. A better strategy is to present the product as a 7 and the customer is pleasantly surprised when they realize it is an 8. The best strategy is to under promise and over deliver. That’s what we do in football as well.

We start the first practice with a 30 minute mandatory meeting for all parents and players. Our job here is to set expectations for the season. We hand out and review our player and spectator contract. Both spell out what we expect from each player and parent as well as our team rules as far as attendance, effort, academics and sportsmanship.

I then go into a set speech on what we expect from both parent and player. While I certainly review the fact we are going to have fun, play to our potential and that most of our teams play well, I paint a fairly bleak picture. We talk about;

  • Playing time
  • Listening
  • Obedience
  • Respect
  • Attendance Requirements
  • Academic Requirements
  • No negotiating by player agents (parents)
  • Practice Organization
  • Set Offense and Defense
  • Overt Sportsmanship Requirements
  • Positions (what’s best for the team)
  • Playing to Potential
  • All Decisions are Final
  • We are not the right "fit" for everyone
  • Our overt sharing of our faith in Jesus Christ and prayer

After we paint this fairly bleak picture we take a short break and then get into our two lines to start practice. Before we do that, I tell everyone that we aren’t perfect but that none of what I talked about was negotiable. If they felt uncomfortable moving forward with our program, that was great, if not I have in my pocket the names and phone numbers of other local programs that probably needed players. I have yet to have anyone take me up on that offer. However I have had a parent or two that 2-3 weeks into the season I hand that slip of paper to. Sometimes I wait until the end of the season and send them a letter that says they will not be invited back along with the phone numbers listed of the other programs.

By having that talk and that contract signed, you have the moral authority to move forward in the direction you want as long as you hold up your end of the bargain. For our coaches, we have a coach’s contract that spells out our expectations as well. This spells out what we expect and offers hardcore guidelines for their behavior in regards to sportsmanship, playing time, scoring margins etc.

Everything is laid out in the open to coaches, players and parents about what we expect and that our contracts are non-negotiable. This puts you on very solid ground as you move forward to start your first week of practice, If there are any problems, refer the coach, parent or player to the contract they signed, if they don’t comply, it’s time to move on with someone else.


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