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Update From A 1st Year Coach

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When I first wrote in to this forum I was seeking some direction and I got plenty. More helpful than I could ever express. Quick overview: Co-ed league with kids 11-13; 7-on-7; unlimited rush, formations, etc. I had the youngest team in the league and finished 3-and-5. Three of our five losses were by six points or less. I have 11 of 14 kids coming back. I ran an offense that put everyone in a position to catch a pass on every pass play. I ran 90% shotgun with motion of some kind. We ran an option very successfully. That set up the long passes and I was fortunate to have a kid, 11 yrs., with a cannon so we had a ton of big plays with the passing game. I learned throughout the season to run more to the middle of the field and pass in the flats. Simply put, I got better as I went and put the kids in better positions to be successful. Clearly, the kids endured a bit of my learning curve.

We had fun with some outstanding gadget plays and a "bunch play" for kick-off returns that simply worked. I tried to adjust a term here or there. For example my "O"-line were called "left-line receiver" and "right-line receiver". It made them feel like they were more part of the offense (and it helped even more when I got them some touches). One thing I did with great success was use wristbands with our offense on them. The offense was actually eight plays and each one was on the wrist band (they were tiny, but kids can see that stuff). It worked great! When we wanted to run a hurry up, I just called out a number and away they went. What was neat was that each play had a two run options and six pass options. So, in reality within those eight plays we had a ton of different things we could do. The kids could remind themselves real easy by looking at their wristband. I highly recommend it.

On defense we ran two formations...a 3-3-1 and a 2-3-2. It all depended on our opponent. We had a couple of different blitzes and over-all our defense was real good. I was lucky because I had three assistant coaches that knew what they were doing. I had one focus on defense and his assistant did our special teams; I had an offensive assistant and he kept an eye on our opponents "D". He made awesome suggestions.

Before the season started I had a very candid talk with parents telling them what I would not tolerate and what I expected of them and their kids. I also made sure to be considerate of the fact that money is tight and I reduced expenses. I did not have parents sign up to bring drinks and snacks for the entire team (at that age kids are a little picky and it's easier to have each one take care of their own) and I got big-time "thank you's". I did the same by not having a post season party that would have added even more money to the season for the parents.

It's a city league and the kids wanted to compete to win games, but they wanted to have fun and we did a lot of that. Practices frequently turned into something like a "Skittles Bowl" where after some drills we played ball and competed while having some fun and rewarding good effort.

All in all, I had more fun that I thought possible. Not one issue with one parent; one moment with one player (but parent supported me 100%). We finished with a 34-to-0 win and a nice post-season awards gathering right after the game.

My thanks to all who offered advice and support at the outset of the season.

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Before the season started I had a very candid talk with parents telling them what I would not tolerate and what I expected of them and their kids. I also made sure to be considerate of the fact that money is tight and I reduced expenses. I did not have parents sign up to bring drinks and snacks for the entire team (at that age kids are a little picky and it's easier to have each one take care of their own) and I got big-time "thank you's". I did the same by not having a post season party that would have added even more money to the season for the parents.

Interesting post. I'm a little surprised on the no snack thing. At my kids' age 6-7, they really look forward to the snacks. They run faster to the snacks then they do to the end zone half of the time.

I'm really torn on the post-season gathering. The money issue got put into perspective for me when one of the dads called to ask if cleats were mandatory. They're not, but obviously helpful. He said money was too tight for cleats. Ouch. I asked my wife about having a get-together at our house. This was killed because she thought it was unfair that we know half of he parents socially, and really don't know the others very well. She didn't want them to feel awkward. I was thinking about doing something simple on the field after our last game, but it's dark and cold. Still struggling with this one.

Fun

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I have run into the same thing with a few of my teams. I usually try to pick a cheap place and one of those being cici pizza. If there are a few kids that I know can't afford to pay I will pay for them out of my own pocket if the parents will allow them to come. If not they just don't come. I think it is unfair to the rest of the kids if you don't have a team party as they always enjoy it.

Just my 2 cents.

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I had an offensive assistant and he kept an eye on our opponents "D". He made awesome suggestions.
I had the same deal, two other coaches checking out their D and O. Helped each other out with suggestions and made changes on the fly. Another good reason to have extra help on the team.
Before the season started I had a very candid talk with parents telling them what I would not tolerate and what I expected of them and their kids.
Explaining your philosophy and expectations up front is a wise move, saves a lot of headaches down the road.
All in all, I had more fun that I thought possible. Not one issue with one parent; one moment with one player (but parent supported me 100%). We finished with a 34-to-0 win and a nice post-season awards gathering right after the game.
Sounds like you had a great first season. Congrats!

CRob

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I have run into the same thing with a few of my teams. I usually try to pick a cheap place and one of those being cici pizza. If there are a few kids that I know can't afford to pay I will pay for them out of my own pocket if the parents will allow them to come. If not they just don't come. I think it is unfair to the rest of the kids if you don't have a team party as they always enjoy it.

Just my 2 cents.

Agreed. While my wife and I do typically end up forking over a pretty good chunk of our own change for the End of Season Party, we try to make it the "effort" that makes it a success as opposed with money.

We typically do a "Pot Luck" at a local park. Parents can either donate items (hot dogs, buns, napkins, etc.), or bring their most famous dish (and we've had some REALLY good dishes over the years). My wife and I handle handle the rest. We rent a pavilion at the park, personalized trophies, individual awards, goodie bags, purchase whatever remaining items are needed, etc. It's always my favorite time of year.

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Before the season started I had a very candid talk with parents telling them what I would not tolerate and what I expected of them and their kids. I also made sure to be considerate of the fact that money is tight and I reduced expenses. I did not have parents sign up to bring drinks and snacks for the entire team (at that age kids are a little picky and it's easier to have each one take care of their own) and I got big-time "thank you's". I did the same by not having a post season party that would have added even more money to the season for the parents.

Interesting post. I'm a little surprised on the no snack thing. At my kids' age 6-7, they really look forward to the snacks. They run faster to the snacks then they do to the end zone half of the time.

I'm really torn on the post-season gathering. The money issue got put into perspective for me when one of the dads called to ask if cleats were mandatory. They're not, but obviously helpful. He said money was too tight for cleats. Ouch. I asked my wife about having a get-together at our house. This was killed because she thought it was unfair that we know half of he parents socially, and really don't know the others very well. She didn't want them to feel awkward. I was thinking about doing something simple on the field after our last game, but it's dark and cold. Still struggling with this one.

Fun

I'm also surprised at the snack thing but from a different angle. I think snacks are good for little kids but once they get much past 6-7 then we don't do them anymore. Certainly not for 11+ years old.

Also, my opinion on cleats is that most kids don't start running fast enough and cutting hard enough to really need them until they are close to 10. At 6-7 you might have a couple that would benefit. Younger than that and cleats are just for looks.

A potluck get together is always a good idea, people bring whatever they can. Make sure you organize it a little though so you have drinks and desserts and such.

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It seems like the "snack thing" has generated some discussion. Remember, these are 11-13 yr. olds. Based on my own kids they all have such different tastes it was frustrating to watch other parents over the years bring things and be left with more than half the supply they brought. Waste of time and money for the parents that were assigned the week for snacks and drinks. Little guys will eat anything; older ones just don't. Plus, at that age kids begin to "work" hard enough in games to simply not be hungry for a thing. As for drinks, the parents I had really appreciated being responsible for their player only. I brought a big cooler with ice to keep their drinks good and cold. It's funny, when most of us were kids we would drink whatever drink someone brought; today things are a bit different. One kid hates "red" Gatorade; another hates "purple". This season taught me that with the older kids this plan works.

Once you pay the fee for the league, the end of the year awards, and picture day; then factor in the gas to and from practices and games it adds up pretty quick. Bottom line: I would rather err on the side of consideration of everyone's budget.

Oh, one thing on the awards I did a little different. Instead of trophies, I did a picture plaque with a twist. First, anyone with kids knows about all the trophies that add up; pictures seem to be meaningful forever. I have a good friend who is a part-time photographer with the local newspaper and he specializes in shooting football. He came one one day when we had a doubleheader and shot more than 1,000 photos of the kids. We culled those down and put them on a disc for the parents with a roster of the team printed on the cover insert. I picked the best action shot of each kid and put it on the plaque with a custom logo of our team name. They were less than $20 each and looked incredible. I actually had parents crying. The guy is an amazing photographer and the pictures matched...remarkable. The best part, this guy would not let me pay him. He printed off 5"x7" photos of the plaque shot we used. You never know, you may find someone locally who's willing to come out for the fun of it. I then used other photos for our special end of the year awards. We gave out a most improved; hustle; and sportsmanship awards. I had special names for each award and developed a custom award that matched. The kids voted by secret ballot; not the coaches.

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Oh, one thing on the awards I did a little different. Instead of trophies, I did a picture plaque with a twist. First, anyone with kids knows about all the trophies that add up; pictures seem to be meaningful forever. I had special names for each award and developed a custom award that matched. The kids voted by secret ballot; not the coaches.

This is very cool, and similar to what we do. Along with their trophies----we always provide trophies, but make a BIG deal out of them (how they are *earned* etc.). Thus I get the kids foaming at the mouths for their trophies, and (hope) they appreciate and remember that one trophy more than the others.

With respect to individual awards---I make a color certificate and place it in a glass frame. The certificate has the player's name and individual award. However, I select the awards--not the kids. I have a set of "canned awards" (MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Sportmanship Award). Others are dependant on the player's contribution to the team. Examples have been: Team Leadership Award, Most Social, Playmaker of the Year, All-Around Player, etc.

These actually do not cost that much to produce. I was a multimedia graphics designer in a former life, so I make the certificates pretty "snazzy". ;-) I get the frames at the "dollar store" (although they cost $3.00 each---go figure).

Additionally, I will do some sort of a "personalized" gifts. As an example, last season I had two brothers on my team, who would tell me they "ate their wheaties" before each game. It became kind of a running joke, I'd always ask, "Did you eat your wheaties today?" At the end of the year, I had a Wheaties Box made up with their pictures on it. Another time I had a player once (while playing soccer) who ALWAYS wanted to blow my whistle. He was a scoring machine, but hated playing defense. I told him if he started playing strong defense for me---I would buy him a whistle. He lived up to his end of the bargain---hustled on defense the rest of the season---so I presented him with his own "hustle whistle" at the end of the season (although his parents are probably cursing me for that one). Ha!

So I think you and the other coaches here all have the right idea--it's about creativity. Oh, regarding snacks---we still do it. However, I agree when kids get to be about 10-11, it loses some of its luster.

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We don't do this every single season, however, I try and get one together after a few seasons together in a specific sport. I have someone film a few games, some practice time and our traditional parents vs the kids game. They also catch some candid interviews with parents, players and siblings. Also have someone take tons of photos with action shots and posed pics. I throw it all on a DVD with some heavy editing, add some cool music and it usually turns out realy nice. A lot of work on the editing part, but well worth it in the end. It's amazing when you slow down the film and add music how cool the kids look when playing.

CRob

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