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Kindergarten -2nd Flag Football Tips

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Can anybody give me some pointers on coaching kindergarten -2nd graders flag football? How do you teach them the basics of the game? What are some good drills for them at this young age?

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Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

Coach:

You have a very challenging job! I have coached older kids in flag football but I am currently coaching my youngest in a kindergarten only flag football league through the YMCA. There can be a big difference in ability between kindergartners and 2nd graders. In my experience, kindergarteners will have a difficult time catching a soft underhand toss from a coach and can't throw a ball with much consistency or control. 2nd graders are faster, more coordinated, can run pass routes, catch a ball, and can generally throw the ball much better. You need to consider this as you structure your practices and game plans.

For our team, the first couple practices consisted of teaching the basics of how to hike the ball, QB recieve the ball from under center, QB handoffs, and teaching the ball carrier how to recieve the ball, and how to carry the ball. Worked through progressions on this begining with coaches each with a couple players on recieving hand-offs, then added a kid QB, then a QB-center exhange, then center-QB-back, etc. Worked both dive type hand-offs and reverses. Also work on a lot of flag pulling drills. The kids enjoy and want to do the shark and minnows drill over and over again (we call it raptor in the ring). We have the "minnows" carry a ball to reinforce ball carrying skills. This is a great drill for teaching them to pull flags and be aggressive on defence. They also like to do the gauntlet. This is another great flag pulling drill and also a good drill for ball carriers. We also do an angle flag pulling drill, which is a good drill but more difficult for the kids to understand. They enjoy all of these drills and could do them all practice if we let them. During our first two games, our players were attacking and swarming the offense where other teams were standing flat footed on defense. (We were in the backfield many times before the handoff was made, which is against the rules since we are not supposed to cross the LOS until a hand-off is made. We are working to correct that by playing them deeper to start, but don't want them to lose that aggressiveness).

Typical practice starts with a group jog around the field to reinforce what is inbounds and out of bounds and having them respond to question. For example, when running down the sideline or into the endzone I will ask them what it is called. We then get into a circle and do some simple stretching drills (e.g., arm circles, toe toaches, one leg hamstrings), jumping jcks, etc. Not really concerned with strecthing at this age but good to get them in the habit and the one leg ham stretch works on balance skills. We also do a "hike" drill where we have one of the kids call out a cadence (down, set, hike) and on "hike" all the kids clap. Trying to get them all used to the cadence, listen to the cadence and begin moving on "hike." Typically also do some type of running drill. One they seem to enjoy is a 1 vs 1 race down and then backpedal back (working on running hard and learning to run backwards). Tried the 4 corner agility drill last practice with backpedal, shuffle, sprint shuffle. (Needs some work :) ) Anyway, try to mix things up to expose them to differnt drills and skills. From here we move the handoffs drills, flag pulling drills, running plays, and scrimmaging. Try to end with a relay race or run of some type, which they like. The last practice or two we spent a little time teaching them how to pass and how to catch a ball also. My practices are 1.5 hours long and there we try to keep the kids engaged the entire time as they are easily distracted at this age. If they start becoming disengaged, which they have after running through a few plays, I will stop that and go to a flag pulling drill.

During my older son's tackle practices, a k-2nd flag league has been holding a clinic at the field the last couple weeks. They have been doing the same basic drills that I have done with the kindergarteners as noted above. The biggest difference I noticed was that they were doing a lot more passing and running a lot of pass plays with the older kids. The kindergarteners looked to be off in another area working on hand-offs while the older kids were passing. I also saw them try karaoke one day. Older kids could do it okay, young ones not so much. I have worked with my kindergartner on this outside practice but would not try it during a practice. Note that I do this drill with older kids in all sports I coach.

A key is to be organized and know what you want to do at each practice. Your practice may not go exactly according to plan, mine typically don't, but you have good idea of what you are trying to teach and accomplish.

Good Luck!

Husker

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Thanks for the tips. We had our first practice last night. It went ok. I think the kids had fun. We stretched out and I talked a little about the basics of the game and asked them questions. Then we lined them up on offense then defense, that was painfull, hard to keep them interested. I gave up on that and ran some flag pulling drills (guantlet and angle drills) and they loved that.

I think the hardest think is going to be teaching them how to line up and execute plays.

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This is my second year to coach. Last year I had mostly 1st graders and we ran the table on our way to a championship. We play 8 on 8, only 2 can rush. This year, we had our first game with my younger sons team and won 33-12. Those kids are 5 and 6 and never played football before.

First off, I have 3 assistant coaches. I sat them down to talk about my plan. I had the plan written and told them we would be very organized in how we structure practice, pre-game and game situations. The first practice I took about 5 minutes to talk to the parents and kids in one large group. The basis was:

I view this as a triangel. The kids are at the top and their job is to play. The coaches are on the bottom left and their job is to coach/teach. The parents are on the bottom left, their job is to cheer. If anyone has an issue with anything, come to me immediatly and we will talk it out. I haven't had a single issue (knock on wood). I also get the parents to understand that practice shouldn't stop when we are done. I will email a parent and say "Johnny is doing great, he is doing XX very good. What we are working with him is flag pulling. A very fun flag pulling drill that you can do with him at home is XX....this is not only good for him to learn how to pull flags but it's also fun for the kid when they get to play with mom or dad"

You get the idea....

I have four coaches...2 offense and 2 defense and they are excellent. We e-mail/talk a lot and it helps, we each know we are here to teach and we all have high expectations.

I email a detailed practice schedule to my staff two days before practice and ask for feedback/suggestions. The program is so detailed and thought out that they buy in because they see how much time I spend thinking about practice. I then meet them 10 minutes before each practice and talk through my expectations for the day. We set up any cone drills we are going to need, etc. I have every minute of practice scheduled and I stick to it regardless. Granted, I've had some time to tweak and understand based on my experience but the point is you must plan for every minute. Also, I do not add running as a conditioning exercise for kids. Kids are resilent and don't need to run to be in shape. Let them practice/run drills. Nobody likes to just "run" so why not let them play tag or a flag pulling game?

For practice, you must view it as a building process. My kids didn't line up in an offensive or defensive formation until our third practice. The practices last 90 minutes until school started, 60 now that school has started. We had a total of 4.5 hours of practice before any formation was introduced. To get the kids confidence we did the exact same thing to start every practice. It's called a warm up. You shouldn't stretch until your body is warm or you risk injury. How do you warm up?

I line my kids *14* in one long line so they have some room between them and the person next to them. The first thing I taught my team is an athletic position. I blow the whistle at 6:00 and every kid is in a good athletic position with their head up, ready to practice. I start right at 6:00, making it clear to parents that their child should be on the field ready to be in his athletic position by 6:00. I do this at EVERY practice and before each game so the kids understand what I'm asking them to do, it gives them confidence because we do the same thing. I run them through a series of warm up activities:

Knee High Skips

Heel Taps

Mirror Shuffle

Etc.

We ran drills/games such as sharks/minnows and teach the kids what we want them to get out of the game. For example, pull with both hands, head up, eyes on the hip area. Each drill can last no longer than 12 minutes. Kids get bored easy and the WORST thing a kid can do at a practice is get bored. The key is explaning HOW to do the drill and then demonstrating. You then give positive feedback and correct any issues from the word go. I installed my offense with just the center, QB and 2 RB to begin with. No offensive line and no defense. I taught them very slowly....on hut, the center snaps it and nobody moves outside of the running back who takes one step toward the ball. I count 2, one more step for everyone, 3, another steps, etc....until the kids understand where they need to go. This helps me correct them and gives them confidence in what to do. We then brought in our offensive line and did the same thing. When we could run a play with acceptable execution, we brought in the defense, no rush. When we were better....we allowed the rush. Again, building blocks.

I would highly recommend you even consider taking a step back and establishing some consistency in your practice and pre-game routine so kids can master what your teaching them. You would rather then do a few things VERY good vs. many things "okay". Again, it's building blocks.

For formations, I suggest running out of a max of two. I have a playbook with 12 plays out of two formations. Both are one back sets, one of the gun (you hears me right) and the other under center. My playbook is color coded and all coaches and both quarterbacks get a copy. The red line is where the ball is and where the ball carrier should run. The blue line are everyone else. Again, if you only master two formations it's very simple which builds confidence which builds good repetion and execution. As a result, you have only a few plays but they are run to "perfection". Let's be honest, they are 5 and 6 years old but they are run pretty good. For defense, you have to teach who is rushing then attacking flags. The majority of our practice incorporates flag pulling and teaching the DB's to force the kid out of bounds or back inside where his help is. I could go on and on.....

I would also add that you need to send an email to parents, thanking them for getting their athlete on the field ready to go by 6:00. I do a word of the week such as teamwork, effort, etc. and talk to the boys about what it means. I also have a chant we use in pre-game and to close out every practice:

"I can do it, I'm the best, Anythings Possible, Go...Bills...Go"

Here is the video of our first game:

Youtube: Edmond Bills Football

You can see that with this strategy, the kids have picked things up very well. Keep in mind this is the first game for every kid on the field, I think you'll be impressed.

Here is the video of my 2 grade team:

Youtube: Edmond Raiders Football

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