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5-7 Year Old Kids Acting Like A Bunch Of 5-7 Year Olds!

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Last nights practice was a tough one for me. I have 3 children of my own, 2 girls and a boy. My son is 5-1/2 and on our team. I thought I had enough patience for this, but last night makes me wander!

Granted this is only our 2nd practice of the season, it was freezing cold in Boise, Idaho, and this is my 1st year as a head football coach. These kids were full on energy and weren't listening worth a darn! They all wanted to voice their opinion on everything, dancing around, asking if they could be QB, run the ball, whining, etc.

I'm not sure what i'm asking for, but i need some help. I've coached 11-12 year old baseball team for a few years, and even this age of tee-ball, and have never been so frustrated.


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Good on you for taking on the head coach position. Not an easy one, that's for sure. With some planning and a few more tools in your tool belt, this won't seem as frustrating. I've included a link towards the bottom that will point you to a thread on this site discussing exactly what you're talking about. Definitely worth a look.

Off the top of my head here are a few things:

#1) Your title says it all, they're 5-7 yr olds. If you keep that in mind and expect them to ask questions, fall on the ground, get bored, say goofy things, etc., it won't be as frustrating.

#2) Plan out your practice on paper. Have a list of spare drills to pull from in case the current drill isn't working. Keep your practice moving with short, fun, fundamental drills. Spending 10 minutes on the proper way to take a hand off will end in chaos.

#3) They want to have FUN. Standing in lines, doing boring drills and being cold isn't fun. If they're talking at the dinner table about how much FUN they had at flag practice today, you're rocking.

#4) Get help. Find an assistant and ask for help during practice from parents and older siblings.

#5) Use rewards. "If you guys give me 3 more good flag pulls in this drill, we'll do that one drill you guys think is so cool."

#6) Don't be too hard on yourself. It's flag football, these are 5-7 yr olds, and you're a volunteer.

#6) Just because you're making the drills fun, coming up with a goofy team name, having a crazy team cheer, doesn't mean you can't expect them to follow instructions. You can have your set of simple rules, I'd keep it short and sweet. Maybe 3 total.

Check out the link to those other discussions. Feel free to ask questions as you go along.


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I started coaching pee wee football in 2008. I have some very specific thoughts about tactical team management for 5-7 year olds, although probably not shared by everyone for that age group.

1. Coaching young boys is no different than training dogs. You need structure, you need consistency, you need patience. I stress fun, but my kids learn very early on that having fun as a team is different than horsing around and being silly. They raise their hands and line up and conform every day in the school cafeteria. No reason they can't do same on the field. I don't let little things slip:

- players must take their mouthpieces out before speaking to me or asking a question

- players must listen and make eye contact when I'm speaking (or a teammate is speaking)

- players may not talk over another player or coach

- I don't accept head-nodding or "yeah" as acceptable responses to a question

- etc

You don't have to holler. If you're consistent, you hardly even have to raise your voice. Just don't be afraid to call out a player who isn't conforming. If your'e speaking to the team and Johnny is looking down and digging in the dirt -- stop talking and look at him. The silence is deafening. He'll notice, turn red, and you'll continue on without ever saying a word about it.

If you're consistent, moments like that are opportunities, not frustrations.

2. Keeping young minds engaged is the hardest part about coaching 5-7 year olds. Some boys will tend to watch birds or play in the dirt whenever it's not their turn to carry the ball. Call them out if they do, but be fair to them by stacking the deck in their favor. Make sure everyone has a "job" if they're on the field. No responsibilities = lots of standing around = things quickly turn into "Lord of the Flies."

3. Get an assistant coach. It will help with #1 and #2. Have someone help you run practices and manage the sidelines during a game (substitutions, decorum, etc.).

4. Further to #2 and #3, separate the team and run smaller practices (e.g., 2+ concurrent drills). Maximize involvement and minimize standing around. Most young kids also have a hard time learning things in the abstract. So the more you can do to create muscle memory, the better.

5. Minimize unnecessary variables and focus on doing a handful of small things well. This may mean rotating certain positions less frequently early on, especially at QB and center. However, good ball exchanges will go a long way to reducing their learning curves. It will also help you maximize ball distribution to 10+ kids. I also do things like call "Ready" and "GO!" instead of letting my 5 y/o QB do it. Basically, I try to take the reins on anything that commands their attention if it will help with consistency.

6. Make a big deal about defense. Chasing things and catching them is in the DNA of little boys. However, your defensive instruction will be harder for them to visualize than offense, which only really requires that your players be able to trace a treasure map with their feet. About half your boys will chase, but not engage, the ball carrier when they get close to him. I usually have no problem getting every kid in the endzone during the season, but it's sometimes a struggle to get every kid at least one flag-pull at that age. But if you can get them fired up about it, suddenly you have something they can focus on and enjoy when it's NOT their turn to carry the ball. And that's a real victory at this age. It can also be a real alpha builder. I can't tell you how many times confidence on defense turned a total paste-eater on our team into a difference maker.

7. On offense, keep things simple and make sure each kid has something to focus on. I've found it's hard for kids their age to visualize plays, and it's twice as hard for them to visualize plays if they're required to know them at multiple positions. It can be done, but we only practice 1 hour each week and I don't waste time trying. Consequently, I don't coach my kids to know plays. I coach them to be coachable on the field and in the huddle. The kids do this by memorizing 2 running routes and 5 points on the field relative to the LOS ("A, B, C, little A, little C"). That's it. That's the offense. I line the kids up and whisper each boy's route assignment into his ear. "Johnny -- run to A." "Billy -- run to C, then B." "Sammy - run dive 1 and take the handoff." The result is, when the ball is snapped, a visually complex play HAPPENS, although no one kid actually knows the "play." This allows us to orchestrate complex plays on the fly and confuse the holy ###### out of 5-7 year olds playing defense. It also gives me the freedom to rotate positions freely since "run to A" is easy to do from anywhere on the field. Feel free to disagree with this.

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Great points, very practical. I'm in agreement with the "fun" part not being equal to horsing around. Definite need for a few rules that must be followed like you stated in the beginning (e.g. mouthpiece out when speaking, etc.). I couldn't agree more on getting a few decent QBs and centers, or else you end up with tons of bad exchanges and wasted ball touch opportunities. We usually tried to get everyone in at QB sometime during the season though. Especially in practices.

Some of the challenges can be:

-the league and what they emphasize (e.g., everyone must play all positions)

-parents who drop off kids and really aren't interested in the sport, they just use it as a babysitter of sorts

-kids whose parents forced them to play

-kids with issues. everything from a single parent home to problems at home

A few years back I filled in for a 5-7 y/o team b/c they didn't have a coach. I had a kid that was just strange. He'd step on my foot really hard when in the huddle, lie on the ground, not want to participate in drills, etc. My immediate reaction was to sit him out. Dad would show up with his younger brother, drop him off and leave. He'd refuse to run with the ball and made it hard in general. Come to find out, mom was in the hospital with terminal cancer. This kid had no clue how to deal with it, so he acted out. That didn't give him a pass to do whatever he wanted, but it changed the way I dealt with him.

I think there needs to be a balance between having fun and maintaining some type of structure/discipline. I'm going to err on the side of fun though, as I've watched lots of kids come up through the rec levels, only to quit playing because it wasn't fun anymore.

One key ingredient that I forgot to mention in my initial post was ENCOURAGEMENT. You can't give too much of that out. I don't think you need to be fake and constantly shout out accolades, but honest encouragement can go a long way with these kids. It will keep them coming back for more.

Good points Alpha.

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Like I said, I'm probably in the minority. I don't view "fun" and "structure" as two things in tension that need to be balanced. Football is a game, and games are fun. But even a funhouse has concrete under it.

As a coach or volunteer coach, my first responsibility is to the collective experience of the team. And for better or worse, Playground Etiquette 101 is part of any group activity, even at age 5.

If a 6 year old isn't having fun because his i9 coach thinks he's grooming the '85 Bears, that's the coach's fault.

If a 6 year old isn't having fun because acting out and being disruptive aren't tolerated, that's not the coach's fault. That's not even the kid's fault. That's Dad's fault.

If a 6 year old is acting out and being disruptive, and (volunteer) coach never visits with Dad about it and/or doesn't ask Dad for air cover during the other 167 hours in the week, that's coach's fault.

As someone once said: There's no such thing as bad dog; there are only bad owners.

6 year old kids are gonna mess up constantly. But having structure isn't the same as maintaining discipline. At the end of the season, I may or may not have a "disciplined" team. But it isn't about discipline. It's about confidence. It's about having a shared experience. It's about having goals that 6 year old kids can visualize, and, more importantly, are within their power to achieve (since not everyone that age can catch and score touchdowns).

Each season my parting words to parents are always the same:

-- Thanks for sharing your Saturdays with me and my sons.

-- I hope your child enjoyed the out of the season.

- I hope your child learned something from me and the other coaches about competition, teamwork, and the game of football. (In that order.)

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I don't think you're in the minority. Good coaches know they must have structure and rules or chaos will ensue, especially at the younger ages. I think your 'Lord of the Flies' reference is spot on.

My point about "fun" has to do more with all the surrounding factors controlled by the coach. I don't think just having rules or structure will always solve the frustrations described by the OP. I've run into teams that (and been guilty myself):

-have practices that drag on too long

-drills that drag on too long

-drills that aren't fun

-kids standing in lines too long

-being way too serious

-having a boring team name or no team name

-no team chant or cheer

-not allowing anytime for the kids to just "play" in practice

-getting too wrapped up in the standings

-getting too wrapped up in the execution of plays

-not being creative, doing the same things every practice

-not seeking input from other experienced coaches

-correcting more than encouraging

-not laughing

-not allowing them to be kids

I'm all for maintaining control in practice,having rules of conduct for team members, and instilling confidence in players. However, if a coach is doing some of the items listed above and still expects the kids to "have fun" and not get grumpy or bored, it probably won't happen.

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I'm doing much better now, and would say so far the season has been succesful. I'm having fun, the kids are having fun, and have learned so much.

Our team is 4-1 so far. The one game we lost was when 3 of our kids were on spring break.

The best thing I have learned so far is, we are actually practicing the plays during the week over and over. The kids now know what to do, and are comfortable doing it. Instead of the kids not being able to execute 10 plays worth a darn, We are only running four plays on offense to "perfection".

We break up the middle of practice with a quick game of flag tag, and end with a couple of Sharks & Minnows.

Thanks again for your help guys. I'm really enjoying this!

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Sounds like you figured some things out, good to hear! Smart idea about the plays and breaking up practice with some fun drills. Let us know when you win the championship this season.

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I forgot to reply at the end of the season. We don't have playoffs in our leage in fact every game ends in a "tie" at this age. Although, most everyone knows the exact score. Our team did finish 7-1. The only game we lost was when 2 of the best players on the team were gone for Spring Break.

Anyway, our next season starts next month, so, I'll be more active on here again. What a great group of guys with great coaching advice. I truly appreciate this website and the coaches who have helped me become a succesful coach for the kids!

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