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Is this thing on? Could use a little encouragement.

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I may be talking in an empty room here, but at least the venting will be helpful. I've learned a lot from this site over the last two years I've coached flag football, so thanks for that. It's a fantastic archive. Maybe this post can add to that. Going through a bit of a struggle at the moment that I was hoping I could get some feedback and advice on getting out of.

Brief background. This is my fourth season coaching flag, 5v5, NFL flag rules. I coached the 8-9 division the first two seasons with my older son playing, then coached the 6-7 division with my youngest, and I'm currently back in the 8-9 division for my oldest's last season before moving up (if he decides to). 

My first season I went 4-3 and lost in the playoffs. Second season I went 2-5 and won in the first round of the playoffs then lost in the semis. Third season with the younger kids, I went 4-2-1 and lost in the playoffs to the team that won the championship. So, while I haven't won a championship and am still learning as a coach, I've generally had good, solid seasons, and I've always gotten good comments from parents regarding my coaching methods and how I treat the kids. Currently, however ... my team is 0-5 with two games left in the regular season. 

Here's the main problem that I unfortunately realized too late. I drafted way too young and way too inexperienced. I think my head was still in the 6-7 coaching division and I forgot the drastic difference between a kid who's just turned 8 and a kid about to turn 10. I have four players who are fresh out of the 6-7 division. One dominated for me last season, and he's really struggling now against the bigger kids. I have 2 nine-year-olds, but neither has ever played flag before, so they are also very inexperienced. I only have two kids who have ever played in the 8-9 division before. One is my son, who's a strong player and is our QB. The other was the top pick in the draft and is probably the best player all-around in the league. He gives us a chance every week, but he can't do it all by himself, nor would I ask him to. Nothing I can do about it now, and I wouldn't trade this group for anything, as they're all great kids, but I see now that I've put them all in a tough spot by putting a team together that's so inexperienced, and I feel really bad about it. 

That said, we've been in most of our games. Most of them we've lost by less than a TD. I've gotten comments from coaches after games saying, "Can't believe you guys are winless, you played so hard," so that helps, but ... it's really starting to wear on me not being able to provide these kids with one victory, and everyone's getting tired of the "we can learn from this" speech after every game. Plus, it definitely hurts my pride, to be honest. I never wanted to be "that coach" who went winless. I'm not the only one, though. There are 2 or 3 others also trying to find a win. But that doesn't make it much easier. 

Seems like the other teams we play every week are usually bigger and older than our kids. But like I said, we've been VERY close in 3 of our 5 losses. One play going our way and I probably wouldn't be writing this. I'm just curious if any other coaches out there have experienced this kind of a tough season before where you're facing down a winless seasons and could offer any advice on getting through it and helping the kids deal with it in the best way possible. I feel good about how I behave in front of the kids. Win or lose, I always point out something good that each of them did and I hold my frustration in check. I always make it clear that we will never give up or get dejected and that I'm proud of each of them and how hard they fight every week. But I know the losing is wearing on them, and that in turn is wearing on me (and yeah, I know we adults probably take it a lot more seriously when all is said and done, lol). 

The parents have generally been good and supportive, but I'm starting to get the, "Hey, coach, why not try this play" kind of comments from a couple of the dads, and that gets old real fast. 

Anyway, again, I know we're just going to have to keep fighting through it, and we will, but I'm just looking for any helpful anecdotes, advice or commiseration from anyone out there who may have gone through a season like this. I know it's a longshot, as I haven't seen a new post on this board in ages, but ... any responses will be appreciated. 


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Well, no replies, but thought I'd add an update in case any other relatively new coach goes through this down the road. 

In short, we won our first game today, a huge relief, and seeing how happy the kids were made it really special. 

What I think helped us get there was just staying the course. As I said in the above post, the losing was really wearing on me, but I never let the kids see that. I preached "we are not giving up until the absolute end of the season" from the beginning. I made sure I told each of them every week what they did well, not just what mistakes they made. I started a little "game within a game" where the kid with the most flag pulls every week (or a big play that changed the game) would get a gift certificate, and they took to that really well. I also told them every week that no one was going to feel sorry for us and give us a mercy win; if we wanted it badly enough, we had to go out and take it. They've been trying hard all season, but they really stepped it up this game and made it happen against a good team.

I also really simplified things this week and cut back on the amount of plays we ran, something I always struggle with and am finally figuring out. Less is more in these younger age groups, that's for sure. I really only have about 20 plays in my playbook, but I cut that almost in half this week. I worked hard trying to keep the best plays we had, throw out the ones we didn't use much anyway and design a couple new ones. One of those worked beautifully for a TD, and I even had the ref tell me, "very well designed play" right after. 

So in short, if you're struggling, the cliche's apply: don't give up and don't stop working. Keep at it and don't let the kids see anything but confidence and determination, even if you don't feel it yourself. They are watching, and this was a great lesson for them in how to handle tough times.

I'd also like to thank myself for replying to myself, lol. 

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Am I late to the party?  🤣  I haven't posted here in quite a while.  Even though this was several months back, I'll throw out a few comments.  The first one (which applies to all youth sports when a coach is going through something like this) is to find a few key skills and do them really well.  For example, become experts at fake handoffs and misdirection.  Secondly, I would agree with chiefs67, don't give up.  Communicate with the parents and players.  Simplify things like chiefs did and be sure to encourage the heck of your players when you see them doing something right and improving.  

On a personal note to chiefs, you probably did a few of those kids a favor as I'm sure they'll be good and ready next year.


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