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New Coach, 8V8


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#1 Coach Ron

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 10:18 AM

I volunteered to coach my son's 8v8 9U flag football team because there was a lack of volunteers. I am a fan of the game, but never played myself and have never coached football. I have read quite a bit here, including all of the "New To The Youth Football Coaching Discussion Board?" thread.

While the team is 9U, most of the kids are 6 and 7. On my team, 6 of the kids are 6 & 7, two are 9. We have (1) 1.5 hour practice once a week and one game per week. We are 3 weeks into a 10 week season.

Here are my issues:

My younger kids are having a really hard time staying focused during practices and especially during the games. I have followed advice here about keeping all of the kids engaged and keeping the practices moving and that has helped, but I don't feel like I am getting them prepared for games. They constantly ask me 'where do I go?' after I call a play.

I tried using some of the plays I found here, but most of the kids will forget the play between the time we outline it in the huddle and snap the ball (we have practiced them in practice). One of the older kids is my QB, so when the play doesn't go off as planned, he just passes the ball to the other older kid. This happens even when a handoff is called (The RB will just run up the field without taking the handoff). This is causing me to get a ton of complaints from two of my parents because their kids aren't getting touches. One parent has chastised me for using a playbook and has pointed out that the other teams don't use one and just basically tell their kids "handoff to so-and-so, or pass to so-and-so", and that playbooks are too hard for kids this age. This same parent also told me that if the two older kids continue to get all the touches, he will pull his child from the team.

Having worked with these kids now for 6 weeks, I think that 8v8 with kids this young is a huge mistake, but it's what I have to work with. Quitting is also not an option. I will not do that to my son or these other kids.

Any advice to help me salvage my season, and my sanity, would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Coach Ron



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#2 Johnp2

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:36 AM

[left]I volunteered to coach my son's 8v8 9U flag football team because there was a lack of volunteers.

Good for you!

While the team is 9U, most of the kids are 6 and 7. On my team, 6 of the kids are 6 & 7, two are 9.

That's a fairly good age discrepancy. I'm surprised your league doesn't have a 7U league, but it is what it is. What about your opponents, do they have a lot of younger kids as well? Has your team been competetive--or are you getting blown out?

They constantly ask me 'where do I go?' after I call a play. I tried using some of the plays I found here, but most of the kids will forget the play between the time we outline it in the huddle and snap the ball (we have practiced them in practice).

I think this is natural for 6-7 seven year olds. First, ensure that your players understand the passing tree. i.e. They know what slants, posts, outs, etc. are. Drill it into them. Then, when you call your play in the huddle, simply go around call out formation/play, and denote the route for each position. i.e. "Spread, Blue32 Cross, LR slant, LG medium out, C curl.." etc. Tell the players simply to execute their specified assignment, and the play will take care of itself. Quite often I'll have the players repeat their route to themselves from the huddle to the LOS. At first you'll probably get some questions like "What is a post again?" If you see you are getting that...then you know you need to keep practicing routes. If, at the LOS you have a player ask "what do I do again" and the play clock is running, simply tell him to run straight ahead and move on.

This is causing me to get a ton of complaints from two of my parents because their kids aren't getting touches. One parent has chastised me for using a playbook and has pointed out that the other teams don't use one and just basically tell their kids "handoff to so-and-so, or pass to so-and-so", and that playbooks are too hard for kids this age. This same parent also told me that if the two older kids continue to get all the touches, he will pull his child from the team.

First, I think you are absolutely doing the right thing by having a playbook. Telling players to "hand-off or pass to so-and-so" is not teaching them football, which should be your main objective...instead of "winning". As for the parents, you have more patience then I do, as if a parent "chastised" me, I would swiftly remove the player from my team and tell the parent to step up and volunteer to coach if he can do it better. As for ball touches, you only have so many plays to run, and if a parent's child forgets to take a hand-off on a play intended for him, at least you gave that child an opportunity. Perhaps let the parent know that "Joey's plays are Blue 32, Half-back End Around, and 3 Counter". Give the parent a copy of those plays so he can work with the child to practice at home and remember those plays more than any other.

Of course, you'll want to re-evaluate your playbook and determine if it is too complex for the players. Simply ensure you have a "system"...much like I mentioned where all the players need to do is know their route (which you will call out in the huddle) for any given play.

From an attacking approach, set teams up. I've attached a quick example of doing this.

Having worked with these kids now for 6 weeks, I think that 8v8 with kids this young is a huge mistake, but it's what I have to work with. Quitting is also not an option. I will not do that to my son or these other kids.

I coached 8v8 for many seasons with younger kids. You are correct that the defense has a HUGE advantage. Definitely don't quit...just keep a positive attitude and enjoy it for what it is. If parents are giving you a hard time and ruining the experience simply explain that you are a parent just like them, and that YOU volunteered to help...and they did not, and it's not as easy as it looks. Finally, don't be afraid to change things up this late in the season. If what you are attempting is not working, then try something different. Also, it's hard to tell your QB to not throw to the best receiver if he is typically the only one open. If this happens, just ensure you call enough run plays to give the other players and opportunity to touch the ball. Good luck!

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#3 Johnp2

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 11:40 AM

Sorry, the third play in the attachement above should be the play in this attachment.

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#4 Coach Rob

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Posted 01 October 2011 - 04:49 PM

but I don't feel like I am getting them prepared for games. They constantly ask me 'where do I go?' after I call a play.

Going to disagree with JohnP a bit here. I think you need to find specific (simple) plays for the kids who "don't get it". If Billy is QB and Johnny is the RB (who doesn't get it), you tell Billy, "Hand off to Johnny"

This is causing me to get a ton of complaints from two of my parents because their kids aren't getting touches. One parent has chastised me for using a playbook and has pointed out that the other teams don't use one and just basically tell their kids "handoff to so-and-so, or pass to so-and-so", and that playbooks are too hard for kids this age. This same parent also told me that if the two older kids continue to get all the touches, he will pull his child from the team.

Isn't coaching youth sports fun? While it isn't cool for that parent to tell you what to do, every single parent out there just wants to see their kid run or catch the ball. Bottomline. And guess what? It doesn't stop at the 7th grade competitive basketball level either. Parents want to see their kids playing.

Having worked with these kids now for 6 weeks, I think that 8v8 with kids this young is a huge mistake, but it's what I have to work with.

Agreed. Especially with the younger kids.


Some thoughts. If you don't have an assistant, get one. Involve the parent that was complaining in practice. Have them work with the kids who "don't get it" doing simple handoffs with a QB. Over and over. Call that play something, just for them, so when they are in the huddle and you say "Big Run", they should know it's their turn to grab the ball and run. Involve other parents to help in smaller groups of 3 with drills like hand offs, simple catches, flag pulling, etc.

I wouldn't dumb down the plays for the older kids, just for the few kids who need to take the ball and run. Lower your expectations for them right now. Their parents don't care if they executed the double whammy reverse, they just want to see Johnny run with the ball.

Hope this helps!
-CRob

#5 Coach Ron

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 07:09 AM

That's a fairly good age discrepancy. I'm surprised your league doesn't have a 7U league, but it is what it is. What about your opponents, do they have a lot of younger kids as well? Has your team been competetive--or are you getting blown out?


The other teams are set up similarly, mostly younger kids with 1 or 2 older per team. We are a big soccer area, so the league only has 6 teams total which accounts for the age range. Each team has between 8 and 11 kids. I personally think we'd have been better to have more 5v5 teams, but it is what it is. We are 1-2 right now, with our win being a 7-0 shutout. Our two losses were both 12-18 and the winning scores were on long TD runs where my kids just missed flag pulls. Most of the time, we are pretty tough on defense. I've been running 5-2-1 where the 2's rush the QB, but I think I could probably stop the longs TDs better with a 2nd safety. 4 of my 8 kids have touchdowns at this point, so I consider that a big success.

First, I think you are absolutely doing the right thing by having a playbook. Telling players to "hand-off or pass to so-and-so" is not teaching them football, which should be your main objective...instead of "winning". As for the parents, you have more patience then I do, as if a parent "chastised" me, I would swiftly remove the player from my team and tell the parent to step up and volunteer to coach if he can do it better. As for ball touches, you only have so many plays to run, and if a parent's child forgets to take a hand-off on a play intended for him, at least you gave that child an opportunity. Perhaps let the parent know that "Joey's plays are Blue 32, Half-back End Around, and 3 Counter". Give the parent a copy of those plays so he can work with the child to practice at home and remember those plays more than any other.

Of course, you'll want to re-evaluate your playbook and determine if it is too complex for the players. Simply ensure you have a "system"...much like I mentioned where all the players need to do is know their route (which you will call out in the huddle) for any given play.


Rather than 'calling plays' in the huddle, I have been using play cards and pointing to each position and calling a players name and route. I have been rotating players through all positions (except QB), but I'm thinking it might be better to give each player an assigned 'position' and tailoring the plays so that each position gets touches. The only problem I've encountered with this is that I need to get all of the kids in at RB to get hand offs to them. How do you typically handle this? Any suggestions for naming plays so that they are easy for the kids to remember?

Going to disagree with JohnP a bit here. I think you need to find specific (simple) plays for the kids who "don't get it". If Billy is QB and Johnny is the RB (who doesn't get it), you tell Billy, "Hand off to Johnny"


The sad thing is, I have tried this. Billy tried to hand off to Johnny and Johnny just ran right past him without taking the ball! :) I'll just have to drill Johnny on taking handoffs more...

Some thoughts. If you don't have an assistant, get one. Involve the parent that was complaining in practice. Have them work with the kids who "don't get it" doing simple handoffs with a QB. Over and over. Call that play something, just for them, so when they are in the huddle and you say "Big Run", they should know it's their turn to grab the ball and run. Involve other parents to help in smaller groups of 3 with drills like hand offs, simple catches, flag pulling, etc.

I wouldn't dumb down the plays for the older kids, just for the few kids who need to take the ball and run. Lower your expectations for them right now. Their parents don't care if they executed the double whammy reverse, they just want to see Johnny run with the ball.

Hope this helps!


One of the team moms has been helping as an assistant. She comes from a football family and has lots of experience, so that's been a big help. She doesn't have much experience with kids this young, so IMHO she's been wanting to run plays that are too complex and that's part of the problem. The parent that is complaining doesn't come to the practices, just the games, but I will take your advice and ask him to help at practices.

Thank you both for all of the suggestions. I will implement them at our next practice and see how they work out.

#6 Coach Ron

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 01:47 PM

Practice went great on Wednesday. Worked a lot on having the kids take handoffs. During our game last night, I ran the running set up that JohnP recommended until every kid had a touch. I also made sure to have the kid that was getting the handoff repeat to me "I'm taking the handoff". I didn't have a single missed handoff after doing that. The first time we reversed field, my RB ran for 35 yards and a 1st down. The kids were pumped after that and played lights out. I threw it in again a couple of times later in the game, switching up when we'd reverse field and while I didn't have any more big runs, it consistently got me short yardage.

We had one offensive touchdown on a Slot/QB drag and two pick sixes. The other team scored once after intercepting my QB, but that's all we gave them.

No complaints from anyone last night, which was a relief. Thanks again for the help!

Coach Ron

#7 Coach Rob

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 04:25 PM

Coach Ron -

Great to hear things went better for you. One thing I'll add, if you can convince your kids to be good actors on fakes, that is gold. I tell my kids that I want the other team pulling their flag, only to find out they don't have the ball. Get them doubling over and rolling their shoulder, running like they have the ball while not looking back at the QB. We practice our fakes for at least 5-10 minutes every practice.
-CRob

#8 Johnp2

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Posted 10 October 2011 - 04:08 PM

...but I'm thinking it might be better to give each player an assigned 'position' and tailoring the plays so that each position gets touches. The only problem I've encountered with this is that I need to get all of the kids in at RB to get hand offs to them. How do you typically handle this? Any suggestions for naming plays so that they are easy for the kids to remember?

I can't speak to rotating positions, as all my seasons I've only used the primary/secondary position assignments, and it has worked well.

Regarding ball touches--if you do assign primary positions-- simply tailor your playbook so that each position (not player...but position) has a running play geared toward it. This also has additional benefits as the offense never knows which position is getting the ball. This instead of rotating kids in at RB so they can get hand-offs (and the defense just tees off on the RB).

Additionally, Rob is spot-on regarding fakes. Fake reverses can be deadly. Run a reverse a few times, then fake it (having the ball-carrier extend the ball out for everyone to see) and the defense will most always (especially at that age) start chasing the player who was 'supposed' to get the reverse. Focusing on little things like that can pay major dividends.