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Youth Football Coaching - Getting the Most Out of Your Practices

Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

We pay to have all of our games filmed by a professional videographer. We do a year end video for each player, we add interesting and amusing text comments and set the entire video to contemporary Christian music. We add a very cool case cover and laser the disc with a team picture as well. This ends up being a great keepsake for the player and saves the parents the hassle of having to film every game for those that want to archive the memories their kids are getting from youth football. Our videographer is not connected to our team, doesn’t care who wins and never wears any Eagle gear, so no one really every knows who he is. Since his microphone is always on, we get to hear a variety of comments from the fans in the seats. Some of them are interesting and even amusing.

Last week at a game my team was dominating and looking exceptionally crisp, you could hear one of the opponent’s parents deep in conversation with one of our parents. Our parent was telling him how little we hit, how little we scrimmage etc the other parent says somewhat incredulously, “How much DO you guys practice?” probably thinking we practiced 4-5 times per week or something along those lines. Our parent replied “we are down to 90 minutes twice a week now”, the other parent said in a nice but almost fawning way “you are kidding me?”. My guess this parent was aleady thinking, well we only practice 2 times a week that’s why we aren’t doing very well, I bet these guys meet 4 times a week.

Fans perceptions can be far from reality but at the same time many players, parents and even coaches think “Practice Makes Perfect”. I’m not so sure of that, if you practice the wrong technique hundreds of times no matter how much it’s practiced, it’s not going to be effective. A more common youth football problem is that players aren’t held to a perfect standard within specific techniques, the player is not corrected every time he does it wrong. The standard is there is no standard, the technique is taught, then it is hit or miss from that point forward. Kids will only perform to the standard the coaching staff sets and enforces.

Another huge problem is priorities and pace. Many youth football coaches waste so much time on non football stuff that has little to do with true player development and team development. If your team is in it’s 8th week of practice and you are still doing 30 minutes of “conditioning” every day, are your kids not in football playing shape yet? Keep in mind my last 11 teams have run not a single wind sprint or done anything resembling a “conditioning period” we get all of our conditioning done within the context for our normal very high paced practice.

Even teams using my system often fail to understand what the pace of practice should be like in order to maximize the efficiency of practice which allows you to practice less but allows you to get more done than your competition. Every team clinic I’ve ever done in the last 2 years the pace has been significantly slower than I would ever allow in my own youth football practices. We always aggressively guard our precious practice time and always have a sense of urgency about our practices, not just during the month leading up to the first game, but up to that last practice before the last game.

In the last 30 days I did two team clinics in Los Angeles and Indianapolis. Both teams were VERY well coached by coaches that knew the material inside and out, chapter and verse. However, their pace was predictably about half as fast as we go. For example; in our dynamic warm up angle form/fit tackle drill, we do one rep about every 5-6 seconds, these teams did one every 12 seconds plus. When running our football plays on air we run one play every 12 seconds or so and that’s with subbing in every rep, they were at about 25 seconds. We try and do everything at a pace that has out kids just on the edge of breathing hard.

In the end if your priorities, pace and have a consistent high level of urgency, you won’t have to practice as much as many people think in order to execute well in youth football. When you practice less, the practices become important and focused and of course the parents love it as well.

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