Acting Like a Maniac When Coaching Youth Football, Should You Ever?

All people are different, God made us unique for a purpose. Hence, no two youth football coaches are going to have the same exact sidelines demeanor. Some coaches are humorous and animated, some are quietly confident, some are aggressive and loud and some are just soaking it all in and enjoying the moment. All of these expressions of who we are probably have a time and place when you are coaching youth football, but there are some expressions you should keep to yourself. Many of these won’t do your reputation or your team much good.

Here are a few examples:

About 16 years ago I started coaching youth football as an assistant coach on an age 8-10 expansion team. Like most expansion teams with all rookie players and rookie coaches, we struggled that first year. We knew we were going to struggle from the start, as most expansion teams in the league usually lost every game. Our head coach was a very well respected Real Estate Executive with the largest firm in the state. He had given presentations to large crowds and had dozens of direct reports, a pretty savvy guy. Our first game our players were nervous as you might expect with all first year players. Before the game I saw the Head Coach kind of doubled over near the sidelines with a grimace on his face and a near greenish color hue on his viking t shirt . I asked him if he was sick, he said his stomach was killing him and he was nauseous. I asked him if he had been sick this week, he replied no, that it was the game that was making his stomach cramp and making him nauseous. This grown man, a big shot was letting a youth football game get to him.

The head coach leads by example, the players are always taking their cues from him and our head coach was nervous and sick before our first game. This was a time when our kids were feeling the same emotions, needless to say we got blown out that day. Our coach was so wrapped up in how the team would do, he made himself sick that day and it hurt his teams performance and enjoyment of the game.

Another youth football coach I know of actually is so emotional before his games that he goes off in his car, sits in a park and cries before the games to let all his emotions out. Obviously this guy may need some type of professional help and I wouldn’t let a guy like that coach with me, but many youth football coaches let their emotions get the best of them.

While it’s normal to feel some angst before games, if you’re making yourself sick or are overly emotional before games you are taking this far too seriously. Do some of us get up in the morning and on the way to work think about football plays to run or ways to improve our youth football teams? Yes. Do many of us put a lot of time and effort into our teams and improving as coaches? Sure. But thinking about youth football and making yourself a better coach have little to do with letting your emotions get the best of you before a game.

We all want our teams to do well and that the kids have a great experience, but life isn’t going to change dramatically and the earth won’t stop spinning if you don’t coach the perfect game. If you put the time in and learn from others and your own experiences and are a good football coach. your teams will eventually play well. Over time if your teams are well coached and they play well, the wins will take care of themselves. As a head football coach all you can control is your teams preparation and the schemes and adjustments, you can’t control the weather, the refs or the other teams performance.

Does this mean you are obsolved if your youth football team loses? No, it means you are in control of what you can control and as long as your team executes and plays well, that’s all you can hope for. In the end, playing well usually equates to winning games, but fretting over it accomplishes nothing and actually hurts your teams performance. If the kids see you aren’t enjoying the experience, they aren’t going to enjoy it either and a team without smiles on their faces is a team that plays poorly.

Don’t forget to get a good meal in you before the game and bring some Gatorade for yourself as well. I pray on my way to games or in the morning of the game asking God for wisdom, patience and for me to have a long term focus on my actions. I also ask that God may be glorified by my actions and the actions of my team that day. I’m not sure God takes sides in youth football games, I never pray to win, but I do pray that all my kids show up and that no one from either team is injured that day. For those not so inclined, maybe looking at how you will be remembered 10 years after the game is finished is a good perspective to take on guiding your actions for the day. Of course I’m also reviewing in my mind my game plan, keys adjustments and substitution plans for the day as well.

For most of us the level of discomfort in any task is inversely related to how well we have prepared ourselves for for the task. The first few public clinics I did I was pretty nervous, I had never done any large clinics before strangers and the presentations were with new material. ( Kind of like having a new team or playing your first game) I had not had time to practice the presentations or gotten feedback as to where there would be additional questions or even if the presentations would be well received ( Kind of like not doing lots of fit and freeze reps or even having a scrimmage). As you would expect, the first few clinics were OK but they could have been much better. Now I always practice the presentations live and now even in front of crowds of 190 skeptical youth football coaches in Boston, I’m cool and confident.

As this relates to your youth football team, the better your team is prepared the less nervous you will be. The more thorough you have prepared yourself and your youth football team, the less nervous you will be. Easy enough to say, hard to do for some. Either way, once you’ve put in the effort into yourself and your team, you have to tell yourself that’s all you can do. As the book about De LaSalle High Schools 151 game winning streak says,
“There is comfort in knowing you have given all you have”. In the end you just have to let the game play out and see the results. If you’ve done the research and put the time in, like any other Endeavour, you’re probably going to be a successful youth football coach.

This premise is probably made most clear by my teams opening game results, we are always well prepared, calm and confident. Even at our first game, our football plays look crisp, our alignments are perfect, we always have 11 on the field, we block and tackle well, we even go in motion well and are seldom penalized. We almost always win our opening games by huge margins, even against the best youth football teams in our league

Past Years Scores

We are able to do this because of our wise use of practice time, our integrated schemes and the progression nature of the teaching methods we use to develop our teams. We go into these games with a lot of confidence. Quite often we are literally months ahead of our competition that first game. We have been told many times by our opponents that our kids seem to be pretty carefree and very confident. My thoughts are we appear so because we are, the kids know they are prepared to play that first game. Our coaches are all calm, cool and confident before the games because as we all know, the kids are all taking their cues from us, that calm demeanor is part of coaching youth football well. If your coaches are fretting and worried, the kids will be too. Even if deep inside you aren’t confident any of your football plays will even work that day, you need to appear so on the outside for your youth football players and your team.

write by Florence

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