What Teams Are Playing In The Ncaa Football Championship Coaching Youth Football – Lessons Learned from Other Sports

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Coaching Youth Football – Lessons Learned from Other Sports

Lessons learned from other sports

Some of the lessons I learned in coaching youth soccer have really helped me in coaching other sports that I know very little about.

In 2002, the Screaming Eagles youth football program decided to start a baseball program. The problem was that I had never coached baseball before and over 90% of our kids had never put on a glove since the popularity of baseball had drastically declined in the inner city.

Since we were able to completely turn our football program around from the bottom of the league to the top through intensive coaching training and research-intensive systems development, I decided to do the same for baseball:

My experience with baseball as a coach was non-existent. I only played until my freshman year of high school and was average on a very good day. I felt that my little expertise on the subject was minimal and that I did not have the authority or credibility to impose a new system on the entire Screaming Eagle program. The baseball “program” I was running was just for my personal team.

He began the project like any other, researching the videos and books available to teach youth baseball coaches. I bought Marty Shupak’s tape on organizing baseball practices. I went to a local baseball practice gym and bought several books and tapes that were all specifically aimed at youth coaches. I asked around and found out who are the best coaches who have consistently won. Many of them practice in an indoor practice facility, so I went and watched several of the top youth teams get instruction there throughout the year.

I then sought advice from the best youth baseball coaches in the area. If you’re going to learn from someone, why not go straight to the man who has had the most success? Here in Omaha it’s a guy named Bill Olsen. Coach Olsen has coached national championship teams at the youth level. He is a successful high school coach and has also been an assistant coach on one of the US Pan American Games and Olympic teams. Coach Olsen knows his stuff and has a passion for developing young baseball players and loves teaching coaches how to teach players.

I was fortunate enough to attend 4 great clinics that Coach Olsen put on, and while playing 9 years of organized competitive baseball, I learned:

1) I knew nothing about coaching baseball

2) My previous baseball coaches didn’t know anything either, I was diminished as a player.

I was committed to not letting the same thing happen to these children.

Coach Olsen showed us the right basics, but more importantly how to break down and learn each move. He gave us many detailed progressions to learn proper hitting, fielding, pitching and even pitching. I was amazed to see how his methods paralleled the way we taught our kids how to play youth soccer.

I then observed several top select and rec level coaches as they conducted their training sessions. I learned how to teach the moves and how to shave tons of time off my workouts. Back in the days when I played, batting practice consisted of one player hitting while 11 players shook balls in the infield, how boring. Coaching points were rarely given, we were supposed to get better with “practice.” I learned how to get a lot more done in a lot less time. I also had the opportunity to watch Mike Evans run some drills of his own, Mike has taken several Pacesetter “Select” teams to the Youth National Championships and is now coaching a Junior College team. I learned some really neat games from him that keep kids interested, just like the fun team building exercises and evaluations we do for our youth soccer teams.

Long story short, I developed a plan and implemented it based on the expertise of these people, not what I knew from my own experience. My first team could be described as the “Land of Misfits” from the movie “Rudolph the Red Reindeer”. Our first few drills, most of the kids had to be shown how to put on gloves and about 1/3 of the kids didn’t even have gloves, they were TERRIBLE. I went to the Salvation Army store and bought some used gloves, oiled them and got them ready for the second practice. The children came and with each practice we got better and better as we very slowly progressed to the goal. As in youth football, we worked on key success factors, nothing else, no wasted time or movement. We used many of the tricks we use in football such as progression, ‘ready focus’, group instruction, fit and freeze, limited live tackling, player contracts, discipline model etc. Using Coach Olsens ideas and what I saw on the videos, we were able to get each player 16 minutes of hitting practice for every 2 hours of practice we had. We didn’t even hit “live” until week 3 because we did a lot of instruction and “hitting” practice without clubs and balls, then went to the Tees, then soft toss and then hitting the ball attached to the stiff ball 5′ rod rig which hurts my joints so much.

We didn’t “stutter” nor did we do a lot of live infield and outfield, we did a lot of drills without balls and ball-on-drill drills. We didn’t play catch, that would have been a complete waste of time (playing catch, not catch) we worked on mechanics for frozen throwing (yes, fit and freeze). I did everything 100% as Bill Olsen suggested.

We went into our first game not knowing how to play the game terribly well, but we really improved on the fundamentals. We ended up winning that game and all 14 games we played that year, to EVERYONE’s surprise. Every single one of my kids hit the ball, even the very tough 190 pound defensive tackle who missed every ball off the tee in the first practice! We would have 1-2-3 innings etc all the time. in defense. For the next two years I remained at this age level as this original group progressed to other teams. The next year my team won all 12 of our games and the next year we won all 14 again, three years as the dominant undefeated team in the league in this age group and we switched leagues one year to Little League which has consistently produced State Champions . We never played in major tournaments because unfortunately we didn’t have the funds to do so and we generally took a much lower key approach to baseball as well as football. Baseball was just a filler for us until football season came.

The moral of the story is; priorities are important, learning progressions and finer fundamentals is important for any sport, “scrimmaging” is overrated, and great training organization using time-saving tricks is critical. Taking the time to learn from the experts allowed me to teach the kids the right way to have more fun. Just like in football, kids have more fun if they don’t lose every game, they don’t have fun in baseball if they never get a hit or lose every game. The sad thing was that we were so much better than the other teams in each of the three years I coached that we could actually play an age group and compete. A lot of the coaches I coached against went to the same Bill Olsen clinic that I did, but I could tell during the warm-up that they weren’t doing what Coach Olsen suggested they do in the warm-up, or how they were holding their gloves, or how their players were in the field took their position or how their attackers took their position. Either these coaches were asleep while Coach Olsen was talking, or they just decided to do it their “better” way. I decided to do it Coach Olsens way and if it didn’t work then I would do more research and make changes. In my opinion these youth coaches really shortchanged their players, ours were so much more solid, it looked like we were training 5 days a week when in reality we were training far less than any team in the league and most of the other teams had kids with experience in their teams.

Go watch other teams practice in your sport, go to clinics that teach youth topics, ask a very successful coach to mentor you, most are thrilled that someone cares enough to want to learn and thinks enough of them to want to to learn from them. Your kids will benefit in the end, coaching is coaching regardless of the sport.

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