Where Is The College Football National Championship Being Played Thinking Outside the Box When Coaching Youth Football

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Thinking Outside the Box When Coaching Youth Football

Now is the time to start evaluating everything you are doing for next season. You don’t want to wait and do your research in July or August and then go back to doing the same thing because you ran out of time. In March, I broke down game film for the second time. I take a critical look at practice plans, drills and priorities and make sure that what we are doing is not a waste of time and is directly related to our ultimate mission. Now I explore different methods, techniques, offenses, teaching processes and defenses. I’ve already read almost a dozen books and attended countless clinic sessions, and still have about 6 books on my stack, as well as 3-4 DVDs to watch.

Turning over new leaves

Although our mission will not change, I am always open to new ways to achieve it. We have had incredible success, but that doesn’t mean we have a franchise on how to get there, there are many great ideas still waiting to be used to improve our youth soccer teams. We just have to be open-minded enough to keep looking for them and relentless enough in our pursuit to find them.

Learn from the best

If you haven’t heard of John Gagliardi (pronounced Guh-LAR-di). He was the head coach at St. John’s University, in Collegeville, Minn., since 1953, his teams winning 461 games. I have written about him several times and he has a different way of approaching football practice.

Here’s what Newsday’s John Johnson wrote about the coach:

At a school of 1,900, none of whom have an athletic scholarship, and thus none who have majored in music history or any other subject, Gagliardi, 82, will coach his 57th season at St. John’s in the fall, trying to win 27th conference title and fifth national championship – last in 2003. Three years ago, Gagliardi became the first active coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Listen to his philosophy: No agility drills, long calisthenics or catch circles (just one push-up before the workout). “When I was in high school, we had a coach that I learned a lot from – all negative. He was a fanatic about gymnastics and exercises, painful things. And circles, circles, circles. We were worn out before we started. My memory hell must be like this. Those damn duck walks. I hated them. Years later, everyone was told how bad those duck walks are for your knees. In any case, then we would fight. We would kill each other in I came within a hair’s breadth of not staying there. See, I noticed that all the kids that would go play intramurals never did all the drills and stuff, and I never saw any EMS go to their fields. he comes to us. And, you see, fortunately, I didn’t have a TV. I didn’t know anything. I just knew what I didn’t like.”

He began his coaching career as a high school senior at Trinidad (Colo.) Catholic in 1943, when a true coach was called into service. He took the team to the state championship game and, “God, amazingly, we won. I must have been 16.”

But his coaching ethic was set. “Our coach used to say: ‘Hit somebody! Kill someone!’ But I noticed that I was the one who got killed. Our coach believed that the answer was all drills and conditioning, but the only tragic flaw in his system was that when we lined up, we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. I was a tailback—you know, that old one-wing, Notre Dame box—and I noticed that when I called the play, there would be panic in the linemen’s eyes. ‘Who should I block?’ I thought the first thing we should do is figure out who to block.”

Other than figuring, however, there is no exercise equipment in St. There are no sleds to block. No dummy to block. “I have kids, when they first come, they ask me, ‘How do I prove I can play?’ Who should I hit or kill?’ That’s not the way to make a move. First you have to line up in the right place. You have to go to the right place. You have to figure out where the hell the ball is. You must not be blocked. You have to press the ball. If you do all of that, you’ll eventually win the match.

Applying it to youth football

Does any of this affect those of us who coach youth soccer? How many oh-so-fair youth football teams do you see doing what Coach Gags rails against? In youth football, you have to get over the initial fear of contact and hit your kids, but once that’s done, how long does it take to make full plays instead of the bird dog or quick fit and freeze reps?

Do the math

My teams can do a rep every 10-12 seconds, while the average scrimmage rep lasts 90-120 seconds. Which means that in 40 minutes of scrimmage, the scrimmaging team, if they’re lucky, will get 20-30 plays. In that same time period, my teams would achieve 200-240 reps. On game day which team do you think will perform better, the one that had 40-60 quality offensive reps that week or the one that had 400-480 quality reps? Multiply that over 3 months and you have a partial answer to why many youth soccer teams perform so much better than their competition, even when they have less practice.

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