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Coaching Youth Football – Lessons Learned from Other Sports
Lessons learned from other sports
Some lessons learned as a youth soccer coach have really helped me coach other sports that I know very little about.
In 2002, the Screaming Eagles Youth Soccer Program decided that we would start a baseball program. The problem was that I hadn’t coached baseball before and over 90% of our kids had never put on a glove, as the popularity of baseball has declined dramatically in the inner city.
Since we were able to completely turn our soccer program from the bottom of the league to the top through intensive coach training and system development with extensive research, I decided to do the same for baseball:
My experience with baseball was non-existent as a coach. I had played solo up to my junior year of high school and was average on a very good day. I felt that my little experience on the subject was minimal and I had no authority or credibility to impose a new system on the entire Screaming Eagle program. The baseball “program” I was running was for my personal team only.
He started the project like any other, researching the videos and books available to teach youth baseball coaches. I bought a Marty Shupack tape about organizing baseball practices. I went to the local indoor baseball practice facility and bought some books and tapes that were specifically geared toward youth coaches. I asked around and found out who were the top coaches who were winning consistently. Many of them practice at an indoor practice facility, so I went and watched some of the best youth teams receive year-round instruction inside.
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 guy who’s been the most successful? Here in Omaha that’s a guy named Bill Olsen. Coach Olsen has coached national championship teams at the youth level. He is an accomplished high school coach and was also an assistant coach on one of the USA Olympic and Pan American Games teams. Coach Olsen knows his stuff and has a passion for developing young baseball players and loves to teach coaches how to teach players.
I was lucky enough to attend 4 great clinics hosted by Coach Olsen, and even though I had played 9 years of organized competitive baseball, I discovered:
1) I didn’t know anything about coaching baseball.
2) My previous baseball coaches didn’t know anything either, they had ripped me off as a player.
I vowed not to let the same thing happen to these children.
Coach Olsen showed us the proper fundamentals, but more importantly, how to break down and teach each move. He gave us many detailed progressions to properly teach batting, fielding, pitching, and even pitching. He surprised me how his methods paralleled how we teach our children to play youth soccer.
I then watched several of the top “select” and recreational-level trainers go through their practices. I learned to teach the movements and save a lot of time in my practices. On the days I played, batting practice was 1 player hitting while 11 players threw balls down the field, how boring. Training points were rarely given, we were supposed to get better by “practicing”. I learned how to do a lot more in a lot less time. several Pacesetter “Select” teams to the Junior National Championships and now coaches a Junior College team. I learned some really cool games from him that keep the kids interested, just like the fun team building and judging exercises we do for our youth soccer teams.
Long story short, I developed a plan and implemented it based on the experience of these men, not what I knew from my own experiences. My first team could have been described as the “Land of Misfit Toys” from the movie “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” In our first practices, most of the kids had to be taught how to put on a glove and about 1/3 of the kids didn’t even have gloves, they were HORRIBLE. I went to the Salvation Army store and bought some used gloves, greased them up and had them ready for the second practice. The kids kept coming and we got better at each practice as we inched toward our goal. Just like in youth soccer, we work on the critical success factors, nothing more, without wasting time or movement. We use many of the gimmicks we use in soccer like progressions, “ready approach”, group drill, adjust and freeze, limited live scrimmages, 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 batting practice in every 2-hour practice we had. We didn’t even hit “live” until week 3 as we did a lot of “hitting” drills and instructions without bats and balls, then we would go to tees, then soft pitches, then hitting the ball attached to the hard. 5′ pole apparatus that hurts my wrists a lot.
We didn’t scrimmage or do a lot of live plays on and off the field, we did a lot of no-ball drills and bucket-ball drills. We didn’t play catch, it would have been a total waste of time (play fetch, not catch) we worked on drills on frozen pitch mechanics (yes, snap and freeze). I just did everything 100% as Bill Olsen suggested.
We went into our first game not knowing how to play it terribly well, but we were making really good progress on the fundamentals. We ended up winning that game and all 14 games we played that year, much to the surprise of EVERYONE. Every one of my sons was hitting the ball, even the very overweight 190 pound defensive tackle who in the first practice missed every ball he hit off a tee! We would constantly have 1-2-3 inputs, etc. in defence. For the next two years I stayed at this age level as this original group moved on to other teams. The following year my team won our 12 games and the following year we won all 14 again, three years as the dominant team in the league without losing in this age group and we switched leagues one year to a Little League that was consistently producing Champions. State. We never played in any big tournaments as we unfortunately didn’t have the funds to do so and generally took a much lower baseball approach than football. Baseball to us was just “filler” until football season came around.
The moral of the story is; priorities are important, teaching the progression of the most minute fundamental details is important for every sport, scrimmaging is overrated and a great organization of practice using tricks that save time is essential. Taking time to learn from the experts allowed me to teach the kids the right way so they could have more fun. Just like in football, kids have more fun if they don’t lose every game, in baseball they also don’t have much fun 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, so we could have played in an age group and competed. A lot of the coaches I trained against went to the same Bill Olsen clinic as I did, but I noticed during warmups that they weren’t doing what Coach Olsen suggested they do in warmups, or how they held their gloves, or how their infielders. they positioned themselves or how their hitters positioned themselves. Either these coaches were asleep while Coach Olsen spoke, or they just decided to do it their “best” way. I decided to do it the Coach Olsens way and if it didn’t work I would do more research and make changes. In my opinion these youth coaches really ripped off their players ours were fundamentally sounder it seemed like we were practicing 5 days a week when in reality we were practicing much less than any team in the league and most 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 be your mentor, most are delighted that someone cares enough to want to learn and thinks enough about they like to want to learn from them. . Your children will benefit in the end, training is training regardless of the sport.
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