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10 Core Tips for Coaching Youth Flag Football

Jan 2, 2008
The main difference between adult sports and kids' games is that you should always remember that the kids sports are not as serious and results-oriented as adult games. You, the coach, and the kids should do it more for the fun of it. Aiming for the gold or winning should be a goal as long as you do not cheat or indulge in unfair practices just for the sake of it.

American culture is competitive, but there's no call to instill in children the mindset that winning is everything. There are also other things to think about, such as sportsmanship and respect for the other players.

Too often, our children are fed the wrong messages by the media. They see players in fisticuffs, yelling and screaming at the referee, and other such actions; they read articles and listen to and watch commentaries that tell them that violence and cheating for the sake of winning are normal and acceptable.

Often the coach must undo, in practice and on the field, what hours of exposure to these messages do to children. Look around you: adults have disorganized the world enough with their selfish attitudes and disingenuous explanations. Do you honestly want to help pass this down to the next generation?

Teach the kids to accept victory with magnanimity and defeat graciously. The old saying "It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you played the game" should be emphasized. You probably already shake hands with the opposing coaching staff after a game, so try having your members thank the opposing team after the game, no matter who won.

Dissuade them from showboating, but don't go so far as to totally stop acknowledging the good things individuals do - a little attaboy after a fourth touchdown, or an excellent block, is never out of line. Just don't promote individuals so much that they start acting like they're better than their team mates. This is demoralizing and disruptive.

As a coach you should inspire your members to give their best and work well with other team members to achieve the team's goals. You are a role model for the children under your wing, like it or not. What you do impresses them more powerfully than what you say. So always carry yourself accordingly. Strive to emphasize sportsmanship, character, and trust.

Have a Plan

Always plan and think of your goals for the team. Discuss this with your team members. Take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of each team member. The ages and sex of the members may vary and this should be carefully analyzed by the coach to maximize advantages and minimize the disadvantages. At their times of growth, not all boys and girls are going to develop at the same way or at the same rate.

Warm Up

Warm-up exercises before playing are very important. Some stretching and muscle exercises must be standard procedure before a game. This will ensure less injuries and more agility on the part of the players. They will become better prepared and stay focused as they move on into the game. It also gives them time to adjust from whatever it was that they were doing before - time to settle into the grove of playing team sports.

Keep It Simple

Remember to make your demonstrations of the skills or techniques simple for the kids to follow. Don't try to cram too much information in one session. Demonstrations should not look complicated or time-consuming. Nor should they be boring; if you notice your team members' attentions wandering while you're talking, it's time to either take a different tack on the subject or go do something else.

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Practice ensures mastery of techniques and skills. It also helps boost the kid's confidence as they become more familiar with certain moves.

Be Flexible

Always be ready with alternatives should your main plans falter. Maybe doing something differently at that time is the order of the day.

Get Yourself an Assistant

Generals have lots of staff. The President has a whole Cabinet full of them. You're a general of sorts too, aren't you? Why don't you have even one?

You're not superhuman. It helps if you have someone help you do your job as coach. This would leave you free to concentrate on your players since you wouldn't have to think about setting the equipment up at the same time. It can also be a lifesaver in emergencies to have another adult around.

Show Respect for Your Players

Don't be too dictatorial. Be sensitive to the children's limitations and emotions. Even if they look up to you for guidance and support, you must value their opinions and understand your players' different personalities. Never humiliate a player publicly. Never corner a player until he or she has no option but to go through you.

If you're explaining a play, ask them questions like, "What's the reason for this?" or "Is there anything we should watch out for when trying this out?" The fact that you're asking them reinforces their self-esteem and makes them feel like they're an important part of your football team.

Maintain Discipline

Agree on the rules for discipline. Setting this early can lead to a more organized practice not just for one meeting but for the rest of the season. Earn and engage the kid's respect so they will stay focused on the game and not engage in disruptive activities. If one team is practicing plays, the other players can be doing drills while waiting for their turn. This keeps everyone busy and prevents boredom. Have the assistant supervise one group while you coach the other.

Learn to Differentiate between Normal Roughhousing and Malicious Behavior

There's no hard and fast rule to this, but call the member aside and talk to them if you feel it's necessary. Don't use exercise as a punitive measure. Benching them is more effective, as this deprives them of the chance to participate in the activity that they're supposed to be engaging in.

Following these tips will assist you in creating a positive coaching environment for your team.
About the Author
John Perry is the author of the best-selling youth flag football plays on the web. Visit YouthFlagFootballPlays.com to get your play book.
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