Lavar Ball Situation and How to Deal With Parents When Coaching Youth Football

Written by Dave on March 24th, 2017

Youth Football Coaching Bad Parents



Dealing with parents when coaching youth football


Lavar Ball Situation and How to Deal With Parents When Coaching Youth Football












Lavar Ball should be featured in Wikipedia under the term- Terrible Sports Parent. If you are coaching youth football you know guys like this. His actions have heightened awareness on the problems of problem sports parents.

We’ve all seen this buffoon on the news the last few weeks, so what has everyone up in arms? For starters this year his two younger sons Chino California High School team after winning their first nine games was playing in a tournament where Lavar Ball basically tried to hijack the team.

In the game you can actually hear Ball yell to the team to “double team”, reluctantly the players start to double team. The Head Coach Stephen Gilling has to call a timeout to get his players to stop double teaming and trapping and stay man to man. Chino rallied from a 12 point deficit to win the game, thanks to playing man to man.

The Big Incident

After the game a very upset Lavar Ball confronted Gilling and barged into the locker room even after be told to leave several times. Ball addressed the team and would not leave as reported by USA Today. So Gilling gathered the team and went back to the hotel, while Ball stayed behind with his sons. Once back at the hotel, Ball goes to the players rooms to get them to meet with him and talk about the game. Ball says to anyone that will listen “I run Chino Hills! I run UCLA, about to run the NBA!” So this parent puts himself squarely in the middle of a coach and his team.

Chino Hills High School

Meanwhile Lavar Ball’s two sons are no longer listening or talking to the coach. Daddy Ball also is a constant caller into sports- talk radio shows and has been on Fox Sports TV shows- the media love train wrecks. His oldest son Lonzo is tearing it up for UCLA, but UCLA isn’t immune from Mr Ball’s second guessing.  Do you really want someone like that on your sidelines when you are coaching youth football?

I’m not going to be popular for saying this, but Coach Gilling has to accept some of the blame here. He should have put down clear boundaries for what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior from Mr Ball.  After the locker room and hotel incident, Gilling should have had a meeting with his AD, then with Mr Ball. Without an apology and a written agreement signed as to how the relationship would go, the Ball boys don’t play or Gilling steps down.  If the Ball boys chose not to talk to the coach or accept coaching from Gilling, they should have been removed from the team.

Coach Shares the Blame

Was Coach Gilling accommodating a sick situation so he could keep two DI basketball recruits on his team and win more games? No one knows. We all know guys coaching youth football will often times put up with horrific situations so they can win that shiny trophy. It;s sick but it happens. It shouldn’t be that way and most times teams that are saddled with that situation, no matter how talented they are will implode.

Gillings team went 30-3 and made a shallow run into the State Playoffs. So keeping the two studs on this team didn’t take him to the promised land. In the meanwhile I guarantee you, even with 30 wins this was a very difficult season for this coach. I’m guessing he dreaded coming to practices and games. Sound familiar?

Why bother? Coaching Youth Football should be fun for the kids AND you. Never let a parent that isn’t on the coaching staff stand out and disrupt your team dynamic. Once you let an outsider have influence over your program and the players see you AREN’T 100% in charge, they will lose respect for you. When you allow certain players to be above the team rules (they wouldn’t even listen or talk to him?) you are going to lose your team. When you have that tough game, your team is going to fold. That’s what happened with this very talented Chino Hills team.

I had a somewhat similar situation happen to me during the shooting of my “Worst to First” Reality TV Pilot, where I took an 8th grade team in Reno, Nevada that had won 6 games in 6 years. We were REALLY short backfield kids. Our best back, a two way starter and his dad weren’t happy with the way I was doing things and were holding back their effort and support. So I benched my best back and he started on defense too where we were equally short on athletes. It game to a head as they shared that if things didn’t go their way and he got more playing time and carries, they were threatening to quit. I let them know their player was talented but it didn’t matter to me at all whether they played or not as I had already been shuffling kids around so I could put different players into this kids spots.

The parents and player knew I wanted to win badly, for the kids and the show. I DIDN’T want to lose the kid, he was our best all around player on a team that was starved for talent.  The parents figured I would let them have their way. I firmly stood my ground and guess what? They reluctantly came back into the fold. Remarkably the kid turned around his sour attitude and had a great season, scoring 10-11 touchdowns. More importantly all the other parental issues I was having with this dysfunctional team DISAPPEARED overnight. Why? Because the parents saw, it didn’t matter who you were or how good you were, the team was going to be run my way, if you didn’t like it, you were out. BUT when you give into talent and bully parents your parents will lose respect for you and feel more embolden. After that incident NO parent bothered to get in my way.

In closing, if you are out recruiting players for your youth football team, DON’T recruit players like these. The kids will always have a place to play. Let them and their parents be a cancer on your competitors program. It makes for a good chuckle when you beat a very talented team like that with less talent, great coaching and a cohesive team. Your kids, your coaching staff and YOU are going to have a LOT more fun WITHOUT clowns like this. Don’t trade your soul for the shiny trophy, which most likely you won’t win anyway- dysfunctional teams rarely win championships.

Our Winning Youth Football book has an entire chapter on how to manage parents: Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan Book

Youth Football Coaching Book

Winning Youth Football Book

Youth Football Game 2 The Journey 2016

Written by Dave on March 23rd, 2017

Youth Football Game 2

Youth Football Game 2

Youth Football Game 2 The Journey 2016

For you youth football coaches following along on my 2016 season, we have some hard lessons that can be learned from my season- Youth Football Game 2. See the below posts to understand where we started and how we got to this point.

Our opponent was a multiple direct snap team with two very strong, athletic, fast and elusive backs. They had one dominant defensive linemen, several large serviceable lineman and from what we could tell just ONE minimum play player. This team had one team in our single age bracket and another team in the double age bracket. At the end of the season the team we played ended up in third place, their combined age group team went winless. So as you might have expected, all the minimum play kids were relegated to their double age group team.

It was a very hot and humid day. On the way to the game I got THAT CALL, you know the one where one of your two way starters was sick. Yep, my starting Pulling Guard/Defensive Tackle was out with severe flu with vomiting. This player was one of our toughest kids, who never missed a snap or practice last season. The problem was his replacement really didn’t know the position. The replacement had been slotted at Blocking Back after playing Power Tackle the previous year. Long story short, we didn’t make the decision to move the backup to Right Guard until after week 3 and with the issues we were having with running our Wedge, we had moved the “backup” back to Blocking Back. So we moved our starting Left Guard to Right Guard for this game only and just didn’t pull. If you know our offense, that really hurts.

In pre-game we gave our new starter a big smile and pep talk and taught him how to be the apex of the wedge in 10 short minutes. We were practicing in the shade and the referees asked us if we wanted to start early, we declined because we needed every second of that practice time to get our new starting Right Guard up to speed. The referees didn’t like that at all.  Our youth football playbook would be small for this game, we would limit ourselves to about 6 football plays, that’s it.

The Game

We start on offense, putting together a 9 play drive and score. Nothing fancy, 4 complementary football plays and no passes. Our PAT kicks had been very inconsistent, so we ran it in for the 1 point making it 7-0. On defense they go 3 and out, losing yardage on 2 of the 3 plays. One thing that was very noticeable was how slow the pace of the game was. It was taking a minute off the clock on every offensive snap of our opponent. While it was just game 2, the referees were letting the game go slowly, not enforcing the 25 second clock and letting the clock run. We were the last game of the day.  I mentioned it once, they said they weren’t going to enforce it, so I did what you have to do- shut up.

Early Success

On possession 2, we score again on an 8 play drive just as the first quarter ends. We missed our PAT run by inches, so we are up 13-0 and in good shape. On defense they go 3 and out again with 2 of the 3 plays going for negative yardage. We shut down their favorite play and one of the all-time youth football plays of all time- the inside counter.

On possession 3 we again move right down the field. But we get behind the chains on a block in the back penalty and a bobbled snap deep in their territory. On defense- our 6-2 youth football defense has them flustered, they attempt 2 passes and we get them again for a loss, they go 3 and out.

On possession 4 we move down the field using several Wham plays as we have their Defensive Tackle in a quandary. He is getting double teamed to death on power, but when he tries to come up field hard or stunt to the outside- we let him come through clean and wham him. Their very best player is visibly frustrated. We get another block in the back penalty on a long run, a poorly run wedge play and a very poor effort by our Blocking Back on a sweep lets their best player drop our runner for a loss to end the drive at their 20.

On the next snap they go 80 yards on a cutback play that was originally destined to go off-tackle. Our backside Linebacker who is slow was overcompensating for his lack of speed, over-ran the play and our Monster trips over another player as their speed demon makes our kids look like they are in slow motion. They miss their PAT kick, we are up 13-6. We get the ball to their 30 but run out of time as the referees won’t allow us to go hurry up- slowing the game down by standing over the ball and letting everyone get set up perfectly before allowing the snap.

I won’t bore you with all the rest of the grimy details other than on offense- we made multiple first downs on every possession we ran 61 offensive snaps. We had no turnovers, but had 5 major penalties- all blocks in the back- where the opposition turned their backs on our kids while in contact. I’m not whining about the calls, I just wanted you all to know we teach our kids not to block in the back. We also had 2-3 bobbled snaps. These were very good snaps that were just mishandled a bit. We had no turnovers and 1 off-sides penalty. We consistently moved the ball, then would get behind the chains and not be able to convert. The whole game was played on their side of the 50.

Our Youth Football Defense

On defense we played well. They had 20 offensive snaps, 12 ended up as negative yardage plays. However they did have 2 plays that went for 155 yards, an 80 yard TD run and a 75 yard TD run where their stud Running Back broke 3 attempted tackles with an amazing stiff arm and blazing speed. They made their PAT kick by a millimeter.

They recovered one onside kick that was executed perfectly and the game went just 81 snaps. In non-mercy rule games in this league with our no-huddle offense we average over 100 snaps. At the end of the day in many ways without our Pulling Guard we played much better than in game 1.

Wrap Up With the Kids

At the end of the game I told the kids about all the positives I saw: great effort, good body language, great teamwork, great attitude, confidence, excellent pass defense, good defensive end play, excellent nose tackle play and good snaps. We would need to work on: better kick-out blocks and second level blocks by our Blocking Back, more consistent snap control by our backs, an improved passing game, better pursuit angles , run fits and open field tackling and improved PAT kicks. I told the kids the loss was my fault and then had them all point to whose fault it was- they all pointed at me. I had failed to adequately prepare a backup Pulling Guard due to some indecision and a misplaced feeling that this very dependable kid who was sold out on playing for us and his ultra-reliable parents- that this kid would never miss a game. It doesn’t matter he is a tough, amazing wrestler who never missed a practice or snap in 2 years, kids ARE GOING TO MISS. Not being able to run G or Trap plays or even getting another body out there on counters, powers and sweeps hurt us.

This was a youth football game we deserved to win- 61 offensive plays with no offensive turnovers to 20 offensive snaps and one special teams takeaway on their part. But as I explained to the kids, the teams that deserve to win don’t always win. The only way to do that was to dominate every snap so that nothing fluky could stop them from winning. I ended up by saying I was proud of them and would be looking forward to playing this team again in the playoffs.

Hopefully this helps you guys who are coaching youth football this coming season. We have complete season DVDs along with commentary right here: Season DVDs


1 Comment | Posted In: 2016 Season

Week 5 Youth Football Practice

Written by Dave on March 20th, 2017

Youth Football Week 5 Practice

Youth Football Week 5 Practice



Week 5 Youth Football Practice- What to Do- My 2016 Journey

Again these season posts are to help you, youth football coaches who are probably experiencing many of these same issues.So the first game is water under the bridge, but what’s next? You hear all the time that the biggest improvement a youth football team can make is the week between game 1 and game 2. While games do reveal weaknesses, sometimes if that first game was versus a cream puff, you won’t get a good feel.

Yes we had done many of the ordinary really well: no poor snaps, no fumbles, no offsides, blocked and tackled reasonably well, aligned correctly on D all but 1 snap and our pass defense was very sound etc. However our Backs didn’t run the wedge well, our kickout blocks weren’t consistent and we hadn’t been tested well in the open field. Our next opponent would. They had 2 very good open field runners that could score from anywhere on the field. They had very good body control, explosive speed and very good field vision.

How did we practice in the 2 practices allotted for this week? First of all we got our film loaded onto Hudl and pointed out the good and the bad via text boxes and telestrations. How we use Hudl How we use Hudl Our first practice was on offense- because I wanted to save Thursday for defense and Special Teams. While we stuck with our every day drills on the oline like 1 and 2 step drills, wedge fits, bag fits and GOD fits, we did a bit more live. We worked our GOD fits and GOD live against different stunts and approaches we often time see from teams like our next opponent who knew our system well. Just think about it, you think you are well scouted? All 5 of my teams have been running the same system in the same league for over 10 years and you can buy my playbook and DVDs online. Don’t whine to me about being scouted.

I spent some time with the backs once the o-line was humming along with one of my new assistants. He was doing a nice job- just from watching me coach the kids- no book or DVDs. However I did give him a set of cheat cards that seemed to help. Offensive Line Cheat Cards

Wedge Remedies

With the backs we worked on the art of running the wedge. When I say art, it really is one, it takes some time to run wedge. You need to be patiently impatient. That means your back  pushes the pile forward while looking for the tiniest crack of daylight, when when you see it, you push your way through it and explosively sprint straight ahead. The dealio is the cracks are between the tackles and usually 4-8 yards downfield, not to the outside and the breakouts rarely occur within the first couple of seconds of the play. There really is an art to running it that has to be taught and coached up.

ALL of our backfield kids were new to football and none of them were running the wedge correctly. We worked at it first by using a couple of handshields the back pushed against while running the play in skeleton. When us coaches let there be a little opening, the back would sprint to a cone about 20 yards straight ahead. In team we ran quite a bit of wedge, again with a coach applying pressure over the Right Guard with a hand shield. The wedge would eventually open up on it’s own, creating that crack the back would be looking for. We saw some improvement, but not where would like it to be.

Defensive Tackle Game Plan

Our opponent had a very big, quick and aggressive Defensive Tackle that we would have to account for. In the previous weeks game he had dominated, with 5-6 tackles for loss. He even scored a touchdown by actually taking the handoff from the opposing Quarterback and sprinting 35 yards for the score. He was fast enough to beat the Back to the exchange point. We were going to double team this Defensive Tackle and once he got frustrated with that, trap/wham him.

Defensively we had scouted the other team and arranged our playcards in the fashion described in the Game Day Management DVD. The team we were facing would be dangerous on any down, anywhere on the field. They lined up in 4-5 formations, but had just 6-7 base plays we would have to contend with. I was most concerned with a tight counter play and a base off-tackle run where the back would cut the play back against the grain. This team could throw, they had a very able Quarterback and Receiver tandem.  We worked as much as we could on open field tackling with the limited practice time we had and having to get through our Defensive Recognition of their plays and work Special teams. The team we were playing had a very good onside kick approach.

How did we do? Check back later this week.



Hudl Name Dave Cisar #4 In Nation in Key Players in Sports and Technology Hudl 100

Written by Dave on March 16th, 2017

Hudl 100 Award

Hudl 100 Award








Hudl Names Dave Cisar #4 In Nation in Key Players in Sports and Technology Hudl 100

Hudl came out with it’s top 100 Key Players in Sports and Technology and named me- Dave Cisar as the #4 person in the US, right behind Tony Dungy and Pete Carroll. First of all THANK YOU Hudl for this honor, it is very much appreciated. To be on the same list as those people is very humbling to say the least.  Here is the list: Hudl 100 List

For those of you who don’t know Hudl- they are the $100,000,000+ company that owns the market for football sports film editing and computer football coaching tools. They have over 80% of the High School football team market and are the product of choice for most College and NFL teams. They are the leading product in the youth market as well.

We have been a proud user of Hudl as an early adopter back in 2010 when just a handful of youth teams were using the product. Hudl helped us coach and teach better and it helped us win football games. Our kids and parents love it and it reduces the amount of practice time we need each week. Hudl has saved us countless hours of time and we could say goodbye to all those unproductive and time consuming team film sessions- which count as a practice for us.

Here at we appreciate the coaches who invest time in making their kids seasons better. We thank them for understanding what an important role youth football can be in the development of young men when done right. We like it when something comes down the pike like Hudl, that can make coaching and the kids experience so much better.

Thanks again Hudl- you are a game changer, our coaches, parents and players love your product and we love what you are doing for the game.

For more info on how we use Hudl- click here. How We Use Hudl

3 Comments | Posted In: Hudl

Why Good Football Minds Often Times Fail In Youth Football

Written by Dave on March 14th, 2017








Why Good Football Minds Often Times Fail In Youth Football

When you are coaching youth football, some guys are intimidated by guys who show off their football knowledge. You know these guys, the fellas who talk about  6 techniques, running option to the 3 technique who rotate coverages, will bend your ear about 4-3 over and under fronts and either know the history of football to the nth degree or will brag about which famous coaches they know or have relationships with.

These guys will try and baffle you with terminology BUT more times than not will fail to acknowledge or understand the youth equation. They either don’t understand the youth game or they are so stuck in their ways, they won’t admit it is a different animal in so many ways.  Amazingly- ask these guys how well their own teams did, they will usually side step that question like it is a pile of dog poop or like politicians NOT answering a debate question they want to avoid. Most of these coaches don’t win when they are coaching youth football and will often blurt out excuses like; ‘who cares about winning a youth football game, only High School ball matters.”

I had an interaction with one of these guys lately. He is one of the “Pro Style” football guys who thinks that because the NFL Coaches know more than anyone else, their style of offense is the only one that truly takes advantage of all the opportunities on the field. In a recent “history lesson” he shared some wisdom of the late great Tiger Ellison- the inventor of the Run and Shoot Offense.

This is one of Ellison’s quotes: “One major change we would make … give the offensive unit one hundred of its practice time, and the defensive group the same for defense.  We would select the 11 best boys for the offensive unit and the second best from the defensive unit, feeling that in the time the second best boys would be able to do a better job on defense than the number one offensive group with only a fraction spent on defense” – Tiger Ellison“We concluded that fun football leads to optimistic football which proceeds into positive football that gives birth to winning football” – Tiger Ellison. The expert added, Major points for me that I quoted : that can be used for anyone at any level.

So he said Tiger Ellison’s approach was good for all levels including youth football, this message was trotted out in front of a group of youth football coaches. Let’s look at the average youth football team to see how that works out in real life. It is non select, it has 24 kids and it plays in one of the 83% of youth football leagues that has a minimum play rule.  So if you chose to follow Ellison, you are going to put all of your studs on offense and then all the rest of your “best” players, the top 11 are on offense. The 13 who are left over, which include all of your minimum play requirement players will be required to play defense.

So on offense where a missed block or assignment may mean a loss of yardage, will have all of your best players. On defense where a missed tackle can often times result in a TOUCHDOWN, will have all of your weaker players, none of your studs and ALL of your minimum play players.  Expect to get rolled- scored on in every possession. Because against average or better teams, that is exactly what will be happening to you. In real life youth football, your offense is going to need to score every time AND that offense will be playing against teams that choose to play kids both ways, or may even be playing some of their better players on defense only, good luck with that. One turnover, a penalty, a negative yardage play that puts you behind the chains and you don’t score? You lose the game. In real life you will lose most of your games by big margins.

It’s a Different Game in MANY Ways

Youth football isn’t Pro, College or even High School football. We don’t have 100+ man rosters, endless amounts of practice time and 11 coaches on staff. It is a TOTALLY different equation. Thank goodness some of the “Renaissance Men” who know so much about the game fail to recognize or acknowledge that. But that should come as an encouragement to most. You don’t have to know the most about the history of the game or even have a volume of knowledge and 100 football books in your library. You need to know what WORKS in youth football and focus your limited time on understanding that priority rather than trying to master knowledge over a subject area that will for the most part do you little good when it comes to coaching youth football and winning games.

This story reminded me of the movie “Cold Mountain” a Civil War film about a rural family enclave making it through the war. Nicole Kidman plays the part of a very smart, extremely well educated lady, trained in the fine arts, French Literature, European Culture and World History. Her character is starving on an abandon plantation until she is rescued by the uneducated, crude and poorly thought of Renee Zwelleger character. The deal was, while Kidman was thought to be far more intelligent and knowledgeable than Zwelleger, Zwelleger had the “applicable knowledge” needed to be successful in that situation. That’s so close to what I see in youth football.

Cool Out You Can Win Anyway

Let me close in saying Tiger Ellison has forgotten more about football than I will ever care to know. However, that does not make him an expert in coaching youth football in 2017. That should give hope to every aspiring youth football coach out there. Back in the 80’s I coached against my former DII College Head Coach. He had coached DI and DII very successfully. Long story short, he is coaching his grandkids team and my team knocked the doors off his team.  He had much more knowledge of the game than I did, but I knew what worked in youth football. Remember it doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what your kids know and what your kids know better work in the youth game.  Apply what works in youth football- found out from guys who have consistently won in youth football and YOU WILL DO JUST FINE.  Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan Book

Winning Youth Football Book

Game One Youth Football Season 2016

Written by Dave on March 13th, 2017










Game One Youth Football

So the hay Is in the barn, it’s time to show the parents if your team has been prepared well, how did we do in game one youth football season 2016 ? Again, this is for your benefit, to help you see how others do things, facing the very same issues you face.

Game one can be kind of a crapshoot for many youth football coaches. With just 3-5 weeks to get ready for game one, how are they going to look? Most of the time you have no clue what the other team is going to do, because there isn’t any track record yet. My team had 16 kids new to football on it. NONE of the backfield starters or our Center had never taken a snap in a tackle game.

Our normal pregame routine is just 40 minutes, but we needed more time than that so we went 50 minutes. BUT, helmets were off for all but the last 10 minutes and when players weren’t in, they were in the shade. We went through all the warmups and prep detailed in the Game Day Management DVD. Per that approach the last 10 minutes was full contact to the ground 3 Level Oklahoma drills, to get the juices flowing. Game Day Management DVD

Normally I watch the other team warm up instead of my own, but with all the new players and coaches, I worked the pregame focused on my team. It was a very hot and humid day at home in our field turf stadium. The usual goals were talked about once more before we took the field: No turnovers, get 2 turnovers from them, score on every possession, limit them to one score, effort to the whistle and gang tackle. To quiet any nerves I talked about the fact that all of us were going to make mistakes today and that was ok, as long as we shook it off and gave great effort. Don’t get uptight if a coach asks you to realign a bit or coach you up a bit. I smiled really big and told them to just go out and have fun, the game will take care of itself and that I was proud of how far they had improved in just four weeks.

We had practiced the coin flip with our 3 captains and they knew exactly what to say. We want the ball, no matter win or lose the flip, no matter what the other team says, the ONLY words you can say to the ref is “we want the ball”. Once the ref says you can’t have the ball, THEN they look to me to determine which goal to defend. The opposing team won the toss, deferred to the second half and we returned the ball to the 40 to start the game.

On offense we went 7 plays in about 2 ½  minutes to score the opening touchdown. While we are a no-huddle team, we weren’t going rapid pace and since it was game one, the referees were slowing things down a bit to let these fourth grade defensive players the chance to get lined up properly. We kept is simple, a mix of off-tackle runs, wedge runs and one sweep.

Defensively the other team went 3 and out after starting with a promising 4 yard gain on the first play. We scored in 4 plays, this time on a counter play that wasn’t defended very well. Neither of our onside kicks were even close. Defensively we held them to 3 and out as they started to panic a little. A second down incomplete play action pass set up a third and long and we got an 8 yard loss thanks to a well defended bootleg play.

We opened up the playbook here as it looked as if we were going to be able to handle this team. As we neared the end of the first quarter we had already scored twice and the other team hadn’t got a first down yet. We had just two “striped” players, while the opposing team was also small, with just one. They had good but not great speed in their backfield. They were aligning well, correct on our unbalanced and getting lined up well on offense and getting their snaps and ball exchanges off well. They just weren’t coming off the ball fast and their pad level was too high.

End Result

We threw an interception on first down on a ball that shouldn’t have been thrown. No biggie, the QB got a smile from me and a “let’s not throw that one next time, you’re OK” spiel from me. We shut them down and ended up dominating 38-6, with a late score coming against all of our backups- which is fine by me.

The kids were excited and proud. I let them know I liked the effort, talked about how we did against our goals. No fumbles, but one turnover. We only got one turnover back, we efforted pretty well, had just one penalty and no serious injuries. Some things I saw that I didn’t like: we blocked the wedge well, but our backs didn’t run it well. They were either staying in the wedge too long or busting it outside the apex without giving it a chance. Our kick out blocks were often at poor angles and it was a big bang, then nothing, no stick to the defender with movement. Our kicking game was poor. Defensively we slow played the backside well. Our Defensive Tackles were aligning well and doing their jobs. Our Defensive Ends weren’t challenged and our Linebackers were ok. We had no issues getting all of our minimum play players their snaps, but it was a blowout, so we hadn’t really been challenged. Our coaches had done a very good job of following our game plan to fill that requirement.

It was an OK first game against a pretty weak opponent, but there were so many things we needed to work on. We would be looking for improvement in practice this week. See what we did on the next post.

2 Comments | Posted In: 2016 Season

Recruiting One on One in Youth Football

Written by Dave on March 9th, 2017








Most programs have to hustle to get players, they need some help when it comes to recruiting players one on one in youth football. What do you say? How do you say it? How do you approach it?

New players are the lifeblood of youth football programs, if you don’t get them the program withers up and dies. For most of us, we compete for players with other programs and let’s fess up, we compete with other sports too.

While nothing is a better recruiting tool than word of mouth praise from your parents, there may be times where your coaches need to go out and press some flesh. Or even when a possible new parent calls you up and asks for more information on your program.

Most guys who are recruiting one on one in youth football just blather out what they think is important. We all need to have our 30 second “elevator pitch” of what sets our programs apart from others. What are your unique selling points that are important to most parents and unique to your program? Every program is different. No one wants to listen to you for 10 minutes about how great your program is, they are going to decide on your programs credibility in that first 30 seconds.

Unique Selling Points

Some Selling Points May Be:

Coach Training

New or Newer Equipment

Helmet Reconditioning/ Brand of Helmets

Close Practice Facilities

Shaded Practice Areas

Safe Practice Facilities

Game Fields- Stadium

Coach Background Checks

Unique Practice Approaches

Former Players Success at High School and College Levels

Partnerships With Schools

Awards Won

Retention Rates

Championships Won

Coach Certifications- CDC etc

Parental Support

Short Season/Long Season

Safety Protocols

Coaching Pedigrees

Player Awards

Team Character and Chemistry Programs

Speed Camps

Position Group Camps

Special Training

Out of Town Travel

League Makeup/Size/Quality

Web Site/Communications


Fund Raising/No Fundraising

The Conversation

The deal is every parent has their own set of needs and goals. While you may have a lot of information that YOU feel is important to share, the parent may only be interested in a sliver of information. If someone calls me about our program I always start off by personalizing it and asking what their sons name is and how old he is. Then I use the players name in every question- let them tell you what is important to them.   It might go something like this, “ Joe, what kind of program are you looking for for Trevor to play in next season.” Then address the things that Joe is interested in.

Whatever he asks, make sure to let him know that it is important and you understand his concern. If Joe talks about Trevor not being a great athlete and Joe is interested in Trevor being part of something and making friends, you need to talk about your minimum play rules, retention rates, your buddy system and how you bring teams together in an inclusive way. If Joe talks about wanting to play in a competitive league, I would talk about the 3 players from one of our league programs that all started in the NFL in the same week last year.  I would talk about film study and Hudl. I would talk about some of your coaches pedigrees. If Joe is concerned about daddy favoritism, I would talk about how we evaluate players using a point system that all coaches have input on and the fact our Pee Wee team had 5 coaches and just 2 were starters, neither of them at Quarterback.

At the end of the conversation you can let loose with your 30 second elevator pitch and then let Joe know that this is an important decision. He needs to understand it needs to be a good fit, so let’s be very frank.  Ask if there are any other concerns at all that would stand in the way of Trevor playing football for you next year.

At the end of the day, you can’t be all things to all people.  Make sure you close with the standard: “We don’t make any guarantees on positions or starters. It’s based on merit, attendance and team needs. We aren’t for everyone, but the kids that do decide to play for us, seem to have fun, make progress and develop a love for the game.”

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Need more players? Need to get in front of more parents? For more information on how to step by step rccruit youth football players in VERY unique and inexpensive ways for your youth football program- download my free book on “How to Start and Manage a Youth Football Program”Free Book Download

Week 4 Youth Football Practice- Game Week

Written by Dave on March 7th, 2017










Week Four Youth Football Practice- Game One

No there is nothing wrong with you if you are panicking a bit in your week four youth football practice leading up to game one. Some guys wake up at 3 am and can’t get back to sleep, some wake up at 6 am and the first thing they are thinking of is how the heck they are going to put a descent product on the field for game one. This will be a bit different practice compared to weeks 1-3. Again this is a break down on how my 2016 grade 4 team prepared for the season in the hopes that you can pick up some ideas you can use. We had 16 kids new to football and 8 veterans.

Day One

This week it’s ok to do more work in full team, but don’t do what most guys do and neglect to continue build your fundamentals. Remember the teams that consistently win commit to and are extraordinary at the ordinary, they never beat themselves. This week we are on defense on day one, with indy and group making up about 50 minutes of practice. The rest is full team, but we add in some bigger tackling circuits where we can work in larger groups with the entire team participating. This means drills like 3 Level Oklahoma, 3 on 1 Gang Tackling Drill, 3 on 1 fumble recovery drills and dummy tackling relays.

Being this is the first game, we have no clue as to what type of offense and defense the team we are playing runs. So how to you prepare for something, you don’t have time to prepare for everything? Team defense made up nearly 45 minutes of practice. In defensive recognition and pursuit drills we aligned against the  following sets: Double Tight Full House, Double Tight Wing right/left, Twins, Trips, Double Slot,  Double Wing and Unbalanced. You can’t rep every play you might see, so the youth football plays we repped with coaches in the backfield spots were: off tackle power, dive, sweep, split flow run, counter, jet sweep,  bootleg, power pass, bubble, and smoke screens and waggle pass. While we want to be in zone, we just ran out of time and continued to be in man for game one.

Day Two

Practice two of the week was all about offense. For game one we would have 9 plays in and 2 formations. We had the base complementary play series down pretty well and got into the second series as the week progressed. Many failing youth coaches go into that first game thinking they need to have their entire offense in. You can have it “in” but in all likelihood, you won’t be executing it to any degree of consistency or high quality.

Day Three

Practice three was a combination of offense, defense and special teams and included just 20 minutes of group work. Now is the time we put a stake in the ground as to what we could and couldn’t run in a real game. For us, we won’t run anything we can’t consistently execute for 19 of 20 plays with the first team. For this practice, as we always do, subbed in on every rep, 2-3-4 kids. This helped our kids get great at substituting while allowing for some conditioning as the team was set about 20 yards from the sidelines.

Day Four

Practice four was a non padded walk through practice. This consisted of us running all of our special teams on and off the field and executing all the special teams on a full field for nearly half the practice. We did defensive recognition for about a fourth of practice and team offense with substitutions and using the wrist coaches for about one fourth of practice.

After this last practice we got together to strategize on how we were going to get all of our kids their required plays, rotations and basic game plans. Each coach had his position group on offense and defense, but also had other duties as well. I laid out what was expected of each coach, the type of information and how it would need to be communicated to myself and our players.  How did we do in game one? Check back next week.

For more details on our defense, offense, special teams and game day mangement- check here: Winning Youth Football Book and DVDs



No Huddle Play Calling Systems

Written by Dave on March 1st, 2017


Wrist Coach

Wrist Coach

Lots of youth  football teams want to go no huddle. They use a variety of no huddle play calling systems to communicate with their players. Some work well and are simple, others work well and are difficult and some don’t work very well at all.

Going no huddle can save your team a lot of practice time and allow you to run a lot more plays. The average youth football team runs about 40 offensive snaps per game. My personal teams haven’t huddled in the last 19 seasons and we are averaging about 60 offensive snaps in non-mercy rule games.

First of all, let’s all get on the same page. Youth football players practice less than High School, College and NFL players. While they may be fairly intelligent, they aren’t as smart as the kids 10-20 years their senior. Secondly over 80% of youth football leagues have minimum play rules. Most youth football coaches are going to insert their weaker minimum play players on offense. It is imperative that ALL players, including your minimum play players understand which play is being run. The facts are some of those minimum play players often times have attention or comprehension issues that get in the way of them being able to consistently decipher or remember complicated codes.

Let’s take a look at some of the no huddle play calling systems youth football coaches like to use: code words, wrist coaches, boards and hand signals.  Each has it’s positives and negatives, like anything it is a tradeoff.

Code Words

Positives: Cheap. Can audible fairly easily. Can get plays in quickly.

Negatives: Kids have to learn and remember what each code word means. Your opposition can easy figure out which code word means. If your base play is called “Rose” and you run it a few times, the defense and their coaching staff will easily decipher the code. If you play in a league that scouts, expect that team to know all of your play calls by heart. If you want to change those calls and say you have 15 plays, that would mean ALL of your kids including your minimum play kids would have to remember a new set of codes every week. Good luck with that.

Wrist Coaches

Negatives:Cost- you will need one for every player. So outfitting a team of 25 would cost you about $150. Printing the inserts for the Wrist Coaches the first time is kind of a pain. After you do it once, not an issue. Probably takes you 30 minutes to print em up, laminate them and insert into the wrist coach. They stink- you have to wash them every week otherwise they will smell. Noise- if the wind is blowing real hard, sometimes difficult for the kids to hear the code.

Positives: Works like a charm. No need to memorize anything except which number in the sequence is live. Then just correspond it to what is written on the card on the wrist coach.  All players no matter their ability can easily understand which play is being called, nothing new to remember. You can easily put 20 different plays on the smaller wrist coaches and 30 on the larger ones. Can get plays in quickly. Audibling is simple, wrist coach is on non down hand.

Hand Signals

Positives: Cheap. If you have more than one coach signaling in, difficult for the other team to decipher.

Negatives: Again kids now have to learn another “language”, can all of your kids including your MPRs remember what each hand gesture means? Can all of your players see to the sidelines for the signal? Audibling is tough, especially if kids are already down in their stances. Can take time to get plays in if multiple guys are signaling in.

Picture Boards

Positives:Looks- yeah now you look like Oregon. Can work- kids have an easier time associating an image to an action than remembering hand signals or code words.

Negatives: To have a bunch of giant posters and rotate them so the corresponding play is shown on the board takes a tremendous amount of effort and coordination. Most youth programs don’t have the personnel to take on that type of effort. Could you imagine the chaos you would have on the sidelines as your sign person follows you the play caller up and down the sidelines with a stack of signs, trying to hustle up to find and display the right sign as you hurry up to call the most efficient play? Audibiling- really? Your’re going to change the play at the Line of Scrimmage- so the kids are now going to stop and look at a sign that your sign guy may or may not have been quick enough to display?

Some youth football coaches do this no-huddle thing just to look “cool”. Remember the goal of no-huddle is to get more plays in, being able to audible on every play after you’ve lined up and score more points. If you go all 007 and have to remember a bunch of secret codes or hand signals that are hard to remember and you can’t change the plays easily- don’t bother.

My personal teams have averaged about 35 points per game over the last 19 seasons in 5 different youth footbal leagues running this no-huddle approach- see our scores here: Dave’s Teams Scores To see exactly how we do it, go to chapter 18 of the “Winning Youth Football” book or the “Game Day Management” DVD. Winning Youth Football Book and Game Day Management DVD

Winning Youth Football Book

Week Three Youth Football Practice

Written by Dave on February 28th, 2017

Week Three Youth Football Practice

Lots of youth football coaches want to know about schemes and drills, but what matters most is what and how you practice. Here is a post to help you understand what you should be working on in Week Three Youth Football Practice.

Week Three Youth Football Practice

The first day of week three for most youth football coaches, means you are two weeks away from your first game. Some guys start to panic and in an effort to get their team to look “like they are playing team football” they tend to ignore some key developmental areas. Some jump ahead to try to get their kids prepared for every scenario in one inch of water instead of going six foot deep in areas they need to excel in.

This is how I coached my age 9-10 team in 2016. This week you need to invest the majority of your practice time in individual and position group drills, but instead of the 2/3 indys/group to 1/3 in team ratio, we might bump that up to 60% indy and group drills and 40% team. I totally understand your apprehension, you don’t want the kids to fail and you don’t want to look like an idiot either, but most of your progress, teaching and quality control effectively happens in indy and group, not team.

The practice time ratio breakout this week was 45% defense, 45% offense and 10% special teams. So many guys will invest the majority of their practice time in offense this week, but the guys who consistently win know they need to spend just as much time on defense.

We had some weather issues. Always have a backup plan for weather problems, no one can afford to lose any practice time in week three. We have several options: chalk and walk under the shelter, SOMETIMES we have school gym space (always asking in advance to make sure we are following all the protocols) and we have person in our program who has a big warehouse space OR we can try to schedule a practice day for a day we aren’t practicing. But that means we have to count on that extra day being dry too. At the end of the day- have alternates lined up. One year we worked out in a church gym, right now is a good time to be looking at backup plans.

At the End of Week Three Youth Football Practice- We Had the Following in:

Offense- Four Running Plays, Hard Count, One Passing Play, One adjustment, Two Formations. We can hit inside wedge, off-tackle, wide, counter, inside trap and play action pass, all off almost the very same implied intent backfield action.

IN – means 19 times out of 20- 95% every player is attacking at the right angle, blocking the right person, ball exchanges perfect, fitting with correct pad level/head on the correct side with the FIRST TEAM. While we usually do 11 in 11 out on every rep on both Offense and Defense, not all players are going to hit that standard. While our goal is to coach everyone up, we would never make any progress if 100% of our players had to fit that standard.


Defense- Base Man Defense, All Defenders proficient with one block destruction technique, every defenders proficient with base alignment and base read. We have alignment down on the following sets using our team defensive recognition drills: Double Tight Full House, Double Tight Wing Right/Left, Twins Right/Left, Trips Right/Left and Double Twins.  We worked the front six live a bit later in the week and the back five live in skeleton some as well.

We finally did on the last day about 15 plays of “live” versus ourselves. I’m not a huge fan of this, since the first team rarely gets very good looks against what is left over. We get our competitive contact done during Indys and Group. Unfortunately my 120 email requests for a very controlled scrimmage against outside competition was not answered by anyone.

Special Teams- Kickoff Team with kicker set, Kickoff Return Team set and practiced. Working on but not proficient at onside kick recovery to both first and second line on both kickoff return and kickoff. No PAT or deep kicks have been practiced just yet.


On a side note, one of our rookie players missed the first week due to vacation. He was struggling to catch up, so we set expectations with the parent, that for his safety we were planning on sitting him the first game. At first they were a bit put off, but once we talked about what he was struggling with and how that could be dangerous for him and his teammates, they were fine with it. He would be a captain, but not have his pads on for game one. Do we dislike vacations? Yep but family comes first and football isn’t always the overriding priority with all families.

The Team

Our team had a descent line, however we were extremely short athletes who could play in space. Like I mentioned before with just 8 returning players and 16 rookies from a League Championship Team, due to going from double grade to single grade divisions. We had lost ALL of our starting Running Backs and Receivers, with just a backup Wing with any playing experience handling the ball. We cross trained the Fullback with the Quarterback, since the Fullback was a pretty fair athlete, smart and had played a lot of organized baseball and basketball. He didn’t have the burst or body control our Quarterback had. We also made the decision to move the less mobile Blocking Back to Power Tackle, the position he had played the year prior. Our goal was to have this player start at Power Tackle and play backup at Blocking Back, our H-Back position.  Our rookie Blocking Back had some very nice raw ability, ok size, but was really struggling with the playbook and proper technique. Yep, just like you-we were taking a calculated risk, but buying insurance by cross training the slower player who had a better grasp of the offense.

We were extremely young, inexperienced and lacking any type of real knowledge of how our starting  backs and in-space players would respond in a real game like situation. Our starting Quarterback/Monster had left our overnight camp thing at about 1:00 am due to being scared, so we were sweating it a bit. While he had some ability and efforted well, he wasn’t very big and Alpha Male he was not. This was an extremely difficult equation to solve. Just like the type of seasons you guys have. Hopefully you can learn from what I’m going to share with you about this season over the next 60 days.

The positives were, all the coaches were on the same page, even though I had never met two of them,  both coaching tackle football for the first time. We hadn’t lost any kids. As always we did NO agilities, cals or set aside conditioning and the coaches were good with that. So the progress we were making was approaching the real limits. The effort and obedience was good, after a struggle in week two to keep a couple of rookie players on track. Attendance had been outstanding with the exception of the one player who missed a week due to vacation, which happens. So at this point we knew what our strengths and weaknesses were. We were doing our best to try and backfill and to work around our weaknesses.

If we could come together, make it past our first few games so the kids could develop some confidence and be injury free with our backs and in-space players, we might have a chance to have an ok season. We were kind of going for broke the way we slotted kids into positions. Check back in to see how it turned out.

Our weekly minute by minute practice plans can be found here: Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan Book

Winning Youth Football Book