Advice For WINNING That Big Youth Football Game
A good number of you are still playing games and for many of you, you are heading into that championship game. For some of you, it’s a big deal, you are trying to make it to the next level and maybe a trip to Orlando or Las Vegas. For others it may be a league championship, division crown or just an extra game against an old rival. In any event, you are looking for that last minute edge.
At this time of year I’m getting a lot of e-mails and phone calls asking for assistance in these kind of games. For a few trusted friends I may even look at their Hudl film or scouting video. For others I’m giving advice on how to attack a specific front, a specific approach or even how to defend a specific offense or grouping of players.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a good friend on the West Coast. He took over a weak 1-7 team from a historically struggling program. This year they are 9-0 so far and tying to make it to the big dance. His problem was, none of his kids have ever played in a big game AND he felt like they played tight and poorly in their Division Title game last week because of nervousness. None of the teams in this program have ever done anything and our hero just moved to this locale last year. His team has been drawing big crowds, as this area is starved for a winner. My friend had been very successful running my WYF system in his previous program, but success is very uncommon where he is at now.
If you are faced with a situation like this, it can really put your kids into a funk. Nervous kids play slow, they make mistakes, they play hesitant, they get flustered easily and they don’t make big plays. You can’t just wait until game day to get them to play a little looser. The week leading up to the game is where you have to start addressing this.
While we ALL are hurting for practice time and scheming our brains out at this time of year, you HAVE to invest some of that very precious practice time to make sure the kids are happy and loose. Once it gets dark, do something like a full speed King of the Boards blocking game. You don’t need a lot of light for this one and the kids love it. Meanwhile you are enforcing some basic fundamentals, that many coaches mistakenly fail to work on the last weeks of the season. Match up players of similar skills and then match them up on our Board Drill right from the book. The players that think player “A” is going to win stand up, the players that think player “B” is going to win sit. When the winner is declared the kids who chose wrong have to do 5 pushups. The kids really get into rooting for their selection, usually resulting in competing chants of both players names being yelled across the field. You keep having competitions until a final winner for the entire team is declared as a single elimination tournament. So the FIRST step in making sure your kids play loose in that weekend game is to make sure you are still having fun during the week.
Bring the kids together after practice is over and let them know what your main goal is, which is to HAVE FUN. Now I’m as or more competitive than 99.9% of the population, but the reason kids sign up to play football is to have fun. Let the kids know that the goal is to have fun and for the team to play to the best of its abilities. Make them yell it back to you in that weeks practice and BEFORE the big game. What is our main goal? To HAVE FUN!
If you do that, the wins and losses are going to take care of themselves. Smile real big, let them know how proud you are of them RIGHT NOW, before the game even takes place. Let them know that you know they are going to play their very best and that while they are out there, to embrace the experience and have a great time.
I also like to tell a little joke and chew on an apple in the pre-game talk. Am I nervous inside? OF COURSE, but the kids never see that. What they see is someone smiling, having fun, encouraging and in control of his emotions. That is what they need to see, so they can open up and play the best game they have inside of them. Coaching youth football successfully is so much more than Xs and Os.
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