Back in December when a couple of people told me about this TV show. I thought it would be important to watch the show because parents and haters of the game are going to be watching it and talking about it. If I don’t know anything about the show or had to rely on the observations of others, how would I be able to talk intelligently about it? It would be like putting my head in the sand or like ignoring the concussion issue and singing lalalalalala with my fingers in my ears. I quit doing that on my thirteenth birthday.
On to Episode 9, as 3 of the remaining 5 teams featured on the show enter the playoffs. My critique of youth football coaching skills on the show may seem a bit harsh, but some youth football coaches and even future coaches are watching this and need to know what is kosher and what isn’t. I point out both the good and the bad so they can learn from it. I took the time to DVR this show and watch it twice as I missed a couple of things in my last episode critique. Note that all of these teams have made the playoffs and one is even undefeated, so they must be doing a number of things right. We also have to acknowledge that this segment was shot over 2 weeks and when a camera is on you all the time, you are bound to make mistakes, but there are many.
The simplest way to do this is to go team by team.
Predators– After last weeks thrilling come from behind win, they faced what I thought was a pretty well coached but averagely talented Mission Mustangs team. They played in 35 degree weather with wind and rain, not ideal conditions, especially for South Texas. What the Predators did well: they didn’t panic when they got down. When it was obvious they weren’t going to win, the coach didn’t go all negative. He laughed when one of his players dropped a pass and he noticed the Receiver was wearing MITTENS. At the end of the game, Coach Brad was 100% positive, he told the kids they fought hard and he was proud of them.
What the Predators didn’t do well: all season long the Predators have riden on the back of #28, a small running back with excellent body control and explosiveness. When the Predators score, he usually makes 2-3 guys miss. He got hurt and when a kid you rely on to do a lot on his own rather than on execution, you are in for trouble. The team knew they had no chance once this kid got hurt and it showed. There was plenty of room to run inside, but true to form the Predators tried to force running their offense to the outside with #28. They turned the ball over several times which could have been improved upon had they run some wet ball drills in practice. The head coach also let loose with some minor profanity- which there is no room for when you are coaching youth football with 8-9 year old kids.
Outlaws– The Outlaws played two games in this episode, one against a team that was not coached very well, a team from Harlingen and then the Colts. The Outlaws did a lot of things well and made a bunch of mistakes too. On the plus side Coach Fred does a very nice job of getting his kids to play in the moment, he talks about it quite a bit. I like his quote “don’t let a mistake define who you are.” They reviewed film as a team and Fred shows the kids how they let down after a big play. He lets the kids know they WILL make mistakes, to expect that, but to move on and take each play on its own. Fred isn’t happy with wins, he is about playing to potential and he wasn’t happy about game 1, I like that. It was also good to see some of the backups playing defense in that first round game. While the Outlaws have 3 very good backs, they are one of the very few teams I’ve seen on the show that chooses to run inside and they do it pretty well. This team also pursues and gang tackles well.
There were negatives as well, the Outlaws coaching staff consistently uses very obscene curse words in front of the kids during practice and games. When you are trying to teach kids about discipline, but you can’t discipline your own mouth it really hurts your credibility. This team also continues to have some high tackling issues, #28 for the Colts is knocked out of bounds with a helmet to helmet hit. Again it’s tough to criticize a team that has done so well, but if these coaches cleaned up these two VERY IMPORTANT parts of their game, they would be an amazing team most people could be proud of.
Colts– Coach Mo’s Colts team played 2 games in this episode as well, they won the first game big over a weak team and then lost to the Outlaws in the second game by 3 scores. I’m not a fan of Coach Mo’s cursing, it just flows out of his mouth as natural as water flowing down a snow capped mountain stream. That type of language has no place in youth football and even more so for an age 8-9 team. It’s not all negative though, Coach Mo does a nice job of keeping the kids loose with his attitude and antics but when it comes to game time against the Outlaws, I don’t think he took the right approach. He consistently harps on what he did in the first loss to the Outlaws- telling the kids they need to “want it” and to “focus.”
This team has a mental block when it comes to the Outlaws, in their hearts they just don’t think they can win and when that first bad thing happens, the coaches and players go into that “here we go again” panic mode. Instead of talking about wanting it, why not share your game plan of HOW you are going to beat the Outlaws and why? That is what he should have been selling to his kids, not begging them to will themselves to a win. The talk Coach Fred from the Outlaws was having with his kids about playing every play on it’s own should have been the focus. When you are playing against teams like the Outlaws you HAVE to expect them to have some success, then it’s all about how your team responds. Coach Mo didn’t prepare the Colts to respond well to adversity and it showed.
When the Colts took the opening drive and marched right down to the Outlaw 10 yard line and fumbled, you could see the desperation on the faces of their coaches and players. Instead of being thrilled and encouraging the players about the teams ability to consistently move the ball against a good Outlaw defense, they looked like they had just seen a ghost. There was room in the middle by alignment, but the Colts continued to try and make hay to the outside. With #28 aligned 8 yards from the LOS, that fast Outlaws defense had plenty of time to get to their landmarks and make plays on him. The Colts also waited to throw the ball until late in the game or on obvious passing downs. The Colts have able throwers and excellent receivers, a well timed play action pass on a few first downs or third and shorts would have made sense and opened up the running game.
After the loss it was great to see Coach Mo smile and hug his kids and tell them they played a good game and had a great season. I also loved seeing him congratulating the other teams coaching staff in the spirit of good sportsmanship. There were also some good parent shots of Colt players being encouraged by their parents for efforting well during the game.
Again, we don’t see everything that happens in practice or the games. I can only go off of what was shown in the 46 minutes of TV time. My hope is that those of you who watch the show and are coaching youth football can learn from it or respond intelligently to those who have watched the show and are talking about it.
By Dave Cisar Winning Youth Football Blog http://winningyouthfootball.com