Back in December I was flying to Germany to do a youth football coaching clinic in Dusseldorf, on the plane I saw an ad for the Esquire Network Show, “Friday Night Tykes.” After the first episode in January, I got nearly 100 e-mails asking me what I thought. After sending out a few dozen e-mails and tiring of cutting and pasting all those e-mails, it made sense to just blog about it so everyone could see. The goal is to learn from the show and be able to respond to those youth football haters out there by understanding what they are seeing and talking about. The easiest way to do this is to go team by team.
The Judson Junior Rockets continue to disappoint and lost big again to the Broncos. While the coaching staff seem like great guys who are great sports and they treat their players well, their youth football coaching abilities are poor. Even in the last game, their kids were still in poor stances and their Defensive Line played very high. Their defensive alignment was poor and they didn’t set the edge well, it was very easy to reach block their Defensive End and sweep them to death. It was obvious they value talent over coaching as they talked about how one good player should be able to carry a team, when talking about the Broncos.
The Broncos are “vying” for a playoff spot in this episode, trying to get to 4-4. Charles the head coach as always is the workhorse, getting lights and a portable generator to practice so the kids can practice after daylight savings time goes into effect. This team seems to be coming together a bit with a backyard barbeque and Halloween event and more kids look to be engaged. I’m glad to see Charles stood up to the team mom about trophies. She wanted trophies for all the kids, he was adamant that no trophies should be awarded since they hadn’t won anything.
While this team has gotten better, they are still making a lot of mistakes. The coaching staff doesn’t coach hard enough in practice. On one scrimmage rep, a defender makes a tackle with his head behind the runner and nothing is said to the tackler. Same goes for numerous high tackles, kids don’t get better if you don’t correct them. I still see poor stances this late in the season and no one is correcting them. They also waste valuable daylight with running, which at this late date is a total waste of time. Charles also brushes off an attempt by the Rockets coach to be friendly with him before the game. That was uncalled for, but that seems to be what we can expect out of Charles. Charles comments that he has lost his family, but had his “football family” to lean on. You hate to have to walk out on the kids you coach, but your own family should always come first in my book.
The undefeated Colts take on the undefeated Outlaws this week in a big game that will decide the league championship. On the positive side of the ledger they do seem to have invested a lot of time scouting the Outlaws and they seem to be loose in the week leading up to the game. They talk about outworking their opponent. I like that they did a lot of their defensive and offensive scout without pads. In the game, the execute several split flow buck sweeps to near perfection. They reach the edge defender, they seal the Outside Linebacker with the Wing and their Pulling Guard gets a pad on the playside Inside Linebacker. The exchange and fakes are tight and they have an excellent back in #28 who scores on both football plays. This isn’t one of those hand it to the fastest kids and watch him make a play, they can block and execute.
However there is plenty of bad to go along with the good. While the Colts do make enough key blocks to move the ball in the first half and take the lead, their blocking isn’t consistent enough and their tackling is poor. Their kids are in the right position to make the tackle, but they don’t finish, they overpursue and they don’t gang tackle well. But what loses this game for the kids is the mental coaching by the Colts staff.
This Colts team has won every game big and they don’t know how to respond to adversity. The kids lose all their confidence late in the second quarter when they relinquish their lead and are behind for the first time. You can see it in the kids faces and the Colts staff starts to panic. The Colts coaches celebrate too much when things go well and they get visibly down in the dumps when things don’t go well. The kids see that and emulate it.
At halftime the Colts coaches gave a clinic on what not to do. They had come just a few inches short of tying the game up on the last play of the half and were still very much in the game, but their kids were lost and down. Instead of giving the kids the boost they needed by calmly telling them all the GREAT things they had done in the first half AND telling the kids what the plan for winning the game would be in the second half, they spent the time berating the kids. Half the team is sitting down with poor body language, arms crossed and looking at the ground, the other half of the team is standing, looking at the ground and pacing. More on how to run a halftime when you are down in a later post. All the talk from the Colts coaching staff was about “wanting it more.”
The effort didn’t look bad, but the Colts made lots of mistakes. They totally blew it by kicking the ball right to Miller at the start of the second half. Miller returned the ball to the 19 and the Outlaws scored on the next play, game over. What looked bad was the Colts inability to set the edge and be disciplined on the backside on bootlegs. While the Colts staff knew what play was coming, they didn’t make any adjustments to their defensive alignment to stop what they felt was coming. Instead of making technical adjustments they just implored their kids to want it and to play harder and to “get your GD head in the game.” Cursing has no place in coaching youth football and this staff continuously curses in front of their kids and even to their kids. While it isn’t every other word, it’s still very disturbing and disappointing. One of the last things these kids need is seeing someone they respect and care about acting in a way that they will be sure to copy.
The Outlaws take care of business this week in practice and in the game. While coach Tony and Eric do a little dance to loosen the kids up in practice, Coach Fred keeps everyone on task. On the positive side of the ledger, they did a lot of things well. They executed a beautiful onside kick, that was nearly impossible to defend against. Their big Offensive Line was always getting a hat on a hat, they were consistent and knew their assignments. I saw good fakes, tough running and gang tackling from the Outlaws. Their playcalling was good, when they saw the backside Defensive End crashing on plays away, they reached that Defensive End and ran the bootleg for a score. When they saw the Colts panicking at the half and after the long runback on the opening of the third quarter, they went play action and put the dagger to the heart with a one play touchdown pass drive.
The Outlaws coaches never panicked. Up until this game, they had not been scored on. When they got scored on twice in the first quarter, I saw no panic in the Outlaw staff. They stayed cool and confident and continued to coach up their kids. In the end, this played a key role in the outcome.
It wasn’t all roses for the Outlaws, there was plenty to criticize as well. What I didn’t like was all the helmet to helmet contact in the Outlaws practices. This coaching staff does a lot of things really well, but being consistent on keeping their kids heads out of contact isn’t one of them. The Outlaws coaches also let a few curse words slip. These are 8-9 year old kids, in youth football we should have a ZERO tolerance policy on any language like that. It was very disappointing to see Coach Coley tell #28 on the Colts that he would look good in red, the color the Outlaws wear. Recruiting opposing players is always in poor taste, especially in a handshake line.
So more of the same this week, some positives and negatives. It’s tough to critique a team when you have just a few seconds of practice and game footage shot from ground level. This weeks episode was the first to show more than just a few plays. I’m hoping to get a full game film to do a more thorough analysis later this month.
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