Year End Trophies for Youth Football

Written by Dave on April 16th, 2014

2013 3-4 grade team-Trophies for youth football players seem to be a very hot issue with guys coaching youth football and an important cog in the whole process- moms. Like it or not, in most families, moms have a lot of input about whether Junior plays football or not. In 2014 there are a lot of moms out there who want everyone to get a trophy no matter the outcome. On the other side of the aisle, many youth football coaches don’t want trophies to be awarded unless the team actually won something.

So do we hand out trophies no matter what? Both sides have points that make sense, there isn’t a tin foil hat needed for any of those trying to make a case in this one. The moms think that if a player completes the season, there should be some type of reward for making it all the way to the end. I get that, youth football isn’t an easy sport. It requires a commitment and hard work. It’s dirty and hot and sometimes not very pleasant. Some kids don’t get to play the positions they want to or get the playing time they think they deserve. Most seasons don’t go as well as most had hoped they would, there are usually a lot of ups and downs, kinda sounds a little like life doesn’t it? Maybe there should be a reward for a kid sticking it out, as nearly 10% of kids playing youth football quit before the end of the season. We all want to encourage and reward commitment and persistence don’t we?

On the other side of the coin, we have coaches who feel that trophies should only go to teams and players that win something. Those on this side of the fence often times feel it cheapens the competitive spirit of the game by making sure all the kids get the same reward regardless of inputs. Many of these coaches feel it is a bit communistic, making sure kids get the same reward when the work done by one team is clearly more consistent and committed than another team. Many of these coaches feel our society has gone too soft. They have grown sick of everyone being hyper sensitive about anyone getting their feelings hurt or anyone getting a sliver more of something than anyone else, even when it’s the result of additional work or effort.

Both sides make sense on this one and maybe there is some middle ground. For the very youngest kids say 8 and under, maybe it makes sense to reward the kids for participating until the end of the season. That means attending the majority of the practices until the end of the season. I don’t see a lot of harm in that approach. But once they reach 9 or above maybe in makes sense to start that process of teaching better inputs= better outputs. Do we really need to give an 8th grade boy a participation trophy when his team went 0-9?

In my program we give trophies out if we’ve won a championship or played for a championship. It just shows our kids that we’ve separated ourselves from other teams who chose not to commit, learn, work, listen and persevere as well as our players. During the season we have plenty of weekly Foundations process goal awards that every player has the opportunity to earn. In a 14 week season, about 40 of those awards are given out, but they are earned, not everyone gets one automatically. More on that in our Developing Chemistry and Character Step-by-Step program.

You can do other creative things without handing out trophies. At the end of every season, every player on my team gets a card stock certificate with the teams picture on it. The teams record of achievement is on it as well as an award that is specific to that player. He may have something like this on his award: Best Attitude, Best Encourager, Most Persistent Player, Most Coachable Player, Most Physical Running Back, Mr Pancake Award. There are lots of ways to reward players for working hard during a season without handing out participation trophies. There are medals, t-shirts and a myriad of other options, should you choose to get creative.

I’ve done over 180 youth football coaching clinics nationwide and I’ve asked this question at these clinics and even did an internet poll as well. With about 1,000 respondents, this is what youth football coaches said when I posed the question:

Should Trophies be given out to youth football players regardless of the seasons outcome, even if the team didn’t win many games?

Yes, every player should get a trophy every year- 9%

No, only teams that win a Division or League Championship- 38%

Every player should get a trophy, just for very young age groups, after that, only for Champions- 23%

Every player should get an award of some kind, but Trophies only for Champions-  30%

Now before anyone starts bombarding us with e-mails and phone calls, we get that not all moms want trophies all the time and not all coaches only want trophies for champions. We were just trying to frame the debate. In the end do what makes sense for your mission statement and your situation, it doesn’t need to be a big fall on your sword political battle.

Youth Football Helmets- Decals and Reconditioning- MUST DOs

Written by Dave on April 10th, 2014

helmet feathersDid you know that most experts suggest that your recondition and recertify your helmets every year? If you aren’t doing it, you could be putting your player in harms way. How would you feel or what would your parents do if one of your kids got a concussion or serious head injury and they found it the helmet hadn’t been recertified? Not all insurance providers cover negligence.

There’s another side to this coin if you are cleaning, repairing, taking old decals off and adding new ones every year, it is a major pain. That is a chore most of use HATE doing and put it off until the last minute or don’t do it at all. When you use an outside vendor to do this for you, you solve a bunch of problems. We like to  use a NOCSAE Certified vendor to recondition our helmets, because you can rest assured that the job is being done properly.  The helmets are cleaned and sanitized and worn or broken parts are replaced. Then the helmets are put through rigorous testing to make sure they meet the standards of NOCSAE.  The helmets are tested and mounted on a machine that tests them both before and after they have been reconditioned.

Those tests include various impacts in both standard and random locations on the helmet. Acceleration measurements are taken to find out of the helmet meets the Severity Index standard that measures human injury tolerance. How severe are the impacts? Some are the equivalent of running 12 mph into a flat surface.

There are several options to choose from when you are recertifying your youth football helmets. The basic service cleans them up and replaces broken or worn parts. Another service, cleans and polishes the helmet and puts on all new chin strap snaps and the screws and snaps that hold the face mask on. The service I like best, cleans and sanitizes the helmet, replaces worn or broken parts, removes all the decals and adds new decals as well. If you’ve ever been the guy stuck with taking all the war marks off of the helmets, removing all the stickers and getting all that good off the helmets, you can appreciate what these guys do. It takes me over 15 minutes per helmet and it’s not easy work.

Most of the vendors that do this will send you a bag that you use to put the helmets in and mail to them. About 3-5 weeks later you should have your helmets back looking like new. You won’t believe how they can shine up one of those dull marked up helmets, to make it look like new. I hate to admit it, but when you are coaching youth football in todays world, appearance matters. Want to turn parents off or have them going off to compare your program to others? Hand out an old dull marked up helmet with no decals on it.

When you send them in go ahead and send your decals along with.  Sportdecals has some amazing stuff they can do for your helmets at a very low cost. See the cool helmet at the top of this post. We’ve been using them for the last 6 years. When you go to their site use the coupon code: WYF2 for free shipping.

Stopping Youth Football Programs from Ruining High School Football Programs

Written by Dave on April 7th, 2014

Youth Football Guys RUINING Your High School Program?

The lifeblood of any High School football team is numbers. Over time, if a High School football team doesn’t have numbers, they won’t be able to compete, no matter how great the coaching is. So where do those players come from? Over 96% of High School football players played organized tackle youth football of some kind. So where’s the beef? The beef is many if not most High School football coaches don’t have a good relationship with the youth programs that feed players into their respective schools. Why not? Because so many youth football teams are poorly coached.

There are a lot of angry High School coaches out there because youth football teams are running off kids due to poor coaching and many of the players they do send on are uncoachable.  A Michigan State study of over 20,000 young athletes found that 70% of those youth players would not go onto play that same sport at the High School level. Why? Because of poor coaching, it’s an epidemic.

Yes, you’ve all been there, you run up on that good looking athlete in the halls and when you ask him if he would like to come out for football he says, “Nah I played when I was a kid and I didn’t like it.” Today kids have options and if they get ruined on football as a kid, there is a very high likelihood they will move on to another activity and never return to football in High School. So what are you going to do about it?

When your future kids are ruined on the game, that may ruin your future as a football coach. If you want to have consistent success at the High School level, you need a healthy relationship with the youth football programs and coaches whose kids feed into your program. Does that mean you should take over the youth program or force them to wear your colors and run your schemes? No, see the other posts below on what youth coaches and very successful High School coaches say on that subject. But if you are in an open enrollment area or you have strong private schools around, you’re going to get beat to the punch by other High School coaches if you don’t work with the youth football programs.

Does this mean you have to be best buddies with the coaching staff, parents and players of these teams? No, it just means you need to let everyone know that you care that the kids have a good youth football experience and that they know you care about and are interested in them. You are there to provide a helping consultative hand if it’s needed and be a friendly welcoming face to your future players and families. All’s it takes is a few phone calls and a brief appearance at a couple of practices and games. Want to really show you care? Go to the opening day parents meeting or the team banquet, give a 15 minute speech and head out. When I was in Omaha, our basketball teams played every Saturday morning at Kellom elementary school starting at 8:00. Every Saturday morning no matter how bad the weather was Central High School’s head coach Eric Behrens was there. He rarely stayed longer than 15-20 minutes, he would say hello to the coaches, kids and parents. He would glad hand some, call everyone by first name and then slip out a side door. During my time there he won something like 5 straight state titles in the largest class.  A little bit of effort can go a long way in providing some guidance and a warm face to a program  that may end up impacting your job performance in a major way.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included.


High School Coaches Connecting With Your Youth Programs

Written by Dave on April 7th, 2014

Yes, anyone that has coached High School football long enough has said that at one time or another. When you struggle to connect with the youth teams that feed into your program, you are at the mercy of the youth coaches. How so? If the kids they are coaching don’t have a good experience or are getting beat 40-6 every week, a good number of them will move on to something else.

So do you barge in and do a hostile takeover and run things yourself? Most of us don’t have time for that and many youth programs are deeply entrenched. The last thing you want to do is create a hostile environment and alienate some of your stakeholders.

What Doesn’t Work:

Hostile Takeovers

Forcing them to run your scheme
Mandating drills

Being Negative

Ignoring the youth program

What Does Work:

Voluntary Coaching Clinic- focused on fundamentals

Making them feel they are part of your program

Youth Football Night- free admission at a home game. Recognize them at the half

Ball Boy of the Week- 1 player from youth team is allowed to help on sidelines that week

Scrimmage Night- When you have your big team scrimmage- let the youth team scrimmage during a break or after your scrimmage. Make a big deal about it

Dropping in on one of their practices or games

Designating a Varsity Youth Game Day- 2-3 of your varsity player attend each of the youth teams games with their uniform on and are on the sidelines.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included.

High School Football Coaches- How to Put on a Youth Football Coaching Clinic

Written by Dave on April 7th, 2014

How to Put on a Successful Youth Football Coaches Clinic

So now you’ve decided to put on a youth football coaches clinic, now what? How do you make it so they get something out of it? What should you teach? How should you teach it? How do you get them to come back?

#1) Be welcoming, that means donuts, coffee and juice laid out for them as they enter. Get everyones   e-mail addresses for follow ups. Make sure to have food at lunch as well. Some pizzas or subways and caffeinated beverages will go a long way in making friends and breaking ice. Have every coach from your staff and the attendees introduce themselves in front of the group. CALL THEM BY NAME. Make sure YOU do the intros for the program heads by getting their bios and welcoming them in front of the group. Let them talk for a few minutes each about what they are hoping to get out of the clinic.

2) Logistics: Have pens and notepads available, you will be shocked at how many guys show up with nothing. Send out your power points or have handouts (better) of all your presentations and drills. Break every 50 minutes for 7-10 minutes. Always start and end on time DON”T let your coaches go over their allotted time frame like many do.

3) Starting Point- Let the coaches know you are on their side and there to help them, their kids and their teams be successful. Tell them how much you appreciate the time and effort they put into coaching, get them on your side.

4) Presentations- Should be at least half demos. Film is great but DON’T feature athletic plays by freak athletes, show fundamentals done by average athletes. EVERYTHING should revolve around the topics of team management, developing fundamental skills, how to effectively teach, retention/inclusion and having fun. Nothing should be about scheme. Demos are the best teachers either with kids doing the drills or the coaches themselves. Keep the guys moving from the film and PowerPoint to demos.

5) Presentation Tips- Don’t assume anything, that means don’t talk about 3 or 6 techniques, use language they can understand and teach in progressions. This ISN’T the time to show of how much jargon or clinic talk you are able to regurgitate. Ask questions, get input and involve everyone. Use more than one presenter and don’t use this as a training ground for trotting your nervous nelly assistant to speak in front of a group.

6) Wrap Up- Thank them again for attending. Let them know you and your staff are willing to help. Share with them any follow up activities that might make sense to help the programs work together like:

Youth Football Night- free admission at a home game. Recognize them at the half

Ball Boy of the Week- 1 player from youth team is allowed to help on sidelines that week

Scrimmage Night- When you have your big team scrimmage- let the youth team scrimmage during a break or after your scrimmage. Make a big deal about it

Dropping in on one of their practices or games

Designating a Varsity Youth Game Day- 2-3 of your varsity player attend each of the youth teams games with their uniform on and are on the sidelines.

Why You DON’T Want the Youth Program to Run The High School Scheme

Written by Dave on April 7th, 2014

Yeah this might be counterintuitive, you want those kids from the youth program to come in to your program with a head start on your scheme right? Maybe not. Did you know that most youth football defenses are 5-2, 5-3, 6-2  or 7 Diamond like? One popular youth defense is called the GAM and it’s an 8-3 type look. In youth football, almost all the Defensive Ends are in 8 or 9 techniques. Do you see that much at the High School level?

The net is the defenses youth teams run are much different than what most High School coaches see, its almost a completely different equation. At the youth level about 85% of leagues have a minimum play rule- where kids have to play a certain number of plays. With squad sizes of 17-26 kids on average, it’s a bit of a different picture than what most High School coaches see with their own teams. Most High Schools have MUCH bigger rosters and no requirement to play everyone. Heck, High School coaches can send down weaker players to JV or even cut them, a much different picture than what most us coaching youth football see.

On offense in youth football,  you aren’t going to see many teams being able to consistently move the chains with sophisticated passing attacks. Zone blocking? Well for minimum play rule league like most are, those super weak kids are getting a few snaps every game on the o-line and they aren’t very adept at blocking the other teams fastest, most physical, most aggressive players in space (Linebackers), it’s a different deal for the average youth team.

The youth football guys have small rosters, they play everyone and they have a LOT less practice time to do it. All of their best kids are playing 3 ways, offense, defense and special teams. Does that sound like an equation where your offense or defense which may be PERFECT for your High School equation- makes sense for youth football?

About 3-4 years ago I took the final USA Today High School Football top 20 and called them all to ask if they required their youth football programs to run their scheme. I was able to get ahold of 18 of them, 17 of the coaches were pretty adamant they didn’t give a darn what those kids ran as long as they were having run and coming back to play.

So ask yourself would it be better if the youth kids ran something that wasn’t going to work at the youth level and they went 2-8 and lost 30% of the kids (winning and retention go hand in hand) or would it make more sense they they ran something that works at the youth level that isn’t aligned with the High School and they go 8-2 and only lose 5% of their players? Let’s say these kids are 8 years old, 8 years from now when they are Sophomores, will the High School team still be running the same scheme 8 years from now? Something to think about. Value fundamental blocking, tackling and skill development and the kids will have success and want to continue to play. That’s what almost all of the extremely successful High School football teams in America do.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included.

My Full Interview for the Wrap Up Show for Friday Night Tykes Youth Football Show

Written by Dave on April 2nd, 2014

FNT show pic

On Sunday March 23rd I was part of two panel discussions on the season ending wrap up show for Esquire Network’s Friday Night Tykes television show, the show was called “Tackling Tykes”. Like any television show of this type, not all of the discussion aired on the show, about half of it did. I don’t think this is part of any grand conspiracy to harm the game, just the everyday process most shows go through to put out a watchable show.

I was on two segments with Mike Martz, Clinton Portis, Brandon Jacobs and Dr Ameer. I’m just going to present the questions I commented on that didn’t make the cut. All of the The answers are all by memory, I don’t have a transcript of the taping.

Is the concussion problem a real problem or a perception problem?

It’s both. USA Football came out with a study that found that about 4% of youth football players get concussions, that means the vast majority of kids, 96% don’t get concussions. With the huge emphasis on concussions these days, anything that is even close to a concussion is being diagnosed as one. There is no incentive for Doctors to be anything less than over cautious, which means that 4% number is probably a little high. I have no problem with that, 4% is too high. Can we get that 4% number to 2% or 1%? I think so.

As to perception, yes that is a huge problem. Lots of people think that 30% of youth players get concussions, well the number is about a tenth of that perception. Lots of people think all these NFL guys are dying off in their 50s. The truth is the NFLPA did a study on 3.439 former players that showed the life expectancy of the NFL player is much higher than that of the average US male. Most people don’t know that.

How do you solve for the concussion problem in youth football?

Anything you do has some risk, so nothing anyone does can make the game concussion proof. Heck there’s danger in driving back and forth to practice and games in your car. But with proper coach training and practice approaches teams can have fewer concussions. My personal teams have had just 1 diagnosed concussion in the last 25 years I’ve coached. Of course we do a tremendous amount of progression based form tackling and fits that gets our kids muscle memory for tackling in a very safe position that keeps their heads out of contact. We add to that by practicing without our helmets on for about half of every practice, combined, that has worked for us. While most youth football leagues have mandatory coach training or clinics, maybe it’s time for all of them to have it.

Would you let your son play youth football?

Absolutely, I have one who is a Senior in High School, he played from 2nd grade all the way through High School. My youngest is 7 years old and he can’t wait to play.

How important is winning in youth football?

Winning is important, winning and losing are part of life. Winning validates you are doing the right things. It shouldn’t be the only or highest focus in youth football, but there’s nothing wrong with getting kids in the habit of doing what they have to do in practice to be in put in a position to win games. Winning is just the by-product of doing everything else right.

What were the most egregious error you saw from the Friday Night Tykes Coaches?

First off, each of these coaches did both positive and negative things. Some just did a lot more negative than positive. The worst one had to be Charles telling his kids to target the heads of their opponents. You just can’t do that, when combined with him telling one of his players to tee off on a defenseless Center to “set the tone of the game” was awful.

What advice would you have for the coaches of Friday Night Tykes?

Take a step back and rethink what your mission should be, why you coach. Work with some other successful coaches that you respect to come up with a mission statement. Then work on a plan to execute that mission by investing some time and effort into becoming a better coach. That may mean attending clinics, buying books or DVDs or even getting mentored by someone who can help you become a better coach. The specifics need to include; no more cursing in front of players, safer tackling and practice methods, less space in your drills, keeping the head out of tackling and a refocus on the kids fundamentals instead of obsessing on end product goals. Emphasizing the process goals of getting better fundamentally every practice as a player and person rather than winning championships. If you take care of the process goals, the winning and championships will take care of themselves.

I would like to add that the FNT crew were very professional and did an excellent job on logistics every step of the way. The host was a real pro along with everyone we came in contact with for the show. We had a youth football coaches clinic we did on that Saturday in Boston. We flew Omaha- Boston on Friday. After 7 hours on my feet doing the clinic on Saturday, we flew 6 1/2 hours that night to LA and got to the hotel and in bed at about 3:00 am. The FNT people kept the TYFA coaches and us in different hotels, different green rooms, we never mixed. We here at Winning Youth Football sincerely appreciate FNT and 411 Productions for giving us the opportunity to present the youth football coaching perspective to the show, they didn’t have to do that. They treated us with respect and great care and we appreciate that.

Why Youth Football Coaches Shouldn’t Curse When Coaching Youth Football

Written by Dave on April 1st, 2014

kids around before gamekids around before gamekids around before gamekids around before gamedave with kidskids around before gamekids around before gamekids around before gameYouth football coaches should never curse in front of their players, it shows a lack of self-discipline and lack of respect for the players and parents.  Some youth football coaches bring their everyday colorful expletive filled vocabulary with them to the practice or game fields, to the detriment of their teams. Others guys feel the need to curse to provide emphasis to whatever it is they are saying. While some will use their rough language to somehow prove they are part of their environment and won’t adjust their language because they are “keeping it real.”

One of the key attributes most youth football coaches try to instill upon their youth football players is discipline. Websters definition of discipline is : control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior, a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders, behavior that is judged by how well it follows a set of rules or orders.

When a coach uses profanity in front of children, it shows them he can’t control his own tongue or control his own emotions. That flies in the face of one of the main attributes most coaches are trying to instill in their players, discipline and self-control. Kids aren’t dumb, they look at what you do, rather than what you say. Their eyes are always on you and when you curse in front of them you are being a hypocrite and they know it.

If you are someone who curses a lot, do you curse in front of your mom and dad? How about your boss or pastor? How about in front of your kids teachers? If you said no, why not? Most would say because they feel it would be inappropriate to curse in front of those people. What they are really saying is they respect those people too much to curse in front of them. So what does that say about the people they do curse in front of? Yep, you got it, it means those people aren’t worthy of respect.

As someone that grew up in the inner-city to parents that were both blue collar workers, I grew up in an environment where cursing was prevalent. I’m no saint, I’ve said every bad curse word in the book at one time or another. But when you are a coach around impressionable young kids, it is never appropriate to curse in front of them.  Cursing is one of the first steps in breaking down the barriers of civility. That becomes a very slippery slope that can lead to some pretty nasty consequences when you are coaching youth football.

When you curse you are telling the parents that there are no barriers when it comes to language and civility. So now when it’s game time and you or the referees make a mistake, you’ve set the bar to the point where they know it’s acceptable to use that type of language against you and the referees. Bad language is the first step to a total breakdown in the civility of your crowd.  Is that healthy for your team and your young players? Do they need to be part of that type of experience?

I get why you use it sometimes, you use a strong word as a point of emphasis, to make an impact. Aren’t you smart enough to find another word, tone or method to get your point across? Sure for some it might be like hitting your thumb with a hammer and something inappropriate accidentally slips out of your mouth. If that happens you have to own it, not sweep it under the rug. Apologize to your team and let them know it was wrong and you will do your best to not do it again.

Cursing is a great way to lose your team and show inconsistencies in who you are and what you want the kids to be. Using profanity sets the behavior bar very low for your parents and players to follow.   It also is a great path to losing parents, some like me would never put up with it and vote with our feet by moving to another team. You simply can’t curse when you are coaching youth football and nearly all the successful youth coaches I’ve worked with across the country have well-disciplined teams and don’t curse in front of their players.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included.

Youth Football Reality Show Friday Night Tykes- Episode 10

Written by Dave on March 27th, 2014

tykes This is the last episode of the season, so like in the previous weeks I’m reviewing this one independently of the others. This show focused on the Outlaws State Championship run for the most part. Next week I will appearing on a panel on the show along with Mike Martz, Clinton Portis, Brandon Jacobs, some NFL Trainers and Physicians.

As always let’s take this team by team. The Jr Broncos had a short segment that centered around their banquet and trophies. Charles relented to pressure from the team mom and parents and got small participation trophies for the kids for making it to the end of the season. I’ve been one of Charles biggest critics, but it’s obvious he cares about his kids and the kids care about him. It’s a real shame he is such a poor coach and has gotten so little guidance from others.

The Colts get a few minutes of face time as their coaching staff complains about their parental support and interference. Unfortunately they didn’t do a good job of establishing boundaries and enforcing them with their parents, almost always a recipe for disaster. The out of bounds parent problems don’t surprise me, since the coaching staff shows so little discipline in their own actions. Don’t get me wrong, they do some very positive things as well, but with a few changes their program could be on top.

The Predators don’t get any camera time with the exception of Coach Brad showing up for the Outlaw playoff game in support of the league, which is great. The Rockets coach is shown for just a brief moment, planning for his 2014 season.

This week it’s all about the Outlaws and their road to a youth football championship. Again it’s tough to criticize these guys, they have blown everyone out this season. In game one versus a team from the Valley, they win handily after a bit of an early struggle. It’s “cold” and the kids seem to be a bit overly concerned with the cold. The coaches tell them not to worry about it, meanwhile almost all the coaches are bundled up like they are on a trek to the North Pole. Want the kids not to worry about the cold? Look like it doesn’t bother you. I know a coach here who wears shorts and a long sleeve sweatshirt, no matter how cold it is. Whatever the weather it is, you sell it to your kids that it’s to their advantage, even if it isn’t. Perception is everything when it comes to weather.

The Outlaws played Outlaw football and out physicaled their Valley opponent with their inside Double Tight End Power I Attack. The execution looked good in the few plays we got to see and as always the Outlaw defense pursued and gang tackled well. The Outlaw team always plays excellent special teams as well, their onside and bloop kicks and coverage are outstanding.

Leading up to the championship game there is a bit of a problem. Head Coach Fred wants everyone to travel to the game together and for the kids to do an activity the night before the game at the hotel. His goal is a noble one; keep the kids together so they can bond, make sure they eat, sleep and are hydrated well. Coach Coley and his family have other plans, supporting their local High School at Reliant Stadium on the same night. Coach Fred says there will be repercussions for violating his rules, but in the end he ends up starting his star Quarterback, Coach Coley’s son.

As a coach who has traveled quite a bit, I see both sides of this. We travel overnight almost every year, sometimes as long as 10 hours away. What seems to work well is to have everyone stay at the same hotel and have several team activities planned. You have to remember, it is the parents footing the bill for the travel, so if they want to do an activity as a family that doesn’t involve the team, you have to let them. On the other hand the Head Coach makes the rules. Even if he is wrong, as long as the kids aren’t being put in harms way, you have to abide by what the Head Coach says. You can either suffer the consequences or vote with your feet at the end of the season. The player should have been benched for the first half, the Head Coach should have followed through on his standard, even though I disagree with that standard.

As a lead up to the big game against the Cougar team from the Houston area, we got a quick peek of this team. They are big and coached by three former NFL players who are very proud of their playing pedigrees. Like the Outlaws, the Cougars are a tight split, run between the tackles youth football team who can throw when they need to.

The game started off with an excellent onside kick by the Cougars that was recovered by the Outlaws, good special teams play is the hallmark of championship caliber teams. However the difference in the game was the offensive line play. As the game progresses the Outlaw team was getting off the ball quicker and being more physical. The Cougar line was a step late nearly every time and playing high. The left side of the Cougar line was often times coming out of their stances after all the other players had taken 2 steps.  The Outlaw team was helped by a bevy of very capable backs who run hard and have very good body control with Coley, Miller and Juju.

The Cougars made a number of mistakes, the first was their coaching staff being all hyped up prior to the game. The kids understand it’s a big game, they didn’t get this far because they didn’t care. The head coach even grabbed the facemask of one of his players and violently yanked it forward, while raising his voice to the rafters. You can NEVER do that, under any circumstances, facemask yanking is a cardinal sin. The Cougars also went to just a 5 man box when the Outlaws were on the 1 yard line. I get that the Outlaws like to boot with Coley, but to have 5 in the box and players outside the Tight End and another player at Safety depth made no sense. Even when the Outlaws were gouging them inside, the Cougars didn’t have a down player in the B or C gaps. When the Outlaws went to their split backfield with  a Wing, it was always a sweep with the Wing away from the Wing side. Now we haven’t been able to see an entire game on film, but that was something that has been very consistent from the Outlaws scheme wise.  When a team is that predictable, you can make them pay, the Cougars didn’t do that.

Again, you can’t get too critical of the Outlaws. They were the better team, they were more physical they blocked, pursued, tackled and ran better than the Cougars. They executed a near perfect 2 minute drill to close out the half and break the spirit of the Cougars. The Outlaw offensive line blocks pretty well most plays, but a lot of their players false step, a common problem with kids who start in a 2 point stance. Their first touchdown was negated due to a celebration call, which I’m never a fan of. That isn’t something we’ve seen from this team and the coach was upset with the player as he should have been.

The season ended on a joyful note for the Outlaws, while others were busy planning their strategy for next season. We got to see some very poor coaching and we saw some good moments as well. Hopefully this was an eye opener for some and for all of us, lessons learned so we can all be better youth football coaches next season.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included.

Waiting to Play Football Until High School

Written by Dave on March 25th, 2014

FNT show picSome people are suggesting it would be safer for kids to wait to play football until they enter the ninth grade. While the naysayers have a number of reasons for coming to this conclusion, these points are easily refuted when you look at the equation logically and review actual data.

I recently was part of a panel of former NFL coaches, players, Physicians and trainers that critiqued the youth football reality show Friday Night Tykes. Clinton Portis felt that kids shouldn’t play until the ninth grade because he didn’t play until he got into High School. He felt that his playing sandlot football “taught me fundamentals and my own kids will have enough natural athletic ability, that they won’t need to play youth football to be successful in High School.”

While Clinton Portis or his children may possess enough natural athleticism and ability that they can play the game safely and successfully as a freshman in High School, most High School ninth graders aren’t as blessed. Portis made the Varsity as a Freshman in High School and ran a 10.6 100 Meters, that isn’t your average High School player. If you take an average or even less High School ninth grader who has little to no football training and put him in against kids who are much bigger and much more athletic, significantly high injury rates are going to occur.

Just think about this: in College and the NFL the players are playing against other players who all have from 8-20 years of playing experience. Imagine what the injury rates would look like for them if those veterans played against someone who was playing for the first time? Also consider that the NFL and College teams don’t have ultra gross mismatches, why? Because all of the smaller, less athletic weaker players get weeded out, they DON’T PLAY COLLEGE OR NFL FOOTBALL. A weak or average rookie ninth grader playing for the very first time probably isn’t even going to play varsity for his High School, let alone make it to College or the NFL. So the NFL and College players are playing on a much more level playing field. That ISN’T the case in High School football, IF all the kids were to wait until the ninth grade to play for the very first time.

You also need to take into consideration how poorly staffed most High School Freshman teams are. One local team I know of had 73 kids on one team and had just 2 coaches. Several High Schools I know of in Florida have eliminated Freshman football teams altogether. So if you don’t make Varsity or JV as a Freshman, your first year of playing would be as a Sophomore. Another team I know of had so few players that all the Freshman were put on the Varsity team, yep not having those kids play until the ninth grade would really protect those kids.

If everyone waited until ninth grade to play the High Schools would have a wide mix of the very big and very athletic playing against rookie kids who may be very weak and unathletic and with little to no playing skills. The injury rates at that level would be mindboggling. Youth players who have come up through the ranks already know how to play safely and when they were just learning, they weren’t playing against post pubescent 200 lb athletes.  The youth players start playing at an age level where injuries are rare and usually not serious. Does anyone really think it would be safer to have someone learn those skills for the very first time when they are much older, where the risk for injury is without a doubt much higher?

On the panel I was on, Clinton Portis suggested it was somehow safer playing sandlot games until 8th grade rather than playing on an organized team. I find that to be preposterous, that a self-taught player, playing in a game with no coach or trainer nearby, with just the player doing his OWN health assessment as a 9 or 10 year old would be safer than playing organized football. Portis suggested he learned all his base “fundamentals” on his own in these sandlot games, without the benefit of a coach. My personal experience of coaching thousands of young kids is that the vast majority of them tackle and block in an unsafe manner, until taught correctly. While not all youth coaches have been trained well, most of us have gone through basic concussion awareness and or first aid training and feel we are in a much better position to assess the health of a 9-10 year old player than himself or his buddies.

A lot of the criticism of youth football seems to center around injury rates for youth football. However the facts fly in the face of that criticism. The younger the players are, the less they get injured. There are a multitude of studies that back up what I’m saying. The Institute for Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York did an extensive study on youth football players that showed there is “an absence of catastrophic head and neck injuries and disruptive injuries and joint injuries found at the higher levels.” According to that study, youth football players suffered injuries at a rate of 1/3 the rate of the high schoolers. A recent study by USA Football showed that over 96% of youth football players didn’t sustain a concussion in their latest season of play, the rate for High School, College and NFL players is much higher.

It’s common sense, the smaller and less athletic the players, the fewer the injuries. As kids age up, they get bigger and faster, so the injury rates increase. There simply aren’t any 300 lb 9 year olds out there running 4.8 forty yard dashes.

In the end it’s always going to be up to every individual family to make their own decisions about their children playing youth football. We all want the best for our children. Hopefully they will look at the situation logically and study the facts and not make the decision based on faulty perceptions. While not playing football until the ninth grade may be a great model if the only goal is separating the herd for future NFL players, it does little for the average player who gains so much from participating in competitive sports.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included.