Youth Football Coaching - Practice Organization
Organizing your practices is probably the most important aspect of determining your teams chances for success at playing at their full potential. Don't try to wing it every day with ambigous directions for your assistant coaches. This is a good way to create dissention within your coaching staff and your parents. Come prepared every practice with a written practice plan of what will be covered, in what order and for how long. This will stop any power struggles that may occur within your coaching staff.
The Practice Plan
Plan your practice down to the minute and stick with it. Hand the practice plan out to your staff before practice starts. When I first mentored under a coach who took this approach, my first impression was wow, he must have a lot of time on his hands, but as we progressed through the season, I realized that we never wasted time at practice on arguing what should be covered next, there was no question about what should be done and when. I discussed this in length with the head coach at the end of the season and he indicated that he would make notes to himself for what to alter for the next practice. For example, if he felt we should have run a drill longer, he would not alter from the practice plan, but would make a note for future reference to run the drill for 15 minutes instead of 10. Thus, he did set the presedence for a flood of changes to the practice plan.
After your initial team cals and warm-ups, seperate your backs and line for individual work then bring them back together later. The practice plan must keep in mind the long-term goals of performing well in all three areas of the game: defense, offense and special teams. It must match the goals that you have for improvement in certain areas, without neglecting maintenance of areas your team is doing well in.
Many coaches are used to putting the offense in first, putting the defense in later and then working special teams the week before the first game. This is not the way to go. DEFENSE needs to be first. If your opponent can not score, they can not WIN. The game is made up of three equally important aspects and at the youth level you can win many games with good defense and well coached special teams. Implement your defense, rep it over and over, fit and freeze, and first step and freeze drills. Focusing on defense, then special teams and then offense will allow your teams to win field position, great defense, excellent clock management.
Don't waste a lot of your valuable practice time running old fashioned conditioning or agility drills. Condition your players well by running plays out 20 yards or doing rapid-fire pursuit or kick-off and punt coverage drills. Put your players in a situation where they are having fun while learning football and they will get all of the conditioning they need.
Fit and Freeze
This should be a major part of your defense, special teams and offensive practices. It is the best way for your players to learn and understand what they need to do on offense and defense. A player will tend to play very tentatively until they feel confortable with their assignment. Walk your players through the play. Call out the count, shift, down, ready, set, go, snap and call out 1. The players take their first step, check that your linemen are making the first step correctly. Make sure your backs are heading in the right direction. Count 2, 3, etc. until the linemen and the backs make contact where they are supposed to go. Once they make contact they freeze so the coaches can make sure of proper head and foot placement. When they have it down while walking though it then jog through the play and finally run it at full speed.