A youth or High School coach should never underestimate the influence they have. Young athletes often choose their careers, colleges, and future ambitions based on what they learn and feel from YOU! You play a gigantic roll in the development of your football players.
Coaches at the youth and High School levels have the most important role, even compared to college and professional coaches. How your players develop carries on into their adulthood as an employee, college student, college athlete or even professional player. Your influence as a coach will have a profound impact on your player’s chances of continuing on as a college or even professional athlete! They will develop much of their confidence and self-esteem from you!
The development of a young athlete is more than teaching the fundamentals of the sport of football. Reinforcing confidence, how to make good decisions outside of football, the importance of family involvement and support, developing the player’s understanding of the team concept, and helping each athlete understand goal setting are all equally important.
Here are five things that a coach should never do when coaching and
mentoring a youth football player.
1. Never ridicule, demean, or embarrass a youth athlete in front of his peers. This includes swearing, yelling, losing your temper, acting in disgust, or posing a question to a child in front of his peers that you know he can’t answer. Act as you want your players to act. Be poised and confident. If you ask a question of a child in front of his peers that you know he can’t answer you will embarrass him in front his peers. This will also encourage his peers to act the same towards him. Teach, don’t scold. Mistakes are made to be corrected. Use the teaching moment as an opportunity to show all the kids how to do something correctly.
2. Never use conditioning as a punishment. Proper conditioning is an essential part of being a good football player. If you use conditioning as punishment you will simply reinforce a player’s dislike of conditioning. Players should be encouraged to condition as a way to make themselves better. Make conditioning fun. Create games and competitions. Change it up and do different things for conditioning. Endless repetition can create boredom and boredom creates complacency! There is no need to punish players, just teach them more effectively as that’s your responsibility as the coach!
3. Never bench a player for making a mistake. I’ve touched on this topic in a previous blog but I can’t emphasize it enough. Mistakes will happen and, as I indicated in point number one, mistakes are made to be corrected. If you bench a player for making a mistake without correcting him you will simply enhance his anxiety. Since you want your players to perform with confidence and poise, anxiety will not allow that to happen. If you teach a player what he did wrong immediately after the mistake was made, and do so in a positive way, you are encouraging that player to do it correctly. He will feel confident in the fact that you have his best interests in mind and will want to please you by correcting the mistake.
4. Never wait to correct a mistake. This is an error in coaching that I see happen far too often. If a player makes a an obvious mistake, whether fundamental or mental, that mistake must be corrected immediately. In practice this is easy as the player can be taken aside and a teaching moment can be applied. It’s more difficult in a game because, many times, a coach does not want to remove that player from the game to correct a mistake. Leaving the player in the game with the chance he might repeat the mistake is not an option in my opinion. Even though this player might be the “star” on the team, his mistake is affecting 10 other players on the field and inhibiting the team’s ability to execute properly. It is worth the effort to remove that player for one or two plays, correct the mistake, and then put him back in the game. If a player is not corrected immediately after making a mistake it is far too difficult for the player to remember what he did wrong. You can not wait until after a series is over or wait until half time to make the correction.
5. Coach all players the same. Whether it’s your starting quarterback or your fourth string running back, coach them both with the same intensity and attention. All players should be coached equally. When done this way all players will be prepared to play when given the opportunity to do so. All great teams have backup players that can perform at a high level. Additionally, as I’ve mentioned, players love coaches who have the players’ best interest in mind and not their own. Third and fourth string players who don’t get much playing time are less likely to be distractions. You know the scenario, the kid who thinks he should be playing is complaining and making a scene as he stands on the sidelines. This scenario can be completely eliminated if you coach all players the same and give them all the same opportunity to prove themselves. In the end, if given a fair chance to win a position, if a player does not win the job he knows that the other guy was better and will have no room to complain. Always teach backup players how to get better and how to win the starting job! This will also make your starting players better knowing that there is always a guy who could replace them at any time!