I have been coaching youth sports, ages 5 – 14, for about 11 years. I have coached soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and am currently a head football coach for 13 and 14 year old kids. I have found that coaching the kids can be extremely rewarding and in the same breath a lot of work. My philosophy when it comes to youth sports is, “If you teach the kids good fundamentals, and they have fun, winning will take care of itself.” .
I would like to share a check list that I have put together for the preseason work that I feel needs to be done. The kids look to us, as coaches, for guidance and we need to have our plan of attack in place as soon as possible. The more planning we can do, the more time we will have to focus on the kids, and the less likely we are to have confusion between coaches.
My preseason check list for you:
1) Make sure you understand the basic fundamentals and how they are taught. Tackling and blocking, if not taught properly, can lead to serious injury. As a youth coach you need to ensure that you are laying a good foundation for the kids to build upon.
2) Attend a coaching school, like the one USA Football has available. The USA Football coaching school in particular, gives you not only ideas for an offense and defense to run but you also get to experience hands on fundamentals experience. It’s well worth the money that you spend.
3) Select coaches that you work well with and that can add something constructive. If a person wants to coach without any experience I would certainly make sure that they attend a coaching school to better understand the game. On top of that you want to make sure the coaches you select work well together. There is nothing more stressful than a group of coaches that don’t work well together. You cannot hide a fractured coaching staff from the kids as much as you try.
4) Once you have determined who your coaches are, assign them jobs. You will find that if you assign jobs, the coaches will come into the first practice more prepared and focused on what you want them to do. Note: Once you make that assignment, hold them accountable, and try not to micro manage.
5) Make sure you completely understand the type of offense and defense you are going to run. If you are leaving the type of offense and defense you are going to run to your assistant coaches than make sure you they keep you informed on any changes they want to make to the schemes.
6) Make sure to communicate your expectations to your coaches for the season. Let them know what you expect from them, the kids, and the parents. Doing this will put you all on the same page going into the season.
7) Maker sure you understand the rules of the league you will be coaching in. Leagues should provide rule books and if your league doesn’t make sure you know where to get the information.
8) Plan your practices out or at the very least have a skeleton of a schedule that you can fill in later as you understand what you need to work on. Share this with your coaches too. Note: kids get bored fast, you have to keep them moving.
9) Prepare a letter listing your expectation to give to the parents and the players. Some other items to include in the letter are your back ground information, your assistant coach’s information, and contact information.
10) If you don’t have thick skin, prepare yourself. Parents can make the youth coaching experience tough. You will run into at least one parent, no matter what age level, that will think that their kid is next in line to sign a pro contract.
11) Remember these are kids. You can have a major life long impact on these kids and you want to make sure that the impact you have is a positive one.
There are other things that you can add to this check list. Treat this list as a living document and add to it as needed.
If there is one thing I can leave you with, it’s this; you cannot plan enough. Understand that things happen that will be out of your control and you might have to make changes on the fly. When you make changes do so with confidence, if you have doubt the kids in turn will have doubt too.