Making A Winner In Youth Football, Analyzing Your Previous Season

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After every season most good youth football coaches try to figure out ways to enhance their teams or coaching methods. Most take time to reflect a bit presently of year on the past season.

Most of us ask ourselves;

Did I do a superb job?

Did my team do as well as they need to have?

Did we meet our goals as defined before the season started?

Where are areas we did not do very well in?

What could I have done differently?

Should I be making any changes?

Once that is completed, we determine where our deficiencies were, prioritize the deficiencies as they relate to reaching our goals after which search out solutions to deal with said deficiencies. I’m not talking about adding in additional football plays, I’m talking about doing an assessment and review of the season.

Here are some things we’re doing in 2008:

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Back in the 90’s I coached the one way I had ever known, “I” formation power and option football. We picked up a small shotgun spread package as an augment to our “I” and we ran a simple base 5-3 on defense. We ran the same offense and all the same drills I had run as a youth football player in the late 60’s and in the 70’s as a High school player. We even did a number of of my old College drills for good measure. Unfortunately, our offensive production was always tied on to the levels of talent we had and often the size of our offensive line.

Once we had great talent and some size, we won and won often. When we did not, we were average or worse. On defense after we started our greatest 11 on defense and didn’t sub on defense, we were usually in most games. But once we did sub to get some of those two way starters a breather or get our weaker kids some snaps, we might struggle. Of course after we played the best teams, we wouldn’t do very well.

Insanity

You realize what they are saying about those who do the identical thing over and over, but expect different results do not you? That is usually the classical definition of the word “insanity.” Unfortunately it seems is that if a lot of our fellow youth football coaches suffer from this player decimating affliction. They keep doing the usual thing year after year while ending up with same frustrating poor or choppy results. In my first few years of coaching youth football, I went through the above post season assessment. My answer was always that I needed better football players as the solution to my problem. My thoughts were that all I needed was a better x player, better y player, kids with more motivation, more size etc etc. It was always the kids fault, I just needed a “good team” and we’d do well.

What turned my head away from that “lottery” mindset was that in the league I coached in then, the same teams with the identical coaches won year in and year out. Some years these teams had talent, but often the talent levels they had were very average. Within the organizations that were consistently winning, there were specific head coaches within those organizations that always won, no matter what team they took. Humbly, I came to the conclusion that coaching and scheme really mattered in youth football and that i needed to make some changes.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”. Wise and humble people make changes to what they do if what they are doing is just not yielding the outcomes they need. One would hope that goes for those coaching youth football as well.

Changes We’re going to Make in 2008

I’m now in the technique of doing research to repair areas of deficiency in our program. I’m working to develop better methods of communicating with my coaching staffs. I feel we are not leveraging the talents of each coach as well as we could or utilizing the unique skill set each of our coaches innately has as a human being. I am on the lookout for answers everywhere; from great coaching legends to the captains and innovators of American Industry. We are also leaning too much on our coordinators to do all the basic reads, adjustments and game planning. There must be a more effective and efficient way of doing things than we’re doing today.

As our organization has matured, we now have just a few guys which have some experience under their belts and we’re getting just a few knowledgeable new guys into this system. We wish to use their input where it is sensible while ensuring that all our kids are “maxing out” on the unique skill set each of us coaches bring to the table. That is a big change from after we first started and had a lot of skeptical rookie “daddy” coaches. While we probably do a better job of this than most youth football teams, we need to be the very best at it, that’s our standard. Considered one of the nice benefits of speaking at all of the Nike and Mega Clinics is I get to take a seat in on other speakers sessions. I get to see (research) how various successful High school and College teams do things. I have been fortunate to hear coaches like Bobby Bowden, Pete Carroll, Jim Tedford and Les Miles as well as top Highschool and Lower Division College coaches. Maybe more importantly I get to talk to thousands of youth coaches at these clinics and naturally through e-mail as well.

By doing a greater job on this area our kids can have a better experience, get better instruction, be better prepared and have more fun. Coaching youth football is about X’s and O’s but it’s also effectively and efficiently communicating with your players and your coaches. It is a neglected area in most programs that ought to reap big payoffs. I assure you we will determine the best way to do it better and share that information with you once we have proven it really works and have all the bugs worked out.

Other Big Change Stories

Many coaches look at their goals, do research and give you alternate solutions to succeed in those goals. A lot of you think of Tom Osborne as “Mr. Option Football”. Well that really isn’t him in any respect should you have a look at his history. He was brought in by Bob Devaney to spice up the passing game of Nebraska in the 1960s. Bob Devaneys Unbalanced T formation running teams of 1967 and 1968 had struggled. Those teams complied back to back 6-4 seasons that included a homecoming day 12-0 loss to lowly Kansas State in a game NU had just 1 first down. Osborne, relying on his prior NFL receiver background, brought in a spread passing attack and “I” formation base running attack and dumped the run 90% of the time T formation.

Spread Passing Attack

Osborne recruited future NFL quarterbacks, Jerry Tagge, Dave Humm and Vince Ferragamo to guide these offenses and NU threw the ball. In 1970 NU was a 50% run 50% pass team, and were split just about down the middle from 1969 to the late 70s. NU won National Titles in 1970 and 1971 using this “spread passing” system. Johnny Rodgers even won the Heisman Trophy in 1972 as a receiver at NU. But while Osborne’s 1970 and 1971 team had won National Titles (both teams had incredible defenses), his teams within the mid and late 70s were getting beat every year by Oklahoma and infrequently did not fare well in Bowl Games. While NU’s teams were winning 9-10 games yearly, that wasn’t the goal, the goal was to compete for National Championships.

Change to Option Football

Osborne studied the landscape of school football and in 1980 he decided to make a colossal change to option football by recruiting Fort Worth Texas native Turner Gill. Not only would Gill be NU’s first option quarterback, he can be NU’s first starting black quarterback. Osborne had done a detailed statistical study of the offensive production of school football and it is correlation to wins. He looked at the sorts of kids he had available locally in addition to the type of kids he could recruit nationally and decided to take the then risky plunge into option football.

Change Yields Big Results

In the early 90’s Osborne also made huge changes on defense. He went to an attacking 4-3 with smaller and faster players, an enormous change from the 50 bend but do not break strategy of the previous 20 years. Most of you know the way the story ends, over 250 wins in 25 seasons, 3 more National Titles and named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Would Osborne be where he is today if he hadn’t made the big change to option football in 1980? I doubt it and definitely the Nebraska Football legacy would have been a much different one.

While I don’t compare to the worst of college coaches, let alone the most effective, we made a similar wholesale change a number of years back. Eight seasons ago I decided to maneuver to the one Wing Offense and a much different practice methodology, a 180 degree turn from what I knew. We went from having up and down seasons to going 78-5 and consistently winning and retaining nearly all my players. Had I stayed with what I knew before and just recruited or hoped for better players or added a couple of more football plays, little question we might have been suffering with the identical up and down results. The kids are better off for it and I know I am too.

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