Can A Junior High Sports Team Make You Go.To.Church Coaching Youth Football – Lessons Learned from Other Sports

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Coaching Youth Football – Lessons Learned from Other Sports

Lessons learned from other sports

Some of the lessons I learned in coaching youth soccer have really helped me in coaching other sports that I know very little about.

In 2002 the Screaming Eagles Youth Program decided to start a baseball program. The problem was that I had never coached baseball before and over 90% of our kids had never put on a glove because the popularity of baseball had drastically declined in the inner city.

Since we were able to completely turn our football program around from the bottom of the league to the top through intensive coaching training and research-intensive systems development, I decided to do the same for baseball:

My experience with baseball was non-existent as a coach. I only played until my junior year of high school and was average on a very good day. I felt that my little expertise on the subject was minimal and that I did not have the authority or credibility to impose a new system on the entire Screaming Eagle program. The baseball “program” I was putting on was just for my personal team.

He began the project like any other, researching the videos and books available to teach youth baseball coaches. I bought Marty Shupack’s tape on organizing baseball practices. I went to a local baseball training facility and bought several books and tapes that were all geared specifically toward youth coaches. I asked around and found out who are the best coaches who have consistently won. Many of them practice in an indoor practice facility, so I went and watched several top youth teams receive instruction inside throughout the year.

Then I sought advice from the best youth baseball coaches in the area. If you’re going to learn from someone, why not go straight to the man who has had the most success? Here in Omaha it’s a guy named Bill Olsen. Coach Olsen has coached national championship teams at the youth level. He is an accomplished high school coach and was an assistant coach on one of the US Pan American Games and Olympic teams. Coach Olsen knows his stuff and has a passion for developing young baseball players and loves teaching coaches how to teach players.

I was fortunate enough to attend 4 great clinics put on by Coach Olsen, and while playing 9 years of organized competitive baseball, I learned:

1) I knew nothing about coaching baseball

2) My previous baseball coaches didn’t know anything either, I was diminished as a player.

I was committed to not letting the same happen to these children.

Coach Olsen showed us the right basics, but more importantly how to break down and learn each move. He gave us many detailed progressions to learn proper hitting, fielding, pitching and even pitching. I was amazed to see how his methods paralleled the way we taught our kids how to play youth soccer.

I then observed several top select and rec coaches as they conducted their training sessions. I learned how to teach the moves and how to shave tons of time off my exercises. Back in the days when I played, batting practice consisted of one player hitting while 11 players shook balls in the infield, how boring. Rarely any coaching points were given, we had to get better with “practice. I learned how to do a lot more in a lot less time. I also got to watch Mike Evans do some of his drills, Mike took a few Pacesetter “Select ” youth national championship teams and now coaches a junior team. I learned some really neat games from him that keep kids interested, just like the fun team building drills and evaluations we do for our youth soccer teams.

Long story short, I developed a plan and implemented it based on the expertise of these people, not what I knew from my own experience. My first team could be described as the “Land of Inappropriate Toys” from the movie “Rudolph the Red Reindeer”. Our first few practices were to show most of the kids how to put on gloves, and about 1/3 of the kids didn’t even have gloves, they were TERRIBLE. I went to the Salvation Army Store and bought some used gloves, oiled them and got them ready for another practice. The children came and with each practice we got better and better because we progressed very slowly to the goal. As in youth football, we worked on key success factors, nothing else, no wasted time or movement. We used many of the tricks we use in football such as progression, “ready focus”, group instruction, fit and freeze, limited live tackling, player contracts, discipline model etc. Using Coach Olsens ideas and what I saw on the videos, we were able to get each player 16 minutes of hitting practice for every 2 hours of practice we had. We didn’t even hit “live” until week 3 because we did a lot of instruction and “hitting” drills without clubs and balls, then went to the Tees, then to easy pitching and then to hitting the ball attached to a stiff ball 5′ from the device my wrists hurt a lot.

We didn’t “stutter” nor did we do a lot of live infield and outfield, we did a lot of drills without balls and ball-on-bucket drills. We didn’t play catch, it would have been a total waste of time (playing catch, not catching), we worked on mechanical exercises of frozen throwing (yes, fit and freeze). I did everything 100% as Bill Olsen suggested.

We went into our first game not knowing how to play the game terribly well, but we really improved on the basics. We ended up winning that game and all 14 games we played that year, to EVERYONE’s surprise. Every single one of my kids hit the ball, even a very heavy 190 pound defensive tackle who missed every ball off the tee in the first practice! We would have 1-2-3 innings etc all the time. in defense. For the next two years I remained at this age level as this original group progressed to other teams. The next year my team won all 12 of our games and the next year we won all 14 again, three years as the dominant team in the league undefeated in this age group and we changed leagues one year to Little League which consistently produced National Champions . We never played in major tournaments because unfortunately we didn’t have the funds to do so and generally took a much lower key approach to baseball as well as football. Baseball was just a “filler” for us until football season came.

The moral of the story is; priorities are important, teaching progression of the smallest fundamentals is important for any sport, “scrimmaging” is overrated and excellent training organization using time saving tricks is critical. Taking the time to learn from the experts allowed me to teach the kids the right way to have more fun. Just like in football, kids have more fun if they don’t lose every game, they don’t have fun in baseball if they never get a hit or lose every game. The sad thing was that we were so much better than the other teams in each of the three years I coached that we could actually play in an age group and compete. A lot of the coaches I coached against went to the same Bill Olsen clinic that I did, but I could tell during warmups that they weren’t doing what Coach Olsen suggested they do in warmups, or how they were holding their gloves, or how their infielders were taking their position or how their attackers took their position. Either these coaches were asleep while Coach Olsen was talking, or they just decided to do it their “better” way. I decided to do it Coach Olsens way and if it didn’t work then I would do more research and make changes. In my opinion these youth coaches really shortchanged their players, ours were so much more thorough, it looked like we were training 5 days a week when in reality we trained far less than any team in the league and most of the other teams had kids with experience in to their teams.

Go watch other teams practice in your sport, go to clinics that teach youth topics, ask a very successful coach to mentor you, most are thrilled that someone cares enough to want to learn and thinks enough of them to want to learn of them. Your kids will benefit in the end, coaching is coaching regardless of the sport.

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