“Correct Me Coach. Don’t Embarrass Me”
Stereotyping can be a pretty powerful thing, particularly when the stereotyping is done on TV or any medium that allows many people to see it and assume that it is correct. Glorify the stereotype and you will not only have convinced much of the population that the stereotype is accurate but that this particular stereotype is even desirable. TV has created a false conception of what it is to coach.
Getting more to the point, we are talking about the way that football coaches are generally portrayed to the public. When folks envision a football coach, immediately most people think of an iron fisted disciplinarian who is going to get the best out of his or her team one way or another. The coach is portrayed as demanding and is going to put the football team to the test mentally, physically and yes, maybe even emotionally. Although this is true in some cases, we would argue that there are many ways to coach a football team effectively. However, you would not know it from the way football coaches are often portrayed.
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I coached football for over thirty years. Having been a part of this profession for that long has allowed me to see almost every personality out there when it comes to football coaching. Football coaching, like most things in life, is not a cookie cutter profession. There is more than one way to do it correctly.
The great thing about this is that every coach can and should display his or her personality. This allows their players to see them as “real” and not a phony that is putting on a show for their personal benefit as opposed to the player’s. “Being yourself” can be a very positive thing when it comes to coaching. However, there is still a learning curve as a youth football coach begins to learn their own style.
When you volunteer to work with a youth football team, you instantly have put yourself in a leadership role. This role will require you to very quickly find a style that fits you and your team. Do not use the football coach stereotype as you are finding your style. Instead we would encourage you to consider some of the following things as you begin to coach your youth football team.
Know Your Audience
You are coaching a youth football team. You are about to step in front of and instruct a group of extremely impressionable minds. Sometimes, how you say something and how you coach something is going to be as important as what you are coaching. If your tone is from a football movie or your high school football coach, who was the gruffest man you can remember as a player you may lose your audience before you even get started. You can still be firm, but understand that these are little kids you are working with.
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Coach…Be Demanding. Not Demeaning.
Make no mistake about it, young football players need to learn the value of doing things the right way. Allowing poor effort or poor execution to go uncoached is doing no one any favors. However, there is never a good reason to tear a youth football player down with insulting or demeaning comments. Sometimes this gets labeled as “tough love”. Often it is not. Most football players are going to respond better if you coach the play of the player as opposed tearing down the player on a personal level.
Related: What’s Your Team’s Code Of Conduct?
Coaches Teach, Correct & Reinforce
You will be way ahead of the game as a youth football coach if you think of yourself as a teacher as opposed to a coach. Just like any good teacher you should be well versed in your curriculum. You should have a teaching method and a lesson plan. You should have an expected outcome and a way to test your team to see if they understand what is necessary to be a successful football player. Good football coaches are constantly teaching and correcting. They are always looking for ways to do it better and are reinforcing the positive behaviors and correcting the mistakes.
When You Have To Be Firm Always Follow Up
There will be times that require a youth football coach to be hard or firm with their football team. Effort, discipline and hustle come to mind. When you need to “get on” a player and it’s in a way where the rest of the team sees it, then the you should always follow up. It is very important that you always go back later to that same player and follow up with encouragement. The encouragement can even be from a perspective on why you needed to get on the player in the first place.
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This is going to allow the young player to leave the field with a positive taste in their mouth. They will understand that the coach was getting on them because they care about the player. They are not just calling them out in front of their peers for the sake of it. Regardless of what level of football you coach, your players had better know you are always doing what you are doing for them, not for yourself.
So as you navigate this 2022 youth football season go ahead enjoy yourself if you like a good football movie or a football TV show or book. Just understand that football coaches come in all types of personalities and philosophies. No two are exactly the same. The best coaching methods for you and your team will be the ones you come up with that fit your personality. Most importantly, it will be an approach that puts your players and your team first in every situation.