Volunteering to be a youth football Head Coach may be the hardest and most frustrating thing I have ever done…….as well as being the most rewarding decision I have ever made.
I started coaching 11 years ago because I was tired of being on the other side of the fence watching my 6 year old son’s team flounder on the field like a wounded bird. I played football in high school and had a chance to play in college at the NAIA level but opted against it so I thought I had the credentials to march a bunch of 1st & 2nd graders into battle. Boy, did I have a lot to learn! Just because you played football and watch it every weekend doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make a good coach!
Not only did I have to build a staff but I had to find a Team Mom (which turns out to be a far more important job than the Head Coach!). My Team Mom and I had strict parameters – everything on the OUTSIDE of the fence was her responsibility, everything INSIDE the fence was mine! OTF and ITF became part of my nomenclature from there on out. Then came the task of orchestrating a practice while trying to stay within our time limit parameters. You learn pretty quickly how much time (or how little time) to spend on certain tasks and fundamentals. An hour and a half three times a week ain’t a whole lot of time!
Things were rocking & rolling pretty good and thankfully, our coaching staff got along pretty well and the kids were having a blast…….the parents were another story….. It was at this time that I realized in the future I was going to have to lay down the law on the first day. Once I managed to clear THAT hurdle, then it came time to learn gameday management. Offense, defense, special teams, substitutions, time outs, injuries, coaches and players in your ear, etc…. It’s much harder in person than it looks on TV, I can assure you that! Have a plan! I repeat….HAVE A PLAN! Mismanaging a game is the fastest way to fall flat on your face!
By the end of that first season, our staff had gelled and our players bought into our system…and the parents seemed to be having fun as well. We only won a couple of games but we sprinkled a couple of team parties into the mix and knew what areas we needed to work on for the next season. Getting that first year under my belt was very important but I knew I was going to have to show improvement or the players, the parents and the Football Board would start questioning me!
Online research, coaching clinics, constant coaches meetings……these all became part of my normal routine from that point forward. For the players and the parents, the season has a beginning and an end. For a successful football coach, the season NEVER ends! You should always be out there trying to improve yourself. Make sure your parents know EXACTLY what to expect from Day 1 and earn the respect of your players and your coaches and you will enjoy success, on and off the field.