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PayDirt

Little League Coaches

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In my opinion, little league football is about teaching the fundamentals of football and providing kids an opportunity to enjoy playing the game and have fun. One of the local youth programs in my area 7-8 year old team is undefeated and was playing the 2nd place team. The game was very close and as a result 8 kids on that team did not get to play a single down. The kids were asking to go in and the coach replied "Guys, do you not want to go undefeated"

Should youth coaches play to win or play everykid on the team? Tell me your thoughts

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Real simple . . . if the league has as its mission to be a recreation or teaching league then EVERBODY plays and should play about equal time (within reason). If the league has "competitive" or a similar philosophy in its mission statement then things are a bit different. While there are some great youth coaches out there in all sports . . . very dedicated and know how to teach the particular game to be played in a safe and sportsmanlike manner far too many of them are idiots hellbent on being the Vince Lombardi of the neighborhood. All leagues need to have a certification process. I've seen a lot of psyches and bodies injured by people who shouldn't be coaching. And I don't mean just football.

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Great topic. I've coached every age group from 7 year olds to Middle School for many years. The feel good asnwer is to play everyone. Which I have done, mostly with the younger teams. When dealing with 7-8 year olds that may be the right answer, then it again it may not. One angle that is easy to get overlooked in this discussion is the kids who are playing. As a coach you ask more from the kids that are capable of performing. In practice, they are the kids you push the hardest and the greatest expectations are placed on them. They are the ones that have to work the hardest by definition because they are the ones taking the hits or delivering them, snap after snap after snap, in practice and in the games. The success of the team tends to be determined by them. Therefore, a coach also has the responsibility of making decisions that reward their efforts as well. If a coach substitutes players at a critical point in the game, jepardizing the reward (victory) for all those players that have been asked to give 110% at practice and throughout the game, then that coach has not done right by those players. I experienced this myself as a coach. I substituted at a critical time because time was running out and I hadn't played a few of the boys. We gave up a score, of course right over the side we had substituted for, and we lost the game. The guys that typically played were devestated, many crying. While the kids we substituted continued to clown around during our post game team talk, unaffected. How could I continue to ask my players to give me 110% when I, as their coach, hadn't done the same?

 

I think a coach has to represent all groups of players, those that can play and those that are less capable, so long as all parties are coming to practice and working hard and taking the coaching being given. Thats certainly more true for the younger age teams. I've also learned that typically it is the parents that are upset, not the players so much. The players usually know if they are capable or not. Many times these players prefer not to go into the game because of physical pain associated with hitting another player, the pressure of not messing up, of not letting your teammates down, etc... I've had little guys actually hiding behind other players on the sidelines while me or one of the other coaches called for them to go into the game. These guys simply like being a part of something, part of a team, not neccessarily playing during the game.

 

With young teams, I learned that you have to make it a part of your game plan to get players in early so that you don't have a situation like I did late in the game. Also, sub on offense, because it doesn't hurt the team as bad as giving up a quick score. It takes more time to teach some of these players to play on offense and it seems easier to simple put them on defense. But if you can, come up with a second team offense comprised of players that don't get to play much, and game plan to insert that team your projected last possession of the first half. And when possible, use them at other times or for the extra point after a touchdown. However; I believe that by the time a player has reached Middle School it is time for the coach to coach to win first. That sounds harsh, I love to play everyone and keep everyone happy, but I think you play to win at that point, just my belief.

 

It is extremely difficult to please everyone on a team, especially all the parents, grandparents, etc... We do have too many over-the-top coaches that get caught up in the moment. I've been quilty of that as well. Some coaches do need reminded from time to time that no one errects statues for rec league coaches down at the ball park for winning percentage. Parents also need to appreciate the time dedicated by these volunteer coaches and realize that not everyone will go on to be a high school, college or NFL star. We should be coaching ultimately to help parents grow boys into fine young men who will better the communities in which they live.

 

Sorry for the long winded reply.

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In Little League, where parents pay money for their child to participate, the emphasis should be on participation. It is a delicate balance to coach fundamentals, reward harder working more commited kids, win games and get all players in the game. After the first O & D series, I would put weaker players in but make sure stronger players surrounded them in the lineup. That way, I wouldn't be putting them all in at once. I'm not saying playing time should be equal, but they do need to get into every game.

 

In middle school, where parents do not pay money for their child to participate, the emphasis should be on playing the more talented and commited kids while maintaining a positive team experience for all. This is the level where the less commited and weaker players will start to find other things to do.

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IMHO, at this level, everyone should play. This does not mean that the kids should not get the impression that winning is unimportant, but they need to participate in order develop a love for the game. It's a delicate balance that, unfortunately, many little league coaches have difficulty with. And of course, parental pressure on the coaches and the kids makes things even worse.

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Great post FootballDad. I too have dealt with this same issues for many years.

 

The first thing I would like to address is the statement, "I payed money for my child to play rec football and I expect equal playing time." What you pay for is football instruction, not playing time. I had the exact situation that FootballDad had one time, losing a game because I substituted at the end of a game. I had the same response from the players that I put in after the game, goofing around. The players that gave 110% were devastated. Now, a good coach will make sure that the less talented players stay busy and focused on fundamentals during every practice and will always give as much playing time as possible, because it is in our best interest that EVERY player on our team gets better. It is also a fact that every kid is not meant to play football. Many parents force there kids to play football against their will. Many kids have been turned against football for the rest of their lives because of ignorant parents, and that is an outright shame.

 

Youth football is supposed to be fun. However, there is nothing wrong with teaching kids to compete to win. You can't name a sport that teaches lifes lessons any better. You have to compete all your life at everything that you do. Football gives those lessons to many kids who never get the chance to witness those examples in their home lives.

 

Last issue that gets brought up all the time. "The coaches kids always gets to play the best positions." Well many times that is true and the reason being is that dads who coach tend to work with their kids more during the off season. They also, most likely, know more drills to work their kids on. I'll let you in on a little secret, any good coach will be more than happy to share those things with you if you will just ask. Try it out one year instead of spending your energy on being angry and you will see an improvement. BTW, I haven't had a kid of my own on my teams for several years. I donate my time to coach because I love football and if that makes a difference on how just one of my players turns out in the future it is all worth the time and effort.

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In my opinion, little league football is about teaching the fundamentals of football and providing kids an opportunity to enjoy playing the game and have fun. One of the local youth programs in my area 7-8 year old team is undefeated and was playing the 2nd place team. The game was very close and as a result 8 kids on that team did not get to play a single down. The kids were asking to go in and the coach replied "Guys, do you not want to go undefeated"

Should youth coaches play to win or play everykid on the team? Tell me your thoughts

 

 

 

You can do both. Set up and play B games for your developmental players. More work, but it keeps the parents happy, matches talent sets to help avoid injury against bigger, faster A team players, and best of all develops your younger players for the next year. We have had a lot of success doing this.

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Let all the kids play. There is no reason for a 6-9 year old kid to practice two and sometimes three days a week only to not play at all or 2 minutes of meaningless football. All kids practice and all kids play. I have seen many leagues in the middle TN area that handle things this way and is just makes to be a better league. Remember it is all about the kids....all of them.

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You can do both. Set up and play B games for your developmental players. More work, but it keeps the parents happy, matches talent sets to help avoid injury against bigger, faster A team players, and best of all develops your younger players for the next year. We have had a lot of success doing this.

 

 

Exactly!

 

7/8 football isn't teaching as much fundamentals as the coaches would like to think. It's rudimentary football with a bunch of kids that look like the Michelin tire man bumping into each other as far as line play is concerned. The team with the fastest kids will win 90% of the time. I've seen numerous high school football players excel in football that never played a down of youth football. In fact, Doug Matthews encourages kids to play soccer to improve their footwork and start football somewhere around puberty. Take a look at any of your high school football teams and identify the kids that started when they were 5 or 6. There will be a few, maybe a lot, but there typically are several that didn't even take up the sport until they were in middle school or older and some of them are your team's better athletes. How can they do that without the fundamentals? It's easier in football than in hand/eye coordination sports like baseball and basketball. Football is a sport of aggression that isn't truly appreciated by the participants until they get to a stage of physical maturity or as mine told me in middle school, 'you get to take out your frustrations by hitting somebody as hard as you can and you don't get in trouble for it'. I don't think that's as healthy at 7 and 8 as it is at 14 and 15.

 

The answer to the question is to play them all by whatever means. B team games will keep players in your program, particularly if you have newcomers or a wide age range. If you're not going to play them, have a tryout and cut them and let them get on with their lives. If you are going to charge them the same as every other kid and your program depends on signing up a lot of kids to stay afloat, then you better find a way to substitute more efficiently. Good coaches get their players in early and they aren't waiting until the 4th quarter to try to get everybody in a couple of snaps.

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I coach a youth league team and it is competitive based. I have a one year old son and no ties to the team other than my friends and I coach and have for years. However, there is a league rule that each player gets a minimum of six snaps per game. Also, the younger kids are the only ones that get to play on special teams(KO & KOR). We play "JV" games one night a week too. The older players finish practice and then come over and support their teammates. It makes for a great atmosphere and learning experience for all of our players. The younger kids get some glory and the older kids get fired up and cheer them on. I feel leagues need to try and find a balance like this. It develops younger players and lets the older kids be competitive and get plenty of PT during "varsity" games. Teaching fundamentals and learning to protect yourself on the field is what our league is about. We also teach these kids to go all out and play to win. We tell them if they give it a 110% and lose, they can walk around with their head held high.

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Let everyone play at the younger ages. Players develop at different ages. The akward clumsy child at six could be an all-star in high school. The hero at six could be a dud in high school. The last thing you want a player to do is quit playing and resent the sport for life. Also, a lot of players burn out because they are being pushed too hard by parents and coaches. Our desire to re-live our youth through them could rob them of their youth.

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