When working with young kids in any sport the very first thing you want to create is a love for the game. With football this can start from watching it at an early age or playing a simple game of catch in the front yard. Football is a great game but it can have its drawbacks with young kids in our country.
I started playing football on our street when I was 10 years old. My brothers and I would form a game as often as we could in the summer and it was perfect. Our street was flat and straight. We would have one chance at a first down and played two hands touch below the waist. It is one of the better memories of my childhood.
I can still remember catching the ball next to our street curbing. Those were our sidelines. We did sideline out of bounds catches constantly and had to get both feet in. That’s what started it for me and I was basically hooked from then on.
Within another year I was playing tackle football and I’ll never forget my first practice. We were doing hitting drills and I was scared to death. We had a lot of first time players there so I wasn’t the only kid who was a little scared of what was going to happen.
Our coaches did a great job of working with us and letting us break into it slowly. They weren’t all over us and demanding as some coaches can be. I had some teammates that went to practice that day and never came back. I know it was because of the contact that they stopped showing up. For them, the love of the game needed to be developed a little bit more.
For coaches of young players, please keep in mind that these kids are skeptical of what is going to happen in a typical practice. They have never done certain conditioning drills before and have for sure never seen an actual “play” designed. They are completely fresh to the game and you can either build their love or crush their curiosity.
To build it up you have to communicate with them. You have to teach them and let them know it is o.k. if they fail right away. Kids build on positives so they need to hear when they do well or when they do something correct. For example, when you are teaching kids a 3 point stance, make sure you point out what they are doing well and have it be over the top.
Give that kid something to go home and tell their parents about. That is what builds them up and brings them back. Too often kids are left by themselves trying to figure it out and the natural instinct is to walk away or quit. Build them up when they are learning the game and you’ll build up that love that they need to carry them through.
I love football. I miss every day that feeling of walking up to the line of scrimmage and looking over the defense. I miss that feeling of a huddle and everyone pulling together as a team. The lessons I learned playing this great game are lessons I still carry with me today.