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Although I have over 20 years coaching experience, with stints at the college and high school levels, my first year as a youth football coach has been the most rewarding. I was able to coach my son for the first time and our team won the Super Bowl! But I would like to emphasize that WINNING IS ONLY A BYPRODUCT OF DOING ALL THE "LITTLE THINGS" WELL. It is my intent to share 5 of the "Little Things" that I believe made our year Fun & Exciting.
1. Treat every child as if they were your own: this is at the heart of my own personal educational and coaching philosophy: whether you have children or not, the point is that a well-rounded child needs love, discipline, compassion and direction. They need to be cared for and led - We ARE role models.
2. Surround yourself with good people who love kids: when bringing volunteers on board to help make sure they are in it for the right reasons- KIDS. I recommend taking this very serious- interview each volunteer and make sure your expectations and team values are clear.
3. Have a clear Mission and set of TEAM VALUES This is the cornerstone of running a quality program. All Parents, Coaches and Players must understand it and live by it. Without it, your program may not have direction and be susceptible to negative influences. You need a quality road map to get you to your destination.
Below is the Vision and Values I used for our team. It is identical to what I used for my high school teams and can be used for any sport. It is by no means the ideal, or best, simply mine. Yours needs to fit your own personal philosophy.
“VIKING FOOTBALL VISION”
Our Viking Youth Football Team is a family. As coaches we must treat each child as if they were our own. We must work together, support each other and realize that no one person is bigger than the team/family. Youth football is a place to teach/learn fundamental football skills, have a tremendous amount of fun & develop a love and appreciation for the great game of football. We will all work hard, support one another and grow as a team. Our team is our family – winning is a by-product of our commitment to working together and respecting each other.
“THREE POINT FAMILY VALUES”
POINT 1. BE THE BEST PERSON YOU CAN BE:
We must demand from each other that we be the best person we can be with regard to character, honor and integrity. If the player or coach cannot be a good person or try to be a better person, then he will not fit into the program. The player/coach must realize that his actions while a member of the team are a direct reflection on the entire Viking Youth program.
POINT 2. BE THE BEST STUDENT YOU CAN BE: Football is a privilege and school is a priority! We must demand from ourselves that we do everything in our power to succeed in school. We must strive to do our best academically and behaviorally – we are leaders in our school. Coaches must strive to model professionalism and work diligently at studying the game of football to best prepare our athletes for competition.
POINT 3. BE THE BEST PLAYER YOU CAN BE: We must strive to become the best players/coaches we can possibly be. Give 100% effort and you will be successful on our team.
4. Have FUN! Keep in mind you are NOT coaching/teaching men in little kids bodies- you ARE coaching/teaching little kids! The FUN should be for everyone- players, coaches and parents- Isn't that why we all sign up?
Here are a few things we did to make it FUN:
Start a team blog: check ours out: Our Team Blog & fill it with the kids' names, pictures and all the great things they are doing. Place all the good news going on in the program and make sure parents have access!
Pre-Season team cookout: great for bonding-dodge ball, whip cream eating contest, egg toss, etc.
Team Surprises! On the way home from our boring team weigh in - we stopped for Burger King (and took pictures!). We also stopped practice in the rain early one day to allow all the kids to jump in the puddles! We also held Friday night MOVIES - where we practiced for an hour and then watched films of our opponents while eating Pizza, Chips & Soda - we loved movie nights!
FUN at Practice: although practice is a time to learn and develop skills, it can (and should) be fun. We incorporate fun competitions in practice, have a conditioning game called "TAG" and end every Friday practice with an Ultimate Football (ultimate frisbee w/ a football) game-where players siblings often joined.
Recognition: we give out weekly awards, some are team based for reaching our goals and other are individual based. EVERY player on the team was recognized at some point during the year. Make sure your model has awards that EVERY player can achieve- ours included: the HULK, IRONMAN and BATMAN awards. I gave each recipient an award to take home with them for the week to show off to their family and friends. Take pictures of the weekly award winners and place them on the blog.
Leadership Opportunities: we spoke to the kids about LEADERSHIP and taught it. Each player earned a chance to be captain for a week-experience is sometimes the best educator.
Enthusiasm: As coaches we are teachers- NO yelling, negativity or profanity allowed. We teach through modeling professional behavior. Enthusiasm is contagious!
Celebrate: We celebrated students grades, behavior in school, birthdays, return from injuries and of course, our victories! One of our Assistant Coaches got married during the season and our Parents decorated their car while they were at the game and we had a surprise presentation at half time for the happily married couple! Find things to celebrate about.
5. TEACH As a coach, you have a huge opportunity and responsibility. Opportunity to make an impression on children that will last a lifetime, and the responsibility to do your best to make sure that each child is treated with respect. The best coaches take advantage of the many "teachable" moments that occur over the course of a season. Every chance you get connect these teachable moments to a real life experience that kids may benefit from. TEACH a common language: Replace the words mine with OURS and you to WE. Teach kids to care for one another and respect the rules of the game. The teaching should never end!
I hope you may take a nugget or two from this post. This list is not exhaustive and represents 5 concepts that have worked for me. Please feel free to add to the list!