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Bob Goodman
(@bob-goodman)
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We just finished our season, and the drop-off in our players' attitude was noticeable to me over the last 3 games of our 10-game season.  The kids came in noticeably flat to the Madison game, although we would've probably been beaten by that excellent team even if we'd been on our best game.  Although they didn't seem flat that way in the warmups of the games following that one, I did sense a general lack of interest in the games and practices in those final weeks.

A pretty good tell for our concluding Wayne-Newton game (I love writing that) in both warmups and the game itself was our inadvertent reduction in OL splits.  We're supposed to be 2 arms' length, so touching fingers with arms straight out.  However, our players were instead touching with their arms at only a 45 degree angle.  Had nothing to do with being physically tired, as it was true in the first run-thrus of our plays vs. air.  The kids were just lazy.

I'm just referring to the average.  In our next-to-last game, Michael gave his best effort of the season.  I told his father, Coach John, that, and John told me his son said that that was only his best so far, since we still had a game to go!  So it's not as if there weren't some exceptions to the attitude decline, but the trend was definitely down.

Sure, 9 YOs, (a few having turned 10 since the Aug. 1 cut-off), 10 weeks plus a month of pre-season -- but our opponents looked interested.  So obviously there must be ways to sustain interest that some teams have.  Our coaches seemed as interested toward the end, so I don't think we were projecting any boredom downward.

I think HC Dan picked up a little on the boredom, because he introduced some games to end practice in the last few weeks.  But I looked at that as like putting a fresh coat of paint on a deteriorated structure, rather than fixing the structure itself.

For one thing, I think our program practices too often.  It's 5 sessions a week pre-season, 4/week in-season, conditions permitting.  I used to complain with the Bronx Warriors that we didn't get enough practice, but the Newton Braves blow right past the happy medium to too much.  It's bound to wear on the kids -- it even wore on me, and due to teaching night classes I couldn't even attend them all.  And when you consider they don't allow kicking at this level, plus take away some of the inside game with A gap restrictions, we had a great excess of practice time if we used it right.

Plus, I thought we wasted many mins. of each session on stuff that was boring & didn't relate much to football.  We over-built our team on endurance with laps & sprints, getting them much more tired than I ever saw them get in games.  The logic was that with a roster of only15, some (though not all) of our opponents could sub a lot more in games; the way I looked at it, that just meant our opponents had to play their fresh scrubs (even though our league is strictly honor system on play time, no minimum play rule at our level), and none of our players got tired enough for it to matter.  We spent time stretching tendons that never tear in 9 YOs.  And we did some "agility" drills that instilled some very un-football-like skills, like looking down where you were putting your feet in a rope ladder or around half-rounds before looking up and hitting or being hit by a bag-holding coach.  That took a lot of time away from teaching technique.

Anyway, we seemed to get into a rut for the last few weeks doing those drills.  I would've taught more techniques, even if the kids weren't 100% proficient at the few we taught them, because when would they ever get to 100% anyway?  I think learning more would've kept up their interest, especially if the drills were even somewhat fun.

Having a roster of 15 & a 10-game season, I think there was also a lot of conservatism re the amount of live body contact in the drills -- too conservative IMO.  I think the kids would've had fun scrimmaging half-line once a week, and that would've given more of our players linebacking reps.

Also, just because huddling was mandatory in our games doesn't mean we had to practice vs. air at that slow a pace.

I'd like to have been able to spy on the Madison Dodgers (they of the paid coaching staff and overlap w the NY Jets) practice for a week.


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Bob Goodman
(@bob-goodman)
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Might've thought somebody would've had some ideas in a week.  Maybe I should ask how you keep coaches' interest!


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coacho
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My thought on the season is 2 control scrimmages and six to seven games. During the season we take a trip to a college game and I get everything donated. This is a highlight of the season. In addition, during the week we have Frosty treats from Wendy's and different treats from local establishments. Pre-practice time is fun time for the kids. They spent the day in school and enjoy productive jerking around. When practice starts they know what we expect! As the season progresses our time on the practice field starts to shorten. We watch more film, walk and talk, and work on the adjustments for that week. I sell the kids on loving the process because as you do, the process will love you back! Just some thoughts which works for us.


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patriotsfatboy1
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I have a rotation of drills that we do every week to help stave off boredom.  I have kids asking to do certain drills and I try to mix it up often so that they don't get into a rut.  It is not necessarily the drills that you run, but how you run them.  Make them competitive and they view them as "games". 

You should look at the frequency of your practices.  If you have 15 kids and a 10 game season, I can't see the need for 4-5 practices a week.  That could just be me, but I always had the kids looking for more at the end of practices because we only went 3 times a week. 


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acsmith7062
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5 practice sessions a week preseason and 4 per week in season sounds like way too much for 9 yos.  I would think that it would be next to impossible to prevent from being "burned out" by the end of the season.  I coach 2nd graders, and we did 3 a week preseason and 2 per week in season. 

I also made an effort to incorporate something "new" into practice each week, like a trick play (even if we didn't plan on ever using it) or competitive drill, or bring back some drill that they really enjoyed but had not done in a few weeks.  It's too bad there was no kicking game, our kids "loved" practicing covering and recovering onside kicks.  They all wanted a chance to kick the ball (whether they were any good at it or not), and I rotated giving them the opportunity to kick off during practice throughout the season.  We were fortunate enough to be ahead by large margins in several games, which gave me the opportunity to let several different kids kick off at least once during the season.   

"You fail all the time, but you aren't a failure until you start blaming someone else."   O.A. "Bum" Phillips


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mpwcoachsmith
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I have a rotation of drills that we do every week to help stave off boredom.  I have kids asking to do certain drills and I try to mix it up often so that they don't get into a rut.  It is not necessarily the drills that you run, but how you run them.  Make them competitive and they view them as "games". 

We do similar things.  There are some drills kids beg for and I try to make sure we don't overdo those ones to keep them hungry for them. Also, this year we tried to follow a teaching/technique drill with a more aggressive type drill with less "thinking" and made sure neither of those lasted no more than 10-15 mins each.


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J. Potter (seabass)
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I have never coached an age group as young as yours. That said, I always have fun when kids are making progress, regardless of where they start. I can't recall a practice where I have had fun but the kids haven't. So if kids are getting better at practice, I'm usually having a good time and so are they.

5 days/week is probably too many with young kids. I don't see the point in doing a bunch of "traditional" conditioning either...that's rarely fun for anyone. Running laps and lines is boring, for the most part.


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gumby_in_co
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Bob, this is just my take.

#1 by far has to be 4 practices plus a game per week.
#2 would be the laps and sprints. We shared a field with a team from a different division. At one point they were supposed to scrimmage with us and I joked that if it were a 5k race, they'd kill us. They NEVER looked like they were enjoying practice.

With my group, I really try to connect with them. They know my interest in them isn't limited to football. We really like each other. I also crack a lot of jokes and let them know they have a long leash as long as the standard is being met.

Next is part of Mahonz' Mojo. We really let them know it is their team. We always take time to answer questions and we consider ideas from the players. In our last practice of the season, one of our WRs stopped practice to question his alignment on a 2/7/4 route combo from trips. We had him automatically moving out, away from the bunch, but he thought bringing it in tighter would pull the CB out of position and give the slot more room on the post/corner. I was already a little emotional, it being the last practice EVER for this team, but I was really taken that this kid was OWNING his role in our offense and he would likely never be the primary receiver in that combo. I coached the o-line and I had literally dozens of similar examples throughout the year. I commented that I was needed less and less over the last 4 games of the season. In the Championship, we were sputtering a little in the first half. I pulled my guys in and simply asked "What's up?". They started explaining what they were seeing and suggesting to each other what they might do, etc. I just said, "Okay. Figure it out." and walked away. The offense put up 43 points in that game and we only threw 4 times.

Finally, I used a lot of "student becomes the teacher" with my group. If I saw someone perform a technique really well, I'd stop indies and have him run a quick clinic on that technique. Same thing if one kid seemed to grasp a concept. I'd have him explain it to the others. I continually encouraged partner groups in competitive drills to help their teammate get better and it worked. The o-line was constantly kicking each other's butt, then talking about it to help the "kickee" prevent it in the future. By the end, I was really protective of my group and wouldn't let anyone coach them beyond effort or discipline type stuff. They knew as much about what we were trying to do as I did by the end and none of the other coaches had any idea, really.

I think that really helped keep them engaged through a very long season. Winning helps, too. Can't sugar coat that.

When in doot . . . glass and oot.


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GP
 GP
(@gpenn44)
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That practice schedule is totally exhaustive for 9U.

We are 14U in a very competitive league and go 3x a week in summer (which often INCLUDES a scrimmage so still only two practices) then 2x a week during the season. MUCH less than many of our opponents that we hammer week in week out.

This schedule does a few things:

1) Eliminates burnout for players, families AND coaches - ppl actually look forward to practice
2) Forces coaches to be EFFICIENT (can NOT waste a minute when you only have 120 minutes to practice each week)
3) Allows us to be extremely strict on attendance

Re #3 - our policy is miss a practice, sit half the upcoming game. Miss two, don't play. We also require 20 mins / week film study - don't watch, don't play. Additionally, if we remove a player from practice (for lack of effort, lack of focus or poor attitude), they are suspended for the upcoming game. That usually only happens once a season and very early on - once they see we actually do it (esp if it's a "starter"), amazing how quickly the BS halts.

Now we STILL have to bench kids for attendance but much fewer and further between as the season progresses. That's also where having adequate numbers comes into play. If you have 15 and 5 miss practice, you're in a tough spot esp if your league like ours has forfeit rules (multiple forfeits in one season = bye bye). However, if you have 30 and 8 miss, watching their 22 teammates pound an opponent for a half WITHOUT THEM can be a VERY powerful thing.

Winning helps all of this work. Our younger team practices same schedule as us - 0-fer season - players and coaches clearly "checked out" by end. Tough to get sustained buy in when you are consistently losing. ESP true if you're practicing 4-5x a week and getting crushed - people start to question why the F they are doing this and understandably so.

"Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated." - Lou Holtz


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bigshel
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Bob, this is just my take.

#1 by far has to be 4 practices plus a game per week.
#2 would be the laps and sprints.

To this, I would add #3: 10 game regular season. Never heard of that at the youth level, except including playoffs, regionals, nationals.
I know you have no control over that, but it truly magnifies #1 and #2.


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gumby_in_co
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To this, I would add #3: 10 game regular season. Never heard of that at the youth level, except including playoffs, regionals, nationals.
I know you have no control over that, but it truly magnifies #1 and #2.

Agreed. Didn't catch that. We played 11 games this year, an "official" jamboree, an "unofficial" jamboree and 3 additional scrimmages.

When in doot . . . glass and oot.


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GP
 GP
(@gpenn44)
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To this, I would add #3: 10 game regular season. Never heard of that at the youth level, except including playoffs, regionals, nationals.
I know you have no control over that, but it truly magnifies #1 and #2.

We had 10 game reg season in 2015 & 16, 9 game this year. I actually like it. 

Think of it this way - most of us put how much time into offseason clinics, planning, summer practice, etc. I would not wanna do all that for say 5-7 reg season games as some leagues end up with. If anything it's a selling point for us - between preseason, reg season & postseason you're going to get to play 13-14 GAMES plus scrimmages.

Kids wanna play games. What kids, families and even most coaches DON'T want to do is practice 4-5x a week for months and still lose.

"Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated." - Lou Holtz


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J. Potter (seabass)
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In the new league we moved to this year we only had 8 games. None of our kids were ready to be done but were were 7-1. I was an AC on a couple of 1-7 teams and everybody was ready to be done with those seasons long before we played our last game.


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patriotsfatboy1
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I am fine with 10 games in a regular season depending on how many playoff games are possible.  If you could end up playing another 4-5 games, that would be too much. 

Last year, we only had 7 regular season games (had a bye) and that was not enough.  We ended up with only 11 including playoffs and we had plenty left in the tank. 


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Test Account
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Get kids better in their own eyes. Everybody wants to succeed, and at least through the high school, that is a big retainer. Nobody wants to practice to get their brains beat in week in and week out. Not only in games but in practice. And god I use think the cliché's were over blown but the more I do this, the more I hear it....And it is a player retention deterrent.

Please don't PM or respond to this Member. It is an account for all of the posts from abandoned or banned Member Accounts.


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