Have you purchased the traditional coaching tools—things such as whistles, coaching clothes, sport shoes, and a clipboard? They’ll help you in the act of coaching, but to be successful, you’ll need five other tools that cannot be bought. These tools are available only through self-examination and hard work; they’re easy to remember with the acronym COACH:
Comprehension of the rules, tactics, and skills of football is required. You must understand the elements of the sport. To improve your comprehension of football, take the following steps:
- Read about the rules of football in this book.
- Read about the fundamentals of football and the football plays in this book.
- Read additional football coaching books, including those available from the American Sport Education Program (ASEP).
- Contact youth football organizations, including AYF (www.americanyouthfootball.com).
- Attend football coaching clinics.
- Talk with more experienced coaches.
- Observe local college, high school, and youth football games.
- Watch football games on television.
In addition to having football knowledge, you must implement proper training and safety methods so that your players can participate with little risk of injury. Even then, injuries may occur. And more often than not, you’ll be the first person responding to your players’ injuries, so be sure you understand the basic emergency care procedures described in chapter 4. Also, read in that chapter about how to handle more serious sport injuries.
This coaching tool refers to your perspective and goals—what you seek as a coach. The most common coaching objectives are to (a) have fun; (b) help players develop their physical, mental, and social skills; and (c) win. Thus, your outlook involves your priorities, your planning, and your vision for the future. See “Assessing Your Priorities” on the following page to learn more about the priorities you set for yourself as a coach.
ASEP has a motto that will help you keep your outlook in line with the best interests of the kids on your team. It summarizes in four words all you need to remember when establishing your coaching priorities:
Athletes First, Winning Second
This motto recognizes that striving to win is an important, even vital, part of sports. But it emphatically states that no efforts in striving to win should be made at the expense of the players’ well-being, development, and enjoyment. Take the following actions to better define your outlook.
- With the members of your coaching staff, determine your priorities for the season.
- Prepare for situations that may challenge your priorities.
- Set goals for yourself and your players that are consistent with your priorities.
- Plan how you and your players can best attain your goals.
- Review your goals frequently to be sure that you are staying on track.
Another vital tool you will want to have in your coaching kit is a genuine concern for the young people you coach. This requires having a passion for kids, a desire to share with them your enjoyment and knowledge of football, and the patience and understanding that allow each player to grow from his involvement in sport.
You can demonstrate your affection and patience in many ways, including the following:
- Make an effort to get to know each player on your team.
- Treat each player as an individual.
- Empathize with players trying to learn new and difficult skills.
- Treat players as you would like to be treated under similar circumstances.
- Control your emotions.
- Show your enthusiasm for being involved with your team.
- Keep an upbeat tempo and positive tone in all of your communications.
As the saying goes, “Children won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Coaching Tip When players believe that you care for each of them as individuals, they will care about the team and will learn to play the game correctly.
The fact that you have decided to coach young football players probably means that you think participation in sport is important. But whether or not that participation develops character in your players depends as much on you as it does on the sport itself. How can you help your players build character?
Having good character means modeling appropriate behaviors for sport and life. That means more than just saying the right things. What you say and what you do must match. There is no place in coaching for the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. Challenge, support, encourage, and reward every youngster, and your players will be more likely to accept, even celebrate, their differences. Be in control before, during, and after all practices and games. And don’t be afraid to admit that you were wrong. No one is perfect!
Each member of your coaching staff should consider the following steps to becoming a good role model:
- Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Build on your strengths.
- Set goals for yourself to improve on those areas that you don’t want to see copied by your players.
- If you slip up, apologize to your team and to yourself. You’ll do better next time.
Coaching Tip When you are successful as a coach, people will say that you are a master motivator. Motivation is a phenomenon that exists when repeated experiences of success occur. Winning will become a by-product of good coaching, and the team’s motivation will grow with success. But the only lasting motivation must come from within. A true champion is always described as a self-driven individual of high moral character.
Humor is an often-overlooked coaching tool. For our purposes, humor means having the ability to laugh at yourself and with your players during practices and games. Nothing helps balance the seriousness of a skill session like a chuckle or two. And a sense of humor puts in perspective the many mistakes your players will make. So don’t get upset over each miscue or respond negatively to erring players. Allow your players and yourself to enjoy the ups, and don’t dwell on the downs.
Here are some tips for injecting humor into your practices:
- Make practices fun by including a variety of activities.
- Keep all players involved in games and skill practices.
- Consider laughter by your players to be a sign of enjoyment, not of waning discipline.