Coaching Youth Football – An Insight On How To Run A Successful Youth Football Program

I’ve been coaching youth football now for 24 years from age levels 7 to 14 years of age.and I’ve seen just about every imaginable scenario a coach can go through when coaching youth football. I was also a certified High School official for about 7 years or so. I have also seen many changes through the years not only through a coaches eyes but also through a parents eyes.

I’ve been on both sides of the ball. As a coach I had the opportunity to coach as a head coach and an assistant. As a parent I have 2 sons that played both youth and high school football. Both were average players. Knowing my place as a parent AND as a coach helped me get through some difficult parenting times.

If your looking to get involved with, or currently coaching youth football, this article will give you an outline so your team can get the instruction needed to be competitive. If your reading this article as a parent I’ll let you know what’s expected of you in return for the coaches giving their voluntary time to not only coach your child but to help mold them into responsible young adults.

My philosophy on football is this. Dominate the clock and you have a better chance of success. By that I mean you need to take charge offensively. Move the ball down the field 10 yards at a time. eat up the clock. Get into the red zone and score! Defensively SHUT THEM DOWN!! It’s not new and it’s not rocket science. Coaches lose sight of this at the high school and youth football level. That’s why repetition is needed. It breeds success.

First things first. As a head coach, you have to have your whole practice, program and philosophy outlined. Usually a youth football practice is 2 hours long. It doesn’t matter how many nights or days you practice you can use the same principles as will be outlined in this article.

BEFORE you start ANY practice, as head coach, you should have a parent/coaches meeting WITH the children attending the meeting. During the meeting make sure you cover the following:

  • Overview of your program
  • Your Coaching Philosophy
  • Introduction of coaches and their responsibilities
  • Eligibility requirements
  • Team rules
  • Expectations for player conduct both on and off the field(including school)
  • Expectations for parent conduct on and off the field
  • Importance of following staff directions
  • Season goals and objectives
  • Training and practice routines
  • Player selection (for team and starting positions)
  • Contingency plans for bad weather for outdoor sports
  • Keeping hydrated during hot weather
  • Equipment
  • Pregame and pre-practice Meals. What and when to eat.
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I also have my parents sign a form saying that they understand everything that was gone over in the meeting and they understand that their involvement is as a supporter for their child AND the team. I will give you what I use in an upcoming article.

I also have the children sign an agreement. Lots of good stuff in it too. It teaches them responsibility and commitment. I’ll give you what I use in an upcoming article also.

Now we’ve set the groundwork for your practices and what’s expected of everyone involved.

This is the schedule I run for my practices. It enforces execution by repetition. It works. The schedule is as follows:

  • 6:30 – 6:50 – warm up/calisthenics and 2 laps
  • 6:50 – 7:35 – breakdown into stations(blocking, tackling, running etc) usually 3 stations is good. Each station lasts for 15 minutes. Don’t make groups too big as to give reps to the players at each station.
  • 7:35 – 8:00 – Offensive or Defensive drills. Break down into groups and run your drills. I say Offensive or Defensive because one night I run Offensive Drills, One night Defensive Drills and one night Special Teams.
  • 8:00 – 8:20 – Scrimmage. One night you scrimmage your Offense, one night Defense and one night Special Teams + Offense AND Defense.
  • 8:20 – 8:30 – Warm Downs

The schedule can be modified to fit your situation. One thing you have to understand when coaching youth football. Repetition and practice results in great execution.

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During your practice sessions you, as head coach, should be going around to the different stations, drills or whatever so you get to know your players and their abilities. You have final say in the decisions that are made so you best know your players AND their abilities.

Make sure ALL your players get the proper coaching. You have no idea how many times I’ve seen other coaches give up on a player because they don’t think they “have what it takes”. Having what it takes isn’t the issue here. COACHING is the issue. As long as you and your coaches are doing just that, coaching, then you should see improvement in ALL of your players and that’s what one of your goals should be.

I would like to add one more thing before closing. Over 24 years of coaching youth football I have been fortunate enough to have run successful programs. I’ve had maybe 3 or 4 losing seasons. I hate to lose and I tell my players and parents that. If/when we lose we lose as a team. I NEVER show bad sportsmanship. My teams WIN and LOSE as a team. Coaches included. I am a very loud and fiery coach. If the player does something right I’m the first one there to give them praise. Same goes when they mess up. First one there to tell them it’s unacceptable. I do this for all of their on and off field behavior and commitment.

I’ve always said “Before you win as a team and become successful, you have to learn how to lose graciously as a team.”

Please keep an eye out for my upcoming articles. I will cover topics that will give you insight as to what it takes to run a successful program and to coach youth football while creating a winning and positive atmosphere.


by Jim Buldo