First, we want to "THANK YOU" for your willingness to help develop the kids in our community. We will do everything in our power to make sure it will be a great experience for you, your players, and their families!
Whether this is your first experience coaching or you are a vet, we hope you'll find the following information helpful in providing a framework for making your coaching experience this season a successful one.
Teaching young players the game of Flag Football can be really fun and ultimately rewarding. As coach, you will be looked upon as a teacher, leader, role model and authority figure by the kids on your team. Don’t underestimate the influence (positive or negative) you can have upon a child. Kids are very impressionable and will watch your every move. The team will take your lead, adopt your attitude and take on your personality.
Sounds daunting, but while you shouldn't be overwhelmed by the responsibility, you also should not take your coaching responsibilities lightly.
Helping others, especially children is such a rewarding endeavor. If you can have even the slightest positive influence on a child’s life, your coaching experience will have been a success. Watching a player improve as both a flag football player and as a person can be one of the most fulfilling accomplishments a person can have. Without question, sports can be a great influence in the development of a child. The lessons learned on the field can help shape and mold the type of person a child may become.
Valuable lessons kids can learn from sports:
As kids get older, they'll get more and more exposed to the competitive nature of sports. Especially with players of a young age, your goal should be to teach the children about the game of flag football and to instill upon them a love for the sport - winning should be secondary to ensuring your kids are having fun and getting to participate. Win or lose, if the players have fun, you should consider your season a success. With a little organization, planning, and above all patience, you will have a great season.
League Rules - Prior to the start of the season, obtain a copy of the League Rules and familiarize yourself with them. This is especially important if you are coming from a different league. Each commissioner has the authority to modify the rules to fit the atmosphere they would like to create so you don't want to be caught off guard by rules that you thought everyone played with in their league.
Practices and Games – Be sure you know when and where your team will practice and meet on game day. Because change is part of anything, you will want to check the schedule Wednesday each week for any last minute updates that could effect your team.
Equipment – To effectively run a team, you should have the following equipment:
Contact your team members as soon as possible, even if you do not have all the information regarding the upcoming season yet. For many kids, flag football may be the most important thing on their minds and parents get anxious when they haven’t heard from their coach prior to the season start. Email is the best way to communicate with the team. Each team will have their own team page through our website to make communicating with parents easier.
Coach's contact information. This information should consist of:
Cell Phone Number
Date, Time and Location of First Practice or Team Meeting
Explain to the parents what equipment a player will need for the upcoming season (cleats or tennis shoes, mouth guard, athletic shorts (no pockets)/sweat pants).
Initial meeting or 1st practice
Set aside the first 10-15 minutes of the first practice to discuss your team goals for the year and to handle any administrative matters.
At this level, your team goals should be:
If a parent has goals that differ from yours, have a conversation with them and address any issues as soon as possible.
Your team goals and the parents’ goals should be very similar. However, player development with consistent growth should be your number one priority as a coach. Playing time should always be based on team match-ups to avoid putting your players in overly difficult situations that could stunt their performance growth.
The most important and most difficult task you as a coach will face is effectively conveying your message to your players. When talking to your players, remember that they are young. You need to talk down to their level.
When explaining a drill or concept, do not get too technical. Yes, you must teach the basics, but do it in a way so that THEY can understand.
If you explain a drill 3 times to your team, and they don’t understand it, guess what!? YOU need another way to explain it! While all the coaches have their own teams, we foster a collaborative atmosphere among our each other. Ask for suggestions from someone you think has successfully taught the skill to their kids. At the end of the day, it is about growth that trickles down from our coaches to the kids we develop. You are not on an island. We understand that the better our coaching core is than the more successful X-Factor will be in developing competitive athletes!
Always keep it simple enough for all your players to understand. This is not the NFL nor will we have college recruiters on the sidelines. The main purpose is ensuring the kids are having fun so that they WANT to move on to the next level. Make sure that every player has an opportunity to participate and feel like they are a valuable part of the team. Look for each child's strengths so that everyone has a role to play as you build your team's cohesion.
As a coach you should inspire your players to give their best and work well with other team members to achieve the team's goals. You are a role model for the children under your wing. What you do impresses them more powerfully than what you say. Strive to emphasize sportsmanship, character, and trust.
If you're explaining a play, ask them questions like, "What's the reason for this?" or "Is there anything we should watch out for when trying this out?" The fact that you're asking them reinforces their self-esteem and makes them feel like they're an important part of your football team.
Be sensitive to the children's limitations and emotions. Even if they look up to you for guidance and support, you must value their opinions and understand your players' different personalities. Never humiliate a player publicly or corner a player.
When correcting a player, we recommend the Complement Sandwich: start out by Praising/Complementing on what the player did correctly, and then explain what they may have done wrong or where they could improve. Once you have done this, finish with a positive complimentary statement. No one, especially a young player, needs to constantly hear negative criticism.
You will quickly notice that some players are more coordinated than others. Also, your players will grasp concepts and learn at different paces. This is one of the challenges of coaching younger children. You don’t want to “lose” any child that may not be grasping the subject. However, you must also avoid boring the other players that quickly master a drill.
Spend a little extra time with the players that may be learning slower than the others. After practice, give these players some additional “homework” to do before your next practice/game. Speak to these players on a one-on-one basis, in a very discrete manner (be careful not to make it look as though you are singling out these players).
For the players that are excelling faster than the others, add some “twist” or complexity to a drill that the rest of the team is performing.
All children, especially young children have short attention spans. It’s your job to keep them focused and interested in what’s going on.
The best way to keep the players focused is to have constant movement and change. If one small group is practicing plays, another group can be doing drills while waiting for their turn. This keeps everyone busy and prevents boredom. Have the assistant supervise one group while you coach the other.
Use several footballs so that every player can perform the drills at the same time. That will cut down on the amount of time a player is standing around and watching the other players go through the activity. The time that a player is not engaged in activity is the time you will “lose them”. Also, to keep everything new and exciting, each drill should last no more than 5-10 minutes. Gauge your team’s attention span and adjust the length of each drill accordingly.
Dealing with problem players can be quite difficult - get a handle on this situation quickly. Coaching a bunch of young flag football players is difficult enough when everyone is cooperating - Throw in a few behavioral problems and the season can deteriorate quickly. In a behavioral problem situation, take a look at the situation, analyze what may be causing the problem and attempt to address it accordingly and as quickly as possible.
Setting this early can lead to a more organized practice not just for one meeting but for the rest of the season. Earn and engage the kid's respect so they will stay focused on the game and not engage in disruptive activities. Call the player aside and talk to them if you feel it's necessary. We do not encourage coaches to use exercise (running laps, push-ups, etc) as a punitive measure, but we do recognize that some players will respond to this in small doses. Benching them (for a few minutes) is more effective, as this deprives them of the chance to participate in the activity that they're supposed to be engaging in.
Get as Many Volunteers as You Can (You Will Need Them)
Coaching should be looked upon as a team effort. Running a team of 5-10 youngsters is quite a bit of work - you will need some help. You may or may not have an assistant coach assigned to your team – regardless, at the first practice, seek out other assistant coaches. To run an effective flag football team you should have at a minimum 1 assistant coach. You will quickly learn that during practice, it can be difficult to get up to 10 players to pay attention and understand what is required from them. It's great to have a coach for every 4-5 players to help keep the players focused.
Before every practice, give a detailed explanation to all the assistant coaches and parent helpers. Go over what drills the team will be doing and what you need them (the coaches) to do.
Be willing to accept suggestions and constructive criticism from parents during the season. Parents may have an “outside” view of how things are going and their input can be valuable.
For the overbearing parent that seems to have a problem with everything you try to do: have them volunteer as an assistant coach - in most cases, the parent will see that some things are easier said than done. Having the parent make a commitment to the running of the team may quiet them down and may help instead of hurt the coaching process.
The Over-Critical Parent
There is nothing that will discourage a child more than criticism, especially from his or her own parent. Remember, at this level, your SECOND goal should be to teach the players some football skills. The FIRST and most important goal for the season is to HAVE FUN!! You want the players to grow to love the game and continue playing for years to come. Hopefully at this beginner level, you will not have to deal with parents who are over critical with their children.
If a problem with a parent persists, discreetly take the parent aside, and once again explain your coaching philosophy to them. Explain that their criticisms are a distraction to not only their child, but to the entire team. Another tactic is to move the child to the opposite side of the field, away from the parent and away from the comments. Also, remind them of the Parent Code of Conduct that they signed during registration. Regardless of the situation, all of the kids on the field playing or observing the game are watching our examples, and we should carry ourselves with that idea in mind. Always.