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Coaching 101

Thank you for volunteering to coach a PLAYMAKERS Flag Football team.  We hope it will be a great experience for you. 
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:

  • Ethics and how to follow the rules
  • Coping with Failure: How to cope with both winning & losing 
  • Goal Setting - How to set and work toward achieving goals
  • Teamwork - How to work with others
  • How to respect authority
  • How to follow directions

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.

Getting Started

League Rules - Prior to the start of the season, obtain a copy of the League Rules and familiarize yourself with them.

Practices and Games – know when and where and have schedules to distribute to parents as needed

Equipment – To effectively run a team, you should have the following equipment:

  • Footballs – You will need to have enough footballs so that you can run an effective practice. You may have 2 or 3 drills being performed at the same time, so you will need at least 2-3 footballs for those drills. Coaches can check out practice footballs prior to each practice and return them after practice.  
  • Flags and Flag Belts – Each player needs a flag belt and 2 flags. Make sure you have enough for your entire team. Encourage parents to write each players names on them. Coaches may decide to collect all the flags each week so that they are less likely to be lost or forgotten, but some players may want to have them to practice with during the week and should be allowed to do so.  
  •  Cones – For most of your drills, you will need cones to section off an area on the field or to set up obstacles, etc. for your team. Depending on the number of players you have, 8-10 cones should be sufficient.   Coaches can check out practice cones prior to each practice and return them after practice.  
  •  Whistle – It’s easier, and less taxing on your voice, to get your team’s attention by blowing a whistle

Contact Team Members & Parents

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.

Give the parents your contact information. This information should consist of:

Name

Cell Phone Number

E-Mail Address

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:

  • To ensure every player has a fun season
  • To learn the basic fundamentals of the game of flag football
  • To show improvement from one practice to the next
  • Be competitive enough so as to not have your team get discouraged


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. If a parent has different goals than yours (“I want my son to run for 100 yards and score 3 touchdowns in every game this year!”) they need to be discussed and addressed at the beginning of the season.

FLAG FITTING 

It's a great idea to take a few minutes to properly fit the flag belts and write each player name on them. If you can get a little help from your assistant coach or a parent volunteer, this shouldn't take long and you won't have to worry about the long excess belt that becomes a 3rd flag if not clipped or tucked in. The following video shows an easy way to custom fit the belts and secure them with duct tape. They clipped ends must be secured with tape or they will pull through. We recommend collecting the flag belts after each game as they tend to get lost or forgotten when needed on game day. However, let kids and parents know that if they want to practice flag pulling during the week, they are welcome to take their belt home and the belts are theirs to keep at the end of the season.
 

Get Organized

After you have gathered all the information you will need for your season, you’ll notice that you have quite a bundle. Much of this information you will need to bring with you for each practice and game (i.e. player emergency contact info, etc.) We suggest that you put all your information in a 3 ring binder. This makes access easy and important information readily available. You should also have plastic page protectors to protect your information from the rain.

 

Communicating With Players

Communication

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 are explaining it wrong!


Keep It Simple

Always keep it simple enough for all your players to understand. This is not the NFL, and the main purpose is ensuring the kids are having fun.  Make sure that every player has an equal opportunity to participate and feel like they are a valuable part of the team.
 

Always remember this is all about the children learning to COMPETE & having fun.

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.
 

Ask Questions

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.
 

Don't Be Too Dictatorial

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.
 

The Complement Sandwich

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.

 

Learning Curves & Differing Abilities

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.
 

Keeping Them Moving Will Keep Their Attention

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.
 

Problem Players – You Are Not a Babysitter

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. 

Agree on the rules for discipline

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. Never use exercise (running laps, push-ups, etc) as a punitive measure. 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

  • If there are a few players who seem to fool around during practice drills, separate these players and put them in separate groups 
  • If one player seems to be disruptive because he or she is bored, attempt to keep their attention by talking to them throughout practice 
  • If a behavioral problem persists, sit the player down for a “time-out” for a few minutes. 
  • Once they see all the other players, who behave, enjoying themselves, they will want to join along. 
  • If all else fails, speak with the child’s parent on a one-one basis, asking for their help in addressing the problem

 

Dealing with Parents

Get as Many Volunteers as You Can (You Will Need Them)

Coaching should be looked upon as a team effort. Running a team of ten 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 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.

For games, you will need:

  • At least one coach to instruct the players as to the play, to make sure the offensive line gets set, lines-up in a straight line, and knows what they are to do at the snap. The same goes for the defense. 
  • At least one coach on the sideline during the game to make substitutions and to make sure the players are paying attention and behaving.  This can be a parent is a 2nd coach is not available.

 

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.


Suggestions/Constructive Criticism

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.