A letter to youth football parents from your coaches…
Thank you for supporting your local youth football programs. For those parents that brought excited, respectful, and team-oriented kids to their practice fields and games, you’re the best. Seriously. The. BEST. I can’t tell you how great it feels to coach kids that want to be there, want to learn, and want to help their team. To those parents that brought their hot-mess-express kids to the field, may the odds be ever in your favor. I’m only partially kidding.
I watched countless kids on various teams this year as they defiantly did as they pleased, blissfully ignoring instructions from their coaches or parents. I watched countless kids on various teams as they acted selfishly time and again, serving their own interests over their team. I hope each and every one of those kids return to their football teams next year.
We’ve come to a weird place as a society where we don’t want to be around difficult children. I get that, I really do, because I default to that same point of view more often than I’d like to admit. However, isolating these children is NOT the answer. Reinforcing their own belief that they should do whatever they want, regardless of how it affects other people is NOT an acceptable approach.
So-called difficult children need a team around them to show them another way.
Football is the perfect sport to teach humility and a team-first attitude.
In other sports, everyone is a playmaker; everyone can make the highlight reel. Every batter has a chance to hit that home run in Little League. Every player on the basketball team has a chance to put points on the board. Nearly everyone in soccer is in a scoring position at some point in the game.
That’s not how it is in youth football. Like at all.
Sure, we can cycle kids into different positions, but when every position has its own specific job on a given play; it’s hard to get the repetitions in our limited practices to make that happen.
This is where the humble kids shine. They learn the position we’ve asked them to play, and they put all their effort into their job. This is also where the difficult child struggles, because blocking isn’t as much fun as scoring a touchdown. In this day and age, the knee-jerk reaction from a lot of people is to lament against a system where every child isn’t able to strike a Heisman pose on the way to the end zone.
These people don’t understand football; they Googled “Heisman pose” just to understand the reference.
Football is a team sport, in the truest sense of the word.
It’s a game where some people have to do very hard things in order for their team to succeed. Of the 11 players on offense, at least 9 of them are charged with blocking on every single play. Blocking, in essence, is pushing another human being away from where they want to go. The defense wants to get to the ball; it’s the offense’s job to keep them away from the ball. It’s physical, it’s hard, and it is grueling work that starts on the snap and doesn’t stop until the whistle. Then it starts all over again.
Look at the Dallas Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliot in recent years. ‘Zeke’ is a top-tier running back that every football kid looks to with awe and inspiration. However, that franchise built their offensive line to serve that purpose. Without that offensive line doing the hard work of blocking up front, Elliot would have been waived by now, guaranteed. Furthermore, I believe that you could plug nearly any other starting running back in the NFL into the Dallas backfield and they’d rush for 1,500 yards per season too. The point here is that every kid wants to be ‘Zeke’ but there are precious few kids that want to be Zach Martin or Tyron Smith. There are precious few kids that want to put in the grueling work of protecting their quarterback or opening a gap for their running backs. If you have one of those kids with a Zach Martin poster on their wall… Please, I’m begging you; bring them to your local football league!!!
It’s hard to get kids to buy in to giving 100% effort on blocking, but that’s most of what playing football is. We’re trying to move other human beings to somewhere they don’t want to be. That’s most of what we coach at the youth levels, because a kid that can’t pass can catch, and a kid that can’t catch can block. Ultimately, I’m not so much concerned with how effective we block at the youth level. What I’m focused on, and what your child’s coach is focused on, is developing their effort. I want to see kids giving 100% of their effort on every play, because that’s what the team needs them to do. Regardless of whether or not they have the emotional maturity to understand how every piece of the offense relies on all the other pieces, we need to see that full effort.
Unlocking that 100% level of effort will improve them all around as young humans.
It will apply to their school work, their chores at home, and even their future employability as adults. Children that are willing to do hard things for their teams grow into adults that are willing to do hard things for their businesses.
You might have looked out on the practice field this season and wondered why your child’s coach was preaching about blocking all season. It might have looked like your coach was out there yelling about, “Some silly football thing” until they were blue in the face.
Truth be told though, your coach was out there trying to teach those kids about doing hard things and channeling big emotions. Your coach was teaching them about life, about struggles, and about overcoming their own doubts. What that coach wants more than anything else though, is another season with your child to continue the lesson.
If you would like to learn more about youth football, how to get your child involved, and more, take a look at Football Matters.
This post is brought to you in partnership with Football Matters. The National Football Foundation launched Football Matters to celebrate the positive impact football has made on players, coaches, and families all over.