Thank you for volunteering to coach a flag football team at Fire It Up Sports. We feel confident it will be a rewarding experience for you. Whether this is your first experience coaching or you are a well seasoned vet, we hope you will find this information will provide a framework to make your coaching experience a successful one this season. As a coach, the young athletes on your team will look up to you as a teacher, role model, leader and authority figure. The influence (positive or negative) you can have upon a child should not be underestimated. Kids are extremely impressionable. They will listen to your every word and watch your every move. The team you coach will take your lead and adopt your attitude. It may sound a little daunting and while you shouldn’t be overwhelmed with the responsibility, we don’t want you to take your coaching responsibilities lightly. If you can have even the slightest positive influence on a child’s life, your coaching experience will have been a huge success. Watching a young athlete improve as both a flag football player and as a person can be one of the most fulfilling accomplishments you will ever have. There is no doubt that sports can be a great influence in the development of a child as the lessons learned on the football field can help mold and shape the type of person a child may become.
Competitive Sports Teach Life Lessons
• How to cope with both winning & losing
• How to set and work towards achieving goals
• How to work well with others
• How to respect authority
• How to follow directions
As children get older, they will be more exposed to the competitive nature of sports. At Fire It Up Sports, our goal is to teach kids about the game of flag football and instill in them a love for the sport. Winning is secondary to ensuring they are participating and having fun. Win or lose, if the players on your team have fun, you should consider your season a success. With a little organization, planning, and patience, you can look forward to having a great season.
Getting Started Coaching Flag Football
League Rules – Before the season starts, it is important to obtain a copy of the League Rules and familiarize yourself with them.
Practices and Games – Know when and where practices and games are to be held. Have schedules to distribute to parents as needed.
Flag Football Equipment – To run a team effectively, you should have the following equipment on hand:
• Footballs – You will need enough footballs to run an effective practice. You may have two or three drills being performed currently, so you will need at least two-three footballs for those drills. Coaches can check out practice footballs before each practice and return them after each practice.
• Flags and Flag Belts – Each player needs a flag belt and two flags. It is important to have enough for your entire team. You can encourage parents to write each players names on them. You may decide to collect all the flags each week so they are less likely to be forgotten or lost, but some players may wish to practice with them 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 before each practice and return them after each practice.
• Whistle – Blowing a whistle is much easier and less taxing on your voice to get your team’s attention.
Contact Flag Football Team Members & Parents
Contact your team members as soon as you can, even if you do not yet have all the information regarding the upcoming season yet. For many youth athletes, flag football is be the most important thing on their minds and parents get anxious when they haven’t heard from their coach before the season begins. Email is the most convenient, quickest and overall best way to communicate with the team. Give the parents your contact information which should consist of:
– Cell Phone Number
– E-Mail Address
– Date, Time and Location of First Practice or Team Meeting
Also explain to the parents what equipment the players will need for the upcoming season (tennis shoes or cleats, mouth guard, athletic shorts with no pockets or sweat pants etc.
Plan for First Meeting or Flag Football Practice
Set aside the first 10-15 minutes of the first practice to discuss your team goals for the year and to deal with any administrative matters. At this level, your team goals should be:
• Ensure every player has a fun flag football season
• Learn the basic fundamentals of the game of flag football
• Show improvement from one practice to the next
• Be competitive enough so as to not have the players on the team get discouraged
If a parent has goals that differ from those above, it is important to open dialogue and address any issues as soon as possible.
Properly fitting the flag belts means not having to be concerned about the long excess belt that becomes a third belt if not clipped or tucked in. With the help of your assistant coach and/or parent volunteers, this process should be fairly quick. It is also a good idea to write each player’s name on their belt at this time. Fire It Up Sports recommends collecting the flag belts after each game so they are not forgotten or lost. However, if children wish to practice flag pulling during the week, they should feel welcome to take their belt home as the belts are theirs to keep at the end of the season.
Organize Flag Football Paperwork
After you have gathered all the information you will need for the upcoming season, you will find you have quite the bundle of paperwork. As you will need to bring much of this info (such as player emergency contact info etc) with you for each practice and game, we suggest you put all your information in a three ring binder with page protectors to protect documents from the rain.
Coaching Communication Skills with Players
Communication – The most important and possibly difficult task you will face as a coach is effectively conveying your message to your players. When instructing your players, keep in mind that they are young. For example, when explaining a concept or drill, do not get too technical. Teach the basics in a way they can understand. If you find yourself having to explain a drill three or more times to your team, and they still don’t understand it, it is likely you are explaining it wrong! The main goal is for the kids to have fun. Ensure every player has an equal opportunity to participate and feel like they are a valuable part of the team. Strive to emphasize sportsmanship, character and trust as the members of your team learn to compete while having fun.
Ask Questions – When you are explaining a play for instance, ask your team questions like, “What’s the reason for this?” or “Is there anything we should watch out for when trying this out?” This helps them to understand the sport as well as reinforces their self-esteem and makes them feel like they’re an important part of your football team.
Be Respectful – Be sensitive to the player’s limitations and emotions. The kids will look up to you for guidance and support, but you must value their opinions and understand their different personalities. Never corner or humiliate a player publicly.
Complement Sandwich – When correcting a player, utilize the Complement Sandwich. Begin by praising or complementing the player on what they did correctly, then explain how they can improve or what they may have done wrong, and finish with positive praise. No one, especially a young player, needs to constantly hear negative criticism.
Learning Curves & Differing Abilities – Some players are more mature and/or coordinated than others and players will grasp concepts and learn at very different paces. You want to strike a balance so that you don’t leave any child behind but still be challenging and engaging for the most advanced child. It’s a good idea to spend extra time with the players that may be learning slower than the others. Also, after practice, you can discreetly give these players some extra “homework” to do before your next practice or game. For the players that are excelling faster than the others, you can add a level of complexity to the drill that the rest of the team is performing.
Hold Their Attention – Children have very short attention spans. Keep them busy, focused and interested in what’s going on by having constant movement and change. For example, if one small group is practicing plays, another group can be doing drills while waiting for their turn. The assistant can supervise one group while you coach the other. Use several footballs so that every player can actively perform the drills at the same time. Each drill should last no more than 5-10 minutes so they don’t get bored with the repetitiveness but this time will vary depending on your team’s attention span.
Dealing with Problem Players – Dealing with problem players can be quite difficult so you will want to get a handle on it quickly. In any behavioral problem situation, analyze what may be causing the problem and attempt to address it as quickly as possible.
Agree on Rules for Discipline – Setting this early will lead to more organized practices throughout the season. Earn the kid’s respect so they will stay focused on playing the game and not engage in disruptive activities. Call the disruptive player aside and talk to them if necessary. Never use exercise as a punishment for them or the team. Benching them for a few minutes is much more effective, as this deprives them of the chance to participate.
• If there are a few players who fool around with each other during practice drills, separate these players into separate groups
• If one player seems to be disruptive because they are bored, try 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 behaving and enjoying themselves, they will likely 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
Gather Volunteers – Coaching should be viewed as a team effort. You will need some help running a youth flag football team. You may or may not have an assistant coach assigned to your team but either way, at the first practice, seek out other assistant coaches. To run an effective flag football team you should have at least one assistant coach. During practice, it can be difficult to get 10 young players to pay attention and understand what is required from them. It’s ideal to have a coach for every 4-5 players to help keep them focused. For flag football 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 if a second 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 the coaches to do.
Parent Suggestions/Constructive Criticism – Be willing to accept suggestions and constructive criticism from parents throughout the season. Parents may have an “outside” view of how everything is progressing and their input can be valuable. Some overbearing parent may appear to have a problem with everything you try to do. A good solution is to 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.
Over-Critical Parents – There is nothing that will discourage a child more than criticism, especially from his or her own parent. But again, the first goal is to have fun and the second goal is to teach the players some football skills. This will ensure the players 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 overly critical with their children. If a problem with a parent persists, it is a good idea to discreetly take them, and once again explain your coaching philosophy to them. Explain that their criticisms are a distraction not only to 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 comments.