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Lombardi wannabes find help in new book

A new youth football coach could be a former star quarterback or the trombone player in the marching band, but the playing field levels when trying to turn a group of unruly kids into a cohesive unit. Two experienced coaches come to the rescue with Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Football (Human Kinetics, 2010), in which they show coaches how to teach players the fundamentals of football in a fun and enlightening way.

“You are the envy of the coaching world,” asserts lead author Jim Dougherty. “By getting these kids at such a young age, you won't have to deal with bad habits they picked up somewhere else. So instead of correcting bad stances and poor form, you get to start from scratch by teaching them the fundamentals of playing football.”

First-time coaches often envision only the skills and plays they'll teach, but Doughtery and coauthor Brandon Castel provide a clipboard of administrative items that help get the season off to a good start even before the coach blows his first whistle.

Getting kids to start the game on the right foot takes more than just knowing how to coach. Along with teaching kids the fundamentals of the game, coaches are expected to fulfill several roles ranging from administrator to guidance counselor.

“During the course of any given practice, a coach may have to take on the role of part-time parent, teacher, or even paramedic in an attempt to restore order to what can quickly become a chaotic environment,” says Dougherty. “If your focus is in the right place—namely the best interest of the kids—things will generally work out.”

But, even the most prepared coaches can run into problems when clear expectations for players and parents aren't set at the beginning of the season. Key issues include playing time, team goals, and parental involvement; Dougherty advises informing parents that the goal is always to keep playing time equal among players.

Problems can also arise among parents on game day. “You will undoubtedly have parents who are planning to relive the glory days of high school through their child's team, but you need to keep that competitive spirit from becoming a cutthroat mentality,” Dougherty says. “Find other ways to get the super-spirited parents involved.” He suggests putting one or two parents in charge of organizing snacks, finding a parent who is good at taking pictures and making that person the official photographer, or giving someone the role of party planner for a postseason celebration.

For more information, see Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Football.