OT: Coaching 5-6 graders. Tips, drills, help

Submitted by B1G_Fan on October 20th, 2016 at 7:54 PM

 I recently got forced into coaching my sons middle school football team. I had zero coaching experience previously but, I have to admit I absolutely fell in love with it. As a kid I played a lot of football, attended camps and all that but, never knew how much was involved in actually coaching kids up. I think I did what every man does when faced with coaching, went to youtube and watched video for a few weeks.

 Now we're in an extremely small district, I'm guessing about 20,000 people in the district and this is football forsaken country out here so some of the better athletes don't want to play. To make a potentially long story short, I know there are several coaches of various degrees on here and was wondering if any of you had any tips or helpful idea that helped you and your teams turn the corner.

This team hasn't won a game in 3-4 years. Every year they have a new coaching staff and no summer conditioning set up. We went 0-8 this year, having to forfeit 2 games mid season for lack of available players. The first 3 games we got destroyed 56-6, 46-0 and 62-0. We had the 2 game forfeit stretch but, then the kids really got competetive. I was extremely proud of the effort and growth and I want to keep building on it.

 I appreciate all useful feed back and keep in mind most of these kids have never played football at any level.


The Fugitive

October 20th, 2016 at 8:04 PM ^

blitz every play, bring the house. doulbe a gap pressures.

11 men in the box, force them to beat you with the pass.

also, instruct them to lead with the crown of their helmets.  since they're little kids, they wont get a concussion.  they won't really feed anything. 


October 20th, 2016 at 8:11 PM ^

We do eventually feed into the high school. The high school has a skills camp during the summer but, I was told they don't really work with the little guys and concentrate more on their kids. I'm trying to volunteer for the camp this summer both for the experience and to be able to put in some work with my kids.

Steve in PA

October 21st, 2016 at 12:11 PM ^

I cannot comment on football coaching but I coached many years of pre-HS baseball and football. The most consistently successful programs I have been around had quite a bit of HS coaches running clinics for the little guys/gals even if it was only a few hours on a Saturday morning ot of season.


Most of it was not to benefit the players. Just like you, many of the youth coaches are moms and dads either roped into coaching or volunteered. Those clinics help them to "unlearn" bad things they were taught and to properly teach fundamentals. It's a chance to build relationships that could last a decade as the players move from youth through varsity ball.

Winchester Wolverine

October 20th, 2016 at 8:06 PM ^

I coach 7th and 8th graders. I count on 2 things each year.

1. Teaching them how to correctly spell "Blackhawks" for 'Blackhawk Jacks' during warm-ups.

2. Going out on the field and showing them what hash marks, downs, field goals, positions, etc. are and what they mean.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:14 PM ^

First things first, if they've never played, a lot of what you'll be fighting is immaturity like timidity, impatience and frustration.  One thing I really wish didn't happen when I was a kid was coaches giving up on me when I didn't do well on my very first try.  I'm serious; that was my childhood sports experience -- I'd never played before, so of course I screwed up in practice, ate bench the rest of the season.  No tutoring, no tips, nothing.  I wasn't worth anyone's time, so obviously I didn't try because nobody told me I could get better.  So consider this a personal request -- please at least try to get the less confident kids to believe in themselves.

That in mind, kids are very intuitive, so before you start having them rep plays, here are some demonstrations (I've done similar stuff demonstrating physics concepts to middle schoolers):

Go out into a parking lot or gym, have one of them sit, in pads, on a wheeled cart.  Have one of them give him a push on the shoulders, max effort.  Reset, do it again except instruct them to push at the waist -- get down low and throw your weight as close to the wheels as possible.  It will go MUCH farther.  This is pad level.  Low guy wins.  Get under your man and blow him up.  "High for fast, low to blast".  Run upright for speed, get low if you sense a hit or are about to deliver one.  Peppers is excellent at this.

On the field, have one kid at one corner of a goal line, another on the 5-yard line, 10 yards inside.  Send them both running, the one on the corner straight down the sideline, the other runs straight AT the sideline.  He'll get passed.  This is pursuit angle.  If someone's running by you at full speed, you can't just run straight at him.  If you're trying to run by someone, angle away -- make them change direction.  If they're inside go outside, if they're outside go inside.

Have them play sessions of one-on-one tag, matched by position -- OL vs. DL, WR vs. DB, RB vs. LB, etc.  D-linemen and receivers are trying to shake their man, O-linemen and back-7 defenders are trying to catch them.  After a while, gather the "chasers" and tell them to imagine there's a 5' string connecting their belly buttons.  Have them watch the waist and mirror that.  It sounds silly, but it gets them to stop looking at head fakes; one's center of gravity can't feint.  The others should try to get their chasers to shift their weight, then cut the other way.

Last lesson:  Have two kids in pads line up, both with knees bent but one with knees & ankles together, the other with legs way far apart.  Give both a quick solid nudge from the side; the first one should topple easily.  Reset, but this time have them race 5 yards forward.  The one with legs together should win.  This is footwork.  There is no quick way to teach this, but you can get them to see the trade-off between balance and power.  There is no perfect standstill stance so don't fight your feet; fight WITH your feet.

Pad level, pursuit angle, center of gravity, footwork.  These are not difficult concepts to grasp when seen in action.  From there, encourage them to watch YouTube clips (this is a good one) with these in mind, and just get better every day.


October 21st, 2016 at 3:37 AM ^

Thanks, this is perfect. I actually had been running drills I saw on youtube from Ohio state to work on pad level and foot work for the o-line. It worked extremely well and really helped us fire off the ball. I like your methods though and think they'll work great.


October 20th, 2016 at 8:15 PM ^

Throw out what you know about football in terms of positions. If your fastest guy is your biggest guy, then he's a skill guy and not necessarily OL. Give them a couple basic sets to learn. They will overload easily. Don't even think about exotic double-reverse tricky stuff--they won't be able to manage that yet. Basic stuff for starters. Most importantly--teach them how to be a good teammate.

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October 20th, 2016 at 8:15 PM ^

Tackling was the hardest thing for me to teach. They would do great in practice drills but, in live games everything would go out the window and they would get super timid and start grabbing instead of form tackling


October 20th, 2016 at 8:17 PM ^

Extremely small district of 20,000. Come on man there's 3,500 people in my entire county. Our high school team hasn't won a conference championship since the 60s.


October 20th, 2016 at 8:31 PM ^

I coached 5-8 and it was great. Focus on the fundamentals, tackling, blocking ect. I had a team with 13 players so we had to be creative. I ran a simple spread formation with 4 WR. We did not have the numbers or talent to compete so we tried to spread the defense out to have a better chance at running the ball. Also would throw a few screen passes and have a hot route screen in case they did not respect the WRs. With low numbers the only real advantage was that your players really got to know their positions so we could run a bit more complicated offense with motion ect. But again my best advice is focus on the fundamentals and try to spread the defense out. Also shorten the game by using up a lot of the play clock. You want a low scoring game. Best of Luck!


October 20th, 2016 at 8:44 PM ^

Ive been coaching at the High school level for about 10 years now, the number one thing that I will tell you is to make the calls/plays as simple as possible. If a kid (any age really) is confient they know their assignment they will play much faster. Other then that X's and O's do not matter much, just teach them how to block and tackle (every week) and you will see improvement. 

Also check into http://coachhuey.com/ excellent resource for football coaches. 


October 20th, 2016 at 8:45 PM ^

1) Find some high school kids to suit up for your team.

2) Teach them to lead with their heads. Kill shots win games.

3) Take out the knees.

4) Coach them to take a couple of vicious cheap shots or late hits early in the game- it puts the other team on their heels the rest of the way.

5) Stock up on growth hormone.

Good luck!


October 20th, 2016 at 8:51 PM ^

Have you considered recruiting? If you really want to build a program, it starts with recruiting. Look to the stars. Find a bagman or two. 20,000 people has to have a couple rich guys.


October 20th, 2016 at 9:00 PM ^

if not, then run the georgia tech offense (an 'A' and 'B' back which are basically wing backs, and a full back).  use motion constantly, sweeps and counters with some power/wham stuff.  start with 6-10 plays they can run, once they get them down, then expand the playbook.

fundamentals are key and do them every day, with different ones mixed in.  i made up some that seem to have worked well (10 yrs and going) - sumo, mobile sumo, oklahoma, and sometimes 'big oklahoma' with as many as 5 a side. the kids ask for those drills by name and aren't shy about hitting.   we will go to different stations, a few minutes at a time, and work the blocking sled, the low boy, and the bags in varying order. 

lots more than that, but hopefully something helpful there. 



October 20th, 2016 at 10:25 PM ^

but will challenge them.  it bears fruit.  it is very common for kids to ask me,  'coach, can we run a lap before practice' or to see them doing push ups between drills - and not because i've told them to. they will run extra, ask for the harder drills, and encourage their teammates.  you get their attitudes right and all the other fancy stuff i like to do is way easier to teach them.