Youth football coach Tren Mays discusses some of the challenges he has overcome with his team in this guest article.
(Hastings, Nebraska) I coach the Huskers youth football team in Hastings, NE, home of coaching legend Tom Osborne. Population of 24k. We have 6 teams in our league with around 250 kids playing on a yearly basis. Interest in our league is growing every year and our numbers have remained steady over the last 8 years. Our league is for 4th-6th grades and we added all 4th graders and eliminated 7th graders when the public schools added 7th grade football 7 years ago. We primarily draw youth from 3 areas schools (catholic, public and a rural district), but over the last decade we have grown into a regionally, drawing youth for smaller communities mainly east of us. We have a steady supply of youth athletes who make a two hour round trip to play in our league.
Our youth football league is based on weight and the players are divided into lightweights and heavyweights (squads alternate quarters during our 6 game schedule). We have a minimum weight requirement of 60 lbs and with no max limit. Being a big guy I fought for the no max weight when I got into the league over a decade ago. They used to cut it off at 135 lbs, it was not right to exclude the bigger kids. We divide the 5th and 6th graders in half to set the weight split. All 4th graders play play in the lightweight division with the bigger 4th graders being super lightweights and are restricted to playing in the line. We have a 135 lb limit to carry the ball and those bigger are also restricted to playing line. Each team has two squads on it with around 21+ players on it.
Basically I have two separate youth football teams that I am responsible for and does create its challenges with practices and games. Having a set practice plan is necessary when dealing with this many kids. Over the last 3 years as head coach I have crafted a different practice plan then what most use in our league. Most have separate practices for their lights and heavies on their team. Not a fan of that. Our coaches work with all of our kids, we don’t have light and heavy coaches like the other teams in our league do. We have two squads but we are one team. We divide most of our practices into 4 segments, two individual periods and team periods. We work on offensive and defensive positions at the same time during the individual position time. Our lightweights would be with the offensive position coaches while our heavyweights would work with the defensive position coaches, then would switch. Its a great way to manage our time with in our tight two hour practices. Before we would spend all the time in offensive positions and tackle at the beginning of practice. Now we work on both and do tackle drills throughout our practice time. The kids really bought into the plan last year and it really took off. We got this practice plan from the Hastings High football team. Also my younger brother’s youth team in the our league uses a uses this plan for a portion of his practices.
The Youth Football Online Rocket playbook was just what we needed. My team had struggled for a couple of years since I took over. We were searching for an offensive identity after my first year when the former coach (who spent 17 years coaching our league) helped me and called the plays. I looked at every aspect of my team before last season, we changed our attitudes, the way we practiced, and even they we tackled! My two squads were direct opposites, my heavys were built more on power and ran alot of HB and FB dive, OT plays. We valued every position with a 3 yard and a cloud of dust attitude. My light squad was in big play mode all the time, sprinkled in with a mix of power plays. Alot of jet sweeps. By the end of the year we ran alot of wildcat with zone reads. We had predetermined gives and takes with the zone read. It was pretty tough for mainly 4th graders to stop.
My offensive coordinator/Assist. Head Coach loves to run the HB OT play. I am FB trap/ dive guy and love to pound the rock with the power plays and play solid defense. He runs both offenses, while I run the defenses and coach the O-line.
Our league does have offensive/ defensive restrictions. On offense we cannot have more then 1 guy split to a side. Defensively we have to run a 6 man front (head up on the tackles and guards) The other five players have to line up 5 yards back before the snap. Most teams run a two TE set on offense and rarely split someone out.
I am excited for my 2013 season, we return alot of young players who are very athletic, quick and aggressive. Could be the best team we have had since we won the league title in 2007.
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