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Tailoring Your Football Coaching Goals to an Age Group

Every child on your team is different in so many ways. Some are gifted runners, others can make dazzling catches, and some struggle simply to grasp the basic techniques of the game. Regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of the kids, which may be all over the map, youngsters possess general characteristics that are influenced by age. Children are continually growing and evolving, and part of your coaching responsibility is knowing and understanding what to expect — both physically and emotionally — from youngsters at various age levels.

Being fully aware of the general age-related differences covered below can enhance your coaching skills and your ability to relate to your team. It can also ensure that you don't favor the players who are more mature and skilled at the expense of players whose skills are less developed. The following are some general characteristics that apply to specific age ranges.

Ages 6 and under

Children in this age bracket have probably never played football before, and this season may very well be their first experience in an organized team setting. Your job is simply to introduce them to some of football's most basic elements and whet their appetite for future participation.

Children at this age generally aren't concerned about how their football skills compare to those of others on the team. These kids are primarily interested in being with friends and having fun learning and playing the sport.

Ages 7–9

Youngsters at this age become interested in mastering some of the basics of the sport. They crave feedback from coaches and parents on how they perform certain skills and how they're progressing with new ones. They begin noticing their teammates' abilities and skill levels. When coaches verbally recognize one of their peers for properly executing a skill, they want to earn that same feedback.

The desire to compete carries much more prominence for some youngsters in this age range than for others. Children who have older siblings may be particularly competitive, because they've watched their brothers compete in football or other sports, and the younger siblings are finally getting their turn to display their skills.

Ages 10–12

More than likely, these children have had some experience playing football in the past and are continuing because it's piqued their interest. Keep the positive momentum going by adding to their foundation of skills. Fuel their desire to continue playing by conducting practices that are both challenging and fun.

Quite often, sports take on added importance at this juncture in kids' lives, and some of them really want to do well. As children hit this age range, many become more competitive. They begin embracing the challenge of putting their skills to the test and enjoy competing against others their age. When they're able to help the team prevail, these players feel immense satisfaction accompanied by a unique feeling of accomplishment that's specific to the wonderful world of football.

Ages 13–14

Welcome to the challenging world of the teenager! These kids have already developed many of the basic skills needed to play the sport and now want to improve them.

Be aware that children at this age are typically searching for their personal identity, so try getting to know them on a personal level by asking who their favorite football players or football teams are. Of course, this tip is great for building special coach-player bonds with kids of all ages.

Ages 15 and above

Gaining the respect of your players is always important to your coaching success, and that's particularly true when coaching kids ages 15 and older. These teens have developed a real passion for the sport. They attend football camps, perhaps lift weights year-round in preparation for the season, and in some cases, may actually be more knowledgeable in some areas of the sport than you are.

If you volunteer or get recruited to coach this age group, don't panic! Instead, welcome the chance to enhance your coaching abilities and embrace the opportunity to coach these kids, who have a deep-rooted love for the game. Be sure to let them know that you value their opinions, suggestions, and input regarding the team. A youngster's passion for football is wonderful, and that enthusiasm actually helps make your job easier.

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