Reaching ultimate success in football is a process, especially at the youth level. You don’t have a fifty-yard run for a touchdown, the correct blocking scheme, a good center to quarterback exchange, a completed pass, a clean and solid tackle, an effective pass rush, or the right coverage overnight. It can take time.
Sometimes the little things are the hardest things to master. When something goes right, there is reason to smile and it will help the kids have fun.
That is one of the focuses of USA Football’s Football Development Model.
“Football is a game before it’s a sport. No matter the level, it should be fun. We will start with skills and personal success to ensure fun stays a priority when competition begins.”
So, when it comes to having fun playing football, especially in the early stages, it’s a good practice to celebrate something that goes right. There will be a time down the road where that achievement will not be celebrated because it will be expected. Anything that can be challenging for young players starting out is an accomplishment worth noting. As the level of play increases, the celebrated accomplishments will rise as well.
For example, when that ball is successfully delivered by the center to the quarterback’s hands without the ball hitting the ground, it’s okay to be excited about it because it’s not an easy thing to do.
Down the road, the celebration will increase from just a successful snap to a successful play. This is another indication of how baby steps are an important part of progressing in the game of football.
It can be a bit confusing for a young player to learn how to play defense like knowing exactly where to stand, when to move and how to tackle. So, when that player is able to read where the play is going and is able to wrap up the ball carrier, give that player a big round of applause. As they get older, that simple tackle could turn out to be a sack or perhaps a forced fumble or an interception. Learning how to make those plays consistently is just part of the process.
These little accomplishments have to be celebrated at a young age. This is what makes the game fun for them. There will be a point where the fun and excitement of playing football shifts from just being able to make a play to be able to make enough plays to be competitive and to win games.
I’ll always remember how excited and happy my older son Bradley was when perfect snaps from center and shotgun became commonplace and when my younger son Jared learned how to disrupt the passing lanes in flag football and start batting down some footballs.
Success has to start somewhere and sometimes that somewhere is with the little things. Remember it’s a game before it’s a sport and therefore, should be fun.
Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN Radio in New York. His son Bradley is entering his first year of high school football and is a participant in the U.S. National Team program while his younger son Jared plays flag football. Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a youth football field.
USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.