Each fall a new group of players arrives at your school, eager to make their mark. In a few years one of these freshmen will be your leading tackler or stud running back.
But for now, they’re just another group of wide-eyed youngsters in shell shock by the wide array of changes high school presents. They must adapt to your rules, study an entirely new playbook and coaching philosophy, learn how to train and lift weights and meet a new group of teammates - and that’s not even taking into consideration all their off-field adjustments.
You have the power to ease that transition. Having freshmen prepared from day one could be the bedrock of your program. Working with youth leagues and helping to develop tomorrow’s stars will define future success.
Here are some ways you can impact your local youth leagues and ensure that the next wave of talent will enter high school ready to hit the ground running.
Hold Youth Camps
What better way to connect your program to youth leagues than to engage them directly? Whether hosted at your school or an off-campus location, these camps allow you to:
- Teach youth coaches your philosophy, which will then trickle down and be introduced to the players.
- Meet and engage with the parents of your future players.
- Introduce the players to the way you run your program, shortening the adjustment period once they get to high school.
- Connect with the community and build goodwill with fans.
Though making money isn’t the No. 1 issue, these camps can also be used as a fundraiser if you choose to charge for them, supplying your team with a little extra income. Conducting a summer camp is an easy and effective way to connect with the community and build relationships with the future of your program.
Your team may be used to watching video through Hudl, but some youth teams have yet to take advantage. The earlier you can get the players familiar with reviewing video, the more effective they’ll be at studying it once they’re on your team.
“Kids are such visual learners, and Hudl allows us to show kids instantly what we’re talking about.”
There are major benefits for youth players to gain from using Hudl, so tell their coaches about it. You could potentially even hold a training session, allowing you to build relationships with coaches while ensuring they teach their players correctly.
Simply put, Hudl is a great teaching tool for young athletes. Get them engaged and familiar with it early on to promote future success.
Get Them Involved on Game Day
Any time you can tie your program with a positive youth experience, players are more likely to want to play in high school or, if your school is private, enroll. You should be doing anything you can to connect positive experiences and interactions with your program.
Game day provides all kinds of opportunities to get the kids involved. You can have them serve as ball boys or kicking tee runners. If a local youth team is successful, recognize them at halftime or through a call-out on the PA system. Hold youth nights or provide discounted tickets for coaches who bring large numbers of players.
Meet Face to Face
Some of the nation’s top schools have taken a very hands-on approach in engaging local teams. If possible, meet with young coaches and league commissioners to make sure that the players are going through the same process on Saturdays that they eventually will in high school.
Share plays and formations with coaches and show them how you teach and conduct certain drills. Give them a peek into your philosophy and they’ll follow suit. Some communities even have their youth squads prepare and warm up the same way their high school teams do.
The earlier and more often the youth players are introduced to your way of doing things, the shorter the adjustment period will be once they’re under your watch.
Allow Shadowing Sessions
Many youth coaches have aspirations of furthering their careers and coaching at the next level. Allow them to shadow your team for a practice, game or film session to show them the ropes firsthand.
This is a win on two fronts. First, the coach is likely to take notes and implement some of your style with his players, introducing them to your philosophy at an earlier age. It also allows you to build strong rapport with the coaches, who are then more likely to point their players in your school’s direction.
And who knows - you just might need a new assistant someday. It never hurts to give yourself new options.
Strong programs aren’t assembled in a day. They are carefully planned and built over time. By committing to youth players and coaches in your area, you are setting your team up for future success.