Tips for Coaching 6 to 8 Year Olds

Check out this post from GameChanger.  GameChanger makes an app for tablets and phones that provides scorekeeping for baseball, softball, and basketball games.  In addition to the app, they have a blog/page dedicated to youth amateur sports called the Season.

Several of their recommendations are worth highlighting:

  • Recognizing age-specific development and needs of children this age group
  • Emphasizing fun and fair play (sportsmanship…or ATTITUDE)
  • Making sure all kids get to play every position is a key tenet of my Hustle & Attitude philosophy
  • Celebrating individual progress is how coaches recognize that each child has the opportunity to get better during the season – and making that development happen is one of the most important responsibilities of a youth recreational sports coach
  • Planning out practices – this is something I am trying to emphasize and provide tools and techniques for coaches through my clinics; good effective practices don’t happen by accident

Youth Football Participation Goes Up?!?!

Will Smith Say What

Minus the sweet shirt and the high fade, this is how I looked when I read the article from the New York Times citing a survey showing that participation in youth football grew – and grew more than any other U.S. sport!

Several of my previous posts have highlighted that player safety concerns might result in fewer families deciding that their sons should play youth tackle football.  Well, the survey of 30,000 children and teens (part of the annual Physical Activity Council Participation Report) found that participation in flag and tackle football increased in 2015 while most other sports, except baseball, saw a decline in participation.  What’s surprising to me is that participation in youth tackle football rose last year – albeit modestly.  Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program (@AspenInstSports on Twitter) cites the 2007 baby boom as a possible explanation.  Recall that my last post mentioned the same baby boom and how births every year since have gone down which might lead to a decrease in participation numbers.

I’ve said it before; I love football.  I played in high school.  My sons both played flag and tackle football.  However, knowing what we know now about the safety concerns, caution is certainly warranted in allowing our children to play tackle football.  USA Football’s Chief Executive said he believes that medically endorsed programs like the Heads Up Football program and practice guidelines “are making a positive difference”.  We’ll have to see how participation in youth football grows or shrinks over the next few years to understand the true trends and impact of these and other initiatives.

I continue to recommend flag football for youth before high school and, for youth that play tackle football before high school, their coaches should be trained properly and there should be athletic trainers present at practices and games.

Interesting Explanation for Drop in Youth Sports Participation

I ran across a post recently from Bob Cook.  Cook is a youth sports contributor to (I checked out other posts on his blog and I recommend it).  He writes that there might be another reason behind the statistic that the numbers of children between 6 and 17 participating in youth sports is down 4% compared to 2009; specifically demographics.  He points out that the number of births has declined every year from 2008 – 2012.  Could be that there are simply fewer youths to play sports.

To me, this points out the need for digging deeper into the statistics that we are often presented as justification for positions (particularly timely in an election year, right?).  Cook’s analysis points out that I would want to see the data for 6-17 year olds participating in youth sports on the same graphic as one depicting the total number of 6-17 year olds.  If the decline in youth sports participation looks similar to the drop in overall 6-17 year old children, then perhaps demographics could explain the drop in participation.  However, it is my belief that many of the reasons cited in the Washington Post article  Cook refers to – economics, the rise of competitive travel/select teams, etc. – are likely at least as explanatory as any drop in the population of 6-17 year olds.

What do you think?