This article was written by Vikings staffer Kimi Tonneson
Implementing Xs and Os into playbooks, watching film, memorizing names on the roster and getting to know the players with those names. Those are only a few of many tasks that coaches are dealing with in preparation for a brand new season of football.
There’s also the work that many are putting in to enhance their skills of football communication. The USA Football Coaching School allows coaches throughout the state of Minnesota and the country to advance their abilities while working on fundamentals, awareness and the dynamics of youth football.
“The Wilf family has made youth football a focus,” said Brad Madson, Vikings executive director of community relations/youth football. “They realize the importance of teaching youth football the right way will provide kids with a safe, positive experience and Joe Owens and Pete Globa of USA Football have put together a terrific curriculum that stresses both of those points.”
It was eight years ago when the NFL developed the USA Football Coaching School. The objective is to educate and assist volunteer coaches. It also gives the coaches some age-specific instructional skills while reinforcing a positive experience for players and parents.
Recently at Winter Park, more than 100 volunteer coaches participated, making it the highest turn out in the six-year history of the school. Clinicians and volunteer coaches broke the day into three intense sessions. The first session focused on player character, communication and motivation. The second session placed an emphasis on practice planning and tactical development. A break out session followed where two Vikings legends – Stu Voigt and Bob Lurtsema – were introduced as the event’s keynote speakers.
Voigt was a hard-nosed tight end for the Vikings throughout the 1970’s and was part of three Super Bowl teams. He spoke about the necessity for coaches to teach youngsters, and also to inspire them.
“The game of football teaches you so many unsung qualities,” said Voigt. “Discipline, teamwork, perseverance. And a youth coach always has to talk about school work first.”
Lurtsema was affectionately known as “Benchwarmer Bob “during the five seasons he spent in the Vikings uniform. “Lurts” also played in two Super Bowls.
“Coaching is 60-65 percent of the game,” he said. “You got to teach them correct habits. It’s all in the power of repetition. “
The third segment of the program allowed the volunteer coaches to participate in a dynamic training session of warm-up techniques before concluding with tips on technical development. Throughout the day the theme for the USA Football clinicians was: keep it simple, know your team, have fun, use positive reinforcement and, most importantly, coach to the players’ strength.
Jim Walsh, a clinician with USA Football, believes that keeping football fun at a young age helps youngsters stay in the sport.
“We want to make the kids better and want them to learn the fundamentals,” said Walsh. “We really want to keep the sport fun for them. My goal is always to have the kids come back next year.”
“Teaching these youth the right way to play football at a young age is important,” said USA Football regional director Joe Owens. “Coaches that teach eight year-olds will teach differently than a coach that will teach 12 year-olds. So we want to make sure they are structured age specifically and more important is to have fun.”
For youth coaches to give up a beautiful Saturday during the summer was appreciated by Madson.
“To have an Anthony Burke, the Eden Prairie 5th grade youth football commissioner, or a Scott Maida, who is growing his youth football coaching skills, or even a veteran youth coach like Chris Faris attend when it’s 80 degrees and sunny out shows their dedication to our youth.”