Westport PAL Youth Football Program
- Foster A Sense of Contribution and Love of Football
We want each player to improve their skills and grow his love of the game of football. By fostering a love of football, we can use the game to impart important life skills in the process -- hard work, commitment, teamwork and attention to detail, to name a few.
Players develop at different rates, and performance at a young grade doesn’t always dictate their performance in higher grades or high school -- long term player development is crucial. While we have a goal of spreading the ball around, players develop at different rates, and safety and readiness is a factor. We will use practice as the developmental arena, and when players are ready to contribute in larger ways during games, we will give them that chance.
- Build Skills and Fundamentals
From a football perspective, our coaching staff must help the players become well versed in fundamentals, including how to practice, how to work hard when tired, and how to be a good teammate. Not only are these crucial life lessons as mentioned above, but they are also crucial skills which must be mastered to build a successful high school program.
We view the passing game as a fundamental skill. If we throw the ball 1-2 times a game, we will not appropriately develop QB, receiving or even pass protection skills. We want our coaches to pass ⅓ of the time. This is consistent with our goals of spreading the ball around, players having more fun, and developing fundamentally sound and well-rounded players.
- The Development of a Uniform Curriculum and Practice Plan
We believe that long term player development is in the best interest of both the players and the program. In order to achieve this goal, we have developed both a uniform curriculum as well as a uniform practice plan.
The curriculum will be broken down by position and will be progressive in nature. For example, all players will be taught the same blocking and tackling techniques from 3rd through 8th grade. The curriculum will have detailed write-ups and videos regarding how to teach techniques. It will also highlight drills which should be used to reinforce the techniques.
The practice plan was developed in order to make sure that there is ample focus on longer term fundamental development rather than on week to week game planning. These practice plans will provide consistency across the entire program for warm-ups, agility work, time allocated to individual and group fundamental work as well as team segments dedicated to working on the weekly game plan. Lastly, they will lay out consistent forms of conditioning.
- The Development of a Progressive Playbook
The development of our playbook was based upon input from Staples High School, various high school and college coaches, input from other successful youth programs across the country, and learnings from other successful sports. When thinking about this playbook, please think about Legos that your children used to play with. With some basic building blocks, they could build almost an endless number of creations.
The progressive playbook is designed to put the players in a position to be successful and to have fun. We believe that simplicity is crucial. By the end of their PAL career, the players will know how to run:
- basic inside and outside zone plays
- play action passes
- sprint out and roll out passes
- quick passes
By keeping it simple, many more players can be involved because it will be easier to learn the scheme and the responsibilities. By having all of the grades run the same schemes, in a progressive manner, we are developing an identity and decreasing the slope of the learning curve.
Head Coach Qualifications Framework
The Westport PAL Football Coaches’ Committee will utilize the following framework for identifying qualified coaches. These guidelines are a framework and have been selected to compliment a candidate’s specific football and coaching experience.
The Coaches’ Committee has identified five broad categories that it will use to assess Head Coaching candidates including Communication & Composure, Organization & Process, Leadership & Respect, Commitment, Empathy & Decision Making, Football Playing & Coaching Experience.
All current returning Head Coaches and prospective candidates will be assessed against these 5 categories in addition to displaying the broad behaviors consistent with the program’s stated mission, goals and philosophy.
Communication & Composure
- The Head Coach will ALWAYS speak to his team and coaches with respect and with the goal of providing instruction and positive examples of:
- Responsibility & Accountability
- Hard Work & Commitment
- Kindness & Brotherhood
- In game behavior exemplifies the BEST sportsmanship first and always, and complies with league and program rules and codes of conduct:
- Kids are watching - set the right example.
- Parents are watching, you represent the program and the town.
- Being “right” is irrelevant - referees do not change their minds and arguing never helps.
- Body language and tone of voice on the sidelines is closely watched.
- Head Coach must be mature, level headed and articulate enough to speak with parents as a group or individually, especially in the face of adversity.
- Communication should occur proactively throughout the entire season.
- Head Coach MUST build a strong and positive relationship with the Board assigned grade rep and team parent to help cultivate efficient lines of communication and community (team/family) participation.
- Create an “open door” atmosphere with respect to communication with parents, including a proactive and collaborative effort regarding their child’s performance, development or other interpersonal issues, which may need to be addressed.
Organization & Process
- Head Coach must have good organizational skills:
- Utilize “approved” practice plans.
- Teaching agreed upon and accepted program basic skills and prescribed techniques.
- The Head Coach must know and commit to teaching, disseminating and using the designated terminology and playbook (NO EXCEPTIONS)
- Practice to include progressive learning and repetitions
- Player evaluations are done fairly and at multiple times during the season
- Practice reps should include constant personnel rotations to minimize “dead time”.
- The Head Coach must have the time required to:
- Use HUDL and other technologies in order to better evaluate players and develop appropriate game plans.
- Hold weekly coaching staff meetings in order to discuss player development, practice goals and plans, personnel and game planning.
- The Head Coach must know and adhere to the FCFL rules for his particular grade.
Leadership & Respect
- The Head Coach must be a strong enough leader to earn and maintain the respect of the assistant coaches, players and parents.
- The ability to delegate and share responsibilities is a must.
- Empowerment and accountability work well, coaching is a team sport, and involve coaching staff in decisions
- The Head Coach must be a culture builder:
- Encourage and cultivate team building, unity, brotherhood and camaraderie.
- On-field and off-field activities and events are encouraged.
- Build a culture of mutual respect, sportsmanship, brotherhood, hard work and support.
- Build a culture that is NOT focused on winning first or at all costs
- The Head Coach is ultimately responsible for all the practice field and equipment use and must be a strong delegator to ensure our equipment is taken care of.
Commitment, Empathy & Decision Making
- The Head Coach must be the leader and be completely committed to the education and safety of the players and to the success of the program
- The Head Coach must be the leader in terms of enforcing safety protocols:
- Minimize live hitting in practice
- Match players of equal size and skill during contact drills
- The Head coach must display empathy and understanding around the psyche and behavior of youth football players.
- Motivate with positive messages and intonation
- Know how and when to recognize when kids are “down” or vulnerable and be quick to restore balance and a positive environment.
- Communicate, connect, motivate and reward positive behaviors. Positive reinforcement of positive behaviors yields positive results!!!
- NEVER use punishment to teach lessons, and we must work hard to communicate, provide explanations and raise awareness.
- Seek help and advice from PAL Football President and Board when dealing with difficult situations.
- If a parent, the Head Coach must be able to avoid ALL related conflicts with respect to coaching own child
- Favoritism and reverse favoritism
- Direct one on one coaching à have other coaches communicate
Football Playing & Coaching Experience
- The Head Coach must have football experience as a player and/or a coach
- Establish motivation for coaching is 100% based on wanting to help kids learn and enjoy the game, consistent with the framework as described.
- The Head Coach must be able to maintain the optimal balance of football knowledge, positive competitive spirit and healthy, positive leadership influence.
- The head Coach must be able to teach in a manner that is consistent with our mission statement and values