Every year that I am a head coach, I try to have a parent meeting within the first week of practice. At this meeting I hand out a very long parent letter that I know very few parents will actually read. So I read it to them. I have found it is much easier for me to start off as a hard-ass on day 1 and perhaps soften up later in the year when needed than to start off as the ‘nice guy’ and try to instill urgency and discipline later in the year when things are out of control. So I take the time to read the entire letter and answer any questions right up front. Many years I have been the Football Commissioner for my park but when I am just a coach, I get the permission of the Park Director that if any of my parents want their money back we will refund them immediately. It really never happens but I let them know if they are not 100% on board with what we are trying to do as a team that we will happily allow them to take their child elsewhere.
Please feel free to copy and paste and make whatever changes you might need to make and of course if you think of anything that isnt covered, let me know …
40 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
My name is JJ Lawson but everyone can call me Coach JJ. I am 40 years old. I have 3 children ages 20, 16 and 14. I have coached the following youth sports: football, wrestling, baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and track. This will be my 15th season of coaching football and 12th year as the head coach. So yes, I am a very busy guy. Luckily for me, my entire family loves football and they support me tremendously. So much so that you will notice my wife Gina filming games. She has been coaching now for a total of 6 seasons including 1 as the Head Coach of her own team. Obviously, we are here to teach the sport of football, but more importantly we will use the sport of football to help teach some very important life skills like discipline, responsibility, teamwork and sportsmanship. Our goal is to teach these things while everyone learns to love the game through hard work and hard play.
Some of the following rules will seem excessive or harsh. However, what we would like you to understand is that football is a very intense and somewhat dangerous sport. Many of the rules and techniques that we teach are in place in order to keep your child and everyone else’s children safe as they enjoy the fun side of this wonderful game. We will work on these safety issues every day. The discipline it takes to follow these rules, the responsibility that each player must exhibit each day, the teamwork it takes for our team to function properly and the good sportsmanship that is learned through hard work and competition will all serve your child throughout the remainder of his life. And these things are only some of the attributes of football that make it such a great sport for a young man to learn and to play.
1. Attendance is the MOST important responsibility for your child as a member of this team. When any player misses practice it hurts his development as well as the development of his teammates. And missing practice can also cause him to be physically unprepared to play on game day. Any player deemed by myself to be unprepared for game situations cannot play until he is able to satisfy my criteria of readiness.
2. If your child is going to miss a practice, then HE should call the Head Coach. Each absence will be categorized either as an excused or unexcused absence. If he cannot commit to the football schedule, he should not play football this season. Doctor appointments and similar situations should be scheduled on non-practice days whenever possible.
3. Homework is not an excuse to miss practice. School is incredibly important, more important than football. And children that cannot keep up with their schoolwork should not be playing football. Long-term projects need to be worked on throughout the course of the project. Players who “wait until the last minute” and need to miss a practice will be charged with an unexcused absence. Otherwise, day-to-day assignments should be completed in the hours between school and practice. It is the players’ responsibility to budget their time.
4. A death in the family and an illness that keeps a player bedridden are both examples of excused absences. All injured players however, should attend practice in street clothes to avoid falling behind.
5. Excessive tardiness will be treated like unexcused absences.
6. Unexcused absences will affect the amount of playing time on game days.
Expectations of Players
7. Perfect attendance. We are learning important elements of the game every single practice. Our league allows a limited number of practices in which to teach all of the safety items as well as the rules and fundamentals of this sport. And then of course we have our team’s offense, defense and special teams.
8. Be fully dressed and on the field at the start of practice. I suggest dressing at home and arriving 15 minutes before practice.
9. Relentless hustle. During practice, players are not permitted to walk on the field. During drills, players will be ready to go when it is their turn, and they will hustle to the back of the line when they complete each drill. Due to the limited amount of practice time and the emphasis we place on safety, our practices will be fast paced and loaded with very important information. So we must start on time and we will hustle for the entire practice to get everything finished.
10. Knowledge of assignments and techniques. Very simply, players who do not learn our system will see their playing time suffer.
11. Mutual respect. As coaches, we promise to give your kids 100% and we expect them to give the same in return. Players should make eye contact with coaches during instructional periods. We will not disrespect our players, and disrespect from the players will not be tolerated. Players will respect their teammates, opponents and game officials as well. We all have the same goal.
12. Desire to play football. This sounds simple enough, but it is very easy to tell who does not want to be here. Football is not an easy sport to play. Players practice tirelessly for relatively few games when compared with other sports.
13. Bring all gear to practice, including a large water bottle. Respect your gear at all times because it keeps you safe. Never sit on your helmet. I am not responsible to carry extra mouthpieces, leg pads, earpieces, cleats or anything else. Anyone not in full gear will participate so they do not fall behind but during all contact drills they will work on conditioning instead because contact without proper equipment will not be allowed under any circumstances.
Expectations of Parents
14. Be positive and set an example with your good sportsmanship. Do not yell at officials, coaches, your child, other children on the team, or our opponents. Do not try to show up the coaches. Remember that your child’s coaches volunteer their time and money to do what they do. Cheering is strongly encouraged.
15. At practices, you are not allowed on the practice field. At games, you are not allowed on the sidelines or field, except for an injury to your child. The field is for coaches, players and game officials. Please respect this simple rule.
16. Please show up on time to pick up your child from all functions. And if possible, come out and show your face so that the coaches know that you have your child safely in your possession. If you choose to sit in your car in the parking lot then do not expect us to know where your child went when we dismissed them. This is a very large park and we all want our children to practice and play in complete safety. In addition to making your presence known when picking up your child we also ask that you be prompt in dropping off and picking up your child. As mentioned above we want to start all practices on time and at the end of the night Coaches and players need to go home. This is not a babysitting service. Speak with a coach if you have an issue concerning rides. Set up carpools with other parents. Whatever we have to do, let’s get everyone out at a reasonable time. I don’t know any 10 yr olds that can drive to and from practice so this very important issue falls strictly on the parents and we ask for your help in keeping everything running on time.
17. The best way to solve any problems or get answers to any questions that you have this season is to come to the head coach as long as it is not during practice. After practices when we are away from the team or on the phone is the best way to talk with me. Expect honesty and I will expect the same. Please do not discuss problems you might have with other parents or the coaches in front of our players. For a football team to be successful, the players must believe in the coaches and the techniques that they are being taught. Football is an amazing sport in part due to the multitude of ways that it can be taught. You may not like the offense, defense, this technique or that technique but that doesn’t make them wrong or ineffective. I know that I don’t like the Spread Passing game but I would never tell my son that his coach doesn’t know what he is doing if they choose to run that system. Again any concerns you have, I will be happy to discuss them with you at the appropriate time, after practice or even on a night when we do not practice.
18. Do not teach your son techniques that differ from what we teach him. Do not coach from the sidelines. This will confuse your child and could cause him to perform poorly in his assignment. Different schemes require different techniques and while you may know a great way to cover a receiver that doesn’t mean it is correct for the defensive scheme that we are using. If you are truly interested in teaching techniques, then please see me about volunteering.
19. This is not the NFL or NCAA. The rules are different from what you see on television. In fact there are so many differences that I won’t even attempt to go over them here. So do not yell rules at any of our officials. If you would like to familiarize yourself with our rules, please come to see me and I can tell you how to obtain a copy of the rulebook.
20. I understand that most players and their parents have very specific ideas of what position they should play. Unfortunately, there is only 1 QB on the team and 21 other positions that must be filled. Each player will be tested in drills and placed in a position where I feel he can best help the team. Remember that teamwork is of utmost importance in the sport of football, so encourage your child no matter what position they end up playing.
21. Our intention is that every player has a starting position and makes a meaningful contribution to the team. Whether or not that goal is achieved is up to the players. Playing time is based on many things, including but not limited to attendance, assignment knowledge and physical readiness to safely function on the field of play.
22. Playing time is at the discretion of the Head Coach and will only be explained after practice or on the phone. Before and after games is not an appropriate time for this discussion.
23. Football is a collision sport and players are protected from injury by using the proper equipment, proper techniques, and following all safety rules and regulations. We spend a lot of time working on these things in practice.
24. If your child cannot block and tackle safely, they will NOT play. This rule is for their safety as well as the safety of all the other players on our team and our opponents’ team. In 8 years, I have never had to enforce this rule and I don’t plan to start this year. But it is very important that all of our players learn to block and tackle properly.
25. Players should never put their head down on the football field. Unfortunately, this seemingly simple idea takes instruction and repetition to keep it from happening. Instruction and repetition is what we do daily at practice.
26. When blocking and tackling, players should NEVER lead with any portion of the helmet. This is not only a penalty (spearing), but it is also incredibly dangerous because it can cause a spinal cord injury to either or both players.
27. Players are not permitted to wear any sort of jewelry in practice or games.
28. Players must wear a proper mouthpiece at all times.
29. Players must wear a shirt under their shoulder pads to prevent injury.
30. All serious injuries or heat related symptoms must be reported to the head coach immediately.
Equipment and Uniforms
31. All players must use rubber-molded cleats (no screw-in or metal cleats).
32. No player may wear a clear mouthpiece. They must be colored and they must be attached to the facemask.
33. Full gear includes the helmet, chinstrap, mouthpiece, shoulder pads, jersey, tailbone pad, hip pads, girdle, thigh pads, kneepads, pants, socks, and cleats. Unless otherwise stipulated by the head coach, we are in full gear. Game Jerseys should NOT be worn to practice.
34. Before you buy supplemental equipment such as forearm pads, elbow pads, a neck roll or rib pads (flak jacket), please speak with the Head Coach. Many times these items can be a hindrance for a youth player.
35. Wash practice gear at least once a week. You can shampoo a helmet. We want to prevent the spread of infection. Air dry jerseys and pants.
36. Football equipment is incredibly expensive. Take good care of it.
37. For games, our uniform will consist of our Orange Game Jerseys & Blue Socks along with White game pants and White helmets. For colder games, if your child wishes to wear long sleeves, they must be White without logos on the arms. Again, this is part of our uniform, and we will all look the same.
Diet and Hydration
38. Players need to come to practice hydrated. They should not have their first water when they arrive at practice. Especially in the summer months, it is very hot out and players need to be properly hydrated. When they use the toilet before practice, their urine should be clear, not yellow. In order to stay properly hydrated throughout the season, we need each player to drink at least 6 glasses of water each day. Don’t skip out on the weekends either.
39. Players should avoid beverages like soda and iced tea that are loaded with caffeine. Energy drinks are expressly forbidden on this team. Some Gatorade or Powerade each day is ok but only some. 3 to 1 water to sports drink is a pretty good mix for this age group.
40. Players should avoid eating slow-digesting foods shortly before practice. Players should eat a diet high in proteins and complex carbohydrates.
I will be sending home a complete schedule of events as soon as I have one. Anyone interested in being a Team Mom/Dad and anyone interested in helping out with practices or games should see me or give me a call ASAP. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at the phone number below or you can always see me after practice while I am gathering up the gear.
Head Coach – JJ Lawson xxx-xxx-xxxx
Asst. Coach – Frank Johnson xxx-xxx-xxxx
Asst. Coach – Tommy Jones xxx-xxx-xxxx
Team Mom – Mama Johnson xxx-xxx-xxxx