Age Differences When Coaching Youth Football


In previous posts, I have given numerous tips for working with younger aged youth football players. As mentioned in the book and in these posts, the 6-8 year old kids are very visual and we showed you many tricks on how use that to your advantage.

How do the other youth football age groups vary from each other?

These are generalizations that I have found have held true with my own teams as well as from what I have seen doing clinics and from feedback from other coaches:

Age group strata vary from league to league, these are some I have worked with:

Age 8-10: While our opponents rarely allow the eight year olds to play tackle football, we do. About 80% of our 8 year olds play tackle, the smallest and least mature 8’s play flag football. We have found with the right practice priorities like those detailed in the book and limiting most drills to tiny competitive groups and lasting no more than 10 minutes, even 8 year olds can be trained to be competent youth football players. That’s of course using the books practice methodology and not doing the 40-60 play playbook thing that many poorly coached youth football teams utilize.

This age group is the most fun to coach in my mind. They are eager to please, have few bad habits, they want to learn the game, they are enthusiastic and most of them still respect authority. This group responds real well to praise and rewards. They will test you like any group, but less so than other age groups.

Age 11-12: This group can often perform as much of the playbook or even more than the 13-14s because they still listen pretty well. Most have played at least 1 year and some as many as 3-4 years. This means you may have to break some poor habits or accountability standards that their previous coach did not address properly. They can test you and some of the top athletes may try and perform tasks “their” way instead of yours. It is very important to require absolute adherence to the technique standards you set, otherwise it will be chaos with this group. Reward, praise and punishment are required to make this group perform to their potential. Now you can throw the waggle pass and use more motion.

Age 13-14: The most difficult, rewarding and frustrating group to coach. This age group historically has had the highest drop out rate in youth football. Players this age start to look to other interests like girls, work, other sports, video games and school to name just a few. Some kids this age with little parental support also go through stage