Our offense and defense is not based on beating a team with overwhelming talent, it is based on scheme, teamwork and technique. We simply can’t get those all in sync unless we consistently get all the kids together.
On the very first day of football practice during that mandatory parents meeting, we talk in depth about the attendance requirements that are required to have the privilege of playing on our youth football team. We have a very hard 2 strikes and you’re out policy, two unexcused absences and we pick up your gear. Two excused absences means a reduction in playing time. Our definition of an excused absence is for a church sponsored education event or ritual, a school sponsored mandatory educational event (not skate parties) or a family wedding or funeral. If a player is so sick he is not in school, he gets a pass as well ,we check on him via his classmates. A coach must be contacted ahead of time for the absence to be defined as excused. We make it very clear we do not negotiate off of this standard and the player signs a contract agreeing to these terms. We do not allow the practices or games of other sports to ever take priority over our football practices or games.
Since we practice less than any youth football team in our league, it is imperative we get 100% attendance at practice. We feel because of our unique practice methodology, pace and priorities, we can get as much or more done in one of our typical 2 hour practices than most of our competition can get done in 2 practices.
In my 2 year study of successful and poor youth football teams, there was no direct correlation of more practice time equating to wins. In fact many of the perennial poor teams I studied started earlier and practiced more than the successful teams I studied. The keys were priorities, pace and scheme.
If we have an injured player, we require he attends practice and watches. If we have a player that is falling behind in his schoolwork, we require that he attends football practice with his books and homework and does his schoolwork off to the side while we practice. We let those kids know we are disappointed in them, we need them, their team mates need them, they are letting the team down and they need to get the schoolwork squared up ASAP. The peer pressure this brings to bear means we rarely see this problem rear its ugly head.
In 1998, first year we had this attendance policy we lost just 1 player and this was with a team right across the street from Omaha’s most violent housing projects, with very little parental involvement and support. In 1999 we had some kids that were suffering some major issues not under their control at home and I came off the standard, our attendance plummeted and our drop rates spiraled upward. The next year we went