“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” That Sun Tsu quote still applies today for teams preparing for competition as it did thousands of years ago when armies prepared for war. For us, at St Johnsbury Academy, it starts with knowing ourselves. As coaches, we need to know our audience.
I recently watched a presentation on “ADInsider” where the presenter shared there has been a 43% increase in students diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) following the Pandemic’s impacts over the last two years. The presenter went on to state that no drill in any sport at any age should exceed 10 minutes as student-athletes will begin to lose focus.
We tested that theory at our Youth Football Camp this week. We intentionally scheduled our dynamic warm up at the start of practice to be 15 minutes. The players lined up and very attentively went through all the warm up exercises as we as coaches monitored their behavior. At the first sign of kids beginning to goof off, I looked down at my watch. We were exactly 12 minutes into the drill. For the next hour, we did 5 minute rotations with water breaks scheduled every 20 minutes and the attention and performance of the players grades 3-8 were outstanding. No loss of focus. Then we scheduled a 15-minute “Heads Up Tackling” session focusinging on technique and safety, while again observing the camper’s behavior. They lasted 9 minutes before losing interest in the task at hand and beginning to goof off with each other.
Now I’m no child psychologist, and our youth camp isn’t an FDA approved double blind study. Maybe we saw hints of something like ADHD, or maybe we just saw kids being kids… The important part is we consciously tried to watch, learn, and adapt the environment to create the greatest opportunity for both learning and fun and ultimately success.
We will finish our week-long Youth Football Camp with no period exceeding 10 minutes and will take that into our high school team’s OTAs, Mini Camp, Training Camp, and in-season practices. As Coaches, part of our responsibility is to create the conditions and provide the resources the team needs to flourish. Attentive eyes, ears, and some thoughtful consideration go a long way into helping our team know itself, creating space for us to begin to know our adversary.
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!