I hear the question all the time. How do I make Joey more aggressive? I hear it from other coaches and I hear it from parents. Well there is no magic pill you can give him or a miraculous speech you can make to get it to happen. What you can do is make a concerted effort with your team and you’ll make your team as a whole more aggressive. Most of the players will ride this wave and become more aggressive than they were. It is a slow process. You as a coach have to be willing to wait for it but work diligently towards it.
As I’ve said in some other articles, there is little to no testosterone in these little fellas so trying to get them to “man up” isn’t going to work. Challenging their nonexistent manhood is not going to work. You need to get the fear of hitting out of them. You must replace it with confidence. Teach them the skills first with coaches holding bags. Blocking or tackling. Be patient and teach by showing. Encourage them to hit the bag hard and drive. They need to learn that this doesn’t hurt. Keep encouraging to hit it harder and harder. Brag on them on how much harder they’re doing it than when they first tried it. Replace their fear with confidence in what they’re doing. Once they’re hitting the bag hard, you can move onto board drills. If you have a sled, it would be the next natural step but we don’t have one. A board drill is where two players try to drive each other straight back while having a board placed between their feet so that they keep their feet wide while driving. I stopped using boards a few years ago. I think it’s safer and I haven’t noticed any difference in performance of the players. Plus I think we’re more aggressive because we don’t fear slipping on the board. Divide them into groups of 5-8 equally matched players. If you mismatch your players, you can undo some of your progress you’re making. Keep the groups small to get more reps. Make sure you mix up the matchups in the group. Place a coach with each group. Have about one yard between them when they start. About like they’d have in a game. You can have some fun with this. Hoot and holler, get them hyped up and excited as they’re doing it. Brag on the winners and encourage the losers to work harder. You can move a player up to the group one better than the one he’s in if he’s dominating his group. They like these promotions but it also makes them work harder and get better. Just don’t do it before he’s ready. I recommend playing music during this. It automatically increases the intensity. You can play King of the boards if you have time. I usually plan to do board drills for about 15-20 minutes in the practices we do them. When you play King, You have all the players stand side by side facing you. Pick your 2 weakest and let them go first. You declare the winner. Winner stays on. Loser gets behind you. Encourage the team to root for them as they go at it. Keep going until there’s only one. He’s your King. A side bonus to this game is if the parents are watching they learn the pecking order on the team. The players pretty much already knew it.
The younger they are, the more of this they need. I think that board drills are the heart of our aggression. They allow a lot of contact and one on one battles with little chance of injury.
Another part is mental. Not that gaining confidence in board drills isn’t. Convince them how tough they are. Build them up, don’t tear them down. That’s why my practice starts with “Good evening Warriors”. The coach whom I highly respect (that’s you if you lost track) just called me a Warrior. If he believes I am then I must be. These little guys long to be powerful. They long to be a superhero. You just put a helmet, shoulder pads and a jersey on them. That’s just one step short of a cape. Teach them to fly and revel in it with them. Build this warrior mentality into them at every opportunity. Remind them that Iron sharpens Iron and that’s why we do so many board drills.
One of the biggest mistakes youth coaches make is to brag up the other team. They talk about how big they are, about how hard they hit, how fast they are. Sorry coach but in your attempt to challenge your players’ manhood, you scared them to death and they will play against them the same way…scared. And there you stand not understanding how the game went that way and asking me how can I make my players more aggressive. By NOT scaring the crap out of them for one is my answer. When you talk about the other team talk about how they do this but what we’re going to do to counter that is this and convince them that what we’re going to do is better than what they’re going to do. You have to have confidence in your plan for your players to buy into it.
Don’t call them little guys. Beware of your language in this regard. I cringe when I hear a Mom call her son “My Little Man”. She’s doing it innocently and thinks it’s cute but it tears at the fabric of what we’re trying to build up.
As I said in another article on here, remember that you’re building a wall of confidence in them brick by brick. Be patient.
Another drill I like for aggression training is Who’s ball. I learned this drill and many other things from Coach Dave Potter. It’s simply a fumble recovery drill but you let the players wrestle for the ball for an extended period of time. I do this at a station and we usually let them go at it for 30 seconds. They get to do another aggressive and competitive drill in a fairly safe and controlled manner. Hootin and hollering by the coach is encouraged here too.
One drill I love that is like real football is the Bronco Drill. I have seen it called a multi-level Oklahoma drill too. You set up 3 levels. 1st level is your linemen. 2nd level is your linebackers and the 3rd level is your secondary personnel. Make your 1st level about 3-4 yds wide, 2nd level 5 yds wide and the 3rd level about 8 yds wide. Place the levels about 5 yds apart. Adjust these distances based on the age and size of your players.
On the snap count the offensive man attempts to block the defensive man in one direction or the other. The running back has to read the blocks to make the cuts to score. The defensive man is to shed the block and make the tackle. Try to keep the matchups as equal as possible. Last year, one night when we had some players and coaches missing, I put us all into one group and we ran Super Bronco for the first time. We put 2 of each at each level so we ended up with 13 in the drill at once. 2 O-linemen and 2 D-linemen, etc. Still only one ballcarrier. This is now our staple on how we run it. It is fun, chaotic and intense. Everybody loves it. Coaches and players. By keeping the matchups equal, we are increasing each player’s growth as much as possible. There are many other competitive drills you can do. These are just a few. Remember to build up slowly.