Tag Archives: Warrior Heart

Warrior Heart explained


I teach my players that God has placed a Warrior Heart in them and it’s my job, with the help of the sport of football, to strengthen that Warrior heart so that it’s strong when they need it later in life to withstand the struggles of life.

Me to the team: When a boy learns how to ride a bike and they get a little confidence in their ability to ride what happens next? They see how fast they can go and then they race their buddies. When that’s not fast enough, they find the biggest hill they can to ride down and go even faster. Next they build a ramp to jump the bike in the air. When a girl gets a bike, she rides to her friend’s house to play. It’s a useful tool for her where for the boy it’s all about the bike and making it more challenging, competitive and fun. This is just one proof of the Warrior Heart within. There are many more.

For us coaches, how do we tap into this desire the boys have and satisfy it with our practices and the way we approach the game? Well, we do have an inside track. We were boys once so we need to think back on this and use our “inside info” and apply it to our team.

Some of the things I have done:

Every practice and before each game we start with our team chant:

Coach- “Good Evening Warriors!”   Boys- “Good Evening Coach!”

Coach- “What’s our job?”   Boys- “To Love Us”

Coach- “What’s your job?”   Boys- “To Love each other”

Coach- “What are we doing here tonight?”   Boys- “Preparing for Battle Sir!”

After our chant, we get close together in a sort of a circle with our arms out and around someone near us then we say a prayer. I say each sentence and the boys repeat it. After the last sentence, I pray a normal evening practice or game prayer.

Prayer -The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name. God created me in his image. I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me. Thank you Lord for giving me a Warrior Heart.

The Warrior Heart idea came from John Eldredge’s “The Way of the Wild Heart” book. The prayer reinforces the idea. Exodus 15:3 is The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name. Genesis 1:27(b) is God created me (man) in his image. If God is a warrior and I am made in his image then I carry the Image of the Warrior God within me. Pretty powerful stuff when you think about it. The boys hear this every night and they believe it and buy in.

One note here; you, as a coach, have to sincerely believe in everything you teach or the boys will sniff out the insincerity and you’ll lose them. I sincerely believe what I teach is real and tangible. A transactional coach cannot fake this stuff and have it work. You have to be a transformational coach and be fully bought in yourself for it to work. Do not try to go beyond where your heart will let you.

I have specially made T-shirts with a Warrior Heart logo on the back that I and a friend designed. On the front, it says “I have a Warrior Heart”. These shirts have to be earned. Not everybody gets one. I have to see your Warrior Heart in action. I determine when and where that happened. These shirts are highly prized by my players.

We also do a fun drill every night. This is to satisfy the heart of the boy and prove to them that I value them above winning a game and trying to grind them into purely a performance machine to glorify me and satisfy my ego. We play Sumo, Hurricane, Run thru the Jungle, Sword fight, Deer Hunter to name a few. These games do also serve another purpose. It puts them on a stage and makes them perform in front of others while being competitive. It also reinforces the idea that you only get one shot at each play in a game. You win or lose on every play. In most of our games, winner stays on.

Remember that I design practice for the heart of a 12 yr old boy. Not to entertain the parents or myself. I have had parents tell me that my practices are boring for them to watch because they like to watch scrimmages. I told them practice wasn’t for their entertainment and what were the results they saw in the team at gametime. They agreed that it works.

Another thing I do is that the players that lead the group in the very few calisthenics we do are the first ones to finish the warmup lap. Most teams put their captains up there no matter their effort. You can be the smallest and youngest on my team and lead these exercises if you’re willing to hustle. Willingness to compete develops the Warrior Heart and we start competing at the start of practice.

Why coaching youth football is different than coaching HS football

There is a vast difference between coaching 18 yr olds and 8 yr olds. These are 2 very different creatures. The 18 yr olds have a chemical in them called testosterone. You won’t find hardly a trace of that in 8 yr olds. When you challenge an 18 yr old, he bristles up and fights back. When you challenge an 8 yr old, he shrinks back in fear. Most new youth football coaches remember how their HS coaches yelled at them and think that this is how you coach football. So they try it on the 6 yr old only to get frustrated, yell louder when the little guy doesn’t get it right. Now you’ve made it worse.

Another thing to consider is vocabulary. You can’t talk to young kids with the same words you talk to other adults with. They don’t know the meaning of a lot of those words. Keep your words simple so that they can understand.

Lets look at the stages of a man’s life. 1. Beloved Son 2. Cowboy (pre-warrior) 3. Warrior 4. King 5. Sage. Boys transition from beloved son to Cowboy about age 12 but the stages overlap and bits and pieces of each stage can be seen throughout life. So an 18 yr old is transitioning from Cowboy (trying to prove he can be the warrior) to Warrior stage. Your 8 yr old is living in his beloved son stage, where he needs to know he is loved, with just a touch of the cowboy in him. Obviously teaching these 2 will require different tactics. Your 18 yr old has quite a few battles won under his belt, is secure in who he is (if he was properly loved early in life) and is ready to meet challenges. Your 6-8 has no confidence in anything and no quality wins under his belt. He might not even be able to tie his shoes yet. He is not secure in who he is yet either.

Now that we’ve established the difference between the two, how do we coach the younger one? He needs to know you love him and care about him first then he’ll be more willing to listen to you. We need to build confidence in him that he can handle this thing called football. The way we build confidence is to get him quality wins. Make your practices very similar to each other day after day. He will gain confidence in knowing what is coming next. If you’re changing up practice (up to age 10), you’re doing it because you’re bored with it. Remember young kids can watch the same video a hundred times and not get bored with it. Changing practice too much only confuses him.  Teach technique drills till he knows the skill (blocking, tackling, etc.) very well. Now split the kids into groups of similar size and ability. Have stations to do different drills at and a coach at each station. When kids of similar ability compete against each other, they gain in skill and confidence. If they are mismatched, neither one of them gets better. The better player gets wins but not quality wins and the lesser player gets his butt kicked and gets get discouraged.

Other ways to get quality wins for each of the kids is in conditioning. Increase the amount of conditioning day by day and week by week. Remind them how they’re doing more than they were last week. This increases confidence. As you build in contact drills, they will gain confidence and lose fear when hitting. Aggression comes slowly and only after the player has confidence that he is doing it right. Only after he knows how to do something, can he do it aggressively. You can’t expect two 7 yr olds to go flying at each other to make a tackle their first night in pads. They don’t even know how to do it right yet. Having said that, I believe that the younger the player, the more contact is needed to help them overcome their fear of it. Let’s face it, the smaller they are the less chance there is of being hurt. As they get older, less contact is needed in practice.

Imagine a brick wall. Imagine that you are building a confidence wall in each of these young players. Little by little and brick by brick. It doesn’t happen overnight and don’t get discouraged when it takes time. Your investment will pay off. Each of these quality wins are a brick in the wall. Now imagine that you start screaming at one of them. Well you just smashed that brick wall with a sledgehammer and will have to start over.

How well do you learn if someone is screaming instructions at you and getting frustrated and yelling louder when you don’t get it. Not very well I imagine. Neither do your players learn well in this environment.

Also, check your ego at the house and don’t bring it to practice with you. This is not about you and how you want to be perceived, it’s about them. If you can’t do this then you’re probably not the man for this job.