I volunteered to fill in as a fifth grade coed flag football coach... What should I expect?

I’ve been captain of a men’s flag football team for several years in my county’s local rec league. The administrator sent out an urgent email begging someone to fill in as coach for a coed fifth grade team - the first coach backed out, and if no one filled in then the team wouldn’t be able to compete.

I thought about it and talked with my wife and volunteered. I emailed all the parents introducing myself and they were very gracious, saying how sad their kid was that the team may go defunct. I’ve since found out it’s one of those leagues sponsored by the NFL, with some quirky no contact rules that I’ll have to learn. Also, based on the roster, most of the players are girls.

So I know football pretty well, and I can learn the new rules. And I was in the military, and in some leadership positions, and I feel comfortable with authority. What I don’t have is any experience with fifth grades. I’m hopeful that a parent will volunteer to be assistant coach. My first practice will probably be next week, and games start in two weeks. Any ideas on what to expect, or tips dealing with fifth grades?

Well, if it was anything like my miserable time as a volunteer soccer coach, lots of unappreciated time, general dismay at the apathy and disinterest of the kids and a display of the most lax work ethic I’ve ever seen.

My advice: Rule #1 Mobile devices STAY AT HOME!

Have fun! :smiley:

Assign jobs to the parents. They want to help but they don’t want to be in charge. Orange slices, phone tree and equipment setup for the Dads, that’s what I took in Northern VA youth soccer and was happy to do my little part to help as long as I didn’t have to herd cats myself.

Learn some drills for practices and learn to watch it all go out the window on game day, except for that one kid who gets it that one day.

If they had been all or mostly boys, there might have been a lot of squabbling over who gets to play the marquee positions like QB. Since you get mostly girls on the team though, I’m not sure how girls are when they play football but maybe they wouldn’t be as diva about who plays what or who gets the main role (i.e., RB who wants the ball early and often).

Since it is coed, and 5th grade, do still expect that some guys will be playing to impress the girls, there may be some who-likes-who and who-doesn’t-like-who drama. Also, are all your opposing teams mostly like yours, too, a mostly-girl roster? Because the team may be overmatched if the opponents are mostly guys. How serious are these kids about wanting to play, just fun or real serious? Either is fine, but your coaching approach will have to differ accordingly.

Thanks for the advice. I’ve reached out to the parents and have gotten a very positive response so far.

Watch for cheating. That’s why I quit. The other teams would unfairly tie on the flags so that it would be almost impossible to pull them off. To observers like you or the referee, it looks like the defensive player missed the flag, but the reality is that the defensive player pulled the flag hard enough to remove it and make the offensive player “down”, but the flag is secured in a way that it won’t come off and the ball carrier continues down the field.

After the player scored a touchdown, I came up from behind and literally lifted him off the ground by his flags showing everyone that the flags were secured to his belt and couldn’t be removed. I was thrown out of the game for unsportsmanlike behavior and never went back.

Parents, watch out for those helpful parents. It can get ugly.

I did this for a few years for this age bracket and younger. By 5th grade, the competitive boys are in other leagues and you are left with those that are playing for fun, so make it fun. Girls were big on the group stuff. Learn everyone’s names by having a 15-20 minute meet and greet. Sit in a circle and every one in turn stands and states name. Everyone repeats name plus all names already mentioned.
Tell parents to have you on their contact list. I had several players not have rides home from an early quit practice and parents not answering a “strange” phone number.
Don’t expect very advanced football concepts like a receiver route tree. Be happy to have someone to throw the ball 20 yards and someone that can catch it. Running and misdirection plays work the best. Make sure every one plays in the 1st half if it is a fun league. I coached against people that played the last 3 players on the last play of the game only. I always platooned my players alternating offensive possessions.
The league we had had no blocking, no tackling, no screening, no jumping / hurdling except to catch the ball, and no twirling / spinning to keep the flags out of defenders reach. 20 minute halves with a running clock.

^ What PoppaSan said. I am not coaching material, but I recognize someone who is. A couple years ago my son was placed on a rec Basketball team, and the coach, in his introductory email, stated he only agreed to coach so his kid could play, and had “a little” coaching experience with the younger daughter. The season was a nightmare. The coach was frequently absent so there was almost no practice plan for the boys, so they just played against each other. It was a dismal season with a lot of losses and frustraiton and not a lot of skill-building or fun. My son gritted his teeth, but went to every practice and game. He hated it. Fortunately, a parent stepped-up mid way thru and stepped-in to help organize the boys and provide some direction.

The point: show the team and the parents you can do more than fog a mirror, and you will be fine

I won’t have that problem at all – I don’t make commitments lightly, and when I do, I take them very seriously. I understand that my performance will make a huge difference in how much the kids enjoy and get value from their experience, and making sure they have a positive experience is the most important to thing to me.

Are you talking 5 on 5?

Go online and learn some good plays. Teach them to set picks.

Drill and redrill the kids for speed and quickness. I’ve seen many quick kids jump and spin thru a defense in flag football.

Note - girls at that age tend to be larger and maybe faster than the boys at that age. Put a tall kid up front to deflect passes.

I brought a white board with me and drew out the plays for the kids.

We went 5 and 2 and I was a beginning coach so I think I did pretty good.

Never be alone with a child. Sad but necessary in this day and age.

What is your experience with kids? Do you have any? Have you ever been in the role of mentor to kids? Your ability to give confidence to the kids will be much more important than your football knowledge or whether you win games. Too many coaches of children athletes act like they’re coaching professionals or Olympic athletes and drive the kids to quit. The reality is that most of the kids are looking to have fun. At this age, you’ll help the kids more by making them feel confident in their abilities rather than by winning games. Winning games is obviously good, but don’t make the kids feel like that’s the only thing or that they’re failures if they don’t try hard enough.

Yes, 5 on 5. Thanks for the tips!

Very little experience with kids. But I’m a very easy-going guy with virtually no temper, and my highest priority (aside from safety) will be fun and a positive experience, so I’m confident I won’t drive any of the kids away by being too harsh or having expectations too high.

Another thing that helps the team focus and settle-down is doing a little warm-up, such as a couple laps around the field. If you want to bond with the team you will do this with them (it will also help them stay together as some of the kids will sprint). Running is a good equalizer for a coed team. Since it is football - there is a lot of standing around discussing things, so be sure to make part of their time in practice physical.

Kids are more cliquey than young men. If you let them, they probably won’t play as a team.

In fifth grade, they mostly aren’t old enough to TAKE leadership positions – they are used to looking to the adults – but they are old enough to be GIVEN leadership positions. If you get yourself organized, there is no reason why the team should ever be waiting for you, because you can pull out the team captain and vice captain and tell them what you want the team to do next.

When you’ve got young men, you can expect them to set up and move to the next drill. When you’ve got kids, you can expect them to wait for you to tell them what to do. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A lot of kids coaches aren’t thinking ahead to the next drill, because they are too busy dealing with the present. Don’t be that coach.

Flag football.

Yes, 5 on 5 flag football.

A little running is good but be careful its not too much or you will wear them out. Encourage them to run at least a mile a day at home. Work on speed and quickness drills. Work on fast handoffs. Working on your passing game. A great passing game is when the kids can run patterns and set picks with a QB who can trick the defense.

Remember you wont have a line like in tackle football. Your offense and defense have to be flexible and react to different situations. The best offense I saw was a diamond formation from which you could run all kinds of plays both passing and running.

It sounds like you’ll do fine. One thing to do is to exude confidence yourself. Don’t tell the kids that this is your first time coaching or anything like that. Act like you know what you’re doing so the kids feel confident in following your direction.