At the first annual Coalfields Clinic, we brought in several coaches whose expertise lied within the middle school and youth league systems. To some, these leagues are somewhat important but not crucial. We, along with many other coaches, would like to disagree. Derrick Hypes, the head of the Mountaineer Youth Program, went into extensive detail about why youth football is irreplaceable. Here’s the takeaway:
Some of our fondest memories of the sport take place before we even knew understood X’s and O’s. The floppy shoulder pads, the saggy jerseys, constantly pulling your knee pads up from your shins, and chewing your mouth piece up every two weeks. Coach Hypes not only places emphasis on the love of the sport being built but a parental love for technique being taught.
In a one-on-one conversation, Coach Hypes expressed his passion for technique. Terms like ‘safety first’ and ‘head up’ that are said a million times a day are, let’s be honest, rarely acted on. Coach Hypes makes proper tackling technique a top priority. It’s all about protecting the players and getting them to protect themselves in the future. Habits are hard to break. He pointed to recent example of Saints corner Marcus Williams dropping his head on the final play of the NFC Divisional, missing the tackle, and allowing the Vikings to win. A professional who still is human and has his bad habits most likely learned young.
Coach Hypes spoke that things like proper technique and a respect for the game are crafted into stone with the type of culture of the youth league. He has a stern position on coaches being coaches and parents being parents. We all remember that certain parent always berating the coach, child, referee, etc. He says this has no place in youth sports and he has little bend. The understanding of roles makes the environment better and the majority happy.
So, we asked, if none of these traits exist in any nearby youth league programs, what do you do? He said sometimes you have to take matters in your own hands. When he took control of the Mountaineer Youth Program, it was because he cared enough. What was his secret to doubling, tripling, quadrupling the number of kids coming out? First off, he said wave off sign-up fees. It’s a youth league not a travel team. Economically, a free league is more inclusive, therefore invites more families which will be using the concessions. It should cover itself if not more.
He also asked where the money was going. IMPORTANT. The money made must be reinserted into the league. Things like clean and working gear, good field set ups, and a big one: nice uniforms. Coach Hypes says bringing class to a league is affordable and makes it so much more fun for the kids. He even goes to the extent to buying the championship team players rings (nothing too extravagant) but something those boys will cherish forever. Which, is what he said, is what it is all about.