One of the more unfortunate recent developments in youth sports is the implementation of minimum, mandatory playing time for all players, no matter how useless. Equally disturbing, most leagues prohibit you from cutting players or kicking them off the team just because they suck. Thus, a critical weapon in any champion coach’s arsenal is the ability to make the shitty kids quit voluntarily. I’ve come to value this skill just as much as tactical prowess, scouting, recruiting, and talent development. If you want to build a youth football dynasty, it is absolutely vital that you know the forms of psychological and physical punishment that are most likely to work.
I personally prefer to try non-violent means at the outset. After identifying the players who have no prayer of helping us, my coaching staff will then focus on trying to make those players quit through humiliation. My DC and my offensive assistant who is in probation for selling counterfeit Oakleys will mock their ineptitude and berate them in front of their teammates, which usually results in tears. I then will play the “good cop” by pulling the kid to the side, tell him in the most professional way that he is embarrassing himself, his teammates, and his entire family, and that it would be best if he quits. That usually does the trick for 50-75% of players.
But when diplomatic means fail, I have to ratchet things up a bit. For the frail players, there are a variety of drills I like to use. Over the years I’ve become particularly fond of the “Punt Returns with No Fair Catches” and “Kickoff Wedge Busting’ drills. The Punt Returns with No Fair Catches drill is self-explanatory, and it begins with putting the player I want to quit as the punt returner. I then put the biggest, meanest, hardest-hitting players as the “gunners” on the punt team and instruct them to obliterate the return man, preferably before the ball even reaches him. The Kickoff Wedge Busting drill is a similar, if less extreme, concept. I force the kid I want to quit to serve as the “wedge buster” on the kickoff team and put the hardest hitters on the return team. Other drills I like to use include the “Never-ending Out Route,” up-downs, Bull in the Ring with no helmet for the ballcarrier, and Oklahoma drills in the parking lot.
When all else fails, my last resort is always to try to do everything I can to make the kid’s parents hate me. Insult their son, their child-rearing skills, their education, their profession, or their physical appearance – whatever it takes. I’ve made parents run gassers alongside their kids and arranged to have fictitious “unspoken” prayer requests made on their behalf at church with a vague reference to unnamed “demons” they are battling. But the one tactic I’ve most become fond of over the years is making incendiary posts on their Facebook wall. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a well-placed “Your son is useless” or “You really look like shit in your new profile picture” post.