By Greg Bach
It happens to all wide receivers at all levels of play: the dreaded dropped pass.
And it can be a confidence-crushing experience for a young player.
So as the coach it’s up to you to help teach youngsters to move onto the next play instead of dwelling on that one pass that just slipped through their fingers.
“You always have to put into their mind to go on to the next play,” says former NFL wide receiver Todd Pinkston, now the wide receivers coach at Austin Peay State University. “Because the next catch they make may be the biggest catch of the game. So you have to help them understand that they can’t worry about a play that is now in the past – they have to worry about the next play and the play that follows.”
PRACTICE PRIMER: SHAPING CONFIDENCE
That molding of confidence and working on their mindset must begin during practices, as it’s not easy for kids to shake off a pass that they know they should have hauled in.
So the moment you see a player’s had drop or shoulders sag remind them to shove that play to the side and fully engage in the next one, because that could be the play that turns out to be the game changer.
Just be sure to choose those words carefully.
“You don’t want to bash a kid and have him lose his confidence because one thing a lot of kids can’t handle these days is constructive criticism,” advises Pinkston, who caught four passes for 82 yards for the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. “And that’s one of the things you have to watch out for.”
SMALL STEPS LEAD TO BIG GAINS
In your excitement to teach kids it’s easy to overwhelm them with too much information, which puts the brakes on learning and squashes fun, too.
Pinkston, who graduated as the University of Southern Mississippi’s all-time leading receiver, reminds coaches to focus on the fundamentals and gradually build from there.
“You want to make it fun for the kids, you don’t want to burn them out,” he says. “If you are teaching the small things the big things will come later on.”
OBSERVING AND REACTING
The best youth sports coaches are those who observe, don’t miss anything, and are willing and able to adjust practice drills at a moment’s notice.
After all, sometimes the drills you use are huge hits, or gigantic flops. So being able to change drills to salvage a practice is a necessity.
“You have to see how kids respond to certain drills and how they react,” he says. “And that’s when you find out what makes it fun for them because you see their reactions.”
REVVING UP PRACTICE INTENSITY
One of Pinkston’s favorite youth sports memories was the fun competitions his coaches devised at practice.
“For me it was the competition,” he recalls. “You want to compete against your friends on the other side of the ball. So my coaches made things fun by getting us excited to go to practice because we were always looking for that drill where we knew that we would be going against our friends.”
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