Coaching tips: teaching flag football

Flag football is a great way to introduce youngsters to the game. It shares many of the guiding principles of traditional football and prepares children to move on to the tackle game by familiarizing themselves with the rules.

Yet, teaching young athletes, especially those under 10, flag football can be a difficult endeavor. At these ages, players are physically less capable of throwing and catching the ball, not to mention remembering plays, so it's important for coaches to focus on the basics and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Think of yourself more as a teacher than a coach. Make no assumptions about your team's knowledge of the game and you'll be all set. Engage your players by asking them questions about the key rules of the sport, like: "What is in bounds and what is out of bounds? What does the quarterback do at the beginning of every play? How many points is a touchdown worth?"

Creating drills for basic skills is crucial at this level of flag football. Teach your kids how to throw a pass, pull the flag from an opponent's belt and run with the ball. Not only are these essential to the game, but they build children's athletic strength and hand-eye coordination.

Reinforce the essential terminology throughout practices such as position names, the words to signal the start of play and fundamental rules.

Above all, be patient. Youngsters likely will not catch on their first try. The best way to combat frustration on their part and yours is to make sure that practices are fun, organized and always a learning experience.

With these essential tools under your flag football belt, you and your team can make the most of the season.