Game day is go time, but these three flag football coaches prove there’s more than one way to approach it
| 5 min read
For soccer coaches, game day is often about doing less — letting your players make minute-to-minute decisions on the field, based on what they’ve learned in practice. Games have their own pace, their own dynamics. While some soccer coaches lean toward joysticking, many find themselves stepping back instead.
Game day is also different for flag football coaches — but for other reasons. Flag football coaches are busy — busy calling plays, standing right there in the huddle. There’s a lot of action, a lot to remember and a lot to do.
Here, three flag football coaches from across the country share how they think about the big day.
For Art Moreno, who has coached with NFL Flag Pasadena for the past three years, it’s all about the pace of game day. “Coaching is non-stop as far as flag football is concerned,” he says. But he views his role on the field as more than calling plays.
“They have to trust themselves,” says Moreno, who currently coaches 7th and 8th graders. He spends a lot of his time and energy boosting spirits and calling for focus on game day.
“Confidence is huge,” says Moreno. “Right away, I say, I trust you. I believe in you. The team believes in you. Their role, when they’re out there, is to play with a lot of clarity.”
It’s about extending the lessons from practice onto the field. “I want them to be able to execute what we do in practice,” he says. “I hope and expect that they do.”
And for Moreno, the results he’s looking for are not always on the scoreboard.
“Year after year, practice after practice, day after day, I want them to say, I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying the game.”
Tony Palumbo Jr. coaches 7th and 8th graders in Wilton, Connecticut — where he is also a commissioner for the local flag football league. For him, the age really shapes the type of play. “It’s more of an advanced style of offense, with advanced responsibility for each kid,” he explains.
Unlike soccer — which he has also coached — game day for flag football is when you have the most to do as a coach, he says. “It’s way more intense in the game,” he says.
In his league, games are just 24 minutes long — so he thinks in terms of seconds.
“When you’re running a play, your play could last 10 to 30 seconds,” he explains. “Then they’re coming right back, regrouping, and you have 30 seconds to hike the ball again.”
For Palumbo, the time to experiment, to bond and to learn from mistakes is during practice. There, he says, they learn on the fly — and learn by doing. And game day is go time.
“We are directing them by the second on game day,” he says. “There’s so little time.”
“In my mind, everything I do, everything they’re doing, it’s all in preparation for game day,” says Dwight Braswell, a Denver, Colorado, flag football coach known online as Coach D.
“What I’m big about, on game day, is creating leaders,” he says. “Even from 1st grade on, you can start to build leaders.” Braswell uses a system of wristbands to help players remember their plays, and then lets the leaders on the team step up and call plays on their own.
“I love not being in the huddle now, allowing a 10-year-old to take control of the offense,” he adds. “They’re managing the game.”
Early on, he’ll still jump in the huddle, but usually to ask his players, OK, what are we doing??
“I want to empower them,” he says. His role, then, is to help identify gaps, listen and answer questions.
Despite their different approaches, these three flag football coaches have two universal pieces of game day advice.
First up: Be prepared. “Know who handles what,” says Braswell. “Whether I’m the head coach, or the assistant coach, when everyone walks on the field, they know they’re role.”
Moreno agrees. “It’s the simple things,” he says. Is your equipment ready? Do you have your playbook? “Things happen quick and fast, and the buck stops with you.”
And tip number two? Keep it simple. “The simplest plays get the best results,” says Palumbo. Plus, simple plans give developing players a chance at success.
And most of all? Have fun out there, Coach.