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Vertical Alignment for High School/Youth Programs


About the Author:  Kenyatta Wright is currently the Defensive Coordinator and LB’s coach at Fort Gibson High School in Fort Gibson, OK. Coach Wright played college football for Oklahoma State and then in the NFL for both the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets.  His personal philsophy is as such:  “I strongly believe that depending on the knowledge and the quality of the players that they should be included in the future plans for the development of a championship team. All players must believe that the goals and plans are realistic and that they can come true and be able to judge how they fit our scheme”.  Coach Wright can be reached via email at and on Twitter @CoachKWright1.

One of the really positive things we have done in our High School and Youth programs here at Fort Gibson, OK was to create a Vertical Alignment. This concept has aligned the lower-level programs directly in line with our varsity program.  We coach using the same techniques, schemes, and philosophies. The single most effective thing our Head Coach has done was to get our youth program in the most competitive league in our state and also make everyone believe in who we are. When we lay our heads down at night, everyone within the program understands that “We Are TIGERS”.

We have a 1-day coaching clinic for our youth and middle school coaches. We usually dedicate a full day to clinic and then three subsequent days of skill work to all youth playing football during the summer. During these clinics and camps, the Varsity coaches will work alongside the youth coaches and instruct them in both fundamentals and also about how they are a pivotal piece in the development process of “The Tiger Way”. It’s a great way to make sure that philosophies, terminology and expectations are instilled in the athletes before we get them.

This prevents a lot of problems you otherwise would have to deal with once those students get to the high school level.

A sample schedule for our youth football coaching clinic would be something like:

TIGER Youth Football Coaches Clinic Agenda:
1. Positive Coaching Strategies (Creating Confidence & Building Self-Esteem)
2. Life & Leadership Philosophies (Your Personal Philosophies on Life and Leadership)
3. Football Philosophies (High School Program’s Philosophies: Program, O/D/ST, Key to Wins)
4. Football Schemes & Terminology (High School’s Schemes & Terminology)
5. Technique Instruction & Drills: Offensive, Defensive, & Special Teams Tutoring
(Position-Group tutoring with the Varsity/High School Coaches)
(Game-Planning considerations and ideas with Varsity/High School Coordinators)
(* This can be done on-the-board or on-the-field)
6. Character-Building Ideas (Pyramid of Success, Important Character Traits)
7. Team-Building Ideas & Activities
8. Community-Service Ideas
9. Fundraising Ideas
10. Nutrition & Weight-Training Ideas
(Guidelines for Healthy Lifestyle & Eating Habits; Simple Workout Ideas or Plans).

In the short time we have implemented this Vertical Alignment structure we have been able to see the growth of our student athletes on and off the field. The expectations are elevated for all involved parents, coaches, athletes and fans alike. We are fortunate to have a great community that supports a standard of excellence in the Community, in the Classroom, and also on the Turf. As a program, we feel it is important to be at the forefront of the development of youth who will eventually move in to our upper-level programs. Using and implementing our philosophy at the lower levels is vital for future success within the Tiger program.

I was very fortunate to be play for coaches that loved the game and many of them, including my pro coaches wanted to dig inside my high school program to see how I was wired. We all remember the statement from Mike Singletary “YOU CANT WIN WITH EM” etc. it always boils down to this “ You Either Coaching It or Allowing It to Happen” those famous last word from veteran football coaches always leave an impression.

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