Youth Football – The “More Than Winning” Youth Football Coach

My friend Don Berniard who is known by “Coach Q” by his players and friends, runs a youth football program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I went down to help this team out in 2007 for a couple of days along with a newfound friend in Houston, Greg B. When I got to Baton Rouge I found xem bong da truc tuyen a coach that was in this for all the right reasons, he didn’t have a kid playing and he had no aspirations of coaching at the “next level”. This was a man who saw a need in a very poor and hurting area. He saw football as a means to an end to reaching kids with his “believe and achieve message” along with an all important faith component.

Coach Q and His “Band of Brothers”

As we prepared for practice Coach “Q” and I picked up 8-9 kids in his SUV. We picked up kids from all over this decaying neighborhood from ramshackle apartments and falling down shacks. Don knew the name of every mom, dad, uncle, aunt, grandma and grandpa caring for these kids. We picked up some of the kids as they were just walking down the streets. Every player we picked up had a wide smile on his face, It seemed that every place we stopped, people knew Coach Q and his South Baton Rouge Jaguars. As each player got into the SUV, they looked me in the eyes, shook my hand and talked to me with a series of endless questions. They treated each other, the coaches and even the visitors with confidence and respect. I’m not sure greg and I have ever heard more “please” and “thank yous” in a 2 day period in our lives.

We practiced at their “field”, which was a patch of grass sitting beneath 2 huge Interstate overhead ramps. There were no bathrooms, very little grass and it was extremely loud with all the vehicles zooming past, just over our heads. To make a long story short, this was an extremely well disciplined and well-coached group of young men, They were extremely coachable, literally standing on edge and elbowing closer so they could hear every word. On day 2 I found they had retained every word from day 1 and were probably the most enthusiastic and hard working kids I’ve ever been around. At the end of the camp at least 15 of the kids came up to me and told me thanks for coming and I even got a few sweaty hugs from 3-4 others. I told the group that if any of them wanted to move to Nebraska, we would love to have them play for us, they were just “neat” kids. These kids reminded me so much of the inner-city kids I used to coach 6-11 years ago.

The Baton Rouge Jaguars was started from scratch by Don and they struggled when they first started, In 2007 all 4 teams went to the Single Wing offense and Wide Tackle 6 Defense and this year all 4 teams competed for league titles with one of them winning it all. They combined for a 26-5 record this season in a very competitive dog-eat-dog league.

More importantly though, Coach Q consistently retains over 90% of his players. His teams compete as well, don’t think this is a juice box drinking Kumbaya singing bunch of choirboys. Everyone has their eyes on the upstart Jaguars as they challenge decades long local football dynasties for bragging rights in football crazy Baton Rouge, Not only do his competitors scout Coach Q’s games, but they scout his practices, try and steal his players and even crash his team parties. It’s football crazy in Don’s neck of the woods, his competitors take no prisoners.

Coach Q’s teams are very well known for their sportsmanship standard and compassion when they have other teams outclassed. They are the epitome of what I preach that ” you can be fundamentally sound, have fun, play everyone, be great sports AND win, these aren’t mutually exclusive words”.

His kids have also shown impressive gains in the classroom as well. Coach Q had several amazing success stories he shared with me including one in which a homeless boy who didn’t even know how to read as a 5th grader (by age this player should have been in 7th grade) got himself up to grade level and even was excelling with the help of Coach Q and a tutor, Coach Q even “donated” a school uniform so he could get back in school.

Hats off to you Coach Q, God Bless you and your players. You are an inspiration to all of us coaching youth football and a model program we should all be learning from. I wish there were more of you out there. I’m sure all your players feel blessed you passed on coaching High School football. Since the Jaguars weren’t a worst to first story they can’t qualify for the contest prize, but we are going to award them a “Complete Program” award and an “Ultra Package” will be sent to them this month.

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