Youth1 chatted with former three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams, who has established himself as one of the most well-respected youth football coaches in the nation.
Adams played 14 seasons in the NFL for the Seahawks, Ravens, Raiders, Bills, Bengals and Broncos. The 6-foot-3, 350 pound Adams, who won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, had 44 sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions in the league.
Adams began coaching at the youth level towards the tail end of his NFL career. Most recently, he’s been active in the Washington area with Seattle FBU and Eastside Catholic amongst other programs.
Adams has coached his son Sam Adams II along the way throughout his budding career, with the running back now at Eastside Catholic.
Q: What made you want to get into coaching youth football?
A: “I always wanted to coach and planned on coaching when I was done playing. I wanted to help other people. I wanted to be able to coach at a higher level when all my kids are gone. So this is something that’s a passion of mine. I’ve always loved the game. It’s something that I feel you can give back to your community but not only that, you can help someone change their life by building character and life lessons that they can learn off the field that can help them be successful whether they go to a higher level or not.”
Q: How has your NFL experience helped you as a youth coach?
A: “When you coach after playing you get a lot of different opinions. As the game evolves, the parents change. So it doesn’t matter if I played or not, you have a lot of parent involvement. The biggest thing is you want to teach kids and parents alike what they’re going to get into. Zuri [Hector] and I had to kind of change our game plan because when you’re coaching certain kids, every kid isn’t the same. So you can’t coach everyone the same. We drive everyone to be the best that they can be but also we’ve been blessed to be able to coach some kids that you know are going to a higher level. Those kids have different needs. They have to have different things that you prepare them for.”
Q: How has youth football changed nowadays from when you were growing up?
A: “I didn’t start thinking about college until I was a junior. I mean I was getting letters when I was playing varsity as a sophomore but you have kids getting offers in the eighth grade. So the conversations have to change. The preparation has to change. It’s not just about football anymore. It’s about how you carry yourself. At first everybody was excited about social media but now social media is a detriment to some people. It’s not only become a recruiting tool but it allows you to see who some people really are. So now you’ve got to teach them about how to behave and so forth. You can’t just be a coach anymore. You have to be a mentor if you’re going to lead young men.”
Q: What kind of lessons do you try to teach the youth through football?
A: “Being on time. Being prepared. Little things that make big things. I’ll give you an example. A kid comes to practice without his shoes. How do you plan on playing today? You don’t have your cleats. It’s just like going to class without a pencil or pen. Teaching them the importance of being selfless. This isn’t about you. In order for one of us to be successful, we all have to do the same thing and sing from the same hymnal. Once you understand ‘team’ you understand ‘community’. And once you understand ‘community’ you understand ‘life.’ I believe you learn things on the football field that you can’t learn by not being an athlete. When you have to give up something that’s more important than yourself, you’ll learn how to contribute to a household and how to contribute to a family.”
Q: What is your viewpoint of how sports helps young people overcome obstacles?
A: “A lot of people have taken life skills out of sports. They don’t want their kids to fail but that’s a part of life. Dusting yourself off and getting back up that builds character. It teaches you how to not quit because life is going to knock you down at some point in time. You’re going to run up a class, a test or a professor or a boss that you may not like. What are you going to do? Quit every time because you think you’re going to fail? Our kids need to be pushed and have some failures to learn from. I think sports does that.”
Q: How has the game of football molded you into the man you are today?
A: “I used to be afraid to do public speaking. Texas A&M [the college he attended] and the Seahawks taught me a very valuable lesson. That lesson was: you’re going to do it. I think my rookie year I was the Man of the Year and I probably had 100 speaking engagements. They just made me do it over and over again. The more I did it the more I became better at it. It was something I became comfortable with. That’s something that helped me throughout life in the things that I’m doing with children, business and so forth. Football has given me the strength and the courage to be a better man and a better father.”
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