Winning Youth Football

Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

Friday, December 17, 2010

Football Defence:Blitz Attack!

One of the thrills of being a football defensive co-ordinator is the excitement of blitzing your opponent, pressuring the quarterback, and forcing a well oiled offensive machine into turn-over's and mistakes.

A carefully planned blitz attack by an aggressive group of football athletes can throw a wrench into the offence and make the playing field a little more even against teams that are superior in talent and strength.

But it can certainly be your downfall as well!

Blitzing is like rolling the dice play after play, it's a gamble that you take, it can be a lot of fun when you get on a roll, sack the quarterback and create a turn-over. But, from time to time, like any gamble, you're going to roll "snake eyes" and pay the price. It won't take too long for a well coached team to take advantage of your blitz attack, expose its vulnerabilities, and move the football. The better teams know that by being patient when under attack and figuring out where and what players are blitzing that they can expose these players and take advantage of the space they vacate in order to blitz. How many times have you watched NFL teams blitz and sack the quarterback in the first quarter and then get ripped apart in the second quarter?

Game over!

Be patient in your blitz. Don't fire the guns play after play and become predictable. Be aggressive, and then back off. Blitz different personnel. Show blitz, get them to audible to another play, then drop into coverage. Keep the offence guessing. As the game moves along, perhaps you'll expose some weakness or flaw in their schemes. Take advantage of it but be patient with it as well. If you find they are having a hard time with it turn up the heat slowly and be cautious of not being placed in a position where you can be exposed and give up a big play.

There will be times that team's will not be able to stop your blitz pressure. But at the same time the better teams will be able to expose this pressure so it's best to be patient with your blitz and be smart with it as well!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Youth Football: Keep it Simple Coach

Keep it simple coach! Being a youth football coach is a year round job. It becomes a big part of your life and an important part as well that is very satisfying and enjoyable. But, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment on your part. There are many dedicated youth football coaches in our communities that shape the development of our children across the country and they play a vital role in their character development.

It's important that they do a good job.

As a coach it is was always important to me to be prepared, knowledgeable, and organized. The internet has a vast amount of information of football coaching philosophies, strategies, football systems, practice plans, whatever, for the aspiring coach. However, for the most part I find it can be too technical, too costly, or too philosophical for what I want to do at the youth level.

My philosophy has always been to keep it simple or for the most part, and use the" KISS" philosophy: "Kiss" being" Keep it simple stupid! And of course, add in "Do it well".

By keeping it simple in both football practice and football game systems your players should better grasp their roles, are confident in it, and perform at a higher level. By keeping it simple, it is easier for you to make practice plans, game adjustments and get the response out of your players that you're looking for. To be able to adjust is the key. And its fun! To recognize what your opponent is up to and being able to adjust to it is very fulfilling, and gives you and your football player's confidence. A simple football system allows this to happen. Finally, become a student of the game and dedicate yourself to that commitment. In the end your players will benefit, win or lose.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Youth Football Systems

sAll youth football levels whether it is High School or Middle School, implement their specific systems in order to be organized and effective in both side of the football. Football systems are constructed in order to place your players and their abilities in the best possible situation so that they thrive and have a better opportunity to be competitive. All coaches have their football systems that they prefer to run each and every season, but, is the system that they prefer to run right for everybody? For instance, the local High School coach approaches the local Middle School coach about implementing his system. He explains to the Middle school coach that by implementing and practising the High School System that the players that learn it, will be more effective and be closer to the field once they arrive for High School.

Take a minute and decide if you agree with the High School Coach! Certainly there's a lot to consider!

For example, it's normal to have a favourite offensive system that you like to run year in and year out but is it practical to think that every season you'll have the personnel to run it? My opinion would be that it would be not practical. For the most part, probably with some tweaks you could run a similar system but not the same system each season. There are a lot of variables to consider such as athletic ability, size, and experience that you have to consider and they will be different every season as new players arrive and older players move on. If your system is one where you can recruit specific players for roles within your system then you can run it each and every season, however, if your players are limited to a specific area or region prepare yourself to tweak that package.

Now let's get back to the original question I posed earlier in this article. Is it right for the local High School Coach to ask the local middle school coach to implement his system? Well, I don't think it's wrong but I also think it's probably not practical. For the most part the terminology would be a benefit as the players that arrive for High School the following year would understand it, but if they do not have the tools to run it in Middle School then I don't think it will be effective.

It's not fair to ask players to do something that their not capable of doing. In fact it would be frustrating to play in it as well as to coach it. It would be more reasonable to evaluate your roster each season and determine where your strength's are and effectively implement a football system better suited to their strengths. I think it would benefit the high school coach more in the long run if they thrive in a system that's designed for them or tweaked for them as opposed to asking them to do something they cannot do. The coaches concern should be that they are getting and practising good football fundamentals so that when they do arrive in High School they are ready fundamentally and it's just a matter of fitting them into the system or tweaking the system so that they can thrive in it. It certainly makes it easier when they have good fundamentals!



Monday, December 6, 2010

Football Defensive Linemen Footwork

An effective football defensive line has to be able to move. If they cannot get out of their stance and effectively engage their block and get  to the ball, then your linebackers are in for a very long day on the grid-iron.
 A solid footwork program should be implemented as part of your group time in football practice and it should be done each and every practice for at least 10-15 minutes.The plan should start out having them in their stance and incorporate a lot of body movement and change of direction drills as well as drills where they have to pick up their feet. Practice equipment should include the flat rectangular bags, cones, and a ball. Such movement as high knees over the bags, lateral side steps over the bags, and change of direction drills are  a few examples of what can be done to get that football line moving. As well, throw in some fundamentals such as block shedding as they perform their specific footwork drills where along the way they enagage and disengage a blocker all the while mainatining a low stance and keeping their feet moving. These drills also help with their conditioning. Emphasize snap explosion whereby they get out of their stance fast and agressive.


Defensive Linemen the Neglected Group

One of the most neglected positions in youth football is the defensive lineman. A lot of times we get so busy sorting out the offensive line that we neglect the defensive linemen. We basically set them up as blocking dummmies opposite the o-linemen and as we practice offensive line fundamentals they are told to line up here or line up there and come hard. As a result these players become lost in the shuffle and we wonder on game day why we cannot get a stop on defence.

Usually these players are perhaps slower and not as athletic as your fine tuned O-linemen. So how can we make them into ferocious ball attackers? Its simple my friend. You need to make a commitment to them the same as you do with your offensive linemen. As a lot of smaller programs have both of these groups together because of numbers , its important that all practice their defensive linemen fundamentals as much as offensive line. Everything from stance, footwork, snap explosion, engaging the blocker to block shedding, getting up field to the ball, tackling as well as system assignments should be covered. Another key would be teaching them how to read their blocks . By reading the block of the o-linemen the d-linemen can effectively determine what kind of play the offence is running and make an agressive read to the ball.

All in all, a good run stopping, sacking defensive line starts in practice and is worth the time of investment.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Youth Football Passing Skeleton

As our football camps approach in the next couple of weeks you'll notice that our football fields are becoming busier with players throwing footballs, punters, kickers with father's holding, as well as quarterbacks throwing the football in anticipation of the upcoming football training camp.

One of the things you can do if some of your players are available is to implement a couple of hours per week in implementing a passing skeleton. For the most part, a lot of the players will be kicking around anyway and looking for something to do so why not! It's a good time to get together, throw the football, and practice your offence and defence without the pressure of preparing for a game. Coverage's and routes can be tweaked and players can shuffle in and play both sides of the football all the while receiving coaching and practicing plays and systems that will be used for the upcoming season.

It's also a good way to introduce new players to your passing system, and defensive coverage's while having fun throwing the football. Your skeleton participation is always optional taking in consideration that it is summer and your kids need their down time as well. The main thing is to let them know that your there if they are interested, if not no big deal!



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Football Tackling Drills:Head Position in Tackling

As a youth football coach it's very important that when we are teaching tackling that we make sure that we emphasize that the players never use their head to butt, ram, spear, or make contact with an opponent. In drills covering tackling, all football coaches need to make this a priority.

I read an interesting article the other day whereby a neuro-surgeon with a football back round stated that the best way to teach our youth football players to tackle would be with out helmets. That way they would develop a good tackling technique that would protect and not involve the head.

Now I wouldn't recommend this but I do certainly understand his point.

With the pencil necks that we coach at the youth level the head never should be part of the equation. The point of contact when making a tackle should be the chest with the head back. If you examine any youth shoulder pad the breast plate is well protected and designed to sustain contact. Once contact is made the player should be taught to drive up and through his opponent with his arms, latch, keep his feet moving, and take his opponent to the ground.

Tackling drills should cover straight on tackling and angle tackling with the coach emphasizing point of contact and proper head position. Players should be taught to never, ever drop their heads, and with their head back at all times, watch and follow the hit in all the way. One of the things I have incorporated in tackling drills is that in the early sessions of teaching tackling is to tackle with "thud" contact, head back, wrap up, and do not leave your feet. Now "thud" contact is controlled half speed contact whereby we want the contact to be initiated but, the emphasis is on good tackling technique with head back, and proper form and technique. We stick with controlled "thud" contact until we are comfortable that all players have good tackling fundamentals and then we will pick up the speed a little more in the contact drills.

And you know what happens?

Once the speed is picked up a little, a lot of young tacklers will drop their heads on contact. At this point as a coach you have to step in, review technique once again, and send them back to "thud" school for more training. A couple of trips through "thud school" will get them thinking. What's most important is that they never tackle at a faster speed until they pass "thud school". Then it's controlled progression in all tackling drills until they have it right.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Youth Football Summer Season Planning

With spring camps completed and the summer upon us nows the time to start thinking about your up-coming football season. Depth charts should now be established with player evaluations completed and you should have a good idea who's penciled in to play at all positions. This includes your specialty spots, long-snappers, holders, returners, and kickers. So with training camp six weeks away you will have a general idea of where your players will fit in, and what positional spots you need the most help. Playbooks should be reviewed and tweaked, your season schedule and match-ups revealed, equipment inventory taken and new stuff ordered , and your training camp dates set.

All in all, you should be ready now at this point to "get er going"!

With the framework of this years team in place it makes it easier for you as the coach to get into your training camp as you will have a good idea where players will be fitting into positions. One of the funnest things in training camp are those pleasant surprises of who will show up unexpectantly that will impact your team. It doesn't happen a lot but when it does you'll be smiling.

Now that all is in place, sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of the summer. You'll find that your mind will drift in and out of football daily, hourly,its natural as a football coach. Just don't get the fired up juices flowing, its too early! Relax, and enjoy the sun!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Football :Attacking the 3-4 Defence

The football defence of choice these days appears to be the 3-4 defence. Teams at all levels appear to like its diversity, its pressure, and its ability to cover most areas of the field. The 3-4 defence has emerged as an attacking defence capable of bringing the heat and providing good downfield coverage.

But what is its drawback?

Basically, my belief is that this defence is set-up around the nosetackle. If this defence does not have a true nose-tackle then things can become unravelled and exploited. A true nose tackle per say is a player with both good size and football ability that can take on a double team block effectively and not be scooped or washed down. But the key is the ability to withstand a double team block. What usually takes place on a nosetackle that cannot handle the double team block is that they will end up initially being double teamed by the centre and offensive guard and once their momentum is stopped or they began to lose ground one of the offensive linemen will chip off the double team block and go down and get one of your linebackers.

This brings up the point that an effective zone blocking scheme versus a 3-4 defence with a weak NT can be very effective. Double team the NT and chip off to get the middle linebacker would be the basic strategy.

Another weakness of the 3-4 defence would be misdirection such as an inside counter. An agressive nosetackle would definately "bite:" on the lead back and with the tailback cutting back to counter, with a trap from the OG on the counterside DT with both middle linebackers getting washed down with good blocking angles by the offensive line would definately do damage.

Coaching point versus the 3-4 defence. Test and attack the NT position. Look for the double team chip to middle linebacker and run misdirection plays such as an inside counter. Run the ball effectively inside and get them to switch into a 4 man front to counter the zone blocking double team.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Youth Football Fullback Orientated Offence

If you like a power game in football then you need to run a offence that includes a fullback in your backfield. Or perhaps your in a situation whereby you are a little short on the offensive line and a fullback in the backfield could be the answer to your problems.

Or perhaps you short yardage offence needs a little tune-up!

I like a fullback in the backfield especially with a small program where linemen can be short in supply. By going with a fullback in the backfield you are bringing perhaps your best blocker to the point of attack probably 95% of the time. As well, it can create more double teams for your smaller offensive line with your fullback going down to the second level at the linebacker or defensive back.

Ideally, your fullback candidate is probably your best pulling athletic offensive guard. Think of it as this way, instead of utilizing your best guard say in 50% of your plays, you put him in the backfield and bring him to the point of attack 95% of the time.

I like those odds!

Place an athletic tailback behind the fullback, coach your offensive line up to look for more double teams and watch your power game unfold with your best blocker getting down into the second level and move the football.

Another thing with the fullback orientated offence is that so many defences will key on the fullback that any misdirection plays such as counters will be very effective. As well, a fullback coming out of the backfield for a pass is also a big play.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Football Defence Discipline

As we have all heard many times, defence wins championships! A solid system with players committed to their assignments with good fundamentals paves the way to defensive success.

Its really very simple!

Do your assignment and do it well within the system, don't try to over play into somebody elses assignment and be disciplined within your assignment. These are the keys to having that championship defence.

The higher the level of competition the more important it is for the football players to be disciplined within their assignments otherwise they are like a fish out of water and are vulnerable to failure. With so many eyes watching these days these are the players that opposing offensives seek out and go after. They're like sitting ducks! An undisciplined defensive player doing his own thing out there will be exposed and manipulated and have you pulling out your hair.

Player selections for your defence are important for a solid disciplined defence. Be carefull of those players that are disciplined all week in practice and then are exposed on game day as they decide to do their own thing. Yea, against the weaker teams they'll be fine but in the championship game will be exposed and cost you possibly the win.

Good discipline equals good defence!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Youth Football Defensive Contain Responsibility

Defensive Line Fundamentals and Drills Vs the Run

One of the most difficult assignments in football is to contain the offence. That is, prevent the offence from getting outside to the side line, gaining the corner, and sprinting down the side-line. For the most part, a good athletic running back that gains the side-line will probably score the majority of the time as once they are in the open field will use their speed and athleticism to do damage.

The contain responsibility would be the assignment of either the outside linebacker or defensive end depending on your philosophy. My experience at the youth football level is that you will be more successfull assigning an outside linebacker with the contain responsibilty as opposed to the defensive end. A true defensive end would read the play and have both an inside and outside run responsibilty, be able to scrape off his block and contain the outside run. However, these type of players are hard to find at the youth level and once double teamed are ineffective and give up the corner on the outside run play.

I have had more success by using a outside linebacker with primary contain responsibilty and set up the defence so that the defensive ends work in tandem with the outside linebacker to maintain contain . Basically the outside linebacker would align on the line of scrimmage about two yards outside of the offensive tackle and on the snap of the ball would get up field to at least ball depth and turn in any outside runs or roll-outs, once they are disciplined on getting up field the next step would get them to collapse the pocket at ball depth and force the ball carrier to the inside.

I like to align the defensive ends on the outside shoulder of the Offensive tackles and on the snap of the ball they would engage the tackle and control the C gaps while at the same time reading the play in case of an inside run. The outside shoulder alignment gives them the edge on the outside run and by engaging the offensive tackle they can help with the inside run as well.

The offense now has to choose who to double team either the outside linebacker or the defensive end and with the end and outside linebacker working in tandem you should still have solid defence versus the outside run.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Youth Football Spring Camp Analysis

Spring camp is over and now comes the time to evaluate your players, playbooks, and practice plans. Hopefully you were able to get everything in that you wanted to get in including an exhibition scrimmage or inter-sqaud game so that you now can evaluate your program prior to the start of your training camp in 3 months.

Nows the time to evaluate your players within the depth chart and perhaps you've realized that the player slated for that offensive guard position might be better on the defensive side of the ball or that new fangled offence is just not going to cut it with your present group of players or your athletic running back is not what you think, and might be used elsewhere.

Whatever it is, evaluate, make your decisions, and move on to your fall camp planning. The worst think that you can do is to get into your fall camp and wonder about plays, players, and practices and be spinning your wheels trying to decide on stuff with a game on the horizon. Its easier to do that now in the spring.

Make your decisions now based on what you have seen in your spring football camp, make yout adjustments and relax now for the summer!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Youth Football Controlled Scrimmage

One of the best coaching tools is to organize a controlled scrimmage with one or more of your opponents. Ideally, organize it as part of your spring football program or have one before your first exhibition game. It allows the coaches to be right on the field during the play and enables the coach to instruct, adjust, and assist their specific groups.

It is a good way to develope a younger team that is inexperienced and tenative. Having the coaches on the field gives them confidence and allows the coaches a birds eye view of how the players are responding fundamenatally and they can immediately be coached up on mistakes and miscues.

Again, its a great coaching resource.

Usually, special teams are not factored in a controlled scrimmage and there are quick whistles on the ball carriers and quarterbacks so that nobody gets tee'd up. The terms of the controlled scrimmage are set by the oppossing head coaches whether it be timed quarters or a specific number of offensive plays each.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Youth Football Linebackers: Read the Offensive Guards

Did you ever consider training your inside linebackers to read the offensive guard that they play over? By learning how to read the guard your linebacker will make quicker decisions, and react better to the ball.
Lets face it , at times its easy to lose sight of the football and mis-direction can play havoc with your linebacker. The key? Train your backers on how to read the guard and take the guessing out of their game all together!

Hows it done?

Well, its not too difficult. Basically you read whether or not its pass or run by he way the guard moves on the snap of the ball. Most of the time the guard is in a three point stance. On a run play he will cross the line of scrimmage and block and on pass he will not cross the line of scrimmage and pass block On a pitch he will usaully pull to the play side and on a trap play he will pull to play side. When he down blocks expect a run to that side as well as another linemen downblocking on the middle linebacker.

By training your linebackers to read the guards it just gives them another tool in the chest towards effective linebacker play.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Youth Football Fundamentals

While participating in a youth football camp last week I heard an interesting comment from a youth coach while he was running offensive plays with his players. " You fellows have to learn how to tackle". I stopped what I was doing at the time and watched a bit of this group and the phrase" You guys gotta learn how to tackle" has been with me since.

Spending time on football fundamentals such as blocking,tackling, and footwork will pay dividends with your football team. Runnning plays with players who have poor fundamentals will be frustrating, sloppy, and ineffective come game time regardless of whether or not you play offence or defence.

You will not be successful!

Once again as I watched them try and run plays I noticed that the coach was spending as much time correcting stances as he was running plays. He would have been better off just canning the offensive plays for the day and work on their stances and first step, then a session on basic blocking. Once his players had basic fundamentals his offensive plays would have been a lot smoother and his players would not have struggled so bad.

A lot of youth coaches jump the gun too quick and try to implement their systems with players that have poor fundamentals. One thing I've learned is that they will never get it unless they are fundamentally sound. Again, it comes down to implementing a solid practice plan. Training camp is the ideal time to begin to develope football fundamentals and as they progress, introduce slowly some of your basic schemes and do not move on until they get it. If the stances are poor or the blocking is brutal, then schedule in stance and blocking segments in your next practice. Sometimes its necessary to take a step back in order to gain two steps forward.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Football Footwork Fundamentals

If you don't implement solid footwork drills and fundamentals as part of your practice plan then you are selling your players short in their football developement. A lot of minor coaches overlook this part of their practice elements but the reality is that they have to be able to move in order to be effectice football players. How many times have you seen a big lineman that looks impressive but cannot move their feet therefore are slow and ineffective. The same can be applied to your athletic wide reciever who cannot plant or cut and unless he is running straight down field is ineffective or covered easily as a result of his poor footwork.

Footwork drills are simple to run and can be implemented very easily in your practice plan. You can do either team footwork drills right after your warm-up or implement your footwork drills as part of your group team work. It does'nt take long maybe 10 minutes per practice. All you need is some cones and some bags.

Always start them off in their stance and on your signal get them moving.

There are lots of drills to choose from when practicing footwork fundamentals. Choose drills by position. For example, your defensive backs would focus a lot on back-peddling with change of direction. Your offensive linemen would focus their footwork fundamentals geared around their first step left, right, angle, etc . Work on your footwork each and every practice and watch your players improve.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Football Group Team Work

This part of your practice plan is committed towards playing segments of the offence against segments of the defence using small groups. For example, the OL and DL can practice with each other on run blocking, pass blocking, or block shedding while the QB, RBs, TE, WRs can be working with the LBs and DBs on a passing or tackling drill.

Usually, you schedule this combined group immediately after your individual group work and you mange your time effectively by working on specific game skills that involves offence against defence.

This is the ideal time to get reps in with your players. Begin by running drills at half speed and later in the season, when your players have solid fundamentals, you can run these drills full speed with light tackling.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Football Practice Plan: Individual Group Work

One of the elements of your practice plan should include at least 30 minutes of individual group work .Depending on the availability of coaches, groups can be divided by position such as offensive linemen, linebackers, quarterbacks, recievers, defensive backs,defensive line,and running backs.

At a designated time during the practice, individual group work would be scheduled and each group would go to their designated area of the practice field and work specifically on position orientated fundamentals and skills. Assistant coaches would know that their allotted time frame for individaul group would be for 30 minutes and they would manage their time effectively covering footwork, skills,and fundamentals associatted with their specific position.

If lack of coaches is an issue, then you can group together your linebackers and defensive backs, offensive and defensive linemen, and lump together your quarterbacks, running-backs, and recievers.

Use this time wisely. In other words don't just use the time to throw the football with your wide-recievers, spend specific time on open field blocking for example. You'll be happy you did when your recievers block hard and well down-field and give your athletic running back more time and space to score.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Youth Football: Conditioning

A proper conditioning routine during football practice is as important as any other elements that you have planned in your football practice. A football team that is well conditioned and well coached is a tough one to play against. Its important that as a youth football coach we balance conditioning as part of your practice routine.

Your practice plan should reflect conditioning drills as a team as well as incorporate conditioning right in your individual groups. A lot of teams now run team conditioning drills at the beginning of practice immediately after warm-up. The idea being that you tire your team out at the beginning of practice and then continue to work them through the practice at a fast pace similar to game conditions. That way they are used to playing hard and making good decisions even while fatigued. Practicing at a high pace similar to a game gives them mental toughness which is required in the latter part of close games and could spell the difference between a win or a loss.

Make sure that you do schedule your water and rest breaks efficiently during practice so that they do rest and hydrate properly but at the next element of your practice make sure they work hard at a high tempo without sacraficing proper form and technique. Probably at the beginning of the season your practice tempo won't be just there yet as players struggle somewhat fundamentally but as the practices pile up, emphasize to your coaches and players to practice hard and at a high tempo.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Introduction/Review of New Team Football Plays

When introducing new offensive or defensive plays, it is best to go over them at the beginning of practice before your team has tired mentally and physically. Explain to your team how long you need their focused attention to help reduce distractions. By providing a timeframe to the players of how long they need to focus on a task, they will generally be more committed. My experience is that a player who knows he needs to focus on a new play for 10 minutes will generally outperform a player who was not given a timeline.

When reviewing a new play or defence, focus first on specific assignments. Give a quick explanation followed by a run-through at half speed. If possible, try to only introduce one play at a time and no more than two plays. It is much better to have a team who can execute a smaller number of plays than a team who does a poor job executing a large number of plays.

If you do not have new team plays to review, this time is best spent on conditioning exercises. Completing conditioning exercises towards the start of practice will prepare your team for success in the second half of games. Players need to be able to play good football even when they are tired.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Youth Football:Offensive Line Building

Whether or not you believe it, you soon will understand that you need to have your offensive line in order if you are going to be successfull in youth football or at any football level.

Without a doubt your offensive line is the single most important group of your football team. Without a decent offensive line it really doesnt matter who your quarterback and running back are, if they don't get the blocks then they will struggle.

Yea for sure I have seen, especially at the youth level, where a dominant athletic back can overcome poor blocking and use his size and athleticism to move the ball and score touchdowns. But I also have seen the same back struggle down the stretch against more formidable opponents.

Bottom line, get your offensive line house in order and with that athletic back dominate the opposition. Evaluate your personell and build that offensive line into a solid unit. Size helps but isn't the deciding factor. Perhaps the slowfooted middle linebacket that can hit like a mule would make a great center or pulling guard or that large slow moving kid, with some work on his footwork, can play tackle. Look for certain strengths in the kids that you have not placed in a position and mold them into offensive linemen.

Size can be overcome by designing a blocking scheme that has more downblocking, better angles, traps and double teams. Speed and quickness can be a factor as well and close the size gap, hit fast and hard, and get a jump on the defence.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Youth Football Practice Plan

We have all heard that saying "practice makes perfect". Repetition of skills is the best way to get your players to perform better. Knowing what to do in a given situation is one of the characteristics of a good player. The more you practice, the more inclined your players are to do the right thing at the right time.

A majority of successful football coaches share one very important characteristic- they are organized and structured in their approach to practice planning. Football is one of the most challenging sports to coach because there are so many different positions, skills, and plays that need to be worked on throughout a practice.

Having an organized, structured practice plan allows you to cover the most amount of material in your allotted practice time. The most effective football coaching practice structure involves dividing time into structured “Training Elements”.

There are 7 key Training Elements which should appear in each of your practices:

Warm-up & Stretching
Review of New Team Plays and/or Conditioning
Individual Techniques by Position
Special Teams
Group Work
Game Preparation and Team Drills

Make sure that you cover each training element during your practice and allot a specific time for each element. Once the time is up, move on to your next scheduled element. Stick to your schedule and your players will get the most out of the practice. You'll have good flow to your practice with very little down time!

Football and Troubled Youth

I have come across many troubled youth over the many seasons that I have been involved in coaching youth football. Youth from all different backgrounds, and social levels. Youth addicted to drugs and alcohol with poor attitudes.

Youth that nobody wanted to even be around!

I always gave them a chance

I figured that it was the least I could do, and if they didn't work out nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Most would quit on their own, but some stayed with it and football became an outlet for them. It became their family. It kept them busy, made them be responsible. It took idle time from them. It made them feel important!

Football has turned the lives around for many of our youth. It teaches commitment, and dedication and an opportunity for them to change. I had a small running back once play for me that was impossible to bring down and in the open field impossible to catch. He was driven, broken home, death, foster care, he had every reason to be bitter. He was a relentless machine, a good kid that turned it around. He managed to graduate, the first in his family to do so!

Yea, football can make the difference in somebody's life; don't deny any kid that opportunity! Besides why do we do what we do?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Youth Football Offensive Line Blocking Rules

Offensive line blocking rules vary from coach to coach. Blocking rules that are implemented are basically the personal philosophy of the coach on how he wants fronts to be blocked on a given play. Choosing blocking rules is like choosing any football system, it all depends on what you like and what you think will work for you.

You may like one coaches blocking rules over an other coach. That doesn't mean that the other coaches blocking rules are wrong, it just mean you like one philosophy as opposed to another. Either or, in youth football, its important that your offensive linemen know their blocking rules and that they are simple enough that when the defensive front changes its alignment just before the snap that your offensive linemen are able to quickly make their blocking adjustment as well.

If you find yourself telling your offensive linemen to basically just go down and hit somebody then you are effectively setting your offensive line up for failure. It's important that they have structure on that line of scrimmage. Having coached youth football for many seasons I have adopted two sets of rules for blocking. Again, the rules are geared towards youth football players. The first set of rules I have used in the past would be Gap-On-Over or to simplify it more, refer to it as" Goo" blocking. Now in the "Goo" blocking scheme the offensive linemen on their pre-snap read would refer to their rules on a each play and determine who they would block. First they would check their inside "gap", if there's a defensive player occupying that gap then that's their man, if not then go to the second blocking rule which would be the man "on", again no defender lining on. At this point the third rule would come in effect and that would be the man" over" such as a linebacker. There he is, go get him and make sure your heads on the play side! Against gap attacking defences I have modified the " Goo" blocking scheme to become the "Go-go" scheme or to simplify it more the " Go" scheme. In the " Go" scheme the rules would now reflect Gap-On-Gap-Over . The offensive linemen would now check inside gap, on, outside gap, over, on his pre-snap read and this would determine who he blocks on the line of scrimmage.

Whatever rules you like is entirely up to you as the youth football coach. It's possible that you could start with one set of rules at the beginning of the football game and your halftime adjustment would be to switch to the second set of rules in order to adjust to the defence.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Football: Disguise your Blitz

One of the most exciting plays in football comes in the form of a blitzing linebacker or defensive back creeping up to the line and then attacking the quarterback at the snap of the ball. It's almost expected, especially when a team is put in a position whereby they need a big play or long yardage in order to convert to a first down. A good football defensive system implements a solid blitzing scheme for either pass or run situations.

There's nothing that can pump fans up more in football than a quarterback sack, a forced turn-over, or a running back getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a called blitz.

But what are the pitfalls of blitzing and opponent?

Predictability comes to mind! For instance, if you continuously blitz eventually you're going to pay the price of being too predictable. In other words a good football offensive co-ordinator or quarterback will eventually call a play that will take advantage of your blitzing personnel and take advantage of that player vacating his normal area of responsibility. Dump the football in this area and probably get a decent gain out of it.

Now your strategy at this point will begin to change and you'll hesitate to blitz for fear of giving up another big gain. The advantage certainly swings in favour of the offence as they have more time and space to manage the football. Not good for you though!

Blitzing is a big part of any youth football system. The point is: don't be too predictable, use different looks and players when you blitz, as well as different pass coverage's whether it be man or zone. Also, don't always blitz when the offence is in a long yardage situation, mix up the downs as well. Blitzing on first down has commonly been referred to as the run blitz. Disguise your blitzes by showing blitz, but then at the snap of the ball, having your players all drop back into coverage. This can confuse any quarterback and now they will hesitate at changing the play at the line of scrimmage now giving your football defence more and time and space.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Youth Football Shuffle the Deck

As your youth football team comes together with systems and line-up in place don't be afraid to shuffle the deck a bit. In other words, try a few different looks and combinations with players to see how they respond outside of their normal comfort zone. Try playing your big offensive end on the defensive end side or move one of your defensive players on the offensive side of the ball, give him some carries and see how he does.

You may find a diamond in the rough!

The only way you'll know is just to try it out. This is your responsibility to get the utmost out of your team. Its like car racing, you know what a guy can do on the quarter mile but as a coach you're curious to see what he can do on the oval.

At least you will know.

Try this at times perhaps when you have a good lead on your opponent or when you are behind at times by a large margin and just want to get something going.

It could spark your team or it could make you better. As a football coach you'd be selling yourself short if you didn't take the opportunity to try. Probably one of your team goals is to improve every day and this might be a way to compliment that goal. But, it could also blow up in your face, keep in mind though nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Some of the best moves have come out of these shuffles. You'll get comments like" How did you ever know? or "We never imagined they were capable" but also as well "What were you thinking? Ha-Ha.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Youth Football Defensive Line Strategies

Did you ever imagine that you would be discussing defensive line strategies? Most youth football coaches just line up their biggest, slowest defensive linemen in the box and tell them to plug and penetrate into the backfield. But did you ever consider taking that defensive line a little further?

Yea, sure you want to get your defensive line to get up field but how many times have you seen these big guys miss the running back or worse run right by him oblivious to where the football is at. As well, how many of your defensive tackles have caught the quarterback from behind on a roll-out or have been fooled on a screen play?


What if you taught your defensive linemen to read their blocks and only penetrate to the heels of the offensive linemen and let the ball come to them? By reading the offensive line based on how they are being blocked a linemen can get in a better position to make a play! By penetrating only to the heels of the offensive line a defensive linemen will stay in the play, be harder to trap and not over pursue the ball.
Teach your defensive linemen to keep their heads in the game, know the situation, down and distance and react accordingly. If your contain guys do their job, they will filter the running game back inside to your defensive tackles who await patiently and are responsible to stop the oppositions running game from inside the box from offensive tackle to offensive tackle.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Youth Football Practice Plan

It seems to be a very long time between your last youth football game played and the upcoming season opener. Spring rolls in and as usual football fever heats up. I just received notice in regards to an upcoming youth football camp that is slated for the end of April. During the call my competitive juices start to flow and my excitement level rises.

It's going to be fun to get out on the field and teach youth football!

But wait a minute, what am I going to do with my group? Ah, worry not my friend for I have my trusty practice plans at hand and I will be ready to go, mange my time effectively, and get everything in that I want to get in and cover.

It's the only way to do it!

It's very difficult to show up at a football camp not be prepared and it's not fair to the players or the parents who have invested money into the camp. Besides it makes practise much simpler if I have my practice plan all mapped out.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pulling your Offensive Guards in Youth Football

To me it's a picture of sheer beauty. Two offensive guards pulling down the line of scrimmage and leading the play around the end and downfield while your athletic running back tucks himself in behind and follows the blocks into the end-zone.
It's one of the grass root plays of football!

If you have a couple of big athletic guards its something that you want to consider doing an implementing as part of your offensive scheme. It's a great way to move and protect the football and when executed properly is a hard play to stop. Basically, you're out manning the defence at the point of attack by pulling the two guards. You're creating a physical mis-match on the corner with these linemen lead blocking into the secondary.
But it takes a lot of practice time to implement as your offensive line have to work in tandem to cover off the pulling guards who are vacating their spot on the line of scrimmage and this vacant area needs to be plugged to prevent middle linebackers that read the pull from shooting the vacant gap and stuffing the play in the backfield before it develops.
Usually, when you run this play you'll get your offensive line to tighten up their splits. This makes it a little easier to plug the gap. On the play side on the snap of the ball your offensive tackle and fullback will work in tandem as the offensive tackle will step down and fill for the pulling guard while the fullback will either take on the defensive linemen covering the tackle or go down and get the middle linebacker depending on how they are lined up. On the backside of the play the offensive linemen in tight splits will all just down block and prevent penetration into the backfield.

Again, practice and timing are the keys.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Coaching Tips:When Football Goes Bad!

Let's face it, it happens. After all the drills, practices, team building, reinforcing systems, etc, it's bound to happen. You're going to have a bad day! If you are involved in sports long enough you'll soon realize that there will be good and bad days and sometimes there's nothing you can do but to try and get your players to play through it.

Sometimes nothing can go right!

It can be frustrating as all the work comes unravelled. But don't give up ever and throw the towel in. Now's the time, more than ever, to reinforce team play and your systems. Go over it and over it again, even when it's going bad. Your team will need something each and every time they go out to compete. Look at it as a character builder and try to learn something from it.

Emphasize to your players the importance of battling and competing through it within the system. Bad days will test you as a coach and it's important that you lead your team through the bad weather. At the end of the day re-evaluate your team. Ask yourself are you asking your players to do too much within there limit. The main thing is don't panic, chances are it was just a bad day and nothing else.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Youth Football Groom Your Role Players

Within your system you will have players that are naturally stronger or more talented than the others. They seem to play the game with ease, have good athletic ability, and contribute without missing a beat. The game is easy for them to play. This group would be identified as your core players and you will rely on them to carry a lot of the load during the football game. Most teams have their core players and the more core players you have the more depth you have on your bench. Usually the larger programs have more core players as a result of the higher numbers.

Does this mean that the smaller programs will not be able to compete?

Not at all! Every team will have their core group. What's important for the smaller programs with less depth is to surround your core players with solid role players and give them assignments that they must do within the system. For example, the less offensively talented players will be assigned a defensive role whereby each and every time they are engaged in play their role is to play tough defensively, be physical and pressure the opposing team into creating turn-overs and make mistakes that could possibly generate a score. They would have a primarily defensive role and when they get their time on the field, they know their role which is to be defensive first, play tough and not give up any points. This would be just as important to the team as scoring and if they fulfill their assignment each and every time, they will limit the scoring of the opposing team's core players.

These role players are important to have on any team and usually play against the top core players. For the most part if your role players are stronger than the opposing teams, than chances are you will have a good day. My experience with the role players is that once you explain to them their specific assignment within the system that they thrive within it, and become confident and key contributors. Remember, in the tightest of games it's usually the role players that determine the outcome.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Youth Football Middle Linebackers

In youth football they're probably your most aggressive and best tacklers on the team that go side-line to side-line making tackles. Their attack is relentless and they are a big part of your defence, and no doubt, during the regular season they rack up the tackling stats.
But there's a problem developing among the many tackles that your youth football player is making. A problem that is lurking and waiting to be exposed, by the right offensive co-ordinator. You probably won't notice it until play-offs when the teams you face are better.

Now what's that lurking problem? It's called misdirection!

I have seen it a hundred times. Linebackers biting and bailing on plays, only to be taken advantage of by misdirection. All of a sudden your all-star linebacker is invisible and your in trouble in a hurray.

At the youth football level the misdirection would probably be in the form of a sweep reverse play or quarterback bootleg.

As you try to settle your linebacker down another problem usually follows. You soon discover that with your middle linebacker staying home that you have contain problems. Probably never seen much of it all year as your middle linebacker went side-line to side-line, but now it's there and at the worst time, and it's not an easy fix. Practice time is when you fix it, but it's a play-off game and you might not be practicing on Monday.

All in all, your linebackers need to be familiar with the terms misdirection and contain. They need to understand their assignments from within these terms and how things can go wrong if these two areas are ignored. It starts in your first linebacker group practice and is reinforced every work-out through out the season. They have to do respect it and most of all, they have to think it! If they have a contain responsibility then that's what their first and foremost responsibility is, making the tackle is secondary. If they are playing in the middle, then they are taught to stay at home on plays away from their side and to think of misdirection back their way.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Youth Football: Implement your System

A big part of your practice plan in youth football will be system implementation and doing it without sacrificing working on fundamentals. The best tool to begin introducing your system is to use your chalkboard or dry-eraser board in the locker-room or classroom.

Start off with your defensive system. Draw it out on the board for them and explain each and every assignment position wise to each player. Reinforce it over and over in practice time. Don't be afraid to blow the whistle, stop the play, and explain the do's and don'ts of your system, and start again. Give your players hand-outs or playbooks, something that is visual, that they can take out again and again and look at.

Repetition is the key.

Drill it in them and ask them to buy into your system, make a commitment to it, and make good decisions within it. In the coming football practices, go over and over it again. Challenge the players who veer out of it, and go over the importance of team play. You'll soon see the results and for the most part the majority will get it. Be patient with the slow learners; again, reinforce it until they get it. A good team has good systems and your better players will thrive in a team orientated system as they will get more support compared to a run and gun system. Your average players will gain confidence within the system and become better football players that in the end will make your top players perform better.

Praise their efforts at all times and when you get your wins, praise the team system!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Football Defence: Don't be too Predictable!

One of the downfalls of being good is that you do things well consistently. So good in fact that it can be easy for your opponent to make adjustments, to have a plan that they can use to exploit your strengths.

Football is a game of reads and adjustments. You learn to do this well and you will be alright. If you cannot read and adjust then you're in trouble.

A great game plan can become unravelled in a hurry!

One of the things that we like to do at halftime as a coaching staff is discuss how we think our opponent will adjust to out attack and how we will counter attack? What plays were they successful with in the first half and what plays we think they will run against us.

Sometimes we just change our look up a bit by running another front. Put more linemen in the box or even less linemen and have better downfield coverage. We still pressure but maybe with different personal.
We read each play and try to figure out what the halftime adjustments were: Did they change their front? Is there a Tight End? Or have they switched to a spread formation? Are they trying to establish the running game? Or have they adjusted at all?

As an aspiring youth football coach, with plans to go up the coaching ladder. You need to learn how to read and more importantly how to adjust.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Static Versus Dynamic Stretching in Youth Football

Back in the day when you did your warm-up and stretching routine prior to practice your stretching consisted of a stationary routine where you stretched your major muscle groups by leaning, bending, and twisting your body, in a slow controlled  movement to slowly stretch and warm-up each of your major muscle groups. Probably, the team lined up in rows and in your individual spot you did your warm-up. Probably, the team would count out aloud for each individual stretch.

Sound familiar? This type of stretching would be referred to as static stretching and is an old school way of warming up. Simple but effective!

During my youth football coaching days I grew to hate this routine. I found that at the youth football level it was time consuming, became social time, had no flow, and was overall just plain boring. With practice time at a premium I decided to find a way to do change this warm-up. I wanted something that was going to be just as effective, but have more flow, and more importantly, take up the same amount of time consistently each practice.

So curiosity got to me and I decided to find a better way. Of course I started with researching the internet and after endless searching I finally stumbled across dynamic stretching. Now dynamic stretching is a series of agilities done at a controlled pace that is designed to stretch all of your major muscle groups, get the blood flowing through the body, has good flow, limits the fooling around and social time,and accomplishes the same thing as static stretching.

Dynamic stretching is basically agility drills done in a controlled fashion that targets specific muscles. Some of these agilties would be high knees, push-offs, lateral shuffles, carioca, and back-peddles. Each agility would require the football player to conduct each agility for about 15-20 yards at least twice and then do the next agility. When the players are done their dynamic stretching I usually lead them into their conditioning by doing light sprints and slowly ease them into full sprints. I found it to be a much more effective and efficient way to warm-up the team.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Defending the Zone Blocking Scheme

A lot of programs have implemented the zone-blocking scheme as part of their football system at the youth level. Its easy to implement and a very effective football blocking scheme. The philosophy behind the scheme is that the offensive line will block down in unison to the play side and effectively block the defensive linemen in their zone. The offensive line in blocking their zone will work in tandem and look for the double team on the defensive linemen, scoop him, and then one of the offensive linemen will chip off and go down and get one of your linebackers. The idea is to zone block to play side, look for the double team chip to middle-linebacker, maintain and drive your man, all to the play side and the running back will get the hand-off, take some steps to play -side and look for a seam for cut-back while the defence gets "washed down".

It's a very effective scheme versus a 3 man front especially if you don't have a natural nose-tackle.

But how do you defend it?

Well, my experience taught me that against an effective zone blocking scheme I would have to switch into a 4 man front and play either a gap or stack front. In the 4 man gap front, the defensive linemen would align in the gaps and shoot through on the snap; this is an aggressive counter attack that takes away the double team, and penetrates up field making it difficult for the offensive line to get to the linebackers. It creates a more one on one battle for your defensive line and they are taught to get straight up field on the snap and not get "washed down".

The other option is to stack it up, align your four man front straight on covering the OG and OT and leave the center open. On the snap the defensive line are coached up to latch on their man, not get scooped, find and rip to the ball. By latching on their man it takes away the double team chip and leaves your middle linebackers free to flow to the ball.

Both alignments can be effective against the football zone blocking system. I have found that the defensive linemen have preferred the gap alignment more especially when battling a larger offensive line. Either or, it gives you a couple of options to consider when facing a zone blocking scheme in youth football.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Youth Football Defensive Line

Another individual group that gets overlooked at the youth football level a lot of times is the defensive linemen. Most of the time ,they get grouped in with the offensive line, as most youth football programs only have one line coach. As a result they spend most their time learning their blocks and play assignments

Any coach will tell you that you can never have enough offensive linemen. Still, you need to have the ball in order for your offensive line to be out there so you got to get some stops on defence.

The problems begin when they are put in a defensive role. Most of them will not use their hands, will not line up properly, tackle poorly, or will not wrap up their opponent. Some of them have a hard time to make the switch from offence to defence.

Again, it comes down to practice planning and making sure as the football coach that you allot practice time for the defensive line. Let's face it; most small programs play some linemen both ways. It's important that they know what they are doing as much as the offensive linemen. One on one drills in practice are ideal if you are the lone line coach, each player takes a turn on both sides of the ball and gets reps in both a defensive and offensive role. Also after working on blocking fundamentals tell your linemen you're going to switch to block shedding drills after they take a lap.

While they're in their lap, they can think about defence and make the switch mentally. When they arrive back, have your defensive drills ready to go and get right into it. Now they're thinking defence!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blocking and Wide Recievers

I've seen it a lot over the many years of being a youth football coach. Your wide receiver is an outstanding athlete, can catch and run like the wind, but, he can't block. He'll score touchdowns for you, but cannot throw a block, and when he tries to, gets a holding call or illegal use of the hands penalty.

Why is that?

A lot of youth football coaches especially in their individual group time will spend too much time on catching drills and they avoid fundamentally what the receiver's responsibility is on outside run or downfield blocking.

How many times have you had a big play nullified by a receiver penalty? Or were one block away from taking it to the house and the cornerback runs around your receiver to make the game saving tackle.

Simple solution, work on blocking fundamentals in your allotted group time with your receivers! The pay-off will be the big block that gets the game winning touchdown and the confidence that your receiver gains by being more physical.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Football Tackling Tips: Head Position

As a youth football coach it's very important that when we are teaching tackling that we make sure that we emphasize that the players never use their head to butt, ram, spear, or make contact with an opponent. In drills covering tackling, all football coaches need to make this a priority.

I read an interesting article the other day whereby a neuro-surgeon with a football back round stated that the best way to teach our youth football players to tackle would be with out helmets. That way they would develop a good tackling technique that would protect and not involve the head.

Now I wouldn't recommend this but I do certainly understand his point.

With the pencil necks that we coach at the youth level the head never should be part of the equation. The point of contact when making a tackle should be the chest with the head back. If you examine any youth shoulder pad the breast plate is well protected and designed to sustain contact. Once contact is made the player should be taught to drive up and through his opponent with his arms, latch, keep his feet moving, and take his opponent to the ground.

Tackling drills should cover straight on tackling and angle tackling with the coach emphasizing point of contact and proper head position. Players should be taught to never, ever drop their heads, and with their head back at all times, watch and follow the hit in all the way. One of the things I have incorporated in tackling drills is that in the early sessions of teaching tackling is to tackle with "thud" contact, head back, wrap up, and do not leave your feet. Now "thud" contact is controlled half speed contact whereby we want the contact to be initiated but, the emphasis is on good tackling technique with head back, and proper form and technique. We stick with controlled "thud" contact until we are comfortable that all players have good tackling fundamentals and then we will pick up the speed a little more in the contact drills.

And you know what happens?

Once the speed is picked up a little, a lot of young tacklers will drop their heads on contact. At this point as a coach you have to step in, review technique once again, and send them back to "thud" school for more training. A couple of trips through "thud school" will get them thinking. What's most important is that they never tackle at a faster speed until they pass "thud school". Then it's controlled progression in all tackling drills until they have it right.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Practice Football Fundamentals

As a youth football coach its important that in every practice that you focus in your group work specific fundamentals. More importantly this group work should include drills that cover what we refer to as core fundamentals such footwork, tackling, blocking, and block shedding drills.

Plan your practices so that each week you cover all of these core fundamentals. Try and keep good flow to your group so that players don't get distracted or fool around. Don't spend more than 15 minutes per fundamental as youth football players will become bored with it easily. Make sure that they do each fundamental properly. The best approach is to have two coaches work the group, one runs the drills while the other points out mistakes and makes adjustments.

With so much to cover in practice each week to get ready to play, do not veer away from practicing core fundamentals. They are the center stone of good football. If they are good fundamentally it will reflect in your football systems, they will have confidence, and it will show in their performance.

A good block or tackle can spell the difference in any games.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Linebacker Keys

When you refer to linebacker keys you refer to a triangle of players that your linebackers key on in order to get a good read on each play. The triangle would include the quarterback, over to the near offensive guard ,back to the near running back. These are the players that will give your linebackers the best read on where the ball is going.
Learning how to read the guards can be a great reading tool for your linebackers. By watching what they do a linebacker can read pass or run. For instance, a guard that pulls will take you to the play most of the time, a dropstep would indicate pass, crossing the line of scrimmage on the snap would indicate run,these are just a few keys that you can teach your linebacker on reading the guard. As well, the quarterback is a key factor and by learning how to read his keys such his position at the snap. Is he under the center or in a shot gun? On the snap, the way he opens up to the running back can indicate play side, or on the drop back, the side he is looking to can indicate where he is passing. The near running back can be a good key as well. Look at their feet, sometimes they point their feet where the ball is going or watch their eyes, sometimes they tend to stare at the hole they are going to run. As well, their first step on the snap can indicate play direction.

Ultimately, these are just keys, theres no guarantees, but they can help give your linebackers get a little edge. The main thing is that by focusing on these keys they are in turned focused on the play and in the game.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Youth Football: Keep it Simple, Do it Well

An old coach once told me years ago when we were discussing offensive systems and how teams were changing to a more pro style spread offence at the time he said "Son, my experience over the many seasons has taught me to realize that if you cannot run off-tackle in football than you will not win". I agreed with him for the most part but I thought that he should run off tackle but maybe out of a different look so that we would not be so predictable. At the time he ran everything out of the I-formation to the Tight-End side. He looked at me and once again said "Son at the youth football level you got to keep it simple but do it well"

He paused in his thoughts and looked at me once again and said "And do it better than anybody else".

He was right. That season we were undefeated and won the provincial championship. His words have stuck with me all the seasons I have coached football. Keep it simple, do it well! It makes sense especially with young athletes. If we overwhelm them with a lot of plays, can they remember all of their assignments? Why not keep it simple, practice it a lot and like the old coach said "do it well". I remember running the off-tackle play in practice all the time out of the same look but against different fronts and defences, same play but we were coached up on how to run it versus every look that could be thrown at us.

So basically, they knew where we were going to run the ball most of the time but we did it so well, they had a hard time stopping it. They spent so much of their practice time trying to figure out a way to stop it that when we ran another play off the same look it usually was for a good gain. We had two other running plays we ran off the off -tackle play, a counter, and a pitch. We also ran play-action off the same play with a tight end out and a slot back delay backside.

Simple but very effective!


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Football The Big Set-Up

Did you ever notice while watching a professional football game, particularly when one of the teams has an aggressive defence that likes to blitz allot and pressure the quarterback, that eventually the quarterback while under pressure takes a three step drop and fires a bomb deep that goes about ten feet over the wide receiver's head. We cringe and complain as obviously the receiver had the defensive back beat and a well placed passed would have resulted in a touchdown, however, if you read into it more you'll realize that the play was much more than just an overthrown pass, it was a set -up play.

It was never the quarterbacks intention to complete that pass, it was his intention that after getting blitzed and pressured on every play to get the cornerbacks to back off a bit or pay the price of getting burned deep!
The play created the mindset with the defensive backs to loosen up or be beat!

Now the focus will turn to the stacking and blitzing middle linebackers and the inside pressure that probably has resulted in a sack or several hurried throws by the quarterback. Next, you'll notice that there will be a short series of quick passes placed just behind the stacking or blitzing middle linebackers. After a few of these completions you'll notice that the linebackers are backing off now and dropping into their zones.

The set-up continues. Now with linebackers dropping you'll see the play selection include several runs up the middle for reasonable yardage followed by a couple of quick passes to the wide receivers who run a quick slant pattern versus the defensive backs that have been playing loose, followed by another run play up the middle. With the quick slants the corners have tightened up to defend it, with the quick passes behind the linebackers they have loosened up, and with the inside run plays called they are playing safe, dropping cautiously and then coming up for run support!

The defence is now vulnerable!

The offence by selecting the right plays for the situation have forced the defence to back-off and made them vulnerable, they went from an aggressive attacking and sacking defence to one that is now concerned with being more defensive.

Bring in the play-action. Now with the defence on its heels which results in more time and space for the quarterback, chances are you'll see him now run a play-action pass for the kill. The offence will give them a run look, fake the hand-off to the running back as if the play is going up the middle, the defence bites on the run,and the quarterback will drop back and this time throw a strike right on the money to the wide receiver who clearly has beaten the defensive back.

A far cry from that overthrown pass earlier in the game!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Key Elements to Football Defence

As a youth football coach when you begin to plan and put the dynamics of your defence together you should consider the following: Pressure, Contain, Filter, Force, and Cover.

With these elements in mind and within your defensive system make sure that you have these areas or keys covered and that your players know their assignments within the keys. Let's cover each item: Pressure- it's important that you pressure the offence into hurrying in order to take away their time and space and possibly put them in a position with your pressure that they make mistakes and as a result create turn-overs.

Contain: - its important that within this pressure that you have good contain so that they cannot get outside the pocket or the box and that everything is contained or bracketed inside. Filter- it's important that within the Pressure and Contain that every play is filtered back inside where you have your strength and more help. Force- it's important that within this filtration that you have solid run support and that your players come in force, aggressive to the ball, some coaches refer to this as gang-tackling. Finally, Cover- it's important that within the keys of your football defensive system that you have good downfield coverage.

Regardless of the front or defensive football system that you want to play these elements are the keys and your players should know their assignments within the defence.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flag Football vs Tackle Football for Youth

On some football forums I've read a lot lately about some parents that struggle with the idea of placing their 8-10 year olds into contact football with the biggest deterrent being, the level of commitment needed as far as practice time is concerned. If you compare practice time between the two there is a noticeable difference as in flag football you practice twice a week as opposed to contact football where you practice 5 times a week and play once.

I think that all in all at this age you can't really go wrong in which ever way you decide to go with your youth player. As long as they participate in football that is the main goal at this point. As they grow older they'll basically inform you of what they would like to try and do athletically. Participation is the key for this age group.

The reason the extra practise is longer in contact football is that fundamentally you need to practice more skills such as blocking and tackling ,for example. Your youth football player needs to practice these core fundamentals so that they can safely play the game. They learn how to hit and how to take a hit, head position, neck position and so on. A good youth football coach will have good drills that emphasize all of these factors and never would compromise the safety of a youth football player. These contact drills would be a slow progression until the coach is confident that the player can tackle safely.

The best thing to do if you're considering tackle football for your kid is to go and watch a youth football practice and observe the drills that are done for tackling. The drills should be a slow progression and are control drills not done at full speed. Players should be of equal size and ability and the emphasis by the football coach should be on technique and not speed at this point.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Youth Football Blocking Fundamentals

Probably the single most important group on your football team is the offensive linemen. Without a solid offensive line the team will struggle to move the football regardless of how outstanding your athletes are. As the players get older and elevate to each level, the offensive linemen become a very important part of your football team.

At the youth football level usually most coaches will put the biggest and slowest players on the offensive line. That's fine, but a lot of times these players don't know their blocking assignments, can't move, and basically use their size to push their opponents out of the way. Its important that we give them a little bit more than that. In the end we will all benefit.

From day one work on their three point stance. Make sure that they have good technique and get in it properly, reset their feet until they get it. make sure they have a nice flat back, butt down, with head up. As they set in their stance make sure they don/t have too much weight on that front hand. Once you've established a good stance, now work on getting them to take their first step. Footwork is probably one of the most important thing we neglect to do with our linemen at the youth football level. If they cannot move their feet properly then we cannot expect them to get to or maintain their block. Footwork drills out of a three point stance should be done every practice.

The rule of thumb with offensive linemen is that their first step is a short six inch step followed by a second larger power step as they engage their block.

First step ties, second step wins.

Teach them to hit and stick, not to pop up out of their low stance and drive their man until the whistle blows. At the youth football level a shoulder drive block should be practiced with their head tucked on their block play side. Once they have a solid stance and are moving their feet introduce to them the holes where your going to run the football whether it be a numbering or letter system, coach them up to where the ball will possibly run based on your plays. Some coaches even name their holes such as dive, smash, slam, etc. Its important they know where the ball is going!

Once they know the hole numbering system or whatever you go by, introduce some basic blocking rules such as Gap, On, Over. Basically, your linemen will line up knowing where the ball is going and then apply their rules in order to open up a hole. The rules reflect their biggest defensive threat. Before the snap they read the D-line and by checking where the defence is aligned. First check inside gap, nobody there, so check to man on, nobody there, so check to man over, ah there he is , that's your man to block.

There are different football blocking rules you can apply based on what your philosophy is, the main thing is to give them some rules and make it easier for them. You'll notice it when your running back is exploding up the middle for big gains!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Football Equipment Inventory

With keeping the spring theme in mind as we evaluate our football systems, drills, and special teams, another project for the youth football coach would be to take equipment inventory. Take stock of all your gear and hardware carefully inspecting each item. Take each helmet and inspect them very closely. If they appear worn and used chances are that they are ready to be turfed. All football helmets should have the manufacturers production date stamped on the inside of the helmet by the ear hole. Check the date, and any helmets that are 5 years and over , get rid of them.

Football is a fun, physical game and its important that we protect our youth football players as much as we can. Don't take a chance with helmets that are 5 years and older, its just not worth it!

Now, check all of your shoulder pads for wear and tear as well. The tell tale sign of a lot of wear will be on the inside of the shoulder pad where it sits on the players shoulders. If they appear to be worn with not much padding left or displaced, turf them as well, they're no good! Certainly you don't want any of your players wearing them. Shoulder pads depending on who's wearing them usually last longer then helmets, they're pretty durable.

For the most part , and to keep your costs down, try and replace 8 helmets  and shoulder pads per season. That way after every 5 years you've completely replaced your inventory of helmets and shoulder pads. Most dealers have Buy two and get one free type deals so take advantage of them.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Football Playbooks and Spring Cleaning

Spring is almost here and like any good youth football coach its time to evaluate your football systems and do some spring cleaning and get rid of some clutter. Time to go through the playbook and evaluate plays that you ran the previous season.

For the most part your play evaluations should be based on the football players that you have returning and how they fared in your offensive system last season. Perhaps they struggled in a particular look or formation, or they just weren't ready to do what you asked them to do from within the football system.

On the other hand, they have a years experience under their belt , are probably a little bigger and stronger, and more mature than they were the previous year and maybe now this play that failed you so bad last season might be a "go to" play this season.

 It's up to you as the football coach to determine that as nobody knows your players better than you do.

As you do your football spring clean-up, you may as well evaluate your football drills, practice plan, special teams,and even your assistant coaches. As well, evaluate your own performance as we all can improve in football somewhere.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Football Sled Drills

Probably one of the best football coaching tools that I ever had to implement was the use of a seven man sled. Nothing can compare! The sled is a great tool to teach basic football fundamentals. There are many sled drills out there but my favourite one of all is called the "Hit n Drive". This drill forces the football player to execute all the core fundamentals needed in tackling and blocking.

Have your player's line -up and across from each sled bag with an equal amount of players in each bag line. Instruct them to stand at least two yards back from the sled-bag and in a two point football stance. On the whistle and in unison all players will step, drop their hips, and then explode up through and wrapping up the bag, with neck bulled and head back, with a chest to bag contact while pumping their legs and driving the sled for 5-7 yards or until the coach blows the whistle. The next line will align across from the bags and on the coaches whistle will perform the same drill again. This is a great team building drill as the players seem to feed off it and they love to smack the sled down the field. The coaching staff follow the sled and point out and coach up fundamentals to the players as they peel off the sled and get back into line. Then when it's their turn once again they hit n drive the sled having made their adjustments fundamentally as pointed out by the coaching staff. The drill has good flow and it can be done out of a three point stance as well.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Football Field Goals and Convert's

Probably one of the most un-practiced parts of the football game that we neglect as football coaches is the kicking game. As we prepare to play an opponent and prepare our football systems we tend to put the kicking game on the back burner until the last practice, line them up, kick a half a dozen or more field goals and point afters and then send the players home.

Then, with the game on the line and we need the extra point to tie or a field goal to win we send our kicking team out there, cross our fingers, and hope that they mange to convert a kick with little practice time.


In a lot of youth football leagues across the country they now reward 2 points for a convert and 4 points for a field goal in order to create more emphasis on the kicking game. With that many points now available to youth football coaches, your beginning to see more practice time resulting in more kick attempts during the game. Youth football players are being taught at an early age the importance of a field goal as well as a point after in a football game.

The end result is that we develop solid kicking fundamentals at the youth football level early and this carries on to the higher levels. We all know that in a close football game that a good kicker can decide the outcome. Just make sure that you practice it as part of your football systems and be confident to run it during the football game.

Perhaps investing this practice time into your kicking game will pay off and you will win that big game!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Football Tackling Fundamentals and Tackling Drills

One of the most frustrating things I see as a youth coach in football is poor tackling fundamentals. Watching a player come up and grab the jersey of the ball carrier and then turn and try and throw the player to the ground is definitely not good tackling. If any of your players do this in youth football its time to work on their tackling fundamentals.
The key to good tackling and football tackling drills is to teach them to have good body position. Good body position puts their body in the right position to make a proper football tackle. Now when we talk about having good body position we're talking about having a good football stance, with knees bent, butt down, flat back, neck bulled, and the head is always back with the arms slightly back, The body is now coiled and in position to make a proper tackle. By being in a coiled position the player is now in position to explode up and through the ball carrier, wrap him up with his arms, head back, neck bulled, and on contact we talk to our players about hip explosion and driving the arms up and around the torso, looking for chest to chest contact with head always back, never down.
One of the pre-season tackling drills we do to emphasize this in youth football is to get the players to partner up. We instruct them to get on their knees face to face with about ten inches between their knees. One of the players is instructed to sit up on their knees with arms extended out to their side. The other player, the tackler, is instructed to sit back with his butt on his legs; head back, neck bulled, and arms straight out behind the back. On command the player is to explode off his back legs with his hips with head back, drive the arms up under the armpits of the other player, get a good chest to chest contact, with head back, and wrap up and hold. Understand now that neither player ever leaves their knees. The coach will refer to hip explosion, head back, neck bulled, and chest to chest contact while driving the arms up and through the defender. The next step is to have the ball carrier stand straight up with arms extended out to the sides with the tackler kneeling this time on one knee with one leg up, sitting back once again, on his heel, with arms back, neck bulled and head back. On the coach's command, the kneeling player will explode up once again, drive his arms up and through the arm-pits of the player, wrap up, get a chest to chest contact, with head back, and neck bulled. Now we'll separate them about 5 yards apart, both standing, the ball carrier will once again have his arms extended out to the side. On the coaches command the ball carrier with arms extended will walk straight up toward the tackler, the tackler will step, drop to one knee, and then drive up through the ball carrier , chest to chest contact, with head back, neck bulled, wrap up and walk him back several steps.
We find that this is a good drill that emphasizes how we want our players to set up their bodies in order to make a proper tackle. We emphasize hip explosion, with head back, neck bulled, chest to chest contact, driving up through, and wrapping up. By starting them on the knees we are able to isolate and talk about their body position and specific things they need to work on to be a good tackler and progress to where they are both standing. This tackling drill slows things down to a controlled speed and emphasizes solid tackling fundamentals.