Winning Youth Football

Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

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.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

P90X Work-out for Football Training

If you're looking for a solid work-out to get yourself into football shape then P90X is a great product to invest into. Like you I watched all the testimonies on television and I must admit that I was somewhat a sceptic, that is until I ordered the product myself and went through the program.

What you get is a series of DVD's along with a very nice book illustrating the various work-outs and tips as well as diets to follow that will get you the maximum results. The book is very informative with great pictures and explains each and every work-out. As you watch and participate, the trainer Tony Horton is exceptional in bringing you along at your own pace. The DVD is filmed in his gym and there is always several participants work-out with him in the video, in a way it's just like being at the gym.

One thing for sure, it will challenge you! At 45 years old I found it tough going in the early part of the program, but I hung in there and found it got easier each week and the results were great. I noticed the inches going down before the weight, probably because I was building muscle. I like it because I was able to do it in the comfort of my own home, and press the pause button when I needed to, in fact they recommend it.

As far as a work-out for football and being a football coach and former player myself I though it did a good job on covering all of the major core muscle groups. In fact there's even a few football type exercises included. Basically, all you need is some free weights, a chair, some exercise bands, and a pull up bar if you can get one, if not the bands will do the trick!

It's been a few months since I finished the program and as the weight creeps back on I am motivated to do the program once again. Give it a try, I recommend it for any football players or coaches!


Football Team Goals

Now that you have your football systems in place, its time to set up some team goals with your players. Team goals are basically minimum standards that you set as the football coach in order to challenge your players to play and compete at a high level at all times.
Team goals could be the number of receptions you have,or the number turn-overs you give up during the game. It could be the number of penalties, the number of yards gained per run or given up or even the percentage of third down conversions that you capitalize on in your games. It could be the percentage of points scored from inside the red zone or even the number of wins you need to make the play-offs or to secure first place overall.

Whatever it is, they are set by you as the football coach and set the bar as far as how you want your team to compete each and every game.

For the most part, if you meet your team goals every game, chances are that you have had a good day. As well, team goals can be motivation for your players and a great coaching tool. It can keep them focused and motivated to play within the system and not take plays "off" which can happen frequently at the youth football level.

It builds a sense of pride within the team to meet the challenge of the team goals. The main thing is not to set the standards too high or unrealistic, otherwise it can back-fire on you.

In other words don't ask your players to do something that their not capable of doing!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Football Planning Depth Chart

As a football coach I am consistently evaluating and tinkering with my depth chart. A lot of times I'll shuffle through it, add names, change names, and drop names. Move names from a defensive position to an offensive one and visa-versa. I find that consistently managing your depth chart keeps you organized an up to date in your player development.

Like all good football systems that you implement, your depth chart reflects your player's strengths and where exactly they fit in the scheme of things. A football coach by maintaining a depth chart will be on top of his player's progress and keep the best possible line up on the field. It's a good way to track player progress over the course of the season and identifies players that have improved or have gotten better than one that's in a starting position.

So how does it work?

Well, at the start of a season during training camp I'll set up my first depth chart. I'll list on it all football positions that are on the football team including specialty positions and for each position I'll assign a name or names to that football position of the player who at that time I feel is the best player for that spot. After each practice, I'll spend 15 minutes evaluating my depth chart, and move the players up and down the depth chart based on their performance and improvement. I refer to it regularly and have it with me all the time.

I find it is valuable when injuries occur in the game and you need a player substitution right away, pull out the depth chart and scan down and find the player who's the next to go in at that position. It saves time.

I also enjoy discussing the depth chart with the assistant coaches on a player's progress and development. A depth chart analysis will reward a player's hard work and progress while at the same time challenge your players to work hard to keep their positions and not to drop down the depth chart.


Football Goal-line Defence

Football can be exciting, last play of the game and you're on your goal-line winning by a slim margin and it comes down to one big play. All the marbles are on the line? But wait a minute! Do you have a goal-line defence as part of your football system, or are you in one of your regular defences?

The answer to that question could determine whether or not you will be successful in this situation.

Goal-line defence should be practiced regularly and be treated like a football specialty team. That is, you want your best players on the field for this situation. With the game or season on the line it could come down to one play on your goal-line to determine whether or not your football season is over or not. You bring in your best and biggest linemen, as well as your best athletes available to play in this situation. You practice it every week like a special team, put the ball on the 2 yard line and bring in the "heavies".

Perhaps your all-star running back goes in as an outside linebacker, your star receiver plays cornerback and your all-conference guard goes in to play tackle. Whatever, it is, make sure you load up in this situation. A lot of times just bringing in rested players will do the trick as the offence perhaps has been on the field awhile having marched the ball to your goal-line and maybe a little tired. The fresh legs can make a big difference. Just remember, treat your goal-line defence like a special team, bring this look in for this situation only, its hard for players to be effective on both sides of the ball for the entire game.

A lot of times a goal-line defence will play gap control with good outside contain with man coverage downfield and probably blitz a back to force the offence into making a mistake, create a turn-over, or sack the quarterback. You want them to be aggressive and to attack!

A goal-line stand can be a big momentum changer and can demoralize an offence, practice it every week and with your best players!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Football Play Selection

On the very first series of the football game would you run or pass the football? Do you script your plays or do you randomly call plays based on what you see or what is presented to you by the defence?

I think that most offensive coordinator's have their own personal philosophy on how they begin their play selection in that opening series. Probably, the play selection on the fist series of the game would reflect what your plan is coming into the game and what you already determined in you scouting and game planning. If you want to establish the running game, probably this would reflect in your play calling in your first series of the football game. You've scouted the defence and determined that you believe you can run the football against them so why not test the waters and see how things look inside. A big gain on the first play would indicate that you've done your homework!

Most times if they run big on that first play you know that a second run is coming. The game now begins to unfold as the defence adjusts to stop the run. A lot of times, once a offensive co-ordinator gets you on your heels they try and stay one play ahead of you. In other words while your adjusting to stop the inside run they're looking at exploiting you somewhere else. I find that this is more "old school" and is a very effective way to co-ordinate an offence.

Scripting plays is also an effective way to play calling. A lot of college and NFL coaches script their plays and have already determined in the game planning stage of what play they will call for a particular situation and have it marked on their play selection chart. For instance, if they find themselves in a third down and inches situation, they'll check their play selection chart and under the heading third and inches they would have already determined what plays to call for that situation and select one of the plays. Again, the play selection would be based on the scouting report.

Scripting can make play calling decisions a little easier as you have already determined in the comfort of your office with no pressure what plays to call for each situation. It also allows you to spread the football around to different players and attack different parts of the field and can take the predictability out of your play selections. The downfalls to scripting is that when things go bad you soon revert back to the "old school" way of play selections.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Offensive Tackles Rank high In NFL Draft

Have you seen any of the mock NFL drafts yet ? If you do check it out you'll see that in the top ten mock selections that the offensive tackle position ranks right up there as far as one of the most sought after positions in the NFL draft.

Why is that?

Well if you consider that in the NFL a new breed of hybrid defensive ends has emerged that are big athletic and very fast, its not hard to figure out why the OT position has become high in importance. These athletic defensive ends can create a lot of problems for your offence with their speed and strength and if you don't have a offensive tackle that's just as athletic and strong, then your in for a long day on the grid-iron!

If you check the salaries in the NFL in regards to the offensive line you'll see that the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL are offensive tackles, particularly the ones who cover the backside of the quarterback. Every season you hear the experts talk about O-line and the Tackle position and how it has emerged as the anchor position. A good offensive tackle can take on the rush and speed of the defensive end which creates time and space for the quarterback. With this time and space most quarterbacks in the NFL will be able to pick apart a defensive secondary, without it they're on the ground!

Consider now for a moment just how big, strong and athletic these Offensive Tackles have to be and also consider that they have to be fast enough to take their drop-steps back quick enough while engaging the end, who probably runs a 4.5 sec 40 yard dash. They're big men that are athletic, strong and fast.

They're also very hard to find! If you've coached football and particularly offence, then you know that it all begins and ends with your offensive line irregardless of who you have at your quarterback or running back position.

You need a solid offensive line!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Football Systems Blitz with a Purpose

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.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The NFL Combine Results

This week I had the chance to tune into the NFL combine. I was quite taken by the testing and drills that each player did individually and it became even more clear to me  the importance of having good football fundamentals. Each drill and test seemed to isolate a specific fundamental. No doubt all the players looked ripped and in shape ,but in the end ,the testing certainly separated the good from the great. The players that were fundamentally stonger scored higher.

I noticed that the majority of the drills emphasized stance, step, speed with a sudden change in direction. Some players did it with ease while others struggled ,or slipped, or made a poor plant, a bad cut, all which emphasize the importance of good footwork and good form that we must do on a regular basis fundamentally as part of our youth football practices. You can be fast but if you cannot move your feet your in trouble at any level especially in the NFL!

Then there was testing that isolated explosiveness such as the standing long jump and the vertical leap. Both tests seemed to focus on hip rotation and leg explosion which is something we emphasize every practice in our blocking and tackling.

Anyway, it certainly brought home to me once again the utmost importance in teaching fundamentals to our young football players and reinforced once again that in the end good fundamentals will separate the good from the great!


Play Action plays in your Football Offence

Most youth football offensive co-coordinators implement some sort of play-action passes as part of their offensive football system. Basically, a play-action pass is a passing play disguised initially as a running play, or set up with a specific running play.

Most football offensive co-coordinators will run a specific running play many times through-out the game, all the time watching your linebackers come up hard and fast and making the tackle. Then, they'll run the same play once again, the running back will charge up to the line like he had been doing all along, the linebackers will charge hard as well, the quarterback will set to hand-off the ball and it appears to all that the play will be stuffed again, but this time the quarterback has kept the ball and is now throwing a pass to wide-open receiver who has curled in behind the vacated linebackers.

A lot of youth coaches do well in a play action football system where defenders read and react hard to the ball. Most times you'll see a play action pass along the goal line in order to take advantage of aggressive linebackers and safeties. Most times it works!

Running play-action will usually keep the opposing linebackers "honest" within their football system and they'll stay home a little longer which creates a little more time and space for your running back.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Attacking the Zone and Man Football Defence

Recently I was asked what the best passing patterns to run versus a zone or man football defence.

First of all your football systems depend a large amount on your personnel that you have to run them. Based on that, you design or adopt a particular football system that your players have the means to thrive in. In other words you don't run a system that your players don't have the tools to operate.

Once you establish that system and your players thrive within it you will be able to make game adjustments within that football system that will be easy for players to adopt. One of the things that you will probably do at some point is to adjust your passing patterns based on what kind of football pass defence that you are up against whether it be man or zone defence.

One of the rules that I have adopted and it's easy to remember is: "Run away" from man and "Sit down" versus zone coverage. In other words, when adjusting football passing patterns versus a man coverage system, call crossing patterns or passing routes whereby your wide receiver is running away from the defensive back. Look for the mismatches where your wide receiver is basically a better athlete than the defender and is out running them. A lot of teams when up against a man coverage football system will isolate their best athlete versus a weaker defender and let his athletic ability get him open.

Versus zone coverage, the adjustment to make would be to get your players to "sit down" or stop and set up in the seams between the zones. Basically your wide receiver would run his route and look for the opening between zones, stop, set-up, while the quarterback would scan and find him open in the seams.

Rule of thumb: Run away from man and sit down versus zone!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Football 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.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring Elite Programs

A lot of areas now have some sort of off-season regional elite programs that are available to the aspiring athlete. Basically they would be advertised as an AAA Elite Program with try-outs scheduled in various towns. After try-outs a team or teams would be would be selected that would compete in a Spring AAA league playing in a league format with play-off games and a championship game. These leagues usually begin about a month after your regular league has finished and gives players and opportunity to play their sport a little longer.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages of playing in such leagues?

Well, first of all it can be costly, with a lot of travel, meals, gas, and accommodations. As well the registration is similar to what you would normally pay out in your regular league and for the most part, the players that compete are not all elite athletes so it can be a bit watered down. Let's face it; a lot of parents cannot afford to place their athletes in another league at the conclusion of the season. So, despite being labelled a AAA league, it does become a league of those that can afford it. At the end of the day, somebody is making money.

The advantages are that usually these leagues feature great coaching and will give your athlete an opportunity to learn from a certified coach. Although not all the athletes would be at the Elite level per say, there still will be a significant amount of these athletes in the league that currently play at a high level year round and it would be a great experience for your athlete to play with or against these players.

As well, if your athlete is aspired to play say in the regular AAA league, then this exposure might be beneficial to them as usually they are scouted a bit or watched by the AAA coaches of the local league and it gives your athlete an opportunity to show their stuff. That way if they do attend the regular AAA training camp the following season then they are already known by the head coach of the team as he watched your athlete play already in the Spring League. Most coaches of elite programs will go an check out the spring leagues to see what is available in their own back yard. It's a coaching thing, we're just too curious to stay away!