Winning Youth Football

Coaching Youth Fooball - Football Plays

Monday, January 31, 2011

Football: The 3-4 Defence

A lot of coaches in the NFL are currently switching to the 3-4 defence. The trickle down effect is that a lot of coaches in Middle School and High School are switching to the 3-4 schemes as well.

Why the change?

A lot of coaches like the way the defence has the ability to pressure the offence by showing many different looks, blitzes, and stunts. With only 3 down lineman, you can mask different coverage's and bring blitz's from all over the field confusing the O- line and quarterback, pressuring them into making mistakes, creating fumbles and turn-over 's. The defence also allows you to maintain good downfield coverage versus spread offensive packages as you have the extra backs on the field to adjust.

There are drawbacks to this scheme.

First of all you need to have a solid Nose-Tackle who is a football player and is strong enough can take on the double team. If you haven't got one of those guys, you're in trouble, especially against teams that like to zone-block. By zone-blocking they will double team one of the D-lineman at the point of attack and then one of them will chip off and get one of your linebackers. Or they will down block in the same direction get all the defence flowing in one direction and try to "wash down" the defence while the running back looks for a cutback. Your Nose-Tackle is more vulnerable to the double team and if he cannot take it on, then it will create problems for your middle linebackers.

This is usually what knocks you out of your 3-4 defence.

I like the 3-4 defence. When things are going good you can pile up the sacks and fumbles. But beware of the downfalls. It's a good idea to have a 4 man front somewhere in your defensive scheme to counter against a good zone blocking offence.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Football Practice Plan

Your first football practice is a few days away, you're excited about getting out there and getting things going, working with the youth in the hour plus time allotted. Wait a minute... an hour... how do you fill the time in? Well, let's get started. You need to be organized and you need to have a football practice plan. You cannot do it off the top off your head. You need to have a football practice plan that accounts for every minute of your planned practice.

A good football practice plan will cover all aspects of your specific sport: warm-up, conditioning, fundamentals, skills, team play and systems, as well as special teams. Account for at least a minimum of 10-15 minutes per category. Too much in one area and the players will lose interest and you will lose out in the other areas that you want to cover. By having a football practice plan and following it, you will have good flow to your practice, maintain player concentration, and get the most out of your practice by covering all aspects.

A poor football practice plan and you will have down time which invites fooling around and lack of focus especially at the youth level.

Follow your plan!

If you are working on a specific fundamental or system and things are not working out after your allotted time frame, move on to the next scheduled assignment, and after practice make a note of how each session went and what you need to continue to work on in practice. Keep practice logs recording your thoughts, ideas, and player evaluation and development. Refer to the log prior to planning the following football practice so you know what you need to schedule. It's important that you work on fundamentals of some sort for each and very practice, do not omit this in order to work on something else. Solid fundamentals such as tackling and blocking are very important. You need to do fundamentals well in order to be good in your systems.

Remember you play like you practice!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Youth Football: Rebuilding A Football Program

Sooner or later you'll be faced with the challenge of re-building your program. Usually, this follows a couple of seasons where you had a solid team and were a legitimate contender. Or perhaps, you're the new coach taking on a new program. Either or, you got a lot of work ahead!

The challenges in the early parts of the rebuild can be immense as you get to know a whole new group of players and parents. The first thing that will stand out is how young and inexperienced they look compared to the team of the previous season.

Get over it quick! There's work to be done!

It's important that you get a handle on the static factors which basically would be the size, height, weight, and age of your players. Then test them! Have a practice with just shorts and running shoes in the gym. Test their speed and agility, their strength, vertical leap, and time them, in a shuttle run type activity while recording your results. At the end of the day, have a game of 4 on 4 basketball. Include all of your players including your big guys. Basketball is a great game to watch and see who can move their feet and who the athletes are. After this type of practice you should have a basic understanding of players and what group they should be placed in. The next practices assign them to their groups.

In the coming practices emphasize fundamentals and more fundamentals keeping in mind that a young team will need more of these than ever. As they gain confidence in their positions, introduce a simplified version of your system. Remember, that your finely tuned system from last season graduated or moved on with the departing players! Start slow, be patient, as this is all new to them. Praise them steady.

Finally, in your first game expect them to make mistakes and to look tentative. Re-enforce your systems between plays or quarters. Coach them up and most important encourage them to go out there and compete!

Usually, a young team will not be confident and will be a little intimidated in the early part of the season. They will look at you hard for guidance and it's important that you give it to them and talk to them steady. They will probably take their lumps early but as the season goes on you'll see the team emerge and the confidence grow. Sometimes they will look solid while other times they will be just awful!

The main thing is to get them to buy into the idea that they are young and will learn a lot in their first season .Despite their youth and inexperience they are expected to compete and to know their assignments win or lose. The main thing is that the experience they gain will be invaluable for the following season.

A solid rebuild will take 2-3 seasons.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Youth Football: Keys to a Solid Football Defence

As a youth football coach when you begin to plan 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.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Steelers Roethlisburger Sets Himself Apart From Brady and Manning

When you think of the best quarterbacks in the NFL most people would think of Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and of course the one and only Peyton Manning of the Colts. But how many of you would throw Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into the mix as well as being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and what sets him apart from Brady and Manning?

Probably the single element that separates him from the others is his ability to prolong the play. Roethlisberger can get himself out of trouble by being able to scramble out of the pocket when under pressure and either run or roll and throw his way out of trouble. Prolonging the play enables his downfield receivers the time to get themselves open so that they can bail out the big quarterback who has a great knack for finding these receivers open and turning what looked like a sack and loss into a huge gain. Even against one of the best prepared defences in the league in the New York Jets, Roethlisberger was able to do something that both Manning and Brady were unable to do and that's to beat the Jets!

So what does this tell us as coaches?

It tells us that a well designed and prepared defensive game plan will fall apart when a good quarterback is mobile and able to be creative and prolong the play. Normally, your defensive plan is based on the other team's tendencies, strengths and what they like to do offensively in a given situation. When teams are good they tend to do things consistently well all the time at a high level. As a defensive co-ordinator you are able to game plan for this as you know what they like to do. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning like to be in the pocket and they do not run the football when in trouble, they will hang in there until the last minute which was their demise against the Jets in both their play-off losses as they were sacked by the Jets defence. Big Ben separated himself by being able to be mobile. This mobility was not factored into the Jets game plan and in the end it cost them a trip to the Super Bowl as Ben made plays out of nothing that moved the chains and vaulted the Steelers into the Super Bowl.

Both Manning and Brady were not mobile against the Jets defence. Their usual surgical like approach was hindered by the Jets patient game plan of not being too predictable in their defensive schemes and blitz's. The Jets were able to create confusion and then pressure Brady and Manning into making mistakes and miscues and allowing them more of an option to run the football rather than throw which is not in their comfort zone. Roethlisberger, however, is comfortable running and rolling with the football which is what separated him from the other two great quarterbacks.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Youth Football: Attacking the Zone and Man 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!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Steelers and Jets take Humble Approach

After the trash talk of last week between arch rivals New York Jets and the New England Patriots its interesting to listen to both the Steelers and Jets now pay respect to each other. Especially the Jets, who clearly seem to have a admiration for the Steelers.

Seems funny does'nt it?

Perhaps the NFL has stepped in after the drama of last week and has warned both teams that negative comments will not be tolerated this time around. It just seems so strange to hear the compliments. Certainly, its a lot better this way and a lot more professional.

Overall, last weeks comments put a black mark on the league standards. Kinda looked like bush league type behaviour. The post game antics were definately unsportsmanlike, something that you'd expect out of 10 year olds and not from the best athletes in the world! Probably, after some insight into last week all agreed it was not in the leagues best interest.

Anyway, expect a great football game on Sunday between two great football teams!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New York Jets Walk the Talk: Is this the new NFL?

I must admit that I was surprised on Sunday after the New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots 28-21 in what can be described as a defensive masterpiece versus Tom Brady's Patriots. With all the hype and the trash talk leading up to the game I thought for sure that it would motivate the Patriots. But in the end the Pats were motivated but were defeated by a more motivated and determined, well prepared football team.

But what about all the trash talk, character attacks, and call -outs between players? Is this the new NFL?

Clearly, the media fed on these comments and the build-up to the game was enormous but do we want this in our sport?  With all the social media thats available today do we want our ten year olds to trash talk each other the days leading up to the game?

Certainly Not! Wheres the professionalism and at the end of the day what are we teaching our youth?


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Motivated New England Patriots will Defeat Jets

As a football coach, one try's to avoid bulletin board material of any means that will provoke an opponent, especially, a good opponent to be motivated to play, to practice hard, and to study film. As we anticipate a great match-up this weekend between the Jets and the Pats you can bet for sure that the Patriots will be highly motivated and prepared for their play-off game. Especially, after the comments directed at quarterback Tom Brady last week from Jets head coach Rex Ryan in reference to the difference between Brady and Colts pivot Peyton Manning in regards to film study and game preparation calling Manning " one of the best ones" while Pats quarterback Tom Brady is only successful as a result of his association with Head Coach Bill Belichick.

And would you want to face a motivated Tom Brady?

Now this week, Rex Ryan goes on record in the news media stating that he will raise the bar and out coach Belichick! I certainly agree that he tried to be too complicated in his defensive schemes in the 45-3 blowout win at home but I can't understand why he wants to shake the lion's den and motivate the Patriots to practice hard this week.

The only thing I can see with this strategy is to divert the attention off his talented but inexperienced quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Certainly, the Jets are talented enough and well coached enough to defeat the Patriots. However, I think the best approach would be to up-play the regular season 45-3 loss and lull the Patriots into a sense that it will be easy pickings once again, keep the quiet approach and be humble in the media while driving it into your team the fact that they kicked your ass in the last meeting. Perhaps the Seahawks demonstrated this approach the best and lulled the Saints to believe it would be easy once again and we all know what the outcome was!

There's no doubt that in the 45-3 regular season game that the Patriots were highly motivated! There's also no doubt that this week in the Patriots locker room the word "RESPECT" is written somewhere on the blackboard.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Green Bay Packers Game Plan: Contain Michael Vick

After watching Sunday's wildcard match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers it was apparent that the Packers were not going to let Michael Vick beat them with his legs, and if he were to be successful, he would have to throw the football downfield.
The Packers maintained steady defensive line pressure on Vick, had great contain, kept him in the pocket, and collapsed the pocket from the outside and in, to take away his time and space. The defence was set-up to make it difficult for Vick to scramble and run where he is probably the most dangerous. This forced the Eagles to hand the ball off as well as throw downfield where for the most part, the Packers had good downfield coverage.
There was a few times where the Packers did blitz their inside linebackers only to have Vick make a good read on this, and he would put the ball behind the blitzing linebackers for a solid gain. But overall, the Packers played a very patient defensive game, contained Vick in the pocket, took away the big play, and forced the Eagles to grind it out. Now in Michael Vick's defence he was playing injured. But overall you could see what the Packers game plan was, and that was to take away the running ability of Michael Vick.

When you consider game planning for the Eagles you have to consider that they have one of the most explosive offences in the league, behind one of the premier quarterback athletes in the NFL. When you game plan you want to try and disrupt and take away something that is one of their strengths and force them to win by doing or going to something else. Obviously, the Packers decided that this offence begins and ends on the legs of Michael Vick. So take away his running ability, and force him to be more one dimensional. A good strategy that worked well for the Packers!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Football Defence: Attacking Tom Brady's New England Patriots

How do you attack one of the best quarterbacks in the league with minimal damage? How do you stop one of the league's best offences?
It seems, if you have been following the NFL, that a lot of teams have tried to do so only to be taken advantage by the masterful Brady as he coolly picks apart your defensive scheme. But given the task,for fun, how would you go after the New-England Patriots?

Certainly a hard assignment for any defensive co-ordinator on this planet! But to defend the Patriots the biggest key is to understand the Patriots. Understand that they will be prepared, and that their film crew will have in place all of your defensive tendencies. They will study film, and read scouting reports on your defensive tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses. They will know who your best defenders are and what blitz's you like to bring, in key situations.

Let's face it we are creatures of habit and when we do something well we tend to do it a lot.

The difference between the great and mediocre teams is that a great team does good things well consistently all of the time. They seldom veer away from their proven package as they have been successful with it. They do it and do it well! This is the first key on defending the New England Patriots. They know that you do it well and where it comes from, and they also know how to take advantage of it by knowing your defensive scheme and players as well as you do. That's how they defeat you, by taking advantage of your strengths. So taking this into consideration you need to:

1. Prepare a game plan unlike you have run all season, something that they do not have on film and had time to break down. Come with a different look and scheme!

Sounds silly doesn't it?

Consider this formula: Time and space = success. If you give, Tom Brady both of these elements, time and space, chances are he will move the football down field. If you attempt to take away his time by blitzing he will pick you apart by taking advantage of the space that you vacate when you blitz and put the ball underneath into the hands of sure handed Wes Welker who runs underneath as well as anybody in the league, or catch you in a man lock situation and hit a receiver downfield for a score. He reads incredibly well so what do you do?
Consider the formula once again: Brady needs both time and space to be successful. Teams have unsuccessfully tried in vain to take away his time by blitzing only to be burned by the short passing "quick's" or "hot routes". So if the time factor is not an option then the only thing left to consider as part of the game plan is to:

2. Take away his space!

Take advantage of what his tendency is and that is he likes to remain in the pocket and throw the football downfield. So element two of the game plan would be to contain him in the pocket taking away his space, maintain good downfield coverage by not blitzing play after play, and collapse the pocket from the outside in thus squeezing in his space and forcing the play. So with this in mind it brings us to the third element:

3. Take away the big play.

By maintaining good downfield coverage and squeezing the pocket, force him into throwing short into coverage or even better hand the ball off. Taking the ball out of Brady's hands gives you a better chance to win!
Now as the game plan unfolds it brings us to the forth element:

4. Be disciplined in your assignment.

In other words do your job, don't overplay your assignment and try to do too much, keep your game simple and be where you're supposed to be, no blown assignments! Make it difficult for Brady downfield and test his discipline and patience. And finally:

5. Be Patient!

Let them grind out the yards, come hard and make good football plays that possibly create a turn-over. Be patient and force them into being impatient and make a mistake that you can take advantage of.

All in all, it is a difficult assignment to game plan for the New England Patriots. However, one needs to have a game plan in place in order to compete no matter what level you coach at!