The answer may surprise you. Many youth football teams attempt to emulate what the coach has seen on TV the past week or what the head coach ran as a high school player 20 years ago. Unfortunately what works at the College or Pro level on TV often doesn’t work very well at the youth level. The coach’s high school system may have worked well for his team 20-30 years ago with 6 days a week practices and fleet running backs, but fails miserably at the youth level.
At the youth level our job as coaches is to teach the kids how to block and tackle safely and effectively. We teach them how to get into good athletic stances as well as the base rules and strategies. Our most important job should be to make football fun for the player and coach our teams up to their full potential.
However, you can have fun and win at the same time. In fact most players that play on perennial losing teams lose their love of the game and quit. That is one reason I developed these coaching materials for my own 400 kid organization, so that our coaches would be competent enough to coach the kids to their God given potential. To allow our teams to play competitively so the kids would stay engaged in our program. In fact my materials are filled with how to make practices both well organized and fun.
Most of the plays or schemes the typical youth coach has in his playbook are not designed to the talent level of most youth teams. I see teams with no speed often trying to run sweeps, I see teams with kids that can’t throw or catch throwing (trying to throw) 20 yard passes. I see teams running bootlegs with very slow quarterbacks. I see teams running a dive play with no lead blocker into the heart of youth defenses. I see teams trying reverses against well disciplined teams for huge losses. I see pass patterns with 3-4 and even 5 receivers. I see teams trying to get a 9 year old to read two different defenders on option plays etc etc etc.
I rarely see: good lead off-tackle plays, one or two receiver pass patterns, optional run and pass plays, trap plays, pulling, double teams, wedge blocking, designed plays to draw the defense off-sides, unbalanced formations, motion, and great sportsmanship.
In youth football each year is different; keo bong da you will not always have a big team or have a very fast “feature back” that can outrun everyone on a sweep play. Unlike the colleges or pros, you don’t have 100s of kids from all across the country to choose from or 20-40 hours a week practice time. In my mind the team that wins because they just happen to have the fastest kid in the league and he outruns everyone on sweeps and kick returns is a joke, a luck of the draw thing. Football is a team game and a well coached team won’t give up sweeps for touchdowns or ever kick deep ti that speedster. My first team defense has not given up a sweep for a score in over 5 years.
off-tackle power. It can be run by out of nearly any formation, I love it out of the Single Wing with 4 lead blockers and a double team block at the point of attack. While it isn’t a terribly sexy play, it gets you 4-5 yards every down in most cases and sets up “home run” complementary plays like the trap, play action pass or wing reverse. Most youth teams are set up to stop the sweep, the “holy grail” play for most youth teams. Other defenses try to shut down the “dive” in the gaps next to the center. Very few youth football defenses are set up to stop even an average off-tackle play.
If the other team gives you the off-tackle, take it until they over-commit, then run the home run play. In our Championship game in 2003 the other team was so concerned about taking away our inside “wedge” play, they left open the off-tackle. We started the game with 7 straight tailback off-tackle plays to our strong side and scored. The very next series they moved out to our off-tackle hole and we ran wedge for a 65 yard score on first down. Then they tried to stop the wedge play and moved everyone up and we ran the wedge play action pass for a 60 yard score. We were up 46-0 in the third quarter when they finally just gave up and tried to run the clock. Both the wedge and off tackle plays can be run well by very average skilled kids.
In another game the defensive team was set up to stop the sweep and wedge plays but again were giving us the off-tackle play. We run no-huddle so we get many more snaps in than most youth teams. In that game we had 71 snaps, of which 51 were off-tackle strong plays. We were getting our 4-5 yards every time, nothing real big, but we did get some very big gains and touchdowns from blocking back traps, wing reverses (2 TDs) and TB run pass option (pass for TD). So we scored 5 touchdowns and out of the 5 TD’s, 4 were in excess of 20 yards. We were only stopped on downs once and we fumbled once too. We were 2-2 passing for 56 yards and a TD. Now how much fun was that for our 3 tailbacks that shared duty at the tailback position that day and for our pulling guards? They all had a blast, so did our place kickers, and the 4 other kids that had TDs playing non-tailback positions. Oh yeah, our defense had fun too, they could play with abandon since we were moving the ball at will on offense.
The net is, the off-tackle play at the youth level is the hardest play to stop, yet few teams try and perfect it. It takes little talent to run the play, no studs required. In my Single Wing Offense, we practice that play more than any other. We block it a variety of ways so we know it will work and we will run it, regardless of what kind of defense we face. Our kids can run the off-tackle in their sleep, we often start our practices with the “Power Hour” as Steve Calande calls it. We run our off-tackle strong power for 30-40 minutes on air, fit and freeze and then with players holding hand shields going 100%. Ye,s just one play often makes up half of our offensive practice time.