Tag Archives: little league football

Coaching Youth Football to Lose and Why?

Coaching Youth FootballOver the last 10 years, I have coached three different youth football teams through the 7U to 12U age divisions.  During those many Spring and Fall football tackle seasons, our teams consistently beat a few teams that we played each season as our team aged.  I always think about why our Teams won versus other teams in our Division.  This morning was no exception, since I am planning to begin coaching another 7U/8U team this Fall 2017.  I started writing down the team names we played over the years and why I thought we beat these teams season to season.  Here is a summary of what I thought about this morning….

Why Teams Lost Summary

  1. Son played QB; “Daddy Ball”
  2. Shotgun snaps inconsistent or QB / Center Exchange
  3. Too many pass plays and low completion rate
  4. Play calling strategy; did not run best plays, wanted to be too fancy or pass
  5. Did not focus on Blocking
  6. Defense was a reading Defense, and did not attack Offense

Yes, my two sons have played quarterback over the years but if I had a better QB, my sons played other positions.  As a Coach, you must be able to play the best player at a position, not start your son or someone you like better due to parent politics or a pre-season promise.  You must do what is best for the team, not what is best for you and your family.

Each season, I see so many teams force a shotgun snap because they want to run the Spread or Pistol offense.  If your Center cannot shotgun snap 14/15 times consistently then you will turn over the football at least twice during the football game.  These turnovers will lose games.  I see it in youth football and at the Junior High and High School levels.  You can run these offenses under Center, maybe not as effective but more effective than fumbling the QB / Center exchange.  This area of offense must be focused on and practice at every practice.  Even I get lazy and lose focus on this QB Center exchange and then it bites me in the bootocky.

Look if your team cannot complete more than 50% of your passes then do not focus on the offensive passing game. If you want to focus on your passing game, then play 7on7 and practice there.  But forcing the passing game to learn how to pass for a whole season while you consistently lose more than half your games is no fun for you, your players, parents and fans.  Sorry but many youth football QBs will not start as high school QBs. Running the football at the youth level will increase your chances to win games.  But hey, if you have the legit passing QB, receiver, blocking etc than pass the crap out of the football.  Out of my 20+ season coaching youth football, I’ve seen more teams win by running than passing.

Many coaches, want to over complicate youth football offenses.  I know I do sometimes.  Remember to keep it simple.  Do not force an offense on your talent. Let the Talent tell you what they can do.   If you’re trying to run a fancy offense and getting penalties every series or unable to shotgun snap then maybe that offense is not working for your talent.  If your offense play calling strategy is all over the place and you keep calling pass plays that do not work or Jet Sweeps that are losing big yards, or throwing 2 interceptions a game, maybe you should run that Stud TB down the 5 or 6 hole behind your super large offensive tackle and maybe move to an unbalanced line and just run it down everyone’s throat.  The stats say your averaging 5 yards a carry on that play.  I don’t know how many times, I’ve looked over at my Co-Head coach and said thank god they keep passing and not running #20 down our throats.  But hey, keep passing from a shotgun formation and turning the football over on interceptions, downs or bad snaps and give me the win.  I’ll take it.

It took me a few years to learn to really focus on blocking.  Many youth football coaches focus on the running backs and just tell the lineman just block any man in front of you.  Yes, you can win doing that if you have really good running backs.  But if you do not have tier 1 running backs then you need to learn to block.  You might have a pretty good passing QB, but if you cannot protect him from my 6 very determined pass rushers then it will be a very long day.  If your guards are not blocking the inside gap and letting my A gappers crush your QB then it’s hard to hand off.  Your linemen will usually be 50% or more of your players on your football team.  Coach them up on blocking fundamentals to be the reason you’re the best offense in the league.  Your players and parents will be happy you focused on all players not just your top 5 running backs.

Defense wins Championships.  I see too many coaches running a 5-3 or 4-4 split defense or even running a 6-2 defense but with reading linebackers and reading defensive ends on the edges in tight to the formation with the Corner Backs set back in a cover three with the Free Safety and losing a ton of games.  I see too many “reading” linebacker centric defenses get stomped on by heavy running offenses.  If most of your youth football defensive players are linebackers and defensive backs reading plays then most experienced offensive coordinators will shred your defense for 4 to 5 yards a carry each play.  It has been my experience that youth football players do not read offensive keys, players, plays, formations very well.  These defensive players will wait for the running back to hit them and not attack the offensive player on his key move from the backfield.  Youth football defenses must attack.  I use a 5-3 defense or 5-2 Monster as my pass defense in youth football not my main run defense.  If you have legit linebackers that attack then maybe you can run a successful linebacker centric defense at the youth football level.  Make sure to scout opposing offenses and focus on Defense.  Offense is pretty and wins a few games, but your Defense will get you to the playoffs and maybe a chance in the big show.

I know my opinions are a little brash, but this has been my experience over the last 20+ seasons coaching youth football in Texas and Colorado.  Let me know your thoughts.  I would love to hear your opinions.

Below is why I thought we beat each team consistently over the years…..

Team 1

  1. Coach played his son at QB, who was not a QB
  2. Too many pass plays and low completion rate
  3. Offense was too easy to Defend, not enough variety
  4. Players not assigned to proper positions
  5. Shotgun snaps inconsistent

Team 2

  1. Ran same play that did not work too many times a game
  2. Coach played his son at QB
  3. Too many pass plays and low completion rate
  4. Did not focus on blocking
  5. Did not adjust Defense to Offensive alignments

Team 3

  1. Coach played his son at QB
  2. Ran wrong offense based on team talent
  3. Shotgun snaps inconsistent
  4. Too many pass plays and low completion rate
  5. Offensive play calling strategy suspect

Team 4

  1. Did not Draft/Recruit well; Poor Planning
  2. Switch Offense week to Week
  3. Switched Players around week to week
  4. Did not listen to other Coaches trying to help
  5. Shotgun snaps inconsistent

Team 5

  1. Promised players positions on Team; QB
  2. Did not play better players at QB
  3. Recruited players they liked vs best players
  4. Did not put players in proper positions
  5. Offensive play calling strategy suspect

Team 6

  1. Over complicated offensive shifts pre-snap
  2. Good motivator but lacked tactical focus
  3. Shotgun snaps inconsistent
  4. Did not run best plays, wanted to be too fancy
  5. Did not adjust Defense to counter Offense alignments

Team 7

  1. Ran too many LBs and did not attack on Defense
  2. Relied on only 1 main RB
  3. Did not focus on blocking
  4. Too many coaches / voices
  5. Easy Offense to Defend

Team 8

  1. Coach played his son at QB
  2. Too many pass plays and low completion rate
  3. Did not run his stud RB more
  4. Defense did not attack Offense
  5. Offensive play calling strategy suspect

I hope this will help you understand the dynamics of winning and losing youth football games.

Thanks
Coach Parker
Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

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Youth Football League Organization Comparisons

playerjerseyA few of my readers asked me to discuss youth football league organization and my thoughts on what works and might not work.  I’ll try to do my best and review league organization based on leagues that I have coached within both in Select  / Recreation youth football and some youth baseball and basketball leagues.

First let’s talk about Select vs Recreational leagues and Teams.

  • Club Select Teams Paying Fee to Join Select League
    • Club / Team Managed Completely Independent of Youth League
    • Player Recruiting independent of youth football league
    • Pays Team Fee to join a Select League
    • Might play in different Select League each season
    • Usually a tournament team too
    • Roster size might be game / league specific
    • No minimum play rules
  • League with Select Teams
    • Coaches and Teams part of youth football league
    • League Promotes and Advertises League and Teams
    • Player evals Recruiting done by Coaches / Teams and might also be assisted by League
    • League may control roster size
    • Coaches may leave but Team stays within the League
    • No minimum play rules
  • League with Hybrid Select / Recreational Teams
    • Coaches and Teams Part of Youth Football League
    • League is primary recruiting vehicle for Teams and Coaches
    • League Allocates base set of players to Team but allows some recruiting by Coaches each season
    • Majority of Team’s players allowed to stay intact from season to season
    • Some Minimum Play Rules
    • Teams, Coaches, and Rosters controlled by Youth Football League
  • Recreational Youth Football League
    • Youth Football League Allocates most if not all players to each Team
    • Youth Football League Assigns Coaches to teams
    • Minimum Play Rules – Usually 8 to 20 plays per game
      Team Rosters usually 15 to 30 players per teams
    • Teams rosters reallocated by league each season with possible 0 to 8 freezes (players returning) each season.
    • Teams, Coaches, and Rosters controlled by Youth League

I actually prefer the Hybrid Select / Rec youth football league.  I do not have time to go out and recruit players, worry about team size and do all the recruiting that is necessary to manage a successful Select youth football team.  And in my old age I do not like all the parent politics involved in recruiting top youth football players.  I also like coaching up some of the newer players and seeing them turn into Select players.

Age Divisions

Many youth football leagues are organized based on the following:

  • Age Divisions
  • Grade Divisions
  • Weight / Size Divisions
  • Select Players vs Recreational Players
  • Experience Level
  • Combination of Above

I’ve noticed lately youth football has moved to a standard age division set up similar to US Soccer.  This might have to do with more youth football tournaments around the country.  But the 7U, 8U, 9U, 10U, 11U, 12U age divisions have become very popular in Texas.

Division Size

League Size and Number of Teams in a Division is always a hot topic. A youth football trophy
Division size under 4 teams is to me not worth the effort.  I like Divisions with at least 6 teams so you are not playing the same teams each week.  An 8 team division is my favorite.  I have played in a youth football league with an age Division of 2 conferences of 6 teams and 8 teams and then top teams went through playoffs to Super Bowls.  I loved this set up.  It was a County run league with teams from community partnered leagues that adhered to the County league rules.

Roster Size

Team size and roster size is also another area which is an important are organizing a youth football league.  I hear about team rosters reaching 30 players in some areas.  Wow, now that must be really hard to get players into the games.  I know from talking to these coaches parents are not very happy with these large teams.  I know that my wife would be very upset if our son was on a 30 person youth football team.  Some of the best leagues I’ve coached in keep rosters size below 24.  I prefer a roster size around 18.  The current league I coach in keeps their rosters between 15 and 20 and try to keep them around 16. I prefer less than 20 players on a roster when you have minimum play rules otherwise a 30 player roster with a 10 play MPP rules is very difficult for coaches to manager.

Minimum Play Rules

There is a lot of controversy surrounding play time and minimum play rules in youth football.  First let me say that managing play times can be difficult especially when rosters are over 18 and the MPP rule is over 10 plays per game.  There are only about 60 plays in a youth football game.  We usually have one or two people in charge of subbing and taking care of MPP rules.  Many recreational youth football leagues require 5 to 20 plays per game per player.  My current league requires 5 plays from scrimmage per half.  Special Team plays, penalties and do not count toward the 5 plays.  Select leagues usually do not have MPP rules.  I have found that even with MPP rules, parents still want their child to play about one quarter a game or more.

Player Allocation to Teams

  • Recruiting and Try Outs by Club / Team and Coaches independent of League.
    • League might have game roster / player maximum
  • Recruiting and Try Outs by League and Team’s Coaches with League oversight
  • Players Registered through League and allocated to Teams:
    • Randomly Assigned
    • Try Outs / Player Evals / Questions
      • League Grade and Team Assignments
      • Coaches Grade and Coaches Draft Players (NFL Type)

To be honest, I think my favorite part of the youth football season is evaluating and trying out new players and then drafting the players to my team.  I am not a very good player recruiter but I am very good at evaluating talent.  I’ve had other coaches around me that really knew how to recruit which has been a blessing.  I’ve been in two youth recreational youth football leagues that allowed player try outs and then hosted a formal draft.  One league held a standard drills try out for 2 days and the other league ran the 40 and then released the groups of 10 players to the teams for 30 minute rotating  try out sessions.  I loved the 30 minute try out sessions.  We were able to out the players through our tests vs just having to settle on standard tests.  I prefer my own testing.

Returning Players to Teams

  • Club Select Teams New Recruiting and Try Outs Each Season based on needs
  • League Allows Teams to Stay Together Each Season
  • League Might Allow New Recruited Players Up to #XX
  • League Might Assign Players to meet #XX Roster Size
  • League might to Combo of Above
  • League Reallocates Teams Each Season
    • Random Assignments
    • 0 to 8 players allowed to return to team based on coach and parent approval
    • Player Evals Draft via Coaches or League Officials to allocate to teams

Like I said earlier I prefer the hybrid recreational select youth football league.  I really like to keep my teams together and recruit as needed to fill certain needs.  The current league I coach in lets new coaches bring 3 players with them into the league and returning coaches may hold onto 0 to 6 players from the last Fall and Spring seasons.  Many coaches wind up keep 3 to 4 “freezes” and draft almost a whole new team.  It’s fun and certainly changes up the teams but I know many players and parents would love to stay on certain teams.  Well, the ones that win.  🙂

Issues with Youth Football Leagues

  • Pure Select League
    • Roster / Birth Certificate Manipulation
  • Allowing Coaches to Draft Players
    • Most Rookie Coaches are not good at the player eval and draft process
  • League Random Player Assignments
    • Teams are unequal
  • League Evals and Grades Players and Assigns to Teams
    • Coaches think league is stacking favorite teams
  • Team Size
    • Rosters over 24 are difficult to manage with MPP Rules

Every youth football league that I have coached in has issues.  No one is happy.  So if you are a league commissioner / official, you must realize that 80% of the organization is happy, 15% is ready for a change but silent and 5 % are the difficult vocal ones.  Plus you can never please everyone.  Try to limit the big mistakes and make sure everyone is treated fairly.

helmetThe biggest issue I have seen with youth football leagues is that when the player numbers are low and or the profits are low league officials will stretch the rules for certain teams and or players to allow them on a team to fill out a Division or meet a teams roster size etc and then someone gets upset because rules were broken and then everyone decides cheating is ok and tries to manipulate the system.  If you are in that situation make sure to communicate with all the coaches about why this is happening so no one is surprised by the stud 13 year old that is playing in the 12U division.  Yes, I’ve seen it happen.

Well, I hope I answered a few of your questions about youth football leagues.   I am sure I have left some items off.  If you see a glaring issue or would like to leave a comment or questions please do so below in the comments.

Remember to Play for Fun and Winning is Funner!

Thanks
Coach Parker
DFW Texas

 

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Youth 7on7 and Youth Tackle Football

Coaching Youth Football Playbooks, Tips and more pee football talkThere is a definite transition going on in Youth Football. More and more youth tackle teams are playing 7on7 football to keep their skill kids together in winter, spring and summer months to sharpen their team passing game fundamentals. Playing 7on7 is a great opportunity for Youth Football Coaches and parents to have the teams QB’s, RB, WR’s & TE’s play another 10 to 20 games per year without the risk of unnecessary contact and really enhance the skill of route running, throwing and catching. Teams that play 7on7 get a better understanding of spacing, timing and defensive alignment or leverage to determine what they can do and what they can’t in the passing scheme. Playing 7on7 year round allows Youth Football Coaches and players to develop team passing fundamentals and concepts to incorporate into their Team Offensive package.

Passing the football in 5th or 6th grade tackle football is not based on a stud QB who can fling the football 30 or 35 yards. It is about running short, quick and precise routes based on timing and correct offensive spacing, like slants, hitches, skinny post, bubble routes and quick outs. None of these are passes over 15 yards and just about every youth QB can execute with a little extra Team practice in a year round 7on7 league.

That is where Leagues and events like ours come in. Now as a team you have another 6 weeks to work with your QB, WR, Slot or TE and RB to practice, rep and go live against other Youth team skeleton defenders of 2 corners, 3 linebackers and 2 safeties. I have seen teams as young as 4th grade that have 10 total plays but are proficient at running those 10 to both sides just shred other teams because everyone is on the same page as they have repped these over and over and the team timing is so good. You would never be able to get that amount of passing game reps in your team’s Fall tackle practice as there isn’t enough time as the physical part of properly teaching blocking and tackling fundamentals would limit these passing reps.

The game of football continues to get spread out wider at every level and youth football teams that start the process early are going to flourish and give that athlete an advantage to learn spread concepts prior to arriving in middle school in 7th grade. 7on7 is a great way to learn Spread concepts.

To learn more about 7on7 Football Leagues, Tournaments or Camps in the State of Texas please visit us at www.texaselite7on7.org.

Shawn Smith
President
Texas Elite 7on7 Football
817-690-8458

Coach Shawn Smith is a contributing writer to CoachParker.org. Coach Smith has over 20+seasons coaching youth tackle football in many of the top Select and Recreation leagues in North Texas and is President of the Texas Elite 7on7 Football League. They hold tournaments across north Texas including Cowboy Stadium. Texas Elite 7on7 is one of the top 7on7 leagues in Texas.


Texas Elite 7on7 Youth Football League

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