What Is Appropriate For A 7-Year-Old Select All That Apply The Spread Offense For Youth Football? Not If You Are Coaching Non-Select Kids

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The Spread Offense For Youth Football? Not If You Are Coaching Non-Select Kids

Make Sure Your Data is Real World When Deciding on an Offensive Direction

I attended a “youth football” session at a coaching clinic in the last 3 months which still bothers me. We won’t go into where the clinic was or who the speaker was, that doesn’t matter, what matters is how we as trainers interpret data presented to us. In this clinic, the data was completely false and flawed, which led the speakers to assume that “ALL” youth football teams could be running their system wrong.

There are many very talented youth soccer coaches who know their stuff. They may have coached youth ball for decades and clearly understand what average kids can and cannot do. They understand that even with the best training on the planet and even 4-5 days a week of practice, there are certain things that most average skill kids just can’t do.

Decisions, Decisions

On the other hand there are also many dads who are pressured into coaching youth football who are not sure what they should be able to get out of the typical grouping of non-selected footballers. Some of this group sell the kids short and aren’t as advanced as they should be, but many others think their kids are mini NFL players and put them in schemes and techniques that the average player has very little chance with succeed The good coaches with all the experience usually sit right in the middle of these two extremes and put their kids in a system that is the right “fit”.

Clinical Sales Work

Now back to the coaches’ clinic, the speaker seemed to be a very articulate, well-educated, well-intentioned person who knew the game well. He played Division I football and had a pretty well organized performance, he had credibility. His topic was the spread passing game for youth football. His premise was that anyone could run a spread game as young as 9 and be successful with it, all it took was commitment and a lot of practice. He was preaching it and the first time a 9 year old head coach sitting in front of me nodded his “amens” and bought it hook line and sinker.

The presenter showed some well thought out fundamentals for young quarterbacks and even had some nice film of an impressive 10 year old passer. The coach did admit that he had trained this player since he was 7 years old including extensive individual off-site training in the off-season. Now I don’t know about your teams, but I just don’t have year-round access to my players or the time to individually coach my kids aggressively year-round.

Here’s Where It Gets Tricky

The presenter also showed extensive team footage that not only showed some very well executed spread passing plays, but also some very nice zone blocking runs. The unusual thing about these clips was that each player had a different colored helmet.

Not a Fair Comparison

When I politely asked him why the helmets were different colors, he said because this was an all-star team and each player used his own team helmet. They were also clips of 13-14 year olds. Come to find out that the players on this all-star team were chosen from thousands.

He didn’t have minimum game players to find playing time, he had the best player out of 40+ teams. Imagine what you could do if YOU had the best player from every team in your area. Or imagine if you could clone your best player and make 40 more of him. What could you run then? What 13-14 year olds can do is also a bit different than what 9 year old rookies can do.

The Real World Not Fantasy Lan

Not only does the average youth coach have to find some playing time for every player on our teams, but we probably have to start several kids on our offensive line who would best be described as minimum game players. In zone blocking one of the key premises is for your offensive linemen to move on a double team, get off the double team and block the nearest linebacker in space.

Now I don’t know about your league, but in the 6 I coached on the other teams best, fastest and most athletic kids play linebacker. In a zone blocking my minimum play player (least athletic player on the team) offensive lineman will block the other teams best player, in space, in motion after motion in a double team? Really, in real life, not in an imaginary well-intentioned parallel universe? Not in your typical non-selective youth football team on planet earth. Do we have kids who can make that block? Sure, but not very many who can do it consistently and zero of my even most aggressively trained minimum game players.

Be Careful

Be careful what data you use to determine what you should and shouldn’t be running in youth football. Don’t fall in love with clips of some football games well attended by a bunch of hand-picked “studs”. All-star teams selected from casts of thousands are not the example most youth coaches can learn from. I only coached “selective” football for one year, in 2003, it’s a different animal, but even then we only selected from about 150 kids, not thousands.

Almost anyone can put together a string of highlights if they practice long enough. That’s why we sell complete season DVDs of my teams. Undrafted guys, every snap of every game for the season, so you can see for yourself what average guys (and minimum game players) with average amounts of practice time can do over an entire season.

Let me say that I don’t think this coach is mean or meant to mislead coaches into doing something that had little chance of success, he just doesn’t clearly understand the boat most of us are in. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in the pass, my teams often led the league in passing touchdowns. Heck my age 7-9 team threw for 11 touchdowns last season in only 9 games. What I am saying is that it is extremely rare for non-select youth teams to move the ball consistently using zone blocking and spread passing without a “foreign” grouping of players.

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