With Youth Football Less Is More
By FirstDown PlayBook on Sep 1, 2018

“Coach, let us help you out. You are probably planning to or trying to teach your youth football team too much.”

“Hey wait a minute Coach, how can you say that? You don’t know me or my players or my team!”

How do we know that? Let’s just say that after thirty years of coaching we are just playing the odds because it is just human nature to want to have more plays and defenses to run so that you can out coach, trick or surprise your opponent. Trust us when we say that this is not exclusive to youth football either. It is happening at every level of football right now as we speak.

The problem is that when you have too many plays or defenses in your playbook or the plays and defenses are too complex for your kids to execute, the only people you out coach is yourself and your team. That is why today we would like to talk to you about the value of keeping it simple with your youth football team.

We hope that you will consider this coaching advice and the next time you are watching a football game on TV and think you just found a great play or scheme for your youth football team please slow down and consider these things.

Young Players Can Only Retain So Much

This sounds like something that is so obvious that it shouldn’t even have to be said but it’s an initial point worth making  because we need to be sure that everyone understands that your young players’ brains have not even come close to developing yet and they will not until their early twenties. When you combine this with the anxiety that goes along with competition and the lack of attention span caused by fatigue your best bet is normally going to be to keep the number of plays and defenses to a minimum.

One of the things that makes the game of football so great and difficult at the same time is that knowing what to do is only a part of the task. Just because your left Guard knows to block down on the shade doesn’t mean that this player knows HOW to do it. The fundamentals and technique associated with carrying out the assignment are every bit as important as knowing the assignment. The really good coaches know this and understand that a play must be practiced over and over many times to be game ready.

You Can Only Teach So Much

Before anyone gets offended, we mean that all coaches have a limit to what they can get taught and if you are a youth football coach you must especially be aware of this before you start planning. Odds are that you have a day job and a family. Studying football is probably not your “main thing”.  Be realistic about this as you begin putting your playbook together.

Find a scheme that suits your personnel first and then choose a small simple set of plays or defenses that fit your team. Become an expert on this small set of plays or defenses so that when you get into practice or  a game you are prepared to confidently correct mistakes and adjust. If you have already over installed then just pull back some. All good coaches will reduce their call sheet when the team is not ready to run certain plays on it yet.

Also remember this, when you get to game day you will normally not be afforded the luxury of having a qualified coach in the press box who can talk to you on the headsets when something goes wrong. You must be able to see the problems from the field and correct them on the sideline! In some ways your job is harder than a high school or college football coach! So keep this in mind as you create your call sheet.

Allow For Adjustments







Imagine if you will that you are playing offensive line for this youth football team and your coach has done a tremendous job of drilling you on how to block this 2 Back G Lead run play vs a 6-2 defense on the left. The only problem is that when you get in the game your opponent is running a 5-3! The right Guard looks across from him and he sees no 2 technique because the other team has changed defenses! For a young player to make that adjustment without practice and simple thorough blocking rules is hard.

The point is that instead of adding more plays the coach will do his or her team more favors by preparing a handful of plays vs any look they might get in a game as opposed to adding a lot of plays that the team only understands vs one defense.

Your defense is not immune to this either. You can have the best defense in your league but if you cannot adjust to any formation that the opponent’s offense throws at you there will be problems. You are better off playing one or two defenses and being able to match up to any formation the offense throws at you.

Better To Grow Than Cutback But if You Need To Cutback…

Please allow us to close with this one last thought. If you have not started your practices yet, consider that you can always grow your playbook as the season progresses and when you are comfortable that your team has your base package down. It is better to grow your offense or defense than to have to cutback. As we mentioned above, if you have already started your practices and you recognize some of the things we have described in this article, by all means cutback!

We started this blog by saying that this is a consideration all coaches are faced with and you can bet that some NFL teams are cutting back some of their packages to get talented rookies on the field until the rookies have the entire system down. They are making the necessary adjustments to their volume as the season goes and as a youth football coach it is your job to do the same!

Want to read some of FirstDown PlayBook’s previous Youth Football Help articles? Here they are…

#1 It Ain’t About You Coach 

#2 Have A Practice Plan Coach!

#3 Get Your Kids To  “See” What You Mean 

#4 Good Coaches Teach Life Lessons Too

#5 Youth Football Practice Organization

#6 Coach With A Teaching Progression

FirstDown PlayBook is the only Digital Football PlayBook that gives you access to over thirty three thousand football plays, schemes and technique help all designed by coaches and players with NFL experience. FirstDown Playbook is also the official PlayBook resource of USA Football and Football Canada..

On January 6, 2019 FirstDown PlayBook is going to hand the chalk back to you, the coach. You will finally have the capability of editing our database of plays, which should be pushing 40,000 by then, as well as create your own plays. Want it first and for less? Bang on the football to your left to learn how.


FirstDown PlayBook is on TwitterFacebook, Youtube, Google+Instagram and Pinterest!