youth-football-action
Author: Richard Bridgeo
Originally Published: November 15, 2004

I think my approach to youth football is a little different from other guys. I believe the key to success in youth sports comes through having your players concentrating on the game and taking their own responsibility for success. How many times in games have you seen kids just standing there taking a play off or half-heartedly going through the motions? They do this because there is no responsibility placed directly on them for their actions. Kids are so used to having adults tell them what to do, that it permeates into their games too. I know my kids don’t always do things the first time I tell them to, but if I hold it over their heads and tell them something like, “We’re not going to the mall until you finish vacuuming.” You bet they’ll vacuum!

I use a similar approach to football. Why send a play into the huddle where the only ones who hear it are the quarterback and the kid who is going to get the ball? It is their game so let them make the decisions and determine their own success. The way we do things, when the tailback comes to the line of scrimmage, everyone listens intently for the play. Then they run it. The tailback knows he is responsible for his decision and will make the maximum effort to insure its success. Everybody else hears the play call seconds before its start and has to quickly recall their assignment. If someone screws up, they get an earful from their teammates. With that kind of minutiae going on, everyone is going to focus into the game. On the other hand maybe it will be the defense who is spacing out. The bottom line is we only have 4 or 5 plays, how can we really screw it up? If the tailback was not making the call I would be making a call by chance, or by what I think I see.

Plays not included on our play sheet are pass plays. We have several but passes are off-limits for the tailback to call, otherwise they would just pass on every down! If the team gets into a jam, down and distance-wise, then I’ll send in something off the bench via either signal or messenger.

We do not punt. We play four downs all over the field. If we get stopped inside our own 10-yard line, we will take an intentional safety and free kick from our own 20.

I once read that in football 70% of all long gainers (gains over 20 yards long) occur from plays run to the wide side of the field as opposed to the “boundary”. Hence, we always line up with our strong side and run our base play to the “field”. One season our base play was “7 Sweep”. We’ve read about the success of the sweep in youth football. This was a no-brainer: run sweep to the wide side of the field as your base play. On another occasion we lacked speed and used the “6 Tailback Power” as our base play that season.

The No-Huddle Offense

When most people think of football they think of the offensive team going into a huddle where the quarterback calls a play. Once the play is called, the team breaks out of the huddle into a formation, the quarterback calls the signals, and the play is run.

In the no-huddle offense the huddle is merely replaced by a base formation from which the quarterback, or in our case, the tailback reads the defensive alignment and calls the play at the line of scrimmage. In essence, the base formation is the huddle and the play is called in coded speech, or what is known as an “audible”. To some people it may sound risky and radical, but it is not. Actually, it is very easy and straight forward.

This is how it is done. The tailback stands in shotgun position, a position five yards behind the football and signals to the team the formation to line up in. Since we only have two formations — wide left and wide right, this is not difficult. The tailback looks to see where the wider side of the field is and then signals the formation to the team by pointing with his arm to line up to the wide side, either wide left if the wider side of the field is to the left, or wide right if the wider side is to the right. Once the team is set, under normal conditions, they play is always “6 Tailback Power”. The tailback yells any two numbers except “13″ and then the cadence, “Ready-Set-Go!”. The snap is always on “Set-Go!”.

However, there are times when we want to charge the play. Later we will discuss this issue in further detail. However, it is very simple. After the team lines up and before the tailback begins the cadence, he looks at the defense and counts the defensive players to the short side of the snapper. If he sees four or more defenders, then it is safe to run the play, “6 Tailback Power”. If he sees less than four, he yells “99″. “99″ is the signal, or audible, for the backfield to shift. The tailback waits for all the backs to shift to the other side then on “Set-Go!” the tailback takes the snap and runs “6 Tailback Power” in the other direction.

After a while, even the dumbest team will realize that when we shift the plays goes in the other direction, so it is likely that they will shift over when they see us shift. When that happens, instead of of call “99″, the tailback yells, “13-4″. “13″ is the hot number or signal that we are changing the play and “4″ indicates that the play is changed to “4 Reverse”. Then on “Set-Go!” the team runs “4 Reverse” instead.

Some teams might not take such a radical approach in adjusting to our unbalanced line. Some teams might just position one or more players to stop “6 Tailback Power” at the point of attack. In that case, most of the time it will either be the defensive tackle or linebacker. Whenever a tackle lines up on our outside tackle or a linebacker lines up on our tight end, the play should be changed to “2 Blast”.

We can also audible to change the snap count. Since the snap count is always on “Set-Go!” to change it to “2″ (”Set-Go-Go!”) the tailback yells out any day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc.). That is the signal that the snap count has been changed to “Set-Go-Go!”.

How to Read the Defense

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The defense lines up wrong when they line up on the snapper. They only have seven defenders to the right of the snapper and we have eight blockers. Count them.

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When the defense lines up correctly they have only three defenders to the left of the snapper. When this happens we should call “99″ (shift). Now we have five blockers to only 3 defenders.

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If the defense shifts when we shift, then “4 Reverse” should be called.

The Running Plays

Here are the plays we run. They are shown from wide right formation, but we also will use wide left formation as well.

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Richard Bridgeo