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footballfan

Fundamentals

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Hey guys! I am coaching my son's flag football team for the first time this year. It's 4 and 5 year olds and thanks to this forum, I feel pretty confident about our game plan. Make things fun, use games/drills to learn the basics: running till the whistle blows, not looking down, how to pull a flag, learning to stay in bounds. My question is: What is the proper way to teach a snap, how to hold the ball, etc. I know this year will be a lot of semi-organized chaos, but I want to make sure I am setting the groundwork for years to come and I don't want to teach any bad habits. Thanks- any advice is appreciated! We are YMCA 8-8.

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Hey guys! I am coaching my son's flag football team for the first time this year. It's 4 and 5 year olds and thanks to this forum, I feel pretty confident about our game plan. Make things fun, use games/drills to learn the basics: running till the whistle blows, not looking down, how to pull a flag, learning to stay in bounds. My question is: What is the proper way to teach a snap, how to hold the ball, etc. I know this year will be a lot of semi-organized chaos, but I want to make sure I am setting the groundwork for years to come and I don't want to teach any bad habits. Thanks- any advice is appreciated! We are YMCA 8-8.

At your kids age dropped snaps will be commonplace. One way to cure, or at least minimize it will be to always take the snap under center (don't even consider shotgun) and two, follow my simple plan which we still use at our level, 10 & under. The center holds the ball and lifts it through his legs and backwards. The most important part is to teach the center to hold the ball there and not release it. I tell my centers to hold the ball in that position as long as it takes, do not move or let go. The QB reaches forward and grabs the ball. We reduced our fumbled snaps to almost zero by using this technique, even at a much younger age.

The reason we do it this way is that I found the center would throw it back or do the motion and drop it, etc. I also realize that this is not the technique that is used in tackle football. But to me that technique is not necessary in the lower levels of flag football. A good habit to get into is for the QB to bend his knees such that he can survey the field when preparing to take the snap. I don't like to see the QB bent over at the waist leaning forward towards the ball because they can't see what's going on. You can teach them this, the QB has to get closer to the center and squat a little, but try to teach that good habit early.

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Good advice - thanks!

From your experience- any tips to make it easier to stay in bounds, learn how to hand-off the ball and run through and or past defenders.

Based upon practicing with my twin sons- they don't grasp the concept of sweeping behind the QB for the hand-off. They also want to

run the other way when we play defense with them. I know it will take time, but I sure don't need to reinvent the wheel if you have drills

or coaching points that helped teach these concepts. Thanks.

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Whew! 4-5 yr olds huh? I'd tend to come up with some fun ways to teach the concepts you're trying to get across. Maybe telling them if they go out of bounds they're in the hot lava. Any kid who doesn't get in the hot lava during practice gets a prize at the end (some hot candy, etc.).

Back in the day, I used to ask my younger players what their favorite thing was in the whole world and whatever that was, I told them to pretend it was in the endzone. So, when we called the play in the huddle, I'd tell the RB..."You run like there's a giant pepperoni and chocolate covered pizza at the other end of the field!"

Same with handoffs. Make the football something they wouldn't want to drop.

Running north/south. Show the kids what you don't want them to do. Grab a ball and start to run downfield, when your assistant comes to get you, do the funky chicken dance. Then show them the right way. Tell the kids they can dance at home, not on the field.

The kids will get a bit goofy with these concepts, but if you keep the practice moving and use a few keywords like "hot lava", "pizza" or reminding them you don't want any "funky chickens" out there today! It comes in handy during a real game.

Handoffs. Maybe start off having your RBs closer to the QB. I've seen some coaches teach the QB to hold the ball out so the RB comes by and takes it. It will probably boil down to lots of reps in practice, teaching the RB to give a big target for the QB. Make a BIG deal out of every handoff done correctly.

Running by defenders or upfield- (this also helps with the out of bounds concept). Run a drill with an alleyway lined with cones. Alleyway isn't very wide - maybe 10-15 yards wide (adjust as needed). 2-3 defenders are lined up in the middle a few yds behind each other. Have a coach or QB handoff ball to RB who runs straight ahead towards the defenders into alleyway. If their flag is pulled or they go out of bounds they're done. Emphasize not looking down even if they feel contact, running straight ahead and fast. If someone makes it through to the end by running straight, hard and fast you make a HUGE deal out of it. It's a great drill for practicing handoffs, pulling flags, staying in bounds and learning to run north/south.

At this age making a BIG deal out of any small accomplishment is the ticket. Get excited when someone takes a good handoff or runs straight ahead. Keep it fun! Stay out of the lava and no funky chickens!

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I am setting the groundwork for years to come and I don't want to teach any bad habits.

I think you've nailed it here. 4-5 is a terrific age to coach. It will be most of the players' first team sport, and quite often it's more exciting for the parents than the kids. ;-) Last season when my son and I showed up to our games early, we'd watch the 4-5 games over our own division we enjoyed it so much. Be prepared for lots of wheels off football (players running the wrong way, running for TDs after their flag is taken, etc.).

I think you'll also find that at this age there will be one or two players on every team that are simply head and shoulders above the other players. 99% of the TDs are scored by these players. Most plays are simply a foot race.

We play 8 vs 8 also. Defensively, I'd stick at least three guys deep on every play (one of the right, the left, and the middle). This will contain the "elite" player(s) on the other team that the majority of your players cannot stop--as at this age--fast, skilled players hit the hole before other players even know what happened.

As you mentioned, fundamentals is your primary goal. Focus on getting in a huddle, learning plays, snapping the ball, executing plays, swarming to the ball on defense (kids won't fully comprehend a "zone" at this age IMO). As for "techniques", just go with what you know. "Run where they aren't" is what I used preach.

If you find your players are astute at picking up what you are teaching--challenge them with more responsibilities. With 8 on 8 you have a lot of moving parts on offense you can use to get the defense leaning in a certain direction. If you get creative, you can have a LOT of fun tricking 4-5 year olds on defense. ;-)

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