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Tips On Aggressive Defense

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Great stuff on this website, I am a 1st year FF coach learning the ropes.

I coach a 7-9 year old I9 League and my son is one of the players. I have 10 players on the team - 5 are solid athlete's - they are fast, good hands, good moves and get the game of football, 2 are average (they try and I get 100% from them) and 1 is below average (they try and I get 100% from them) and the other 2 don't want to be there, its obvious (its very hard to get them into the game). I am doing a decent job of getting all the kids on the field and putting them in position to succeed so we are 3-2 this season so far.

One of the 5 "solid" kids play with reckless abandon, he puts it out there on every play, will sacrifice his body for a pick or a pull and I am trying to find ways to teach the other kids to play that way on defense.

My son is one of the solid kids on the team, he is a very smart player and always around the ball but has trouble making that final move to get in there and break up a pass or make the pull. Some games he's on and some he's not.

The lesser talented kids on the team really lack the speed and knowledge of the game so they usually get beat with moves or let the offense get behind them. My focus with them is to just get them in position to slow the offense down so the more talented kids can make the pulls or picks.

Our offense is pretty good, we score alot of points and have lost our two games by 6 points and 1 point. Our wins have been by 20+ points.

I am looking for advice to get our better players to be more aggressive on D as they have the skill to make the plays, they just can't close the deal sometimes. Our lesser players are making strides as we practice D alot in practice. The 2 kids who don't want to be there are a problem and I just have to try to work them into the game. Its unfortunate because I don't like to see kids "forced" into situation like this, especially in the fast-paced game of flag football.

Thanks Guys!

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Hi there! First off, welcome to the joyous fun of coaching youth football!

For my own part, I strongly recommend teaching them technique and positional duties before worrying about aggression. What I've done is focus on teaching them what they need to do in order to do their jobs - set the outside edge, don't let any offensive player run deep past you, etc. Impressing the urgency of aggression can come later, but that technique is necessary all the time.

Case in point - I've got a good group of kids this season - some who are very athletic, some who are pretty good, some who aren't that athletic, and one kid who is really having trouble (first time playing). I focused our early practices on the importance of what I told them were the two most important rules: Rule #1, Listen to your coaches; Rule #2, Do Your Job. Some had heard this before, and they helped to bring the others along with them, and I watched the team develop. Fundamentals were taught, and stressed, repeatedly.

First half of the season we were undefeated, but there were some really close games. Some games shouldn't have been close, but, as I told the kids, we only had a few mental errors, we just had them repeatedly. I would cheer loudly whenever one of the kids did his job even close to well, and repeat instruction with encouragement when someone missed an assignment.

These last three games (last two especially), I've had my lesser athletes step up, and do their jobs right. We play 8 on 8, so there's a difference in set up, but it all falls to essentially the same thing - defensive ends/corners set the edge, d-line doesn't let anyone through them, safeties don't let anyone beat them deep. We're still undefeated, but lately the games aren't even close. My slower kids still aren't fast, but they do what they need to do, forcing runners back inside or backpedaling early or what have you. In the past two games, only one runner has managed to get to the sideline, and nobody passes deep against my kids. It's not me - it's them, they're really playing team.

Another key that helps with technique and aggression - and builds a team mentality - is to encourage talking between the players. Have them communicate constantly. Reverses, crossing patterns, slants - they're not easy to defend one on one, but easier to defend when players are talking with each other. Plus there's an added bonus that sometimes it freaks the other team out, which is cool.

I hope this helps some, and good luck. And again, welcome to the fraternity of coaching!

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I can tell you that having aggressive players on defense is awesome. Some kids show up with it and some I try to get it out of them. From what I can tell, the ones that did not play aggressively were the ones that feared contact. And I know flag football is a non-contact sport, but you do have to get physical to some extent. Some kids don't like to do that. Case in point, I had one kid who was fast, good hands, could read pretty well. He should have made a great safety. But what would happen in games is that the ball would go deep, he'd be in position to make the play, and he'd stay back and let the receiver make the catch in front of him. What I wanted him to do was stick his hand in there or jump in front of the receiver.

So how do you get kids to be more physical? What I tried to do, which I think worked to some extent was expose them to it in practice. To work with the above example I'd place him in coverage, run a receiver in his direction and throw a ball up from grabs. I'd encourage, instruct, cajole, whatever I thought would work. But I'd do it over and over so that he'd know what it's like. It's like a boxer, once he takes a bunch of punches he knows what it feels like and doesn't fear it as much. The flag pulling drill is another example of how to get the kids more aggressive. I'd even give them some handsy techniques where they'd bump the other kids to get them to play more physical.

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