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Youth Flag Football


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#1 Orange

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 12:40 PM

I'm coaching my son's flag football team and I think I have a decent idea of what's going on. But I was wondering if anyone can offer additional insight

The team is a 7-8 year old team. The basic rules are 6-on-6, kid quarterback, qb cannot run, defense can rush after 10 second count.

I coached the same group of kids at the lower level and it was coach quarterback. So this is a big step for them and us coaches allowing the kids to qb. I do have one challenge. Both of my assistants are insiting that I pick 1-2 quarterbacks and stick with them. That goes against my idea of playing maybe 4-6 quarterbacks, probably not 6 in any given game but definitely 3-4 per game. My idea is to have 2-3 that will do more of the passing but the others can take snaps and handoff. I was told that one of the other teams is putting everyone into positions and having the kids tryout for spots. Heck, I want everyone to play everything. During the game I'll make sure that my key stoppers are in position when it counts but I was wanting to have everyone play everything. Thoughts?

My offensive gameplan is pretty simple, keep the ball moving forward. I have two basic runs and some basic quick passes. From what I can see, any kind of long passes or drop back passing is unrealstic. I have my qb either rolling out or hitting some very quick slants and curls.

On defense we ran man-to-man all last season. But with the kids as quarterback it makes much more sense to me to play zone. I'm curious what other people have experienced. My idea is to have 2 cbs in the flats, 2 safties splitting the field deep, one lineman on the center and a mlb. I want my cbs and safeties to stay home and my lineman and mlb to follow the ball side to side.

Give me your thoughts please. I'm most curious as to what kinds of defenses we should expect to see.

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#2 Orange

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 03:58 PM

Well, no replies. :o

We had our first game and we were quite successful. We ran our zone defense and after giving up an early TD, we got stingy picking the ball off 3 times and getting the ball back on downs once. I found that our zone was solid but that when they got close to our endzone I switched to man-to-man. Also later in the game I could see that they were throwing to the same two kids. I had two of my players go man-to-man on them and kept everyone else in a zone.

The other team ran a man-to-man defense. We had little trouble moving the ball and only got stopped once when we ran out of time in the half. We threw only short passes and had no interceptions. Our old classic end around that served us well last year was again the best play. I was able to work in 3 quarterbacks, two of them throwing TD passes.

#3 Coach Rob

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 04:36 PM

Well, no replies. Posted Image

We had our first game and we were quite successful. We ran our zone defense and after giving up an early TD, we got stingy picking the ball off 3 times and getting the ball back on downs once. I found that our zone was solid but that when they got close to our endzone I switched to man-to-man. Also later in the game I could see that they were throwing to the same two kids. I had two of my players go man-to-man on them and kept everyone else in a zone.

The other team ran a man-to-man defense. We had little trouble moving the ball and only got stopped once when we ran out of time in the half. We threw only short passes and had no interceptions. Our old classic end around that served us well last year was again the best play. I was able to work in 3 quarterbacks, two of them throwing TD passes.


Congrats on getting through the first game, sounds like you guys did great. I'll throw in my 2 cents on the qb controversy, since I live in Denver and we recently experienced one with the Broncos. Posted Image

My opinion on 7/8 yr olds is that you should allow them all to play different positions whatever the sport. Guess it depends upon your personal philosophy and the degree of competitiveness in your league, but I'm all about letting the kids play and have fun.

A few seasons ago during one of my b-ball games, I challenged the kids to pass it 100 times in a game for a special prize at the end. The other team killed us on scoring baskets, but the kids on our team were stoked about how many passes they'd made. When they hit 100, you would have thought they'd just won the championship game.

It's taken a lot of discipline to stay with my philosophy of emphasizing passing over scoring and making sure all the kids get plenty of ball touches (we track ball touches every couple of games or so). Now we're down the road with a few more seasons under our belt and these guys are amazing little passers, which I know will be a huge building block for future seasons to come. I run into so many teams where 1 or 2 kids are the "hotshots" and their teammates end up virtually watching the game instead of playing an active role on the team.

I know this is a bit off topic for Flag Football, however, I've found that the underlying principles of making sure all the kids play different positions, making sure fundamentals are emphasized before scoring and most important of all, making sure the kids are having fun apply to all sports at this age.

Coach Rob
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#4 Orange

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 09:13 AM

My philosophy is similar, I want all the kids to have fun and be able to try the different positions. I spoke at length with my assistant coach and it turns out his ideas are not that different from mine. We have 11 kids on the team and there are only 2 of them that have limited skills (both are a whole year younger too). His idea was more geared towards them, having them specialize in something simpler that they can do well. It will give them more satisfaction due to more success and let them concentrate on a small number of tasks (the other kids being older and more proficient can handle many more assignments). We'll incorporate them in all the other aspects of practice of course, but we'll give them some easy plays designed just for them (we'll call it our secret plays or something, they'll love it). We've also found that only 3-4 kids really want to play qb, so that problem solved itself.

One of the big problems we encountered during the game is that on every play, everyone is open and wants the ball. My assistant calls the plays in the huddle on offense and he said it was really bothering him as he was bombarded by chatter while he's trying to call the play. It was the same last season and I witnessed it in the huddle too. At tonights practice I'm going to institute my "no asking for the ball plan." Any player who asks for the ball, tells us he was open, why don't you pass it to me, etc., will be taken out of the game for a minimum of two plays. I'm going to impliment it our scrimmage and hopefully it will eliminate the problem.

It got so bad that one of our players was moping and crying on the sideline because he wanted the ball. Of course he caught several passes during the game but he wanted more. We have a lot of kids that can catch and run well, plus we move the ball quickly downfield so we have fewer possessions to spread around. Some players only get one touch (I make sure everyone gets at least one), while if someone gets 3-4 that's a lot on our team. It's a good problem to have so many capable players but some of my kids need to be broken of this whining habit.

#5 Coach Rob

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 03:02 PM

It got so bad that one of our players was moping and crying on the sideline because he wanted the ball. Of course he caught several passes during the game but he wanted more. We have a lot of kids that can catch and run well, plus we move the ball quickly downfield so we have fewer possessions to spread around. Some players only get one touch (I make sure everyone gets at least one), while if someone gets 3-4 that's a lot on our team. It's a good problem to have so many capable players but some of my kids need to be broken of this whining habit.

Something that has helped us is having one of our team parents track ball touches, passes, etc. for b-ball and soccer. In between subs, I can do a quick check to see who isn't getting the ball or who needs to take more shots and make changes on the fly during a game. The stats also help the kids and parents see the real deal, memories run short after the game is over. Football is a different animal than b-ball and soccer, but there might be some stats that would be worth tracking.
-CRob

#6 Coach Rob

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 11:46 PM

I'm coaching my son's flag football team and I think I have a decent idea of what's going on. But I was wondering if anyone can offer additional insight.


I will be co-coaching my son (along with the rest of our current b-ball team) next month for flag football. Most of the kids have played soccer and b-ball together for about 3 yrs now, but this will be our first time in the flag football arena. Rules will be similar to what you described.

We have an opportunity to go watch a few indoor flag football games before our season starts, but quite frankly, I have no clue how this will look. I'm sure once I see a game; it will be obvious how much a 7/8 yr old can grasp. I gather from your post that any kind of drop back pass or complicated running plays (i.e. reverse) would be stretching things.

We plan on allowing all the kids to rotate in at qb, running back and wide receivers. No clue on defense if man to man or zone would be better. Looking to see how your season is going and any tips that would help us start out on the right track.

Any place online to grab some basic flag football practice drills you'd recommend?

Coach R
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#7 Orange

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 04:27 PM

I can give you LOTS of good advice. Probably more than you'd care to hear! Posted Image

DEFENSE:

There are 6 teams in our league and we've played 4 of them already. We're the only one that runs a zone defense, all the others run man-to-man. We've given up no more than one touchdown in each game (actually we've given up exactly one td each game). Against our opponents we've scored 5, 3, 4 and 2 tds. I feel that the zone is easy to understand for them although man defense is a little easier. You can go with either but I really prefer zone.

Either way you have to focus on two things in practice: Pulling flags and swarming to the ball. Missed flags are the biggest reason teams give up tds. The second reason is that once a flag is missed the other kids are standing around watching (because they expected the other player to pull his flag). We spend no less than 15 minutes each practice on defense (far more than anyone else). I run the same drills for defense. They consist of:

Movement drills> I form two lines and have them bend their knees and keep their arms up and move side to side, backpedal some, etc. Same as in bball. During this drill I'll sometimes hold a ball in my hand and after a while yell swarm! Then all the kids have to run to the ball. I'll watch for stragglers and call them out. I used to do this far more last year but with all the same players they dont need to do the swarm drill too much.

Flag pulling> I form a line of kids, each with a flag on and a ball. One kid (the defender) stands inside a rectangle and waits. The line goes one by one versus the defender. They have to stay in the rectangle. After the line completes then I switch defenders, each kid gets a turn. There are several things to look for during this drill. Make sure the offensive guy is not flag guarding or anything. For the defender the hardest thing to do is get positioning. Let me explain. The defender should be trying to do two things 1) pull the flag (obvious) but 2) slow down the runner. Sometimes you get what I call the "matador" pull, kind of like when a matador whips his cape past the bull. If you pull flags like a matador then if you miss he's still going full speed. So I'll vary the flag pulling drill without flags. The defender simply has to move in front of the runner and slow him down. That way the defender can focus on blocking him instead of the flags.

Strategy> I usually spend a few minutes talking about angles of pursuit and what the various positions are responsible for. I'll walk them through scenarios we've seen in game and discuss with them how to handle it.

As I'm writing this I realize I don't even have any drill for coverage. I ran some coverage drills last year but with a zone and the kids experience we really don't need it.

At the end of practice we scrimmage and I look for flag pulling technique, swarming and staying in position. I'm constantly offering advice, critiquing, helping them improve.

#8 Orange

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 04:41 PM

As for ZONE, here's some reasons why I like it. The biggest reason is that all my defenders can watch the qb and the backfield. In man coverage you're turned around trying to follow your guy.

Our guys can sit back into coverage and it's easy for them to make interceptions. They're in an area and I tell them to watch the qbs eyes. 7-8 year olds DO NOT look off their receivers. We pick off 2+ passes per game and we either score on the int or get great field position. In contrast we've only had one pass picked off in 4 games (that's partly due to my offensive philosophy too). In our league when the ball turns over on downs or after a score you start at your own 5. IF you intercept you get the ball at the spot so it's a great advantage to intercept.

Against runs, your defenders are watching the backfield and can see the runs coming. I put my two lbs on the line about 5 yards left and right of the center. We stuff runs big time. Also the corners stay home so reverses and misdirection are less likely to work against us. Against a man defense a reverse is deadly because kids bite hard on it.

A good qb can pick apart a zone because there are many holes in coverage. I've only seen one 7-8 year old so far that was accurate enough that I had to switch to a partial zone-man (that was our first game). And then we still only gave up one td and picked him off 3 times.

#9 Orange

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 05:03 PM

OFFENSE:

I'm rewriting a bunch of my plays and refocusing my offense this week. My overall philosophy is to keep the passes very short and run. That's not changing. What I need to change is to have more misdirection and incorporate some of things that worked better and some of the things that didn't work. When you drop back a 7-8 year old and have him throw downfield you get too many incompletes and interceptions. Completion percentages are too low to be worth it. Sure we'll chuck it sometimes we get a good matchup but not often.

If you want I can email you our plays which I should have later this week.

First off we line up in the same formation every play. Other teams use all kinds of formations but my team never changes. We had two wideouts, two slots a center and a qb. Many of the teams use kids in the backfield as running backs but not us. It's too easy to see the run coming. We run end arounds and delays to the center. Some will load up a side which is an obvious charade for a run to the open side, not us. We create open sides by clearing out receivers on their routes.

Our best play has been our center drag. It's very basic. The center snaps the ball and takes two steps forward and then turns 90 degrees. The qb takes the snap and begins running parallel to the line of scrimmage. The center has to keep pace with the qb. They run about 5-7 yards sideways and the qb tosses the ball to the center. It's a pass on the run but it's like a 3 yard pass so it's near impossible to miss. The center catches it on the run which is key because he takes his momentum and keeps going. The receivers on the side of the play have routes that clear them out of the area. Therefore when the center gets there he only has to beat his man in a sprint. We call this without fail on all short yardage plays.

I'm not going to go into all my plays but that illustrates how we keep it simple and easy but are very effective. We have variations off that play too like a fake end around that preceeds the center drag and a play that begins as a center drag then reverses direction with the slot receiver for a slot drag going the other way. Also, I found that teams began keying on our end around (our basic run) so I'm putting a fake end around on several other plays so the defense will have lots of things to look at.

#10 Coach Rob

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 11:37 PM

WoW! Really appreciate the detailed answer; this will save me a ton of headaches down the road. I'll probably hit you up with an e-mail for those plays if you're okay with that.

Sounds like you have some 7-8's that have played flag football before; I'm concerned because 90% of our team as never played. Most of them are awesome b-ball and soccer players, so I'm hoping those athletic skills will transfer over.

Again, thanks for taking the time to write all that out, this is exactly what I was looking for.

CR
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#11 Orange

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 09:02 AM

WoW! Really appreciate the detailed answer; this will save me a ton of headaches down the road. I'll probably hit you up with an e-mail for those plays if you're okay with that.

Sounds like you have some 7-8's that have played flag football before; I'm concerned because 90% of our team as never played. Most of them are awesome b-ball and soccer players, so I'm hoping those athletic skills will transfer over.

Again, thanks for taking the time to write all that out, this is exactly what I was looking for.

CR

Well, I could go on and on. Let me know if you want the plays and how to send them to you.

I believe stongly that misdirection and isolation is the way to go for offense. I want to put the ball into my players hands and have them running downfield. Good things happen when your kid is carrying the ball full speed. Incomplete passes and especially interceptions are very bad things so we design plays to minimize that.

Taking a step back and looking at some things other teams did against us:

One team did a double reverse. The first time they did it the kids ran into each other and the one who got the second handoff busted his lip and began cying. They lost yards. They ran it again later and it gained a few yards but my guys stayed home. I feel like the double reverse is a very risky play because if it works well it could gain big but with 7-8 year olds, you're asking a lot (several handoffs while running).

Another team had two halfbacks behind the qb in a pro formation. They faked a handoff to the first rb and gave to the second one the other way. This one worked against us because my lbs both bit on the fake. But once my kids saw it, it didn't work again.

Other teams run end arounds like we do and it only works (against us) when you have an exceptional runner who is very fast and can make people miss. Last game they gave the handoff on an end around and the kid took it and immediately went back the other way. This worked because we overpursued it. A few games ago with little time left I placed my defense in a prevent zone and the other team ran the end around. They gave it to their best kid and because he had time to turn the corner (we were too far back) and get to full speed it was almost a td if we didn't save it with a timely flag pull. Lesson learned was to keep defenders at the line of scrimmage.

I've only seen one team pass well. I think the key for the qb is to take his time and wait for someone to get open. But even that team threw 2-3 interceptions against us. Long passes become ducks and its so much easier to intercept when you're facing the qb like we do in the zone.

As for passing, don't expect that the kids will run patterns with any sort of consistency. Your well drawn up play will look like shambles in about 5 seconds. That's why we try to isolate a receiver so even if he alters his pattern he should be by himself with only one defender. Also thats why we stick to very short passes mostly. I say mostly because we have 2 kids who can throw it very far and maybe 3-4 kids who can possibly catch a long pass. We'll sometimes see a favorable matchup with one of our deep threat receivers and send him long but the catch ratio is still low even when the ball nails him in the numbers. Of course it's always fun to hook up on a bomb.

Haha, one more piece of advice I just thought of:

I have drawn up all the plays on paper, two to a page, front and back. During the huddle I kneel with the play in hand facing away from the line of scrimmage. All the kids in the huddle are facing the line of scrimmage. I point to each position and call out a kids name so that they can visualize which position and direction they'll be running while looking at the play. I think this makes it easier for them to understand where they are and which way to run.

#12 Orange

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 08:19 AM

Coach Rob,

I emailed you our plays. Let me know if you received them.

#13 Coach Rob

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 12:22 PM

Coach Rob,

I emailed you our plays. Let me know if you received them.


Got them, really appreciate it. Sent you back an e-mail.
-CRob

#14 Orange

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Posted 19 February 2007 - 01:47 PM


Coach Rob,

I emailed you our plays. Let me know if you received them.


Got them, really appreciate it. Sent you back an e-mail.

Your email must have been placed in my spam folder. Can you resend it?

I coached the offense this past game and my tweaks to the plays REALLY helped. We could not be stopped on any possession. Also, I tried a new defense that seemed to work very well.

I'll highlight what really worked on offense:

In the huddle I knelt down facing the line of scrimmage. I had all the kids stand behind me such that they were also facing the line of scrimmage. I'd hold up the play towards the line of scrimmage such that they could all see it over my shoulder. Then I pointed to each position and named the kid who'd run it. I tended to keep kids in the same position from play to play and that helped them. I'd usually highlight certain things.

The other thing that really worked well was when my quarterback dragged (or rolled) along the line of scrimmage. The reason it works is because the defense usually places 1-2 kids over the center and dragging leaves them trailing behind the play. If the qb just takes the snap and stands there then he has to contend with those kids in his face and has to throw around them. Also, when the qb drags with the receiver it shortens the distance of the throw. Most of our passes are under 5 yards.

The final thing that really helped our offense this week was an emphasis on proper patterns. We had gotten to a point of assuming everyone knew how far and how to run each pattern. In reality we were getting 11 different versions of the same pattern from 11 kids. So we drilled them and instructed them in patterns over and over. ALSO, and most importantly, for our drag plays and shuffle passes, we instructed them to only run 1-2 steps beyond the line of scrimmage. Throughout the season our kids were running them further and further until it was finally like a 10 yard pass, not at all what we intended. That little 2 step drag play was magical, and we ran it with the center and slot guys.

My final thought is that we ran a brand new formation. We overloaded the left side with all 4 receivers. From this we ran 4 different plays that all worked. The man defense was thoroughly confused with this one probably more so because of the novelty of it.

On defense:

We had been runnning a standard cover 2 zone. We'd place 2 corners close to the line of scrimmage over the wideouts, two lbs on the line of scrimmage about 5 yards left and right of center, and 2 safeties deep over the middle. This week I switched. I noticed that the corners were too wide to be effective. I'd keep telling them to move towards the middle. So I tried a cover 3 zone. This time I placed 3 safeties back deep. At the line of scrimmage I put one over the center and 2 kids on the line over the slot receivers. It provided us with good coverage and we still stopped the run well. I don't think anyone throws outside to the wideouts, they usually just run them deep on posts anyway or ins over the middle.

#15 Coach Rob

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Posted 06 March 2007 - 06:29 PM

I'll be starting my flag football season in another couple of weeks. As I mentioned before, several of my kids have never played flag football, however, they've played two-three years of soccer and b-ball together as a team. I've reviewed your plays (great job and thanks for sending them to me) and your defensive schemes. I took my son to watch a couple of indoor 7/8 flag games and have a pretty good idea of how things flow; looked like controlled chaos at times. You're right on the long passes; none were completed during the games I watched. One thing I did notice is that the center was almost always open for that 3-4 yd pass you talked about. Couple of questions still:

I'm going to try and practice a few times before our "first scheduled" practice which is the same day as our game. What would you emphasis during practice? I'm sure it won't take too long for me to figure out who can throw and catch, but I'm anticipating that I'll need to go over some of the basics of catching and throwing. During your practices how much time was spent on drills and how much on running plays/scrimmages? I'm trying to get a mental picture, which I'm sure will be clear after our first game, of what I should focus on given the 1 hour to practice time. Looking for those things that will give me the most impact during a game.

From watching the games and my own research, it seems that some basic things to emphasize would be:

-Stay on your feet when catching a ball or flag pulling.
-Swarm the flag.
-Keep running when you have the ball and someone pulls at your flag, don't slow down and look to see if they pulled it. Only stop when you hear a whistle.
-Watch the ball into your hands.
_????

We play 5 v 5, so it seems the best defense is a 2 1 2 zone. You can have a pass rusher from 7 yards out and that seemed to be the norm with the teams we watched. So, I'm thinking a 2 1 2 is the way to go.

Looking for some drills to make this fun and teach practical skills that can be used in the game.

Also wondering how you made the decision to switch players? Since we'll have 10, I'm assuming you pick 5 on a team and let them play X amount of minutes, then switch? During b-ball they stop play every 4 minutes to allow for subs.

Thanks!

CRob
-CRob