A consistent problem I hear about every season are coaches that have overwhelming success early only to falter late in the season to a superior team. So many of these guys have engineered very impressive turnarounds in their teams, only to fall just short of winning all the marbles. Why is this?
While a common thread of teams that don't perform well is that they run too many plays, and are running "plays" rather than an integrated offense, you can take it to the opposite extreme. I've heard from so many coaches that breeze through their first 10 games with 4 perfect plays, supremely executed and averaging 35 points a game, only to get shut down in that 11th game. You can get over reliant and overconfident when you are steamrolling teams with your base offense. Many times we get so overconfident; we think we will be able to run those base plays against anyone at will. Then when our teams finally don't have success with those base plays like they did in all their previous games, the team completely falls apart.
In many youth football games you can impose your will on your opponent or make slight adjustments in your base plays or techniques that will allow you to consistently move the chains. I'm a big fan of formationing and set adjustments to make the base work, but there are times when you are playing freakishly good teams that require something beyond the base or a few adjustments. I'm not a fan of is bringing in a separate offense in to attack teams like this. What does seem to work is being able to stress defenses like this both horizontally and vertically in maybe a slightly different way than you can with your base plays and with false keying. That means going beyond the base.
Unfortunately too many youth coaches fail to prepare their teams for just this situation and continue to pound their few core plays. While I'm not advocating that you stop the continuous repetition, refinement and perfection of the base, there is a happy medium ground. Some coaches may practice a few additional plays but hold back "showing" these plays in fear that their opponent will scout them and prepare for these plays. The problem with that type of strategy is the kids and even coaching staff often times won't have confidence in these plays because they haven't repped them heavily and haven't proved to themselves they can execute these plays in real games.
In order to go from 7-3 or 8-2 to 11-0 and winning championships is to get out of your comfort zone a bit and go beyond the base or at least stretch the base a bit. I just spoke to a youth coach from California who breezed through their first 6 games in their Spring League, scoring at will on wedge and 16 Power, that was about it. They averaged over 40 points a game in these blowout wins. They ran a very effective wedge and their execution of the Power and Sweep were outstanding, however they failed to perfect the Counter-43 Reverse and they were so dominant in their base, they didn't bother to invest much time in or even run 16 Pass or 18 Pass. When I watched film of the game they lost, sure the other team was chocked full or LA athletes, but the 16 Pass and 18 Pass were wide open against this 5-6th grade team. Combined with a 14 Power and a 14 Trap play and Nasty Tunnel 16 and this game should have ended as a blowout win and Championship for our friends team instead of a crushing loss.
You have to prepare your team for the next game as well as the last game. That means while you don't go beyond the base before you perfect it, you can start working on some of the fundamental skills you are going to need before the base is perfected. That means throwing and catching the football and things like having your linemen blocking in space. Running quick hitting, on the run, one read play action pass plays and trap plays do take a some time to perfect, but we aren't splitting atoms here. This isn't a 5 step drop back pass, throwing a 15 yard out pattern or zone blocking. These are plays that you can run effectively even with average players especially if you've mastered the base and you are blowing teams out on a consistent basis.
While there may be value in holding back a nuance for that big end of season game, there is danger in waiting that long as well. It doesn't mean you need to run every play in your playbook the same amount of times, but most plays need to be proven to the kids in games and scrimmages. Run the Spinner Series but hold back the 24 trap, run the Jet Series but hold back the Jet 43, run the Super Series but hold back the Super Omaha Pass. If you're afraid your new non base plays aren't going to work, wait until you are in one of those blowout wins and you are up by 2 touchdowns in the first quarter and it's 2nd down and 2 yards to go. There isn't much risk in running that new play then, all of us know when we have someone outclassed. What's better for your team in the long run, another 42-0 win running just the base or a proven expanded playbook, but you win 28-0? Last season there we scored on 2 of our first 3 plays, it was obvious we would be able to name the score in this one, so the next 12 offensive snaps were all pass plays for us. For the season we ended up with 18 touchdown passes including 2 in our last out state tournament championship game. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is not only the game in front of you, but the preparation you need to win the last game as well. We consider 16 Pass and 18 Pass to be part of the base offense that helps open up 16, 18, 43 and even 32, don't neglect to put them in, we've had great success with those plays all the way down to our age 7-9 kids. A close cousin is 14 Trap, 14 Power and adjustments like Nasty Tunnel as well.
Now is the time to look closer at why you lost the games you did last season. What limited you? Was a team keying your 3? You need to work on Wrong/G, put in the Burst Series and 14 Trap. Did you have a player on the outside shoulder of your Power Tackle? You need to add in 14 Trap, 14 Power and "Special." Were teams loading up to stop your wedge? You need to threaten the edges to take them away from the play with Spinner 32 Wedge, Mouse 32 Wedge, Mouse 22 Wedge, Rocket 32 Wedge or even run 16 Wedge or 16 Wedge Pass. Were they following your Right Guard? You need to work on "no", 14 Trap or 24 Iso. Were they loading up the 6 hole? You need to run 16 Pass Far/Blue, 43, 31, Omaha Pass or even the Buck Series.
Winning Youth Football Books and DVDs
Being Over Reliant And Overconfident With Your Base Plays
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