"Must Dos" When Coaching Youth Football
One of the most common problems many young offensive lines struggle with is getting aligned properly. Unfortunately many youth football coaches take for granted the kids will align in a timely and orderly fashion. In reality many don't, the players have to be instructed and trained on doing what many would think is fairly intuitive. In youth football you can never assume anything, we instruct and practice everything, including the coin toss.
One of the many problems I see in most poorly coached youth football teams is linemen that do not have proper splits. The poor linemen on these inept teams come out of the huddle as a group and try to get aligned all at one time. You see kids pushing each other down the line trying to make more room for themselves. Sometimes you see some of the weaker linemen in very narrow stances because the player to his outside just refuses to move wider to give the weaker player room to get into a descent stance. We all know what a very narrow stance does for your balance and explosive first step, it kills it. In other cases you have kids lined too far to the outside, creating wider gaps than your offense is designed for. Nothing like having a player aligned 2 yards wider than he should be when his assignment is to down block or pull to the other side of the formation.
The solution is very simple and many youth coaches use this method. If you are huddling, send your center out early so he can get himself aligned to the ball and his feet set to the proper width. If you call your football plays in the huddle by repeating them, have the center leave after the quarterback has called the play the first time. In most cases your center is one of your smarter kids and doesn't need to hear the play twice. Train your guards to hustle to the line and get set next, the center should be well set before the guards are at the line. Your center should have the ball adjusted already and help the guards with their splits. If you are foot to foot, dollar bill, fist, 1 foot, 2 foot, etc the center should be able to help both guards maintain the proper spacing. Next, train your tackles to jog to the line and NOT to try to get set until the guards have stopped moving their feet. The same goes for the tight ends, they don't get aligned until the tackles are set.
While this may sound elementary, it has to be taught and practiced. For first year players we practiced just coming out of our huddle and getting aligned and set properly for 10 minutes a practice for the first 2 weeks. We combined this with a first step drill to kill two birds with one stone.
Add 8 Minutes to Each Game
Since we have gone to 100% no-huddle 8 seasons ago, this has been less of an issue, but it still has to be practiced. In the no-huddle, the center has to be on top of where the ball is being placed, he has to stay attentive and keep his eye on the referees after the play is done. The center has to be the first one on the line, get his feet set and the ball turned, the guards have to forget about the previous play and concentrate on getting their feet set as soon as the centers feet have stopped moving. Then the tackles and ends like the above example. Again, this is something that sounds simple, but HAS to be practiced. If your offensive line spends 10 extra seconds getting setup every play and you run 51 offensive snaps in a game, you will have wasted almost 8 minutes of precious game time because you didn't practice getting efficiently set. Nothing is more embarrassing than seeing your offensive linemen shoving each other around because they don't have enough room to get into a proper stance or you have to waste a timeout or get a delay of game penalty because the kids can't get lined up quickly enough.
The Blame Game
Who do the parents blame on those delay of game or timeout burning snafus, the kids? No, they rightly blame the coach who didn't take the time to properly teach or rep this very simple but critical process.
Coaches, don't be “that guy" the one that takes this for granted and has a sloppy team taking the field on opening day. Teach it, rep it, hold the kids accountable to it and speed the game up so the game is more fluid and the kids get more snaps in.
With over 15 years of hands-on experience as a youth coach, Dave has developed a detailed systematic approach to developing youth players and teams. His personal teams to using this system to date have won 94% of their games in 5 Different Leagues.
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