Recovering Fumbles in Youth Football
Many of the youth football players playing the game today are avid viewers of NFL or even College Football. Unfortunately what they see on TV in many of these games will not help them succeed when they play in their own games. In addition to very poor tackling and holding you see every Sunday on TV, youth players pick up bad habits from what they see on fumble recoveries.
In the NFL the fumble recovery often happens behind the line of scrimmage due to the preponderance of drop back pass plays. When the ball is on the ground invariably the defender trying to recover it will pick the ball up and run with it, trying to make a big play. On these fumbles most of the offensive players (linemen) have their backs to the ball and have little chance of recovering. The difference in youth football is that most plays are running plays and most fumbles do not occur �In space�, they occur in traffic with lots of other offensive players in very close vicinity with good sight lines to the football.
In youth football, the players should be taught to recover and protect the ball, not try and pick it up and run with it. In the last 6 seasons my teams have played in games where not a single fumble was returned for a touchdown in the entire season. I remember at least a dozen occasions in these six seasons where kids tried to pick up a fumble on the run and lost control of the ball in the process. These were balls they had a very clear shot at and would have easily recovered the ball had they not tried to run with it.
With our Single Wing offense, we feel very confident we can score on every offensive possession. We do not have to depend on miracle defensive football plays to score points, all we want is the football. We coach our defensive players to gain and maintain control of the ball, same for our special teams receiving squads. In the youth game with short 10 minute quarters and fewer possessions than you see in High School, College and NFL games, each possession is extremely important.
How we train our players to recover fumbles:
The defenders are trained to curl up around the football, placing their bodies between the nearest opponent and the football. We ask the player to get into a fetal type position on their sides, the knees up very high over their arms, with both arms covering the ball tuckd deep in their stomach, each hand covering a different point of the football. If the recovering player attempts to cover up the ball with the ball lying directly under his stomach (player not on his side), he runs the risk of getting the wind knocked out of him by the football as the pile grows.
We drill this first by rolling the ball to every player. Making sure he uses the proper technique. We then add to this drill by putting two players facing in the same direction about 3 yards apart. The coach rolls the ball in-between and in front of the players and they fight it out for the ball. As mentioned above, we are looking for the recovering player to shield the other player with his body as he gains control of the ball and gets into his side fetal position with hands over points of ball, knees and shoulders crunching down to create an area no player can penetrate.
You can even divide your team into 3 competing groups and do the drill with 3 players. To make it fun and competitive, have the first team to score 8 points �win� with the losing teams doing 10 pushups or a short lap.
Youth football and the NFL are two entirely different games. Coach your kids to recover the ball properly and safely to gain more possessions and win more ballgames. It never ceases to amaze me how few youth football coaches teach their players how to recover fumbles, yet expect the player to instinctively know how to do it come game day. If all the youth football players knows is backyard football or what they see on TV, they won�t know how to make a proper fumble recovery and it will be the coaches, not the players fault for not making the recovery.
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