Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Next to the combo block, the reach block is the second most difficult block to make in youth football. The reach block is the term given to a block where the offensive player tries to get his head on the outside hip of the defender and drive the defender to the inside. This tactic usually involves the offensive player trying to pivot and swing his hips to the outside of the defender to gain leverage and position to move the defender to the inside.

So your offensive linemans initial step and momentum goes in one direction, but then the emphasis is getting momentum with the target in the opposite direction. This is a fairly common blocking scheme for outside sweep plays and it usually very ineffective at the youth level. The quickness and body control abilities of most youth linemen are not that of the typical High School or College kid, where the reach block works well.
How athletic and aggressive are your offensive linemen? Be honest.

Even as a High School player who loved to block, the reach block was very difficult for me or my team mates to execute, we hated it. You will find the same is true for your youth football players. Why do you think the technique is taught so the offensive player gains OUTSIDE leverage on the defender by swinging the offensive players hips to the outside? Why not have a blocking scheme that allows your players this outside leverage and angle every play without having to take an outside drop step and without having to have very quick feet and hips swung into the proper position?

Reach blocks on interior linemen are doable if the line splits are tight and the defenders are not too wide. But in youth football, blocking the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS), usually a defensive end, is near impossible for most tight ends. In youth football, the play every team is trying to defend is the sweep, so EMLOS players line up and play wider than the High School, College and Pro teams and the youth EMLOS player is very conscious of not being reach blocked. That is something even poorly coached youth football teams work on quite a bit. Hence that is why most reach blocks in youth football on the EMLOS player that is half-way disciplined, fails.

On the other hand, the easiest block in youth football is the down block. This is a tactic that has your offensive linemen blocking the next man down to their inside, often over their offensive team mate. Even the weakest offensive linemen on most teams can make this block. Momentum is always in the same direction and all we are looking for here is to stop penetration, no movement on the defender is required.

Using this scheme, the EMLOS player is usually pinned in (Pin Block), by an easy block by a running back positioned in the slot or wing position, outflanking the EMLOS player. The “Pin” block can even be executed by a motioning player from the other side of the formation that comes across the formation and then when the motion man is just to the outside shoulder of the EMLOS, the ball is snapped and the EMLOS player is flanked and easily blocked by the motion man. Some youth teams even use a crack block to accomplish this, by motioning a back from very wide on the playside to block the playside EMLOS player. This is often a devastating block, but requires very good timing and a requirement that the motioning player does not block the EMLOS player in the back or below the knees.

I coached a reach blocked sweep for 9 years, it worked well when we had a very athletic and aggressive tight end and a blazer at tailback. But when teams widened their defensive ends or we didn’t have that stud tailback and tight end, the play failed. After going to a down and pin scheme 6 years ago, the play has been very consistent regardless of talent.

When coaching youth football well, you want to put your kids in situations where they have the best chance of succeeding. Reach blocking is one technique most youth football teams probably want to avoid.

For other youth football coaching tips and football plays please sign up for Dave’s free youth football coaching tips newsletter at: Coaching Youth Football
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