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The Rules on Shifting and Motion in Youth Football

Shifting and Using Motion in Youth Football:

Youth football coaches often have questions pertaining to the legalities of shifts or motion. While I�m not a huge believer in shifts for teams aged 9 and under, we have used motion with these groups all the way down to age 6. We have successfully used both shifts and motion from age 10 on up and with teams of 8-9s where at least half the kids have at least 1 year of tackle experience under their belts.. These tactics often put your team at a huge numbers advantage pre-snap.

Here are a few simple guidelines to remember:


You have to have a minimum of 7 players on the Line of Scrimmage. You can legally have all 10 on the line, but you have to have at least 7 on the line for the formation to be legal.

When shifting, all your players must come to a complete stop for at least one second before a player can go into motion.

Motion is legal as long as the player motioning is running parallel to or away from the line of scrimmage. No player is allowed to motion in a direction towards the line of scrimmage.

It is perfectly legal to shift more than one player as long as your team is not trying to �simulate the snap� to draw the other team off-sides. In other words as long as the shift movements are fluid and deliberate and are not designed to draw the defense off-sides, shifting is legal with multiple players. Again the shifting players must be set for a full second before they are allowed to shift or motion.

Once your player goes into motion you can legally snap the ball. Many youth football coaches mistakenly feel your motion player has to be in motion for one second prior to your team snapping the football. That is incorrect, as long as that motion player is motioning parallel to or away from the line of scrimmage, you can snap the ball at any time. Again, this player must be set for one second before he is allowed to go into motion.

In youth football motion and shifts can be important weapons in your offensive arsenal. However, don�t put motion and shifts in until your base plays are perfected, don�t try to run before your kids learn to walk or crawl so to speak.

If you feel your motion or shift is a bit out of the ordinary, don�t hesitate to show it to the officials before the game to familiarize them with it. Many High School teams even have their motioning players take a slow deliberate drop step to insure that there is no obvious intent to �simulate the snap�. I�ve seen that quite a bit from High Schools that run Jet type motion.

If you are going to shift and or motion, make sure it�s fluid and make sure your players have landmarks and cadence landmarks. In other words make sure the motioning player has something he can look at to determine how deep and how far he is motioning. For his timing landmark, he needs to know at what exact point in the snap count cadence he is to start his motion on. If your cadence is “Shift-Down-Ready-Set-Go”, your instruction to the motioning player might be; “Start your motion on the “S” of Set”. This like anything else will require lots of reps and practice to make it work, but for most youth football teams, it is worth the effort.

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  1. Burton Berry

    Hey coach! Just wanted to add an often misunderstood motion rule.

    A non-back player on the LOS can go into motion as long as the following conditions are met:
    1. There are at least 7 players remaining on the LOS after the player begins motion.
    2. The player is lined up outside the 5 basic lineman positions, i.e. TE, WR.
    3. The path of motion must take the player to a position at least 5 yards behind the LOS at the time of the snap.

    I have used this this type of motion in a very successful Wildcat-like series at the 8th and 9th grade levels for the last 3 years. Of course howls of rage from the opposing coaches always occurred simply because they did not fully understand the rules for motion. It actually got to the point where I would pull the officiating staff to the side prior to each game and warn them of the impending onslaught since they bore the brunt of the angry outbursts.

    Love your stuff!
    Coach Berry

    1. davecisar

      The Guard wouldnt be in motion- he could shift to any place on the line of scrimmage. As long as he is set for one count before the ball is snapped, he would be legal. He wouldnt be able to be moving at the snap.

  2. Eric Tester

    Is it permissible to motion 2 rb’s simultaneously as long as they’re moving laterally? And as long as the Qb doesn’t engage under center, can he motion out?

    1. davecisar


      Of course- we do it with our older kids. Just make sure the motioning player doesnt go upfield before you call your timeout- IF the other team doesnt jump
      It works best when faking a jet sweep

  3. Tanner B

    You should be able to motion the TE, you just have to have a back or two on the line of scrimmage as receivers, thus leaving he QB and Full Back in the backfield…


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