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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