Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

In Youth Football, What Are Good Football Plays? Using Statistics

What are “good” football plays when you are coaching youth football?game-pulling-linemen


There are many ways to define a “good” football play, but many players, parents and youth football coaches have it all wrong.


Many youth football coaches don’t even bother to analyze their football plays. They have a general “feel” for what is working and what isn’t and rely on that “feel” to determine which plays they should continue to go with or those they feel they should stop running.


First Step- The Stat Guy


The first season we had film and a real stat person, I was shocked at how my perceptions varied from the results on the film and our stat charts. Many times our internal biases or emotions get in the way of accurate analysis of what’s actually happening out on the field.


We now  use a very simple manual “Easy Scout” method that is detailed in my book. Our stat person knows ahead of time which play we will run. We are a no-huddle team and our stat-person, just like all of our players and coaches has a wrist band and he knows the codes we use to call in the plays. This allows our stat guy to know which play we are running before we run it. His accurrate stats then give us a non biased and non intrusive “realtime” data compilation of our plays ready for us all to see.


Easy Scout


Using the “Easy Scout” we then determine during each defensive possession our strategy and adjustments for the upcoming series. But how do you do that for your team? Many coaches just use an average yards per carry stat to determine if a play is successful or not.


Real World Example


Let’s take an example, a 43 Reverse play. Let’s say your team got the following yards the 5 times you ran it: -5, 0, -7, 1, 80. The average yards per carry would have been about 14, a nice average right?


On the other hand let’s take a play like 16 power, let’s say you got gains of: 6,1,7,5,2,6,10,0,5,6 for an average of 4.8 yards. If you take the average yards per carry comparison, it looks like the 43 Reverse is a much better play doesn’t it? You have 4.8 yards compared to 14, seems like a no-brainer, but hold your horses.


How to Determine “Success”


The way we determine if a play is successful or not is if we achieve our intended goal on the play. However not all football plays are created equal, each of these plays has it’s own unique goal. We don’t run the 43 Reverse very often, we only run it when we see the backside linebacker flowing to the QB’s initial flow. Our yardage goal on the 43 Reverse is 14 yards. Using the average yards per carry stat, one would have called this a successful play in the above game right? Let’s look a little closer.


The 16 Power is one of our base plays which we will try and establish, with the intended goal of getting the defense to over-shift or overreact to said play, which opens up several other options off the very same backfield action. We are looking for 5 yards every time we run this play for it to be called a successful play. In the above example, we didn’t achieve that goal if we look at the average yard per carry stat of 4.8 yards.


Useful Statistics


But how accurate is the average yards per carry stat? In the 43 Reverse example we had one big play and four that were pretty bad.  In the 16 Power example we were fairly consistent but averaged less than our intended goal. But did we really? In the 43 Reverse example we achieved our intended 14 yards goal,  just 1 in 5 tries, for a 20% average. On the other hand our 16 Power got 5 yards on 7 of 10 tries for a 70% average.


What this new stat tells us is which football plays are really working and which aren’t. Don’t let one big play or missed tackle skew your stats and give you a false sense of how a play is doing. What you are looking for is consistency and execution and the average yards per carry simply doesn’t do that for you. I look at the percentage of times we reached our intended goal rather than the average yards per carry. What we are looking for is to hit or exceed the yardage goal for the play on 70% of our snaps. When we do that, our team is executing well and our playcalling is effective and efficient.


Stats can be a very powerful tool when used properly. One of the best youth coaches I know (Eric C) is a professional statistician and has been using variations of this model for years. His teams have done extremely well I might add. But you don’t have to be a stat genius like Eric to effectively use statistics. This is very simple to do and just takes a little bit of effort, a clipboard, wristbands, planning and a stat guy that isn’t just paying attention to his kid.


Copyright 2009 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. Republishing allowed if links are kept intact. For 400 Free Youth Football Coaching Tips or to Subscribe to Dave’s free Youth Football Coaching Tips Newsletter go to : //winningyouthfootball.com


About The Author

Related posts


  1. Jeff C.

    I’m a first yeat head coach for a 9-10 year old team. I plan on implementing your system hook, line and sinker. I love the idea of keeping statistics like this, but I’ve read through your book (twice) and I can’t find yardage/success goals for the other four plays in the sainted six. Could you please elaborate on what your criteria for success are in the 18 sweep, 31 trap, etc.


    1. davecisar


      We are looking for the following yardage with the Sainted Six:

      16 Power- 6 yards
      18 Sweep- 8 yards
      22 Wedge- 5 yards
      31 Trap- 8 yards
      43 Reverse- 14 yards
      18 Sweep Pass/16 Pass- 12 yards

      As you know we suggest 32 wedge in place of 31 trap at the younger age groups as the 3 back often just can’t seem to wait on the trap block.

  2. Dennis S

    Last year, I felt we had far too many offensive plays in the playbook for our 4th/5th grade teams to remember. I’d like to know your opinion on how many plays you feel should be learned and practiced – and what plays you feel, if executed well, would be a good core set of plays to run.

    1. davecisar

      It depends on the group of kids you have.
      You dont move beyonf the initial 6 play series until you have perfected them. That means 19 out of 20 times the offensive linemen have led with the correct foot, attacked at the correct angle, they have fit on the correct defensive player, your backs are attacking at the correct angle, blocking the correct defender with head and pad level correct and at full speed, no hesitation.

      So for some teams that means you go into your first game with 6 plays and may end the season with 10-12. For other teams that means you go into game 1 with 12 plays and end with 19-20. It also depends a bit on your offense. My offense is modular, so while Mouse 16 Power and Rocket 16 Power are technically new plays, they differ from the base 16 Power only due to a small difference in the backfield action. The blocking is all the same.

      Core plays include Power Off-tackle, Sweep, Counter, Inside Trap, Sweep Pass and Inside Wedge for starters.

  3. Coach Mike

    Hey Coach, I’m a first year head coach and am using your program for the first time. I know I’ve read it but for some reason can’t find it again. You talked about down and distance situations, what plays to run and when. 1st,2nd,3rd,4th and long-1st,2nd,3rd,4th and short. Could you give me an idea of your down and distance situations or tell me where I’ve read this. I’ve read your book a bunch but its like all things, when you need it you can’t ever find it. Thanks!

    1. davecisar

      Every teams down and distance matrix is goign to vary a bit based on the kids you have and what you can legitimately execute. It will also vary based on field position, score of the game and time left on the clock. I go primarily by using edge point counts, mid point counts and our easy scout system. In most cases that gives me the play I want to call. If you have someone you can trust and knows the offense, you can also use the complementery play call keys listed in the Single Wing 303 materials. If the numbers tell me to run a sweep on 4th and 1 or a Spinner Wedge play on 3rd and 20, I usually do it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *