Make Sure Your Data is Real World When Deciding on an Offensive Direction
I attended a “youth football” session at a coaches clinic in the last 3 months that still troubles me. We won’t go into where the clinic was or who the speaker was, that isn’t important, what is important is the issue of how we as coaches interpret data presented to us. At this clinic, the data was totally bogus and flawed, which made the speakers premise that “ALL” youth football teams could run his system incorrect.
There are many very talented youth football coaches out there that know their stuff. They may have coached youth ball for decades and clearly understand what average kids can and can’t do. They understand that even with the best coaching in the planet and even 4-5 days a week practice, there are certain things most average skilled kids just can’t do.
On the other hand there are also plenty of dads that get pressed into coaching youth football that are uncertain what they should be able to get out of the typical grouping of non-select football players. Some of this group sell the kids short and don’t get as advanced as they should, but many others think their kids are mini NFL players and put them into schemes and techniques that the average player has very little chance of succeeding with. The good coaches with all the experience usually sit right in the middle of these two extremes and put their kids in a system that is the right “fit”.
Clinic Sales Job
Now back to the coaches clinic, the speaker seemed to be a very articulate, well educated, well meaning person who knew the game well. He played Division I football and had a fairly well organized presentation, he had credibility. His topic was the spread passing game for youth football. His premise was that anyone could run a spread passing game down to 9 years old and be successful with it, all it took was a commitment and lots of practice. He was preachin it and the first time 9 year old head coach sitting in front of me was nodding his “amens” and buying it hook line and sinker.
The presenter demonstrated some well thought out fundamentals for youth quarterbacks and even had some nice film of an impressive 10 year old passer. The coach did admit that he had coached this player since he was 7 years old including extensive individual off site training in the off-season. Now I don’t know about your teams, but I just don’t have year round access to my players or the time to individually coach my kids aggressively year-round.
Here’s Where it Gets Tricky
The presenter also showed extensive team film clips that not only showed some very well executed spread passing plays, but some very nice zone blocking runs as well. The unusual thing about these clips were that every player had a different colored helmet on.
Not a Fair Comparison
When I politely asked him why the helmets were different colored, he said because this was an all-star team and each player used his own teams helmet. They were also clips of 13-14 year olds. Come to find out, the players on this all- star team had been chosen from a cast of thousands.
He didn’t have any minimum play players to find playing time for, he had the very best player from 40+ teams. Imagine what you could do if YOU had the best player from every team in your area. Or imagine if you could clone your best player and make 40 more of him. What could you run then? What 13-14 year olds can do is also a bit different than what 9 year old rookies can do
The Real World Not Fantasy Land
Not only does the average youth coach have to find some playing time for every player on our teams, but we probably have to start several kids on our offensive line that would best be described as minimum play players. In zone blocking one of the key premises is for your offensive linemen to get movement on a double team, come off the double team and block the near linebacker in space.
Now I don’t know about your league, but in the 6 that I’ve coached in the other teams best, fastest and most athletic kids are playing linebacker. In zone blocking my minimum play player ( least athletic player on the team) offensive lineman is going to block the other teams best player, in space, on the move after getting movement on a double team? Really, in real life, not in an imaginary well intentioned parallel universe? Not on your typical non-select youth football team on planet earth. Do we have kids that can make that block? Sure, but not very many that can do it consistently and zero of my even most aggressively coached minimum play players.
Be careful what data you use to determine what you should and shouldn’t be running in youth football. Don’t be enamored with clips of some football plays being run well by a bunch of hand picked “studs”. All-star teams selected from casts of thousands are not the example most of youth coaches can learn from. I’ve only coached “select” football one year, in 2003, it is a different animal, but even then we only chose from about 150 kids, not thousands.
Almost anyone can put together a string of highlights if they coach long enough. That’s why we sell complete season DVDs of my teams. Non- select kids, every snap of every game for the season so you can see for yourself what average kids ( and minimum play players) with average amounts of practice time can do over the course of an entire season.
Let me say I don’t think this coach is evil or meant to intentionally misguide coaches into doing something that had little chance of succeeding, he just doesn’t clearly understand the boat most of us are in. Please don’t misquote me, I’m a big believer in the pass, my teams have often led the league in passing touchdowns. Heck my age 7-9 team threw for 11 touchdowns last season in just 9 games. What I’m saying is it is extremely rare for non-select youth teams to move the ball consistently using zone blocking and spread passing without a “freak” grouping of players.
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