Many youth football coaches going into the playoffs consider making s few changes to try and confuse or out-scheme the great teams they will face late in the season. It’s a quandary many of us fall into, should we stick with what got us this far or surprise our opponent with something new that maybe they haven’t prepared for yet.
Most of us that make it to the playoffs or to a championship game are in that game for a reason. We’ve done something right to make it to that game or playoffs. When you are coaching youth football, most of the teams you face this far down the road have scouted you at least one time, maybe twice and often times have film on your team. Many youth football coaches panic a bit when they see the opposing coach on the sidelines watching their games. Many of us fear the other team is going to “figure us out”, that they will know all of our football plays. Many coaches will respond to this fear by changing or adding significantly to their offenses for this one game.
Most teams fail when they try to significantly change their offense for that final game. What many of these guys fail to realize is they forgot what got them this far to begin with, great execution. It is very difficult to get great execution with something you’ve just added late in the season. Adding something very different late also robs your team of valuable practice time, most teams that make these late season changes neglect repping and refining their base offense, defense and special teams in favor of trying to get competent with the new stuff.
If you are very concerned about your opponent being well prepared for your team, why not add a few small nuances that are built on the foundation of your base system? If you scout, the other teams base defensive scheme, tendencies and techniques may lend themselves to adding a few simple adjustment tags or formations. This can give your team some nice advantages without adding in an entirely new offense.
When you dump your base offense (your faithful wife) for another woman the week before your big game, what are you telling your kids? We know our base offense isn’t good enough to beat these guys so we are going to dump it for something totally different. What do you think that does to your players confidence? But does this mean you should never ever change anything?
I always have a few tricks up my sleeve for late in the season for the playoffs or big game. Now mind you, nearly every single one of my opponents has a copy of my books and DVDs and has current game film on us. One opponent this year had scouted us twice in person as well and had video of four of our games. These guys come daily to this very blog, I know because my web stats tell me where every single visitor comes from every single day. They are very persistent, I appreciate their commitment and effort.
I like to add in a few nuances in late, but never an entirely different offense, with different base concepts, footwork or blocking rules. Many of the “changes” I add are things we have practiced all year and are just now showing. Others are minor changes or adjustments and on a very rare occasion, a “new” series. We will use formations we have not shown that we feel may give us an advantage, but we are still running the base plays out of these “new” formations. The same plays we ran week one, with the same blocking rules. You may want to consider using a blocking adjustment or tag you didn’t need to use in previous weeks, something you have been practicing, but have yet to use. Almost all of our adjustment tags I use are in my book.
I spoke to a youth coach last week who had gone 9-0 in the regular season using my system at age 9-10. They only had the “Sainted Six” plus one in and were second in the league in scoring. They would be playing for the League Championship for the first time ever. He had been well scouted by his opponent for the championship game, an opponent that had won countless titles, the bully of the league. Our coach added in a completely different offense in for this last game, an offense that put a quarterback under center and required a lot of precision and techniques his kids had not been using the entire season.
Now the system they were attempting to add is a good system, but it isn’t one you are going to perfect in one or even two weeks. They didn’t move the ball at all with their “new” offense. They were behind by 14 Points before they reverted back to their base Single Wing, but by that time his kids had lost their “mojo” and the other team was playing possession football and hogging the clock. Needless to say, our friends lost the big game without really giving themselves a chance to win the game.
In my opinion it would have probably made more sense to add in the Mouse or Spinner series for this game and maybe add in the Nasty Split, Nasty Tunnel and the Wrong/G adjustments. The base blocking rules and techniques wouldn’t have been altered, in fact the linemen would have had to learn very little. The Mouse or Spinner backfield action is something you can easily perfect in a weeks time. This would have given this coaches offense an entirely different look and feel and gave the opposing coach something he had yet to see, and it wouldn’t have “cost” much practice time at all. The kids on our friends team would have seen this was not an abandonment of the base offense that had taken them this far, just a short extension of it. I have successfully used this strategy a number of times by not showing the Jet or Burst Series until very late in the season as well as “saving” a few formations and adjustments etc
All of our play series are modular, one built very nicely on top of the other. When we add a new series, none of the blocking rules or tags change. In week 1 we learn 16 Power, Power means we block our base rule plus our right guard knows he has to do something different when he hears “power”. So when all the linemen hear 16 Power, Spinner 26 Power, Rocket/Jet 16 Power, Mouse 16 Power it’s all the same to them. They always do the same thing on 16 Power or 26 Power or 23 Power, except for the center, who may be snapping the ball to someone else. The only thing that changed on these plays was the backfield action. As you may imagine once you get a backfield action down, putting in a new series of plays is simple. Once you have the first play in it is like getting 4-6 “free” plays with very little investment of time.
Don’t abandon the partner that brought you to the big dance, just teach her a few extensions of the dance moves that both of you know and love. Maybe ask her to wear a different dress, but don’t change partners and outcoach yourself in these big games. Before many games the great Single Wing coach John Aldrich used to draw the six plays he was going to run on a chalk board in the opponents locker room. Remember those were college football players and coaches he was going against, his teams RARELY lost. The other team still has to stop you. Your base offense should put the defense in conflict such that it is too dangerous to “tee” off on anything you do. Your execution, keys and playcalling/adjusting should allow you to move the ball, without adding in a completely foreign “girlfriend” into the mix at the end. If your Sainted Six look great, add in the plus one and the “No” and Nasty/Tunnel Adjustment. If your Six Plus one look good, add in the Mouse or Spinner and the “Wrong/G” . Your Mouse and Spinner look great, add in the Burst or Jet Series, but don’t go adding a square peg to a round hole late in the season and expect everything to come up roses.
Remember my teams have gone 121-17 and the guys I’m coaching against know pretty much everything we are going to do. It hasn’t mattered.
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