Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

What is Holding in Youth Football Today?

Holding seems to be an evolving “penalty” at all levels of football. Did you know that the rules in the NFL, College and High School game have NOT been changed to allow defensive linemen to hold? That goes double for youth football, where 48 of the 50 states us NFHS rules, while Texas and Massachusetts use NCAA rules.

Some unethical coaches teach their defensive linemen to grab the legs of the offensive linemen to keep them from pulling. They also will tell their kids to do it to stop wedges. This is a VERY clear violation of the rules, this is what NFHS says about it:

The defense cannot legally do this, per 9-2-3c

ART. 3 . . . A defensive player shall not:
c. Use his hands or arms to hook, lock, clamp, grasp, encircle or hold in an effort to restrain an opponent other than the runner.

Many of these unethical coaches will use the excuse that the rules have evolved, offensive linemen can now use their hands etc etc. That “argument” is just an attempt to change the subject and establish a straw man, it has NOTHING to do with defensive holding. Another “argument” is the officials rarely call defensive holding, very hard to see and easy to get away with. Another is since the penalty is so rarely called that the officials approve of the tactic. Well guys, that is like saying most shoplifters never get caught, so it’s ok to shoplift. I know of one High School Hall of Fame Coach who actually said this to me, I have it in text. It’s amazing to me what some people will do to justify their blatantly illegal tactics.

This is what a defensive lineman can do:

ART. 5 . . . A defensive player may:
a. Use unlocked hands, hand or arm to ward off an opponent who is blocking him or is attempting to block him.
b. Push, pull or ward off an opponent in an actual attempt to get at the runner or a loose ball if such contact is not pass interference, a personal foul or illegal use of hands.
NOTE: When a player simulates possession of the ball, reasonable allowance may be made for failure of the defense to discover the deception. This does not cancel the responsibility of any defensive player to exercise reasonable caution in avoiding any unnecessary contact.

Defensive linemen clearly do not have the right to tackle or grab the legs of offensive linemen, they never have and they don’t have the right to do it today. It is a 15 yard penalty and the referees in our league call that penalty. If your team pulls and wedges, you need to be aware of this rule, watch for violations and alert the officials if you see it happening.

While NONE of us perfect, we all make mistakes, purposely teaching something you KNOW is illegal to impressionable youth seems to fly in the face of what most of us are trying to accomplish in youth football. To continue to use the tactic when you know it is illegal, is something I just don’t quite understand. Most of us are trying to teach life lessons as part of the game. One of the universal lessons many of us are trying to impart is that if you work hard and play by the rules over the long haul good things are going to happen for you. If you are teaching kids to purposely and knowingly cheat to gain an unfair advantage, what are you teaching?

How can on one side of our mouth we talk about honesty, integrity and honor and on the other side of our mouth we instruct a player on how to cheat? Don’t you think the kids see the hypocrisy? Kids these days pick up on that right away, in fact they seem to go out of their way to look for it. What do you think they think of you when they see your inconsistencies? Are they going to trust you? If they do, what kind of sociopath have you created?

Some additional thoughts on ethics and cheating:

EXCERPTS FROM THE AMERICAN FOOTBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION CODE OF ETHICS

From the Peamble:

Coaches unwilling or unable to comply with the principles of the Code of Ethics have no place in the profession.

From Article I – Responsibilities to the Players:

2. In teaching the game of football, the coach must realize that there are certain rules designed to protect the player and provide common standards for determining a winner and a loser. Any attempts to circumvent these rules, to take unfair advantage of an opponent, or to teach deliberate unsportsmanlike conduct, have no place in the game of football, nor has any coach guilty of such teaching any right to call himself a coach.

From Article III:

1. The Football Code which appears in the Official Football Rule Book shall be considered an integral part of this Code of Ethics and should be carefully read and observed.

2. Each coach should be acquainted thoroughly with the rules of the game. He is responsible for having the rules taught to, interpreted for, and executed by his players.

3. Both the letter and the spirit of the rules must be adhered to by the coaches and their players.

4. Coaches who seek to gain any advantage by circumvention, disregard, or unwillingness to learn the rules of the game, are unfit for this association. A coach is responsible for the adherence to the rules by all parties directly involved with the team. The integrity of the game rests mainly on the shoulders of the coach; there can be no compromise.

What are you going to teach as a youth football coach? What life lessons are you going to impart to your kids? How will you be remembered by your kids? The good guy who cared enough to teach them the game, or a guy who cut corners to gain an unfair advantage?

Copyright 2010 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included. http://winningyouthfootball.com

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8 Comments

  1. Philip Fernandez

    I coach in a youth league where the refs do a terrible job catching kids holding. I’m talking about holds that almost look like tackling. They seem to look at the ball carrier only. If you point it out once or twice they will catch it and call a penalty on the next play. However, if you tell them frequently, then they will get annoyed and just ignore you. How do you handle this issue. I certainly do not want to be complaining to the refs. However, if the opponent is holding almost every play what am I supposed to do.

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach,

      That is a tough one and I feel your pain.
      You have to first teach your players how to gain seperation so they can’t be held easily. That means swim, rip or shrug. After installing them in progressions, make sure to add tackling fit, slide and fit and even to the ground tackling drills at the end of the base progression.

      As to the referees, you aren’t going to get much mileage out of getting on them. I’ve always found that calmly addressing the issue at halftime may be worthwhile. Always acknowledge that they have a tough job and can’t see everything. Also understand that in youth football if the hold is away from the play, many times you aren’t going to get the call. It is what it is, part of the game.

      Reply
  2. Rich

    The grey area that I see is if one statements says that a defensive player may not grasp another player, but then it says you can pull. Would you not have to grasp a player in order to pull him?

    ART. 3 . . . A defensive player shall not:
    c. Use his hands or arms to hook, lock, clamp, grasp, encircle or hold in an effort to restrain an opponent other than the runner.

    ART. 5 . . . A defensive player may:
    a. Use unlocked hands, hand or arm to ward off an opponent who is blocking him or is attempting to block him.
    b. Push, pull or ward off an opponent in an actual attempt to get at the runner or a loose ball if such contact is not pass interference, a personal foul or illegal use of hands.

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach,

      It’s my interpretation to say he can grasp to pull, using a typical shrug type movement where you pull the jersey of the player to take him towards you, using the offensive players body weight against him as you move to the side and oley him past you. That differs from say tackling the offensive player to keep him off of your linebackers.

      Reply
  3. Christian

    Defensive players can use their hands. Example push/pull rip/swim the defensive lineman will push at the top of the number and with the opposite hand grab grab the shoulder pad to turn the o lineman sideways instantaneously taking the arm that grabbed the shoulder and performing the swim move. If a defensive lineman can’t split the doubles team he will grab both o – lineman stick his knee in the ground dragging them with him. one player will be at his side the other will be on top.
    Now grabbing their leg that’s gotta be cheating

    Reply

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