Playing time management is important in youth sports but in championship level games it may even be the deciding factor. In the Pop Warner and AYF National Championships, some teams got pretty darn creative in meeting those standards. In over 80% of youth football leagues there are minimum play rules. These are not guidelines, but set in stone rules that require a coach to play his players a specific number of plays. The number of plays is typically a sliding scale based on the number of players on each team. Some leagues specify that special teams plays do not count, others allow it. Most leagues allow you to sit a player based on attendance or disciplinary issues. There is a very wide spectrum on how this is addressed and in some leagues it isn’t addressed at all.
An interesting tactic was used in the 2010 Pop Warner Midget semi-final game between Port St Lucie Florida Pirates and a team from Connecticut pictured above. The Pirates started their drive on their own 22 yard line with 15 seconds remaining until the half. Pirate coach Jeff Miret sent in his backups on offense and ran an off-tackle play. He them called time out with .6 seconds remaining so he could run one final play with that same group, another off-tackle run. So in the matter of 15 seconds Jeff was able to get his backups a few more plays in the first half, in a situation many coaches would have overlooked.
Jeff is an excellent coach and a master at getting his minimum play kids their plays, in every game I’ve seen his teams play, they had their plays in before halftime. That included very tight games where his teams have trailed. It is something he game plans for and practices for. In his practices everyone is subbing in and out like Chinese Firemen, you won’t find his backups standing around picking their noses. He also uses the clock to squeeze every play he can out of every game. Jeff makes sure to get those non starters in as early and often as he can and during his practices I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone coach up his minimum play kids like Jeff does.
A number of games at the Pop Warner and AYF National Championships came down to a final drive. Some of those games you saw teams scrambling to get their minimum play kids their final snaps and subbing them in on those drives, while the guys that had managed the game well were able to put their best 11 players onto the field. In Pop Warner if you don’t have the minimum players snaps in by the end of the third quarter, you have to start them all at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
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