Many youth coaches watch football on Saturdays and salivate at the thoughts of running a fast pace no-huddle offense with their youth teams. Most are trying to do it to gain a competitive advantage. No matter your goals for running fast pace no-huddle, you aren’t going to have much success with it without completely changing the way you fundamentally run your practices. We have been running rapid pace no-huddle for the last 16 seasons from age 7-14. We will share with you a couple of our “secrets” for successfully going rapid pace.
How many teams have you seen on television in the last 5 years run a “hurry up” offense in the last 2 minutes of a half or game and it looks like they are running in slow motion? I watch those very same games and get just as frustrated as you do at the lack of a sense of urgency from the players and coaches. You don’t need to panic and run around like a chicken with your head cut off, but you don’t need to look like you are 10 minutes early for a date with Jabba the Huts sister either. Last year there were two National Title winning teams in the Pop Warner National Championships who scored on the last play of the half and game. The reason they were able to do this? Their practice philosophy and approach to time. I know both coaches well and they both use our no-huddle, offense and practice approach.
You simply can’t just go from not caring about time, to caring about it and expect to have success running rapid pace no-huddle. I had a chance to listen to Scott Frost from the Oregon Ducks last year at a coaches clinic. He said the Oregon offense is built around stressing defenses and one of the major methods they do that is by the speed they are running their offense at. I watched them play Washington, in that game there were several drives where they were running a new play every 8-14 seconds. Washington was on their heels and had a heck of a time keeping up and adjusting. Coach Frost said that Oregon is able to run their plays this fast not just because they practice running plays fast, but because of the way they approach practice. EVERYTHING is fast paced at Oregon, their kids are always on the run.
We run rapid pace no-huddle not to gain an advantage, but so our kids can get more snaps, get more quality reps in practice and so our kids stay engaged. Football can actually get boring for some of your kids (especially your MPRs) when it’s slowed down to a snails pace. Especially when that snails pace is due to an incompetent opposing coach not being able to get his kids in and out of a huddle, to the line of scrimmage and run a play in a reasonable amount of time. You know the guy, it’s like watching someone drag their fingernails across a chalkboard. Last season the age 10-11 team I head coached started one game with a 9 play touchdown drive that used up 1:55. In another game the opening scoring drive was 11 plays and it took 2:05, we also won an out of state tournament championship in 2010 by driving 80 yards in 9 plays in the last 2 minutes to win the game. In another season in a large competitive league, we scored 3 touchdowns in the first quarter of 8 games. Yes, it can be a buzz saw or Blitzkreig, it’s been called both by competing coaches.
How are we able to perform at this level with limited practice time and even rookie players? We of course are no-huddle. How we communicate with our team and manage this process is in my book “Winning Youth Football a Step-by-Step Plan.” But our speed is a function of how we think about time. We VALUE time, we won’t waste a precious second of it in practice. Our players are always on a full sprint once they hit the field. They are rarely allowed to do anything in practice, that isn’t at a full out sprint. That means we are very committed, even with the trivial. Let’s say you are in a Sumo Drill circle with 12 players and we call your name out to get in the middle. Those 3 steps to the center of the circle better be at full tilt. When you lose, you again sprint back into place. You are running the Gauntlet drill, once you make it through the 2 lines of players, the drill is only 1/3 over. You must sprint to the front of the line to drop off the ball, then sprint to the end of the line to get into the end of the Gauntlet line. The players get used to finishing plays and aligning quickly.
Even water breaks are used to train players to be at the ready and to get aligned quickly. Let’s say we are letting the kids get water as a team. On the call “water” they sprint from wherever they are, to where the water bottles are stored. After 1 minute they would be told they have 1 minute to get ready to return to the field. On the whistle they run back to where the head coach is at, all on a full sprint. When they arrive where the head coach is at, they all face him in the offensive ready position, with feet in the correct stance and still. No matter what we do, we do it quickly, efficiently and on the run. When players get to where they need to be, they get their feet in a good athletic position and get still. To help the kids understand how important we value time- the coaches are always running on the field as well, our coaches are not allowed to walk on the field.
Running rapid pace no-huddle is much more than being able to communicate plays in. To run those plays effectively, your kids have to be trained and used to doing things quickly; it’s a mindset, an attitude, a philosophy. That’s why you see so few youth teams being able to run a fast pace no-huddle EFFECTIVELY. Trying to run plays fast will fail when fast pace is not at the center point of your practice philosophy. As a landmark, we run our individual drills at a pace of 1 rep every 6 seconds. Team offensive and defensive reps are 1 rep every 12-15 seconds and that includes subbing in replacements every snap.
Once you embrace the time is precious approach and speed up your practices, you will be amazed at how much you can get done in very short amounts of time. You will find the kids enjoy practice more and the parents love seeing their kids engaged. Like us, you may even be able to practice fewer days or go to shorter pre-games. In any event, if you are thinking about going rapid pace no-huddle you are going to struggle unless you change the way you practice. This especially goes for youth football coaches.
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