Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Why One Trick Ponies Won't WIn You Championships in Youth Football

Why One Trick Pony Plays and Formations Make Little Sense

This is the time of year where I get a lot of questions about elaborate plays and formations. Many youth coaches have had the last 9 months to come up with some pretty wild stuff.

When you use one trick pony plays or formations, where you only really run one play from, you show your hand. Now those plays will often times work against poorly coached teams that are not good at aligning on odd formations. But those plays rarely work well against well coached teams that are great at aligning and knowing their responsibilities.

Many well coached teams will also scout. So if an offense aligns into their one trick pony formation or personnel group, the well coached team knows exactly what you are running.
I don’t scout every opponent, with running a program and coaching a team, I just don’t have the time. We will scout specific opponents and all playoff opponents, but like most of you, I put in so much time coaching, sometimes you just don’t have the time to scout every single team we play. But when I do scout, I almost always pick up a few one trick pony formations or personnel groups that tell me exactly what the team is going to do.

One season I even picked one up watching an opposing team in pre-game. The only time they aligned in a specific set and with a certain player in a different position, they would run a throwback pass. So when we ran our team defensive recognition in pre-game, I simply came up with a “special” call. Special meant our backside Defensive End would stay on the line of scrimmage, not come upfield, slow play the play, stay behind the intended receiver and then come up for the interception once the ball was in the air. Sure enough we were up by just a single score with about 2 minutes to go prior to halftime. When we saw the alignment we called “special” the ball was thrown, we intercepted and took it in for a score. The other team was devastated. We onside kicked and were able to score another time in the last 10 seconds prior to halftime. The game went from a nailbiter to a blowout, thanks to that play.

Be very careful when it comes to one trick ponies when you are on offense. Who cares if they work against poorly coached teams, you are going to beat those guys anyways. What matters is what is going to work against well coached teams. Similarity of implied intent, with a twist works. One trick ponies don’t.

Copyright 2013 Cisar Management, all rights reserved. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included. //winningyouthfootball.com

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  1. Francisco Ruiz

    I ran your offense / defense today for the first time in a game. My doubts were heavy to say the least when I heard you speak in Kansas city. Like you predicted the wedge was unstoppable and the defense was perfect against the sweep. The highlight was several boys who weighed next to nothing getting several sacks from their bear crawling position:-). ….Thanks for your efforts and allowing me to share a sport I love.

  2. James

    How do you teach 6 to 8 yr. Olds audibles on the no huddle or how to you call out the play? Also how what formation do you use when the defense stacks all defense ends linebackers on both sides or what plays do you use

    1. davecisar


      We use a no huddle wrist band system where I call the plays out. I wouldnt have a 6-8 year old player calling audibles. All in my book “Winning Youth Football a Step-by-Step Plan.” When teams run what you describe we run a lot of inside powers, traps, wedge and isolation plays. We also use quick play action passes as well.


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