Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Why You DON’T Want the Youth Program to Run The High School Scheme

Yeah this might be counterintuitive, you want those kids from the youth program to come in to your program with a head start on your scheme right? Maybe not. Did you know that most youth football defenses are 5-2, 5-3, 6-2  or 7 Diamond like? One popular youth defense is called the GAM and it’s an 8-3 type look. In youth football, almost all the Defensive Ends are in 8 or 9 techniques. Do you see that much at the High School level?

The net is the defenses youth teams run are much different than what most High School coaches see, its almost a completely different equation. At the youth level about 85% of leagues have a minimum play rule- where kids have to play a certain number of plays. With squad sizes of 17-26 kids on average, it’s a bit of a different picture than what most High School coaches see with their own teams. Most High Schools have MUCH bigger rosters and no requirement to play everyone. Heck, High School coaches can send down weaker players to JV or even cut them, a much different picture than what most us coaching youth football see.

On offense in youth football,  you aren’t going to see many teams being able to consistently move the chains with sophisticated passing attacks. Zone blocking? Well for minimum play rule league like most are, those super weak kids are getting a few snaps every game on the o-line and they aren’t very adept at blocking the other teams fastest, most physical, most aggressive players in space (Linebackers), it’s a different deal for the average youth team.

The youth football guys have small rosters, they play everyone and they have a LOT less practice time to do it. All of their best kids are playing 3 ways, offense, defense and special teams. Does that sound like an equation where your offense or defense which may be PERFECT for your High School equation- makes sense for youth football?

About 3-4 years ago I took the final USA Today High School Football top 20 and called them all to ask if they required their youth football programs to run their scheme. I was able to get ahold of 18 of them, 17 of the coaches were pretty adamant they didn’t give a darn what those kids ran as long as they were having run and coming back to play.

So ask yourself would it be better if the youth kids ran something that wasn’t going to work at the youth level and they went 2-8 and lost 30% of the kids (winning and retention go hand in hand) or would it make more sense they they ran something that works at the youth level that isn’t aligned with the High School and they go 8-2 and only lose 5% of their players? Let’s say these kids are 8 years old, 8 years from now when they are Sophomores, will the High School team still be running the same scheme 8 years from now? Something to think about. Value fundamental blocking, tackling and skill development and the kids will have success and want to continue to play. That’s what almost all of the extremely successful High School football teams in America do.

Copyright 2014 Cisar Management. This article may be republished but only if this paragraph and link are included. //winningyouthfootball.com

About The Author

Related posts


  1. Alan Andrus

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. I recently interviewed for a head coaching position for 8-9 year olds. I have 20 years experience coaching at the youth level. I was castigated by the panel for not wanting to run the high school offense which is the spread. The panel didn’t emphasize trying to win to keep the kids playing football. One of the panel members and an assistant coach at the high school said that if I ran the Double or Single Wing the only players to benefit might be the running backs! It was laughable. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep coaching too and fighting the good fight.

    1. davecisar

      I guess by using that reasoning- the only kids benefiting from running the spread would be the QB and Wideouts?
      Unfortunately many unsuccessful High School coaches feel their scheme should be taught at the youth level, even though by doing so with a scheme that doesn’t fit- the youth teams lose and the kids lose interest. In the end those coaches hurt their own cause. That’s why when you look at 90+ % of the consistently exceptional High School coaches, don’t care one iota about youth scheme. They care about fundamentals and building a love and appreciation of the game in the youth players, scheme is at the bottom of their list.

  2. davecisar

    You should be able to score every time on offense running wedge and off-tackle.
    On Defense- you have to run what they suggest- not sure how anyone can improve on that.

  3. Terry

    While I agree with the premise I think one reason the Youth coaches offer this to the HS staff is to attract support. My experience is work with the HS staff in other ways. Our youth program asked the HS coaches to put on a week-end seminar (required for all youth coaches). They covered the basics and (if you know coaches) managed to through in just a few quips. The youth head coaches kept a dialogue with them and helped out on Friday nites. We started with a loosing record HS program and ended with three championships in 4 years. The youth program was strict and very successful.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *