Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

No Huddle Play Calling Systems


Wrist Coach
Wrist Coach

Lots of youth  football teams want to go no huddle. They use a variety of no huddle play calling systems to communicate with their players. Some work well and are simple, others work well and are difficult and some don’t work very well at all.

Going no huddle can save your team a lot of practice time and allow you to run a lot more plays. The average youth football team runs about 40 offensive snaps per game. My personal teams haven’t huddled in the last 19 seasons and we are averaging about 60 offensive snaps in non-mercy rule games.

First of all, let’s all get on the same page. Youth football players practice less than High School, College and NFL players. While they may be fairly intelligent, they aren’t as smart as the kids 10-20 years their senior. Secondly over 80% of youth football leagues have minimum play rules. Most youth football coaches are going to insert their weaker minimum play players on offense. It is imperative that ALL players, including your minimum play players understand which play is being run. The facts are some of those minimum play players often times have attention or comprehension issues that get in the way of them being able to consistently decipher or remember complicated codes.

Let’s take a look at some of the no huddle play calling systems youth football coaches like to use: code words, wrist coaches, boards and hand signals.  Each has it’s positives and negatives, like anything it is a tradeoff.

Code Words

Positives: Cheap. Can audible fairly easily. Can get plays in quickly.

Negatives: Kids have to learn and remember what each code word means. Your opposition can easy figure out which code word means. If your base play is called “Rose” and you run it a few times, the defense and their coaching staff will easily decipher the code. If you play in a league that scouts, expect that team to know all of your play calls by heart. If you want to change those calls and say you have 15 plays, that would mean ALL of your kids including your minimum play kids would have to remember a new set of codes every week. Good luck with that.

Wrist Coaches

Negatives:Cost- you will need one for every player. So outfitting a team of 25 would cost you about $150. Printing the inserts for the Wrist Coaches the first time is kind of a pain. After you do it once, not an issue. Probably takes you 30 minutes to print em up, laminate them and insert into the wrist coach. They stink- you have to wash them every week otherwise they will smell. Noise- if the wind is blowing real hard, sometimes difficult for the kids to hear the code.

Positives: Works like a charm. No need to memorize anything except which number in the sequence is live. Then just correspond it to what is written on the card on the wrist coach.  All players no matter their ability can easily understand which play is being called, nothing new to remember. You can easily put 20 different plays on the smaller wrist coaches and 30 on the larger ones. Can get plays in quickly. Audibling is simple, wrist coach is on non down hand.

Hand Signals

Positives: Cheap. If you have more than one coach signaling in, difficult for the other team to decipher.

Negatives: Again kids now have to learn another “language”, can all of your kids including your MPRs remember what each hand gesture means? Can all of your players see to the sidelines for the signal? Audibling is tough, especially if kids are already down in their stances. Can take time to get plays in if multiple guys are signaling in.

Picture Boards

Positives:Looks- yeah now you look like Oregon. Can work- kids have an easier time associating an image to an action than remembering hand signals or code words.

Negatives: To have a bunch of giant posters and rotate them so the corresponding play is shown on the board takes a tremendous amount of effort and coordination. Most youth programs don’t have the personnel to take on that type of effort. Could you imagine the chaos you would have on the sidelines as your sign person follows you the play caller up and down the sidelines with a stack of signs, trying to hustle up to find and display the right sign as you hurry up to call the most efficient play? Audibiling- really? Your’re going to change the play at the Line of Scrimmage- so the kids are now going to stop and look at a sign that your sign guy may or may not have been quick enough to display?

Some youth football coaches do this no-huddle thing just to look “cool”. Remember the goal of no-huddle is to get more plays in, being able to audible on every play after you’ve lined up and score more points. If you go all 007 and have to remember a bunch of secret codes or hand signals that are hard to remember and you can’t change the plays easily- don’t bother.

My personal teams have averaged about 35 points per game over the last 19 seasons in 5 different youth footbal leagues running this no-huddle approach- see our scores here: Dave’s Teams Scores To see exactly how we do it, go to chapter 18 of the “Winning Youth Football” book or the “Game Day Management” DVD. Winning Youth Football Book and Game Day Management DVD

Winning Youth Football Book

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