The Secret to Beating Teams That Are More Athletic Than Your Team in Youth Football
Playing in Space is the key term.
We aren’t talking about playing football on the moon, zero gravity would make us all have to rethink the game quite a bit.
“In Space” means playing with distance between your players and the other team. If your team is bigger and more athletic and can handle the other teams players one on one, you want space, it is your friend.
However, if you don’t have bigger and better athletes than the other team, space is your enemy.
Playing “In space” means just what it says, putting your players with space in-between them and the opposition. If your team is made up of faster, bigger and more athletic kids, they will dominate in one on one match-ups. That’s why you see teams with lots of big fast receivers do very well in the “spread” offenses where they isolate weaker defenders out very wide versus these dominant receivers, of course you have to have a QB that can throw it in these cases. If that stud receiver can just get the ball “in space” he will have a chance to score in most cases.
On the other hand, most youth football teams do not have the player truly dominates the league. Most of us are blessed with just an average group of kids and some of us will have that odd grouping of kids that is just smaller and less athletic than the teams we face. In these cases you want to have as little space as possible between your kids and the opposition.
Just think about your tackling drills, when you have a tackling drill run in close quarters, lets say a 1 yard square box, most of your even non-athletic kids can often make the tackle. But turn that tackling drill into an open field tackling drill of a 20 yard by 20 yard square, how many of your less athletic kids can now make a tackle in that drill? The same is true for blocking; very athletic kids can make blocks “in space” less athletic kids can’t.
Less athletic teams nearly always perform better if they tighten their line splits down, double team block and pull to have overwhelming numbers at the point of attack. Less athletic teams need to run traps and other close quarter running plays like the wedge in order to keep more athletic teams at bay. The less athletic teams need to run lots of misdirection to keep the defense moving away from the play, while they run it between the tackles. The spinner series in kryptonite to the supermen on these squads. There are just some plays that make NO SENSE against teams like this, sweeps, drop back passes, deep reverses, these will be negative yardage plays.
The good news is with the Single Wing Offense, less athletic teams can compete with very athletic teams. Often called “football in a phone booth” the spinners and traps keep the very athletic teams from flowing hard to your base plays. The double team blocks, wedges and pulling give your team numbers advantages at the point of attack so even smaller or weaker linemen can have success. The tight splits, misdirection and pulling linemen help even very average backs to put up big numbers with this offense.
In 2002 we had a very average sized back named J.A. with average speed. For our age 8-10 team he weighed 81 pounds and when we ran our eval races he was about 6th out of 25 kids. J.A. was a very obedient player, he was a patient runner, he always kept his legs moving and was always looking for an opening, but nothing special. In 2002 he played Fullback for us and ran just 2 plays that year, wedge and trap. He scored 31 TDs for us on FB wedge plays alone, of course we had a very weak backfield that year and he got a lot of carries. Had we had the spinner series in he would have done even better.
As to beating bigger or more athletic teams: In 2003 my age 8-10 team from Omaha was undefeated in league and put up some very gaudy numbers. We scored at will, went 11-0 and won our league title game 46-12 after leading 46-0 in the third quarter. We went on to beat two league champions from other leagues that were age 11-12. In 2004 I started a new program in rural Nebraska in an area where the existing youth program had won something like 4-5 total games in 5 years before I got here. The first year there we had all rookie players with the exception of 2-3 bench-warming castoffs from the other team in town. We had just one player over 100lbs at age 8-10. Slowly but surely we improved each week and by seasons end we started looking pretty good. We played a very big and fast Inner-city team from Lincoln that year the Salvation Army. They had not lost a game in 3 years, we were out-manned, outsized and had less speed, but beat them in a nail biter by a single TD in route to an 11-0 season.
Our biggest win in an extreme overmatch with in 2005 verses the Omaha Select Black. That age 8-10 team chose from over 150 kids, had at least 5 kids over 150 lbs and had not lost in 3 years in Omaha’s “select” league. They were a very aggressive Inner-city team with plenty of speed and confidence. I on the other hand had just the 25 country kids that showed up, not cuts or selects and plenty of younger kids on it. To make a long story short, we had this team by 4 TDS in the first half and could have named the score. Needless to say that team, their parents and our parents for that matter were shocked. The good thing is with this offense you can compete with anyone, the bad news is once you do it’s hard to get extra out of league games. Big Inner-city teams like the North Omaha Boys Club will not even play us on their home fields, it is embarrassing getting beat by much smaller and slower teams, they have turned me down twice in the last 2 years for extra games that we both had open dates at seasons end.
The Single Wing does offer some flexibility if you do have that stud player that you want to isolate “In space”. We added the mesh series in 2005 to accommodate a player we thought would make sense to put “in space”. When we went against weaker opponents the “mesh” series worked very well, no one could handle our stud. When we played against equal or lesser competition we had to move back to our tight splits base offense to move the ball consistently.