How Do I Build a Youth Flag Football Team From the Ground Up?

13 11 2009

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Nathan Lipscomb writes:

I am beginning to coach a 7-7 flag football team for a small Christian school. We don’t have a lot of natural talent to pull from, and they don’t have much background in flagfootball. We started last year and lost every game to teams who had been playing together for a long time. Where do I start with these guys to build an efficient unit.

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The Ninja Speaks:

The Scramble

Fundamentals First

“From among the huddled and fearful children I will pick my few and mold my warriors.” – Blademaster of Red Mountain

 

Nathan,
Already you have taken important steps. You have formed the team, you have played and the players have experienced loss. These are important. But now it is time to take them to the next level of flag football.

To answer you fully, I will make assumptions. I will assume this is a junior high or middle school team and that you have repeat players for a couple of years at a time (rather than a new slate every season). I assume also, that you hold practices, but probably no more than 2-3 per week, and that you play weekly games (up to 8 or 10 in the regular season). Please correct any of the above.

Here are simple steps to start building a solid team:

1. Instill pride and a sense of ownership in the players. If the players don’t want it, it won’t happen. If the guys are going to be successful, this has to be their team. You are a rudder, not the sail and not the wind. A rudder is useless on a still ship. Consider a pre-season team event (an inspirational football movie, for instance) and periodic (weekly if possible) team dinners or other off-the-field activities. Don’t let them use the excuse that they can’t be successful because they are new to the game and their school is just a “small Christian school”. They most likely want to be part of a real team as much as anyone. It is largely your job to show them that the game is important, the team is important and that they can build strength together. Make each flag footbaall game feel like an NFL playoff game. Target leaders in the group, preferably leaders on and off the field, and encourage them to lead this effort.

2. Fundamentals. Stepping on the field in a game is a privilege. First, the players need to earn their stripes. Hammer the fundamentals into the players. Throwing. Catching. Running. Flag pulling. Do drills again and again. Try to make them fun or competitive drills, but (with a fresh season) before you go anywhere near plays, get them used to running around and trying the different aspects of the game. Make sure every person who is going to catch a pass knows what a route is and how to run a good one. Eyes on the ball when you catch. You’d be amazed at how much better a defense plays when everyone swarms the ball, and you don’t give up nearly as many big plays when one guy misses the flag – this is just a matter of practice and discipline, not a talent issue. These are the basics. If you’re shaky on these yourself, review the Ninja’s Ultimate Strategy Guide again.

3. Keep it simple. Especially if they don’t have much of a background in the sport or a lot of innate talent, don’t overwhelm them with scores of plays and schemes and jargon. For the first game in a season with new players, you don’t need more than 4-6 plays. You can always flip the plays and get different looks, but a team like yours with a few well-rehearsed plays will do significantly better than the same team with two dozen plays. The same thing goes for defense. Find one or two simple formations and then you can spend time giving the players reps and practicing drills so when game time arrives, they are not so frazzled by which play they are running and where they have to be.

4. Targeted Attacks A quarterback with John Elway’s arm always helps, but it sounds like the long ball may not be your best weapon. Instead, hone your short, timing routes. If run correctly, these can be absolutely devastating. The next time you watch an NFL game, pay special attention to how open the receivers are when they catch a pass. With a few exceptions, the routes they run often create just a few feet of space for the QB to deliver the ball. If your quarterback can time some hitch routes or quick slants or outs, you’ll start building momentum and rhythm that can take the team far.

5. Great Flag Football Plays. As mentioned before, there don’t have to be many weapons in the arsenal to start with, but make sure they are good. These Flag Football Plays offer a number of options for tearing down your opponent. Use them well.

Those are a few tips to get you started. If you have more questions, the doors to the Ninja’s dojo are always open. Tell your players that they can ask questions themselves as well.

Victory is yours.

 

Ninja.


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One response

19 11 2009
Nathan Lipscomb

Thank you for your response! You mentioned that I should pick out five or six plays to start off with. I bought the 7-7 play books, and I was wondering what plays you would suggest. My players range from fifth grade to twelfth grade, about 13-14 boys. I was also wondering where I could find some good drills to use for practice. Thanks for the help!
Deterimined to win.

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