29 03 2011

We have 3 potential QBs: One, call him option A is fast / fairly accurate, option B is slow, VERY accurate and very good at reads, and option C is a decent passer/runner but lacks decision / leadership skills. We tried all of us through out the season, do you think that sticking with one QB is better throughout the season to develop some chemistry between the players?

Picking the Right Quarterback – Based on the description above, the Ninja will discuss and analyze the quarterback options

The “Run and Gun” – a fast QB with decent accuracy
Run and Gun is fast and can deliver a decent pass. He’s often looking for a running lane, but can deliver the ball through the air. He struggles with accuracy on longer balls.

Pros: Mobility can be a huge asset on the field, particularly if league rules allow running. A mobile QB buys time for the patterns to develop, and making the defense respect the run can pay off by opening passing lanes as well.

Cons: If Run and Gun is prone to the occasional bad decision or pick, that can be a momentum changer. With shorter game times and offensive-heavy play, so often flag football games are won or lost on the backs of turnovers. Also, a QB who is looking to run first and pass if/when open will have a hard time capitalizing on the timing routes.

Analysis: Run and Gun has some great potential. Depending on league rules and other talent on the team he may be a good choice. Because of his speed, though his biggest benefit to the team may be as a receiver. For this reason (and the converse), he is probably the second choice.

The “Sniper Turtle”
Sniper Turtle is as “slow as molasses in January,” as a coach used to say. He’s got a great eye for reading the defense, a good arm and makes accurate throws, but couldn’t outrun his 2 year-old niece.

Pros: The Sniper Turtle can make some big plays by reading the defense and placing the ball exactly where it needs to be. The inability to spring out of the pocket means he/she is more likely to sit back and find a passing option.

Cons: The obvious con is an inability to escape a rush. Even a mediocre rushing duo can hurry the Sniper Turtle. Sacks can be one obvious result. Another is not having time for long plays to develop.

Analysis: Turtle-Sniper may be the best choice of the three. In flag football where defenses are typically not very disciplined and organized, well-timed passes combined with good routes are almost unstoppable. In contradiction to Run and Gun, Sniper Turtle adds his most value as a QB and brings little to the table as a receiver. To make Sniper Turtle successful, make sure he takes a deep snap, and give him short “escape hatch” receiver options. This may tame an otherwise aggressive rush. Having a strong playbook and practicing timing will also go a long way.

The “Mid-Liner”
The Mid-Liner does everything ‘ok’ but does not excel anywhere. Speed is decent, arm is passable, but leadership is lacking and choices are questionable.

Pros: Mid-Liner may give you an opportunity to put your faster “star” players at receiver slots. Mid-Liner doesn’t get trapped in the pocket like Sniper Turtle, and has an option to run from time to time.

Cons: Decision-making is not a strength. He suffers from the same potential challenges as Run and Gun from a turnover standpoint. Also he may be indecisive both with play selection and field reads.

Analysis: While QB leadership is not a pre-requisite (although that’s the default leader on most college & NFL teams, in flag football, a mastermind receiver can play that roll almost as well), decision-making is extremely important. Any type of hot reads or defender read could be a big weak point. He doesn’t add much in terms of excellence and probably fails to lead the team far in the playoffs. Of the three options, Mid-Liner is probably the last choice.

Football Video of the Week: Ninja Quarterback Does Crazy Trick Shots

15 02 2011

Check out this video of a ninja quaterback hitting crazy trick shots – follow this link to the watch the video on YouTube.


Football Gear Review: Cutters C-Tack Football Receiver Gloves

10 02 2011

Football Receiver Gloves
Many have looked for a way to catch more footballs and elevate their game.  Receiver gloves are a great way to do that.   Manyof the football gear companies (Nike, Reebok, Under Armour, etc) have some version that they sell, but Cutters, a relatively young company, has specialized in this market  and focused on little else.  Inspired by indsutrial glass-handler gloves, the C-Tack revolutionary tactification process integrates the grip into the material Unique look, feel, grip and durability C-Tack’s tackiness is easily restored by wiping the palms with a damp towel and then wiping dry and machine or hand washing in cold water Neoprene on knuckles Ideal for receivers, running backs and defensive backs Ensure the ultimate in gripability Perform well in all weather conditions Machine washable and dryable Meets NF/NCAA specifications.

The Good: The C-TACK Receiver Gloves are among the stickiest on the market (still legal for NCAA college and other league play).  Even better, they keep their tackiness longer than many of the competitor gloves on the market. They are not particularly fragile (machine washable), and come in a few different options.

The Bad: Cutters has struggled in their “cool factor” for a while both in design and color options.  The solid gray with white piping scheme was intended to comply with NCAA rules.  They continue to evolve on this front, and we are big fans of the new black on black.

Rating   4.5 of 5 Stars - GREAT 
Slightly dinged for appearance, we think these are about the best gloves on the market for durability and stick factor.  (And the Ninja always appreciates the black on black…).  Get your pair today. 

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One of Football’s Most Dangerous Plays (and how to run it)

7 02 2011

The Out-And-Up


For more plays, check FlagFootballNinja.com


Shatter the Zone

If run correctly, the out-and-up can shatter the zone defense.  Whether you’re facing a cover 2 (two deep defenders) or some variation, like a three deep, box or diamond coverage scheme, you can open it wide up with this play.  What’s the catch?  You have to run it right.   We look at the out and up against a cover 2 defense.  This is a 7on7 look, but the same thing can be run in 5man, 6man, 7man and 8man football.  Line up twins to the side where the ball will go (here its right).  The wideout (outside receiver, Z) should line up about 10-12 yards from the sideline.  He is the decoy.  Some sort of fake communication to draw attention to the wideout can be used (receiver tapping his head or the QB making eye contact and calling a fake hot route).  The slot receiver (inside receiver, Y) should line up halfway between the ball and the wideout.   On the snap, the wideout will head straight for the center of the field.  The purpose is to draw the deep right defender into the middle of the field.  This will be particularly effective if the QB locks his eyes on the Z receiver.   The Y receiver will line up with his inside foot forward.  On snap, the Y receiver will take two steps and plant his inside foot on the second step.  About 2-3 yards off the line, the Y receiver will cut hard to the sideline.   He will not change course until he is 1-2 yards from the sideline (very important).  As soon as he reaches the edge of the field, the  Y receiver breaks deep.  The other routes are safety valves.  If it’s run right, the Y receiver will break open soon after the cut.  The QB should hit him quickly, or let it unfold and hit him deep.  The defense may not even notice the Y receiver until the ball is being launched over their heads.

Beat Man

The same play will work against man coverage.  The routes need to stay crisp.  The Y receiver should run about 3/4 speed until he reaches the sideline, then turn it on.  If the Y receiver has not signaled the fake, he should be able to break away and get separation down the sideline. If the defender is playing off the Y receiver, consider making the first cut 5-7 yards deep.

For more devastating plays, visit FlagFootballNinja.com

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Who’s Calling Plays? – Playing Time, Egos, and Winning: Struggles of the Player-Coach

4 02 2011

Player Coach

So you’ve rounded up some buddies, some of them have rounded up their buddies and you have enough players to field a flag or touch football team. You’ve thought of a clever team name and registered for the league.  Congratulations, the easy part is over.  Now you have a team to run. Sound easy? Maybe not easy as you’d think, especially when the coach is a player.  Here are some tips to stay competitive and avoid turning a group of friends into enemies in the meantime.

Do We Need a Coach?

“I’m playing for fun with some friends, do we really need a coach?” It’s a common question, but the answer is: you most likely already have a coach (you may not use that title, but handling scheduling, calling plays, and rotating players  makes you coach).  A good, competitive team will need leadership and organization.  Also, in many informal settings (rec leagues, weekend football, etc) you will have no-shows and scheduling conflicts.  For this reason, it is good to have more players on the team than will play on the field each down.  BUT, this also means having more players than spots.  When games become important (playoffs or championships), don’t be surprised if all 14 players show up for the first time all season.  For the unprepared coach, this can be a real problem.  Flexibility on the field is hugely important to respond to different challenges mid-stream, and without a defined leader calling those shots, you will find there are suddenly several coaches on the field, each with strong, differing opinions.

Coaching Style and Structure

Communication is key.  Whatever strategy you use, communicate it to the team as early as possible.  This goes for planning, plays, practices, rotations, schedule and everything else.  Usually the guy who ends up coaching is one of the better athletes on the team.  Often he’s the QB.  In some ways that makes coaching easier – its a natural leadership position, play-calling and organization flow well and the concern about playing yourself more than others disappears (for offensive plays).  If you are not the QB, it will be difficult to be the sole coach for all the same reasons.  If this is the case, consider creating a “coaching committee” of 2-4 players, including the QB.  That way play-calling, structure and organization still comes from a singular point.  You may want to form a committee like this anyway to avoid some of the interpersonal and ego-related issues that can surface.  Taking a player out of a game is far easier if it comes from two or three “coaches” than it is coming from one player-coach.  Of course, it can be more complex making calls from the field, and if disputes arise in the committee, there is no final word.

The more organization the coach(es) have the better.  Having set plays and strategies improves performance and can help with putting people in positions and making rotations. A set rotation may be preferable to replacing players on the fly to ensure better distribution of play time as well as distribution of skill.  Also finding player strengths is important – if one guy is especially effective on defense, you may be able to keep him engaged and interested without adding him to an already full offensive rotation, all without sacrificing talent.

Fun and Winning: a Delicate Balance

This dilemma affects most every (unpaid) coach, from the Dad youth football coach to the junior high team coach, and especially the player coach.  And there is definitely no one-size-fits-all solution.  The balance between winning and fun will be different for each player on the team.  There are players that would rather sit on the sidelines the entire season if it meant winning, while others would play without keeping score, just for love of the game.  The first step for the player coach is to determine where your team comes out on the question.  Are you in the lowest division in the coed football-for charity league? If so, chances are that fun is the reason to be playing.  Do you have a slate of ex-college players, who want to practice just so the championship is within reach? Probably a winning-mentality.   Most people voluntarily engaged in competitive sports probably enjoy winning, but you have to find out at what cost.  Early in the season, you will have more leeway. Once playoffs arrive, you’re playing for keeps.  But even along the way, winning games can be very important.  Consider starting some of the non-playmakers so when the crucial final 2 minutes arrives, you’re not compelled to play a weak lineup.  Also, making a “Red Team” lineup in addition to the regular rotations allows you to fall back on a pre-established system and quickly get your best team on the field when you need it. Oops, the “here-to-have-fun” guy just gave up a 60 yard touchdown and you need to score in 46 seconds: bring out the Red Team. At the end of the day, people need to have fun to keep playing on your team, but if well managed, the mix between adequate involvement and being part of a winning team, should work for the whole group.

Big Picture

A parting thought: remember why you’re playing.  It’s not the superbowl, you don’t have professional athlete insurance on your legs, your game is (probably) not televised.  Is it worth losing friends, offending people and hurting feelings just for the sake of the win? If you have a hard time answering this question, first, take a deep breath and re-consider your life purpose, and then, surround yourself with like-minded players and go win the championship.

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Adapting the Playbook for Full-Contact Play

4 12 2010

Coach, although have coached at varisty level mainly wing T in the UK, i am this year a 1st year JV (14-16yr) coach in the UK where my son will be playing. Football orgainsed by BAFACL runs from May-September in the UK and at this age group 5on5 is full contact. To my mind this is still flag football in principal, hence i have purchased 5on5 offense, defense and strategy guides which i think are great by the way and will essentially be our playbook this year. I wondered if you had any tips playing the offense, implementing your playbook with full contact in mind??
Football is alive and well on the other side of the pond. (Check us out at http://www.northwesternbulldogs.co.uk)
– Regards, Mike

Ninja Speaks

Coach Mike,

Glad to hear you have implemented the Ninja’s plays over in the UK and found them helpful.  To jump right in to your question, adapting flag football plays to full-contact football has its challenges, but whether playing in the back yard or under the lights in a varsity game, football fundamentals and core concepts don’t change.  As long as the plays you are starting with are solid, they should work in just about any venue.



Full-contact fundamentals differ from those of flag football in that blocking and tackling will be key to your success in a full contact league, whereas flag pulling and pitching will be key to flag football.  In your case, emphasize swarming to the runner and protecting the football – broken tackles and turnovers lead to most of the big plays in full contact youth football.  But most of the fundamentals discussed in the Ninja’s Ultimate Strategy Guide (included with playbook packages in my dojo) will apply in both situations.  Throwing, catching and routes will be the same.



In a full contact league, you may be more likely to see a zone defense than a man defense, but just as you would with flag football, adjusting to the defense is just a matter of running the right routes (quick and precise against man defense, less rigid and adjusting to find the hole against zone defense) and finding which plays work in your league.



Typically, I would say the biggest difference between full contact ball and flag football in terms of plays and schemes would be the blocking scheme and creating holes and protecting the quarterback.  Although in a 5on5 full contact league, you likely do not have a full line with stunts, pulls and other blocking schemes. If that is the case, you’re essentially playing the same passing game with more running options and tackling instead of flag pulls.  The plays should work well in this setting.


Coach, keep to the fundamentals that have worked for you in the past.  Choose a few key plays to build your offense around, and then practice, practice, practice – both fundamentals and plays.  Remember to keep it simple and play to your strengths.  Go get ‘em.



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Help with my 7-man team!

2 09 2009

Hi. I bought your 7-man package yesterday and wondered what you would suggest. I am coaching 5th/6th graders who have athletic ability but have not played together. How many plays would you suggest I introduce to the team and from what book would you suggest I pick the plays? What defense would you suggest to run? Thank you.

The Ninja Speaks:

You’re off to a good start. For your first game, I would suggest you have no more than 4-6 plays that the team knows very well. You can always add motion or flip the play to add variety, but the opponent will most likely have trouble with even 5 well executed plays. Each successive week add 2-3 plays, while reviewing the existing ones. If you can come up with a creative way to get them to learn the plays off the field, that will help (competitions can be useful in this regard).

On defense, keep it simple. A cover 2 zone defense is a good start. You keep two men deep, one linebacker plays the middle of the field, two men rush (if permitted), and two men play the flats (5-10 yards deep on the flanks). The biggest challenge you will have is to get the players to stay in their zone. Work on this in drills during practice.

You can try man defense if you think you have an athletic edge over the other team, but zone may serve you better for now.

The Ninja hopes you are helped.

Flagging a Title – Seven pitfalls to avoid on the way to a flag football championship

20 12 2008

By Max Moyer, special to Sports Illustrated On Campus

Reprinted with permission for The Ninja

Some people play flag football for the fun of it. Others play for exercise. Still others play simply because they like being outside with friends. But not you. You step on the field for one reason: to win. Desire and results are two different things, however, and seven pitfalls in particular prevent most teams from tasting victory. Avoid these mistakes and the trophy will be yours.

1. The QB
It’s obvious. Good quarterbacks win games. So avoid the temptation of offering your pal the starting spot just because he’s a decent athlete. Hold out for better. Try shopping around a little. In most flag football leagues (with a live rush or without), talented quarterbacks are a premium. If you can, find someone who has played the position in a competitive setting before. The importance of poise and confidence in the pocket cannot be overstated. Smart decisions and good instincts will win games when combined with a strong arm.

2. The Short Game
The long ball tempts too many flag football teams. For some weekend warrior quarterbacks, the visions of glory are overpowering. The long ball has its place, but in most cases, launching the ball too often will lead to turnovers, and in a 40-60 minute game, turnovers are devastating. Quick completions do three things. First, short plays pick up yardage and allow you to march down the field in rapid fashion. Secondly, short plays open up the field for the long ball, so if you complete a couple short passes you can then look over the top with the stop-and-go. Finally, a series of short, chain-moving completions will demoralize your opponent.

3. Blockers and Rushers
One of the biggest mistakes a team can make (in a league with live blocking) is putting the wrong guys on the line. The line is no place for the “leftovers.” It’s not even the place for your 300-pound elephantine friend who hasn’t moved faster than a walk since third grade. Offensive and defensive linemen are skill positions. If you’re fortunate enough to have huge, muscle-bound, athletic friends who run 4.7 40’s and have arms the size of your thighs, by all means put them on the line. But don’t overlook the quick, feisty guy who won’t stop talking or the lanky guy who simply can’t be contained. On offense, if you can give your QB time, it will absolutely transform your game. The opposite is true on defense — With enough pressure on the opposing quarterback, you can lay waste to his passing game. Build your team around the line.

4. Playbook System
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can be competitive by scraping together a couple of good athletes and then going out to play sand-lot football. That might work in the Recreational C League, but not against last year’s champs. Just because it doesn’t have to be organized football doesn’t mean it can’t be. A championship team has strategy. Spend some serious time crafting a system that plays to your strengths. If you’re short on time or if you simply can’t cut it as an offensive coordinator, find a playbook that works. FlagFootballNinja.com is a sharp-looking site that sells a bunch of playbook packages. Remember, if you’re trophy-bound, saying “just get open” or drawing routes on your chest in the huddle won’t cut it.

5. Goal Line Productivity
Don’t ignore the short-yardage plays. We see it at all levels of football. A team marches down the field to the three-yard line and then after four tries just can’t put the ball in the end zone. Or, after a great touchdown, the offense can’t seal the deal with an extra point. In flag football, it’s the little things that make the difference. Most games only last a few possessions per half, so missing an extra point, or worse, a red zone opportunity, will kill your productivity. Practice the short game. Find something that works. It’s not as sexy as throwing the deep routes, but spend time honing the short game and it will make a huge difference when you’re on the goaline and need to put the ball in the end zone.

6. Preparation
Most flag football teams show up for the game, play and then go home. Two practices a week beginning a month before the season starts is ideal, but unrealistic for most teams. At the very least, you need to show up between 30-60 minutes before game time. Let your QB warm up the arm and get the team to loosen up and stretch. This will help prevent injury and significantly improve your play. It’s important to use pre-game time to go over your offense and defense, too. If you have a lineup, now’s the time to get people thinking about their positions. Passing lines and repetition will tighten your routes and lead to higher completion percentages. You will be hard-pressed to find a defense that can stop a perfectly timed out-route or 5-yard hitch. Practice and preparedness are the only way to develop this kind of timing, but once you’ve got it, look out.

7. Defense
It doesn’t get more basic than this. Yet somehow, when it comes to flag football, way too many teams leave their defense to sort itself out. Spend time on your defensive scheme. Your team should spend almost as much time in warm-ups walking through defense as it does offense. Team size will often dictate whether you play man or zone (in four-on-four it’s very difficult to play an effective zone defense, but consider a hybrid. Do you have a stand-out corner you can lock down on the weak side? If you have the athletes for it, a true man defense can be tough to beat. Either way, check out the Ninja for some ideas and schemes.

Avoid these pitfalls and you will be well on your way to a championship. But remember, tips and advice mean little without heart and desire.