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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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
– 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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Rush or Cover? How to Handle a Talented QB in Co-Ed Flag Football

3 11 2010

I’m in a co-ed flag football team. Our offense is solid and it has helped us win the regular season. However, we have not played all teams. We hope to reach the other undefeated team in the championship game. They have a running QB who is fast as hell and can actually throw (we have watched his games). Our defense is: fastest female rusher, two girls short on each side, one tall quick middle guy, two guy corners and two guys long. This has worked really well but we have not faced a fast QB. Any suggestions on dealing with this fast QB? (when we man up the QB always finds our weakest guy).


Don't give up the open field to a fast QB

  It sounds like the quarterback you will be facing in the playoffs is a strong player who can hurt you running or throwing.  The first question is whether your league allows QBs to run when rushed.  For purposes of this answer, we will assume the QB is free to run when rushed. 

For this playoff game, you need your best player on their best player. This means rushing or spying the QB with your superstar.  The way you’ve described it, this QB will put a move on your rusher and have the entire field at his disposal.  Also, by not having an effective rush, it will give the receivers time to break away and find an opening in the field.  It is extremely difficult to hold coverage for more than a few seconds in any league, but especially in a flag league where defenders have not had the benefit of a few years of organized football.  This is not to take anything away from your fast girl rusher, but unless she is also truly superior athlete, there is a good chance that her speed and efforts are wasted.   Consider keeping her as a rusher  with your best player also rushing or hesitating and then pursuing the QB once he has made a move in the pocket.  Often speedy QBs are not comfortable sitting in the pocket and will make a move soon after getting the ball.  As a QB, standing still with people running at you, it’s actually very easy to make a move and break free, using the rusher’s momentum against her.  It takes a lot of discipline and experience to rush in under control and not be eluded by a shifty runner.

What you need to avoid is giving the QB the benefit of time and space to run or throw to an opening in your defense.  Also, his accuracy and timing will be drastically reduced if he has a good rusher in his face.  He will force bad throws, he will make bad choices, and at the end of the day, you have taken away at least one, hopefully both of his weapons.  You don’t need to default into man defense.  Consider one deep guy, corners that drift back as the play progresses, two linebackers picking up middle and short threats, and rushing your fast girl and your best player.  With the corners drifting back, you may open up some shallow routes, but you should be able to maintain coverage on the deep ball. 

These strategies and more can be found in my playbooks and the Ultimate Strategy Guide and Defensive Handbook in my dojo.

No mistakes. No mercy.
– Ninja

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Drills and Tips for a Successful Zone Defense – Flag Football Tips from the Ninja

18 09 2010

What drills can I run to help my defense with ZONE. I’m having a hard time showing and teaching them. This is my 1st time coaching defense.  Thanks in advance,
Coach Paul

“No feather can fly.  But a wing full of feathers soars.” -Further Musings of the Master

Coach Paul,

The first thing to realize is that there are two components to a successful zone defense: Scheme and Execution.  Drills and practice need to revolve around those two themes.

Scheme. The wrong zone defense will get beaten no matter how hard you practice or what drills you work on. Having a good scheme is vital.  Some league formats (like 4on4) make running a zone defense very difficult. But with enough players it’s just a matter of the plan and carrying it out.  If you have purchased a playbook from my dojo, you will have received the defensive handbook with plays and tips to success on defense.  Also see the recent post on a great 7on7 flag football defensive look.  The important piece of running a successful zone, is to be able to tailor it to the offense you’re playing.  Have a couple of different sets ready for different offensive looks.  An aspiring Michael Vick quarterback requires more linebacker support and maybe even a dedicated defender to spy the QB, whereas an immobile gunslinger with strong receivers demands more attention in the secondary.

How to Run a Zone Defense Right

Know your zone responsibilities, and stick to them.

I like a base cover 2 defense with two deep safeties, two cornerbacks a linebacker and two rushers with blitzes and rotations out of that format.  As some earlier posts mention, man-on-man defense is a good alternative if you have the athletes. Also experiment with a hybrid.

Execution. The second, and probably more important, aspect of a good zone defense is execution.  Brush up on some of the fundamentals from the Ultimate Strategy Guide that comes in our playbook packages like the backpedal, keeping your head on a swivel and maintaining proper field vision.   Work on breaking on a ball, swarming the receiver and reading the QB’s eyes.  But those pieces are peripheral to the core zone defense key: staying in the zone.  By far the biggest problem with zone defense comes from guys who are not used to playing disciplined, organized football abandoning their zone coverage responsibilities.  One or two flashes of sandlot glory and suddenly a cornerback who is supposed to cover the flat is flying across the field with a receiver, hoping for a pick.  DEFENSE HAS TO STAY IN THE ZONE.  Work on fundamentals, work on vision, definitely work on swarming the football, but if you want to practice for a zone, practice staying in your spot.  Have a skeleton defense line up in the zone coverage.  Consider arranging a point scheme for receptions and touchdowns (to get the defense trying to win), and then start sending receivers through the zones.  Double up receivers in a zone.  Try to run routes that will pull the defenders out of position. If a defender blows coverage, pull him out, replace him and have him stand and watch the defense from the offensive side of the ball (not running a route, just watching). This will give perspective on what it looks like as a QB when zone coverage fails.  Also, emphasize communication.  When a receiver cuts across the field, he likely goes in and out of 2 or 3 zones.  If the defenders are communicating what’s happening, this fosters the cohesive defensive front, and will improve your team.

The key is to think about the zone from an offensive perspective.  Any good offense that’s targeting the zone will do what they can to exploit the zone.  Pull a defender out of his spot and hit another receiver in the hole.  A good quarterback knows which routes split a zone defender and where to look for an opening.

You don’t need a long list of specific drills to improve your zone coverage. You need a good foundation and scheme, and then you need to work on execution.  Yes, fundamentals play a big part, but the zone defense is only as good as the players executing it.  Each defender has to trust and rely on the guy next to him to pick up the receiver that crosses from one zone to another.

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What To Do With Weaker Players

29 03 2010

My flag football team purchased your 8on8 set and it’s absolutely been very helpful.
Flag Football
However, we have a dilemma that we’ve been trying to solve for a few games:

This season, some of our team’s veteran guys were replaced by more inexperienced and less physically-capable players. So now our team now has about 2-3 guys that we are having problems trying to decide where to play.

We want this to be a positive experience for everyone, so we do not want to bench any of our players or put them only on special teams, but we really do not know where to place these guys. Any ideas?

This is an 8v8 league, and we run separate offensive and defensive personnel. We run a pretty standard cover-2 zone on defense. I was thinking maybe putting these guys as WR (we normally have 4 WR), as this would still leave 2 veteran WRs. We’ve tried OL, DL, and CBs, but they’ve almost been liabilities in these positions.

Thanks for your help!

The Ninja Speaks


The problem you bring up of having a disconnect between the talent/experience/intensity of a couple of players and the rest of the team is all too common on a flag football team, and unfortunately, unlike some sports, even with teams as big as 8on8, there is really no place to “hide” a player, much less 2-3. On the one hand, as you mentioned, you want to make the game a fun, positive experience for all involved, because it’s “just flag football”, right? The other side of the coin is the intense desire to compete and win no matter the venue, and your players probably span the spectrum from “just being out to have fun” to “win at all costs”.   I have seen this before, and unfortunately, there are hard decisions ahead of you. A good first step would be to take a step back and try to determine which direction most of the team seems to be pulling. Does the overall vibe of the team (these 2-3 players excluded) lean towards serious competitive gameplay or towards just having fun. If it’s the latter, then you can take a deep breath and just accept the fact that you’re going to give it your best, but playing time and field equality is more important than winning, even if you yourself are inclined otherwise.

BUT, if you feel that the team really is built to win except for a couple of guys who are dead weight, but you don’t want to be a total jerk by having cuts from your rec league team, things get more dicey. Here are some thoughts:

1. Definitely slip one of them in at wide receiver. If you have 4, that’s a good spot. Make a point to start them in that position, but then encourage a healthy rotation after the first quarter. The fact is, they only become a serious liability if the QB throws them the ball (and they drop it, tip it up, etc.). Part of this will be on the QB. If these guys are truly that dangerous out there, don’t throw them the ball unless necessary. You could split the game, rotating two of them through one receiver slot, trading possessions. You may lose a superstar at that position, but immediately you’ve given two of them assignments. If you can pull off a spread set formation with 2 blockers and 5 receivers, you can definitely afford to have a weaker route runner out there.

2. While I agree that just having them on special teams is only a short step above cutting them, make sure that they are emphasized on special teams. That at least keeps them involved multiple times a game. Can any of them kick? Tasking one of them as kicker actually brings them into the game quite a bit.

3. Rusher on defense is also a good position. If you pair one of them with a very strong rusher, you should still be able to pressure the QB. Again, rotate through these guys to minimize the negative impact.   If you do this a lot, it doesn’t look as much like you’re singling out a weaker player when no one else is rotating.  I would recommend against putting these players in your deep cover two or even at the corners or backer unless they earn the position.  Stopping a good team’s passing game is difficult enough without worrying about your guys being out of position and giving up big plays.

Hard Decisions, Continued
Back to the hard decisions theme… Simply put, you will not be the team you want to be (or used to be) if you’re saddled with inferior players AND you feel that it’s necessary to give them substantial playing time.  The game is just too demanding to have weak players on the field every game. Sometimes it’s good to have numbers to avoid being caught short handed on guys for a game, but often it’s the less desirable players who are the most consistent.  You probably cannot change that much this season, but you may think long and hard about your team ethos and what next season looks like.  It may be worth reevaluating then.  I have direct experience with having to cut a player between seasons.  It was an extremely difficult thing to do, but his attitude and gameplay were dragging the team down.  Our team was much better for having done it.
Alternatively, you can keep these players involved on the team and just make the hard decisions as they come up.  If it’s fourth and long and you need a big play, put your best team out there. If you’re under 2 minutes with a tie game and a playoff berth depends on a victory, put your best team in.  To do this you need one guy (or a couple) who is clearly calling the shots. When playoff games arrive (and every single member from the roster has suddenly found a way to clear the calendar), you have to make tough choices.  Most times a weaker player knows he is weaker and playing some role on a dominant team is good enough.   If you don’t want to address it so brashly, consider reducing the playing time of the weaker players. Let them make the decision of whether getting a few snaps is worth the trade off of a Saturday morning. This is sort of an economist’s approach; address it practically, and if they choose not to continue, that is their most effective way to voice their discontent. (Of course personal relationships must be considered as well).

Remember that a team is an organism made up of a dozen or more individuals, and while nobody wants to be the unpopular leader who takes the game too seriously by making cuts or limiting playing time, there are a dozen other guys on the team who are taking the game seriously and making it a priority. By catering to a couple of guys who really deserve to play at a lower level, you may be trading their contentment for the chemistry and strength of the team, not to mention the satisfaction of the other dozen guys who want to win.

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

13 11 2009


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.


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


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.



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.

How to Play Zone Defense in 4on4 Flag Football

7 01 2009


 Ninja, I was wondering if it’s possible to run any type of zone D in 4v4? I read somewhere that it can be done, but the team has to work well together. But it didn’t go on to explain how to set it up. Any help or info would be super! BTW Your O plays are sweet and I think they’ll help us out.  – Bob


  “The sun covers the earth and no feather of the sparrow escapes its rays.  So the Ninja will cover his enemies, and their escape will be as futile as that of the feather.”

                                                                                                                         – Ninja,  Whispers of Battle


 The short answer is that man defense is typically a more effective defense to run in 4man flag football.  While this depends on a number of variables (not the least of which are field size, league rules, passing clock and QB sneaks) overall teams have better success running man defense because there is so much ground to cover.


But a zone defense can be run in 4man. Here’s how it goes:


Ninja Tips:

– In 4man football, defenders cannot play true zone as they would on a 7,9 or 11 man team. They have to play a “liquid zone” meaning they drift and respond to the routes as the play develops. Otherwise, there’s just too much field and not enough defenders.

– All defenders should keep an eye on the receivers outside of their zone.  It’s best to turn off your brain and just feel the offensive play develop.  When someone approaches your zone, you’ve got to pick them up, but if all receivers clear out of your zone, with only 4 defenders, you’re going to have to adjust to provide support elsewhere.


We’ll assume there is a center, three receivers and a QB with a pass clock (instead of a rusher). Side Note: if you have a live rush and the QB can scramble, it’s almost impossible to run an effective zone.  


The Formation:

Form a diamond, with two defenders in the flats, one deep (though he should start only about 10-15 yards from the line of scrimmage).  The linebacker will spy the center and keep an eye on the QB (if he is allowed to run).  The deep man will have deep responsibilities by himself.  The flat defender on the strong side (the side with two receivers) will play true flat zone defense but will drift back slowly as the play progresses.  The flat defender on the weak side will follow his man a little more closely, though if the isolated receiver cuts inside on a quick slant or in route, the defender should let him go.  But if the isolated defender to the weak side (ie all by himself) takes off on a deep route, the flat defender to his side should follow.  If this happens, the line backer will have to be heads up to watch for the center releasing into the weak side flat under the deep route.


The deep man will shift towards the strong side and keep an eye on the inside receiver.  If both receivers on the strong side shoot deep, the flat defender should check the center for a release and then drop deep to give support to the deep defender.   


The success of this defense will lie almost entirely on the ability of your defenders.  And that does not mean they have to be the fastest, best athletes alive.  But they must have good instincts in order to read and react to the QB.  Sometimes they’ll guess wrong, but if executed correctly, this zone defense can work to shut down a 4on4 flag football offense.

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