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Coaching Youth Football – Statistics That Really Matter
When you coach youth soccer, what are the “good” soccer plays?
There are many ways to define a “good” soccer game, but many youth soccer players, parents, and coaches have it all wrong.
Many youth football coaches do not even study to analyze their football games. They have a general “feel” for what works and what doesn’t, and they rely on that “feel” to determine which plays they should continue with or which ones they think should stop running.
Step One – The Stat Guy
In the first season, when we had film and a real person, I was surprised how different my perception was from the film results and our statistical charts. Many times our biases or internal emotions get in the way of an accurate analysis of what is actually happening in the field.
We now use a very simple “Scout Scout” method, which is detailed in my book. Our statistician knows in advance what game we are going to play. We are a unique team and our statistician, like all our players and coaches, has a wristband and he knows the codes we call in games. This allows our stats guy to know what play we are running before we run it. His accurate statistics then provide us with an unbiased, non-intrusive “real-time” dataset of our plays for all to see.
Using Easy Scout, we then determine our strategy and adjustments for the next series during each defensive hold. But how do you do this for your team? Many coaches use only one average yardage for each passing stat to determine whether a play is successful or not.
Real world example
Let’s take an example, a reverse 43 game. Let’s say your team gained the following yards during your 5 carries: -5, 0, -7, 1, 80. The average yards per carry would be about 14 yards, right?
On the other hand, let’s take a play like 16 power plays, let’s say you got a gain: 6,1,7,5,2,6,10,0,5,6 for an average of 4.8 yards. If you take the average meters for a transfer comparison, it looks like the 43 reverse is a much better game, doesn’t it? You have 4.8 yards compared to 14 yards, seems silly, but hold your horses.
How to define “success”
The way we determine if a play is successful is if we achieve our intended purpose in the play. But not all football games are created equal, each of these games has its own unique purpose. We don’t run the 43 Reverse very often, we only run it when the linebacker runs into the starting QB. Our field goal on the 43 reverse is 14 yards. Using the average yards per carry stat, one could call this a successful play in the above game, right? Let’s look a little closer.
16 Power is one of our main plays that we will try and establish, which aims to protect against overwriting or overreacting to said play, which opens up a number of other options from the same backcourt action. Every time we run this play, we go 5 yards to call it a successful play. In the example above, we didn’t meet that goal if we looked at the average of 4.8 yards per carry.
But how accurate is the average yards per carry statistic? In the 43 example, we had one big game and four games were pretty bad. In the 16 Power example, we were fairly consistent, but averaged below our intended target. But do we really? In the example 43 reverse we hit the intended target of 14 yards, only 1 in 5 attempts for an average of 20%. On the other hand, our 16 Force averaged 70% of 5 yards on 7 of 10 attempts.
What these new statistics tell us is which football games actually work and which ones don’t. Don’t let one big play or missed play skew your stats and give you a false sense of how the game will perform. What you’re looking for is consistency and performance, and the average meter per shipment isn’t going to do it for you. I’m looking at the percentage of times we hit our target, not the average per load. What we’re looking for is to hit the yardage goal for the game on 70% of our snaps. When we do this, our team performs well and our play calling is efficient and effective.
When used correctly, statistics can be a very powerful tool. One of the best youth coaches I know (Eric C) is a professional statistician and has been using variations of this model for years. His teams did very well, I might add. But you don’t need to be a statistical genius like Eric to use statistics effectively. It’s very simple to do and just requires a little effort, a clipboard, wristbands, planning, and a guy who looks after more than just his baby.
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