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The Secret to Beating Teams That Are More Athletic Than Your Team in Youth Football
Playing in space is the key term.
We’re not talking about playing football on the moon, zero gravity is forcing us all to rethink the game 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 players from other teams one on one, you want space, this is your friend.
However, unless you have bigger and better athletes than the other team, space is your enemy.
The game “In Space” means what it says and place your players between them and against them. If your team is made up of faster, bigger, more athletic kids, they will have an advantage in one-on-one play. That’s why you see teams with a lot of big speedy receivers do very well in “spread” offenses where they spread out the weaker defenders much wider than those dominant receivers, of course you have to have a QB that in these cases throw it away. If that receiver can only catch the ball “in space,” he has a chance to score in most situations.
On the other hand, most youth soccer teams do not have a dominant player in the league. Most of us are blessed with an average group of kids, and some of us have this weird group of kids that are smaller and less athletic than the teams we face. In these situations, you want as little space as possible between your children and the opposition.
Just think about your wrestling practice, when you practice wrestling in a neighborhood, let’s say a 1 yard square box, most kids even your athlete can often do that wrestling. But turn that tackle drill into a 20-yard by 20-square-foot open field tackle drill, how many of your less athletic kids can do on that drill now? The same is true for closures; very athletic kids can make blocks “in space”, less athletic kids can’t.
Less athletic teams almost always do better if they tighten up their line distribution, lock down the double team, and have more numbers at the point of attack. Less athletic teams need to run traps and other close quarter plays like croon to keep more athletic teams at bay. Less athletic teams have to commit more mistakes to keep the defense out of the game while they run it between teams. The spinner series is kryptonite to the supermen of these teams. There are just some plays that have NO DEFENSE against teams like this, sweeps, punt returns, deep punt returns, these are going to be negative yardage plays.
The good news with the Single Wing is that less athletic teams can compete with more athletic teams. Spinners and traps are often referred to as “phone booth football,” keeping very athletic teams from running hard into your base games. Double team blocks, bends, and pulls give your team numbers an advantage at the point of attack so smaller or weaker linemen can succeed as well. Tight distribution, distraction and linebacker involvement will help even very average backs put up big numbers with this offense.
In 2002 we had a very average back named JA with average speed. For our 8-10 year old team, she weighed 81 pounds, and when we ran our judging races, she was about 6th out of 25 kids. JA was a very compliant player, a patient runner, always moving his feet and always looking for openings, but nothing special. In 2002, he played for us and only played 2 games that year, a catch and a catch. He scored 31 TDs for us in tight FB games alone, of course we had a very weak field that year and he got a lot of carries. If we had a spinner series, he would have done even better.
As for beating bigger or more athletic teams: In 2003 my 8-10 year old team from Omaha went undefeated in the league and put up some pretty impressive numbers. We scored at will, went on an 11-0 run and won our league championship game 46-12 after going up 46-0 in the third quarter. We beat two other league champions who were 11-12 years old. In 2004 I started a new program in rural Nebraska in an area where the existing youth program had won something like 4-5 games in the 5 years before I got here. The first year there we had all new players except for 2-3 players from another city team. We only had one player over 100 pounds at 8-10. Slowly but surely we got better every week and by the end of the season we were looking pretty good. We played the Salvation Army that year, a very big and fast inner city team from Lincoln. They hadn’t lost a game in 3 years, we were outmanned, big and had less speed, but beat them in a nail biter by one TD en route to an 11-0 season.
Our biggest win in the extreme overmatch with verse 2005 Omaha Select Black. That 8-10 age team picked from over 150 kids, had at least 5 kids over 150 pounds, and was undefeated in Omaha’s “selective” league for 3 years. They were a very aggressive inner city team with a lot of pace and confidence. On the other hand, I had a total of 25 village children who did not cut or choose, and there were many children from very young age. To make a long story short, we had this team have 4 TDS in the first half and could have called the score. Needless to say, this team, their parents, and our parents were shocked by this. The good thing is that with this offense you can compete with anyone, the bad news is that when you do, it’s hard to get extra league games. Big inner city teams like North Omaha Boys Club won’t even play us at home, it’s a shame to beat much smaller and slower teams, they turned me down twice in the last 2 years for extra games they had open dates at the end of the season.
The Wing Single offers a bit of flexibility if you have that stud player that you want to separate “In Space”. We added the grid series in 2005 to accommodate a player that we thought would make sense to put “in space”. When we came up against weaker opponents, the “sheep” series did very well, no one could handle us. When we played against more or less equal competition, we had to go back to our solid offense to move the ball consistently.
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