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Are You Running Too Many or Too Few Plays in Your Youth Football Offense?

The study I did in 2000 and 2001 of the best and worst teams in the country showed that on average the teams at the top of their respective leagues had "playbooks" that consisted of between 8 and 20 football plays. Even teams in the 13-14 age group that consistently won, executed just a handful of plays perfectly, no matter the offense they were running. On the flipside the teams that consistently were at the bottom of the standings had playbooks of 30,40 even 60 plays.

Chapter 8 of the book “Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan” details the number of football plays that are appropriate for the specific type of youth football team you have. The play number and mix matrix is dependent on the age and experience levels of your players and shows you which specific plays make sense for each unique grouping of players. It is in Chapter 8 of the book and also shows you what sequence to teach the plays in.

Here are a few quick coaching tips on number of plays to have in your playbook:

For the first game even with 3 weeks or less practice time, most youth coaches can get in the “Sainted Six” series of plays. By get in, we mean they are running these plays 19 out of 20 times perfectly on air with no defense. The wedge play at this point may still look a bit ragged but within another week or so it usually comes together nicely. Of the hundreds of youth football coaches reporting back to me each year I have yet to talk to one yet that wasn’t pretty comfortable with those plays for their first game.

For many youth football teams at the younger age of the spectrum, these 6 plays are often all the team needs for the entire season. In 2002, the first year I ran the Single Wing Offense, this was all we ran along with the Buck Wedge play. As the age and experience levels of your teams change along with your coaching expertise, the play numbers change as well. In 2006 we had about 20 plays we could run 19 out of 20 times perfectly on air and qualify to be part of our game day playbook.

For most teams after the “Sainted Six” are perfected, it is time to look at your teams strengths and add in another series. For many, the simplest to add is the buck wedge series, then the tailback half spin “mouse” series or the fullback full spin series. The speed which you put the offense in depends on how fast your kids perfect each play in the sequence.

My more experienced teams have often had 16 plays in before the first game; I’ve also had teams that just had the 6 in also. Remember you have the entire season to put in the offense, don’t get too far ahead of yourself.

For more youth football tips: Youth Football Playbooks

Dave Cisar- Founder and President of Screaming Eagles in Omaha and Lincoln, areas in Nebraska a youth football program serving over 400 boys age 6-14. With over 15 years of hands-on experience as a youth coach, Dave has developed a detailed systematic approach to developing youth players and teams that has enabled his personal teams to win 97% of their games in 5 Different Leagues at all levels and age groups while retaining 90% of his kids.

Dave is a trainer of youth football coaches nationwide. He has a passion for developing youth coaches so they can in turn develop teams that are competitive and well organized, while having fun and retaining players. His book “Winning Youth Football a Step by Step Plan” was endorsed by Tom Osborne and Dave Rimington. His DVDs and book have been used by teams nationwide to run integrity based programs that win championships. His web site is Football Plays and he can be reached at