Scrimmaging Outside Teams in Youth Football:
Scrimmaging outside competition is an important tool for preparing your youth football team for its first game. However, many youth football coaches make the mistake of scrimmaging too much, too often and before their team is ready to face outside competition.
Scrimmages help your youth football team get ready purely by letting them get a feel for playing against someone other than fellow team mates. It helps lessen any butterflies the kids have will have in their first game and gives the head coach an idea of areas he should be working on to improve. Unfortunately scrimmages are often at a pace too fast and not of a format where you can stop and take corrective measures. This is not the place where you are going to be able to troubleshoot your team and make improvements that matter. The live scrimmage is there to serve one purpose, bloody your teams nose and give you a feel for where your team is at. The time and place you troubleshoot and improve is during your fit and freeze drills against your own offense and defense in football practice.
Many teams feel they have to scrimmage as soon as they get a few of their football plays under their belt, a HUGE mistake. The usual result is a very weak and disappointing performance that zaps any confidence the team was building up. Scrimmages aren�t the time to experiment with plays to see if they will work or if personnel groupings are right. Your plays are ones that are proven winners to begin with and are nailed down well before the season starts. Personnel selections are done with precision based on detailed position descriptions, evaluations based on those criteria and precision scoring during those evaluations to make sure the right player is in each role, not moving players from position to position until you have the right fit.
It�s kind of like the good carpenter who measures twice and cuts once, versus the poor carpenter that measures once or not at all and cuts 11 pieces of wood until he finds one that fits. Don’t be that bad carpenter youth football coach that has a position merry-go-round going on all season because he failed to understand the needs of each positition and failed to correctly “measure” his players. Those failure to measure coaches always seem to proudly have lots of plays in early and rush off to scrimmage, get soundly trounced and then wonder why. This is all detailed in chapter 4 of the book. We have very detailed physical and mental requirements for each position on the field and methods to measure and grade our players for both. Like a good carpenter, we measure 3-4 times and cut once, it saves lots of time.
If you have one month before your first game, your scrimmage should happen on the first day of the week in the week of your first game. The scrimmage should be in a controlled format arranged ahead of time with a team that is of like ability and experience level. Our preferred format is 10 plays of offense with my first team against the opponent�s first team. Then we switch to defense with my probable starters going 10 plays versus the other teams starters. If possible do the scrimmage on a real field with referees, that will give your kids the feel you are trying for, a simulated game. We start at the 40 yard line and move the ball down the field as the offense gains yardage. If there is a turnover or touchdown, the offense has to start back at the 40.
During the next series we put our backups in for 10 plays against the opponents backups and go both on offense and defense in the same manner. We make sure and practice our substituting here as well. For the final series we go back and have the probable starters scrimmage for 10 plays on offense and defense, using the same format we started with.
Make sure and whistle plays dead if you do not have referees and mark off obvious penalties. We do not do any live special teams during scrimmages. Make sure and film the scrimmage and analyze it before your next practice.
During the scrimmage only work offensive football plays you have practiced and can perform well. This is not the time to run something you can�t execute well in practice or have drawn up in the dirt in the huddle. When these haphazard plays fail, your team loses confidence in the scheme and themselves. I only run running plays that we can consistently perform perfectly on air in practice with no defense 19 of 20 times (95%). On passing plays, we only run those we can perform perfectly on air and catch the ball at least 70% of the time. On defense we run just the base defense with a handful of stunts that we have down pat. I have gone into scrimmages with just 4 football plays and come out as the hands down dominant team, where the other team is working 4 formations and trying in a 30 play scrimmage to run 30 different football plays.
As the season progresses there is little need to scrimmage outside teams. It steals valuable practice time from what you should be doing, developing your players and team. A very brilliant coach once told me �Coaches scrimmage and condition because they don�t know how to practice�. Think of the movie “Hoosiers” and the scene where the college coach takes over from the wannabe coach that does nothing but scrimmage and yell at his players.
The only reason we would ever scrimmage as the season progressed is if I had a dominant team and we were not getting pushed by anyone and needed some competition to help us improve. We perfect our offense and defense during fit and freeze sessions, not during scrimmages. Another reason to scrimmage might be if you have a team size of over 30 and wanted to get more �playing time� for your non starters. Other than that scrimmaging is a huge waste of valuable practice time and is rarely what the Championship teams I�ve studied spend their time on.
For more youth football coaching tips please go to Coaching Youth Football
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