Keeping it simple is the route to success
| 4 min read
Let’s face it: football is a complicated sport — and flag football is right there with it. Hitch, post, fly – these routes sound like they’re made for a rodeo, not a flag football game. And don’t get me started on a Trips Stack Formation. How is a 6-year-old supposed to remember this stuff?
I asked two coaches — Art Moreno of Blue Chip Youth Sports, which runs more than a dozen NFL Flag Football leagues in Southern California, and Damon Blechen, former collegiate player and 6-year veteran with Central Marin Next Level Flag Football — to give a rundown of their go-to plays for the 9 and under set, and how they help kids keep it all straight.
For beginners, Moreno likes to stick with a Spread Formation. Two receivers spread out on the line of scrimmage and the running back stays by the quarterback. From there, the quarterback does “basic handoffs, right and left,” says Moreno.
From Spread Formation, Moreno uses three plays that he memorably named:
Penguin — Receivers run out five yards, then turn to look for the ball
Gorilla — Receivers run straight to the end zone as fast as they can
Money — A three, stop and go, where receivers run three yards, turn back to fake a catch, then turn and run toward the end zone
Because there’s so much going on during a game, Moreno finds the best way to achieve success is to “keep it really basic.”
Blechen prefers to use the Double Back Set Formation with younger players. Two receivers start behind the quarterback and one stays on the line of scrimmage. From there, a variety of routes can be called:
The Reverse — “A fan-favorite,” says Blechen. The quarterback fakes a dive to a running back and then hands off to a wide receiver who comes from the other side.
The Cross — The receivers take off running down the field, crossing paths along the way. The defense loses their bearings and a pass — or run — can be completed. “A bit of misdirection goes a long way,” he says. “Slants that cross against one another are nice because you usually get some confusion from them.”
What’s the best way to help kids remember different plays?
Don’t over complicate things.
Blechen says that using “a creative name that sticks in their mind” — Banana Left! — is the best way to help kids remember what to do. He says, “Don’t use a boring name that sounds like a lot of the other plays.”
“I keep it simple and hopefully they remember,” Moreno says. He recommends saving more complicated plays for age 9 and up. “Even then,” he says, “you give them a play, and they end up everywhere.”
For the very youngest players, don’t hesitate to use the same routes over and over again. Repetition helps young players understand the goal of each play.
And remember, the most important play for flag football coaches… is patience.
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