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Gap-Air-Mirror Defense for Youth Football reader success stories, Part 1

GAM reader/user wins 2008 Pop Warner national championship

Good morning Mr. Reed

On Friday, our peewee team won the national championship 15-12. I wanted to thank you on behalf of the Raritan Bay Cougars, my son Jordan, and more importantly me for all the help and guidance you provided us. Without this defense and all the help you provided [by emails during the season] we would have never gotten this far and definitely not beaten the last team we played.

Their offense killed everyone. As I have told you before, if you need anything to help you promote your book, just ask.

We are a peewee [usually age 9 to 11] team in Pop Warner. Our name is Raritan Bay Cougars of Old Bridge New Jersey. We play in the central jersey conference as part of the eastern region. We are the 1st team from the conference to ever win.

The team we played in the finals ran a double wing, but the wings were inside the te's and the lineman were set back 1 yard behind the center. We questioned the refs as to whether there line was illegal with not enough on the line but were told it was.

Erik Fetterman

2006 Pop Warner National Championship using Reed’s Single-Wing Offense and GAM defense

Mr. Reed,
My name is Tim Ailes, I contacted you a couple years ago about our team from Flagler County, Florida that won the 2006 D-2 National Championship by using the Single-Wing on offense and the GAM on defense. Yes it was Pop-Warner and I contacted your in early 2007 to let you know how successful we were with a lot of your ideas. Our Head Coach was coached in college by Rex Ryan so we tried to coach a physical style of football and it was amazing the compliments we used to get. by no means am I trying to take credit for this, all the credit should go to our Head Coach and the players, I was an Asst. Coach on this team, my son was the Power Tackle...

Tim Ailes 

Dear John Reed,

I contacted you in 2003-2005 to purchase your football books (offense, defense, etc.) and use them for Pony football (12 year olds). I recall calling you and describing the resistance from my coaches and parents -- especially since I was trying to teach football to over 42 players including two girls.

I was pushed out of coaching [hereinafter League A], due to a conflict with the new football director -- his words --'that isn't football' -- he subscribed to a playbook and the I formation - the playbook had over 30 plays! I asked that we create a B division to handle so many players and let them play football. He disagreed. So I contacted [League B] football league (must play and no weight restrictions), and the first year we fielded 1 team and all the players (over 30 of them played) the next year [League B] expanded to 4 teams, and eventually to 6 teams…

[Our local] High School football team just won its third Maryland State Public school 2A State Title, and 4 consecutive years in the final. Over the last 4 years, many of the dominant football players on these teams got their start with [League B] football and the principles I used from your books in the first season (single wing, GAM defense), many of the other League B] youth teams also used your books. The two leading players on this years State Championship team both have Division I football scholarships -- but I want to reemphasize that many of the [second league] starters usually 5 to 7 of them on the starting offense or defense) go their start with [League B] contrary to the [League A] youth football program -- the old I formation and 30+ plays in the playbook!

[Reed note: After my first year of head coaching freshman football at our local high school, my freshman players did spring football under the JV coach. After one or two days of spring football, he came to me wide-eyed and thanked me and my staff for doing such a great job of preparing the players for the next level. He said, “These kids are already where last year’s JV team did not get until three games into the season! Your guys know how to practice, how to study film, they understand the game! I can’t thank you enough!” I have also gotten that from other high schools after my kids moved up. The reason is my books are not only about the gimmick of the GAM defense or the single wing offense. They are mainly about basic good football play and cocahing. I always use and advocate contrarian approaches because they give your team an advantage, but the main reason my books work for my readers and my former players work for higher levels is my readers have a far better understanding of how to coach football (or baseball) than the vast majority of those coaches who have not read my books. One of my youth readers applied for a local high school job. The board doing the interviewing including a former very experienced high level coach. When my reader was asked how he would handle various offensive plays on defense, he recited the stuff from my GAM book. He got the job. The experienced coach interviewer subsequently told him he got the job because he understood basic football defense, and had the right answers for difficult offensive plays better than any other candidate.]

Best Regards,

Vincent DiGioia

Coach Reed,

I emailed you 8 months ago when I ordered your books in Afghanistan. I took over a team that hasn't won a game in two years, and only scored 1 touchdown last year. Many of the players and parents refused to comeback. I am left with 17 kids and we only had 3 weeks to put your Single Wing, and GAM in. We had no live action except half offense vs half defense like you suggested. Ok, that was all the negative.

Today we won! 38-0. I had 3 kids over 100 yards, one with 300 if you include his 60 yard pick 6. On defense we held the team to close to 100 yards negative offense I don't have exact numbers until I watch the video. We had 6 fumble recoveries and turned the ball over ZERO TIMES!!!!

The game was mercy ruled before the end of the 2nd quarter. This is where its a continuous clock and the losing team stays on offense. Its 28 points for Mercy rule. It was 25-0 so the next TD n conversion gave us 32 and then we had the pick 6 to give us 38.

I could not have done this without your books. I bought all of them except clock mgt. I will get that one soon. Thank you so very much Coach. You made me look like a genius, and my kids look like world beaters, but I'm just an enlisted Air Force Dad with an young team of mostly first year players.

I also forgot to mention we were 4-6 passing for over 60 yards. The two incompletions were drops.

God Bless, Gabe

I've ran the offense now for two years and the first year my team won the conference with a 7-1 record and we lost in the semi final game 1-1 playoff
Last year we were undefeated with an average of more than 50pts a game in the first round of the playoffs we won 80-6! It was 60-6 at halftime!
The next round we were 44-0 at halftime
And the championship we won 44-14!
I used the warp speed offense with wrist coaches and I shuffled the long side guard every two plays.

We have had great success with the GAM as well. Last year we allowed less than 6 points a game.

Shawn Kea

Hi John,

I bought you GAM defense book back about 2001 or 2002. By the way, we went 9-1 in the 2002 season and won the NH PW state championship at the Midget level. Thanks.

Tom Lapierre
Rockingham County Cougars
Website -
Facebook -
Twitter - @RCCougars
Cell - (603) 303-6519

Coach Reed,

I just wanted to take a moment to say, thank you for taking the time to produce such USEFUL resources for youth football coaches. I have coached youth football for 4 years now and despite my best efforts in exhausting all resources available, I have found nothing that comes close to offering such instructive and practical guidance as your books!

I purchased your Gap-Air-Mirror Defense for Youth Football book 3 years ago. As you indicate in your book, other coaches and parents were immediately skeptical. I took my lumps and stayed the course, just as you recommended. By week 2 the skeptics were quieted as we had boast 2 shutouts! We finished that season with the number 1 defense in our league and lost in the second round of the playoffs in overtime.

Year 2-The skeptics never quit…..however they were again hushed by the results, as we made our way to the league championship and proved the GAM defense was not a fluke. We lost the championship in a real heartbreaker 12-6. But again, we claimed the number 1 defense in the league.

I took over the head coach position this past winter and with that, I decided to run your single wing offense as well. I wasted no time in purchasing your Single Wing Offense for Youth Football immediately. Once again, I caught grief for what was considered by many as, more of my eccentric coaching methodology. Having become somewhat immune to this type of behavior it did not bother me nearly as much as it had in past, our perhaps I am becoming callused. Long story short we finished this season with not only the number 1 defense 3 years running, but the number 1 offense as well. The cherry on top was taking home the championship in our 7-0 season!

2013 stats
Offense-Total Points Scored-276-Average per game-39.4
Defense-Total Points Allowed-54-Average per game-7.7

It is my theory that our success started with confidence at the top. Once the coaches believed in the system, the kids believed in the system. With that, the players to take ownership of the team. Further, the simplicity of both systems helps our coaches focus on fundamentals to instill proper technique and safety, which I personally believe to be our greatest obligation at this age. Your books also provided us a trouble shooting guide, which we found very helpful in fixing problems vs covering them up. I believe all of this helps our kids down the road and better prepares for Friday nights.

I am well aware of the fact that every coach has his own style and knowledge base to draw from in what and how they coach/teach, it makes sense. But, for what it is worth I would recommend your books to anyone. Just not anyone in our leagueJ

Again, I thank you for what you do.


Doug Bensman

Little Raider Football Association, Ohio

Coach, I don't know if you remember getting an email from me at the start of the season. We were going to be implementing your defense for our 11 man pop warner team. We finished the regular season with only one loss 7-6. We are now starting our run into the state playoffs this saturday.


It's been years since I coached little ball, but when I did, I used your GAM defense with pretty good success, given I was a new and very green coach dealing with 11-year olds.

Football (6th grade) was infinitely more challenging to me [than baseball], and the GAM book was critical, and I was really taken with it.

I might also add that I depended on your materials for baseball for kids as well—we were quite successful in our area, I might add. The baseball book (…brilliantly, taught me to manufacture runs via enlightened stealing, among other things) …

Thanks, and kindest regards,

Steve Knippenberg
Law professor, Oklahoma University

You may find this interesting. I have been a high school coach in Texas for 37 years, spending time in every public school classification this state has to offer, (even one, class B 11 man which no longer exsists). Retired, took a job as a private school which played 6 man, we moved up (even though we still don't have the recomemded number of boys) to 11 man football this fall. To prepare I RE-read your clock management, read your Youth Football, Contraian Football (extremly helpful), 10-1 defense, and single wing books last summer.
We went 11-1 won our district (first year I have ever won 11 games) and went two rounds into the private school Division III (smallest division) playoffs. Your books were extremly helpful, I found after 40 years in coaching, your Youth Football concepts more helpful than ideas I have picked up from college coaches.

Most of the schools we played were bigger. We have 103 students and we beat schools with enrollents of 400, 300, and 700 students, and again it was our first year to play 11 man ball. Thanks for your help. Keep me informed if you publish more books.

havae been listining and studing under good and great coaches since my junior year in college (1968) and I must say that you offer a fresh prespective. I have enjoyed and gained a great deal. THANK YOU.

Coach Reed,

I've been coaching football and watching every level for a long time now and have noticed that many of your ideas are being used. For instance sideline play calling with poster boards is just a spin off of your magna doodle. Warp speed tempo? Chip Kelly must have bought your book. The ducks look like a team you would coach.

I used the place kick punt this year on varsity and the other team was lost. We pinned teams deep with the quick kick on third down. All that stuff inspired by you.

I have read the GAM book over and over and I have tried to find stuff on the 10-1 to no avail. I can't seem to figure out why the GAM would not work at the high school level. The concept is sound and innovative. Every D has risk. I think it would be a great D for Varsity or at least combined with something else. I used it at the freshman level and it worked well.

Thanks for your time coach
Tim Mitchell

Hi Jack,

…the Pee Wee Falcon's owe you a debt of gratitude as well. …I ordered Coach Reed's "Coaching Youth Football" and "Gap Air Mirror Defense for Youth Football" books. As you can read below we only let up 36 points in 8 regular season games and 12 points in our 2 playoff games. We recovered three onside kicks this year thanks to coach Reed's suggestions! You have … contributed greatly to our success this year. Thank you for your books and websites!

Last year I signed on to help out as an assistant. As you can imagine I was in for a rude awakening as to how complicated a sport football is to coach. We did not have much success finishing the year 0-8 at the Varsity level. This year we went 7-1 in the regular season outscoring our opponents 146-36. We lost our first game 10-0 to a team that finished their regular season 8-0 and were the number one seed in the playoffs. I blame myself as a first year head coach just not having the [double wing] offense firing on all cylinders for that first game. After that first game we beat most of our opponents by three scores only with me taking my foot off the gas towards the end of games. Our league rules state that a Pee Wee team shouldn't beat another team by more than 24 points. We won our first playoff game 20-12 to advance to the Finals. On Sunday we beat the team that knocked off the number one seed 14-0 to win our Division Super Bowl!!! This season we rushed the ball 275 times for 1657 yards averaging 6.03 "tough yards" per carry. I can't fully express how grateful I am that you gave this rookie head coach the tools necessary to teach his kids how to play like champions. Thank you for all of your help and support.

Yes you may quote me. I love your GAM defense. I heard lots of yelling from Offensive coordinators! I told my assistants many times this season that I love hearing opposing coaches raising their voices! Thanks again for all of your help. We wouldn't have had this level of success without your contributions. Your books are a great resource for youth football coaches...especially rookie head coaches!


I just wanted to send you an note of appreciation. We had an undeafeted season this year going 10-0 running your defense. We have been running the GAM for several years now and it has been very solid. One of the things that I like most about it is that no matter what offense the opponent thows up there, our kids know how to line up and what their assignments are. Our defense was very solid this year. We never had a let down.

Thanks again for your help.

Gaston Acosta-Rua
Wilton, CT
7th Grade Football Coach

Paul McConnell

Just thought I'd share with you some facts from a successful 8-0 Pop Warner Jr. Pee Wee campaign here in southern Colorado. Boys are gearing up to face southern Texas in the Pre-Quarter Finals this year….

It hasn't been perfect, and neither have I, but we took a team that won no games the previous year and turned in an undefeated season. It wasn't all because of defense, good coaches and a few more athletes helped. We took a team that was running a traditional 4-4 stack giving up 20+ points a game and gave up the following this season:

Game 1: 6 points against
Game 2: Shutout (Defense scored 2)
Game 3: Shutout (Defense scored 6)
Game 4: 18 points allowed (1 special teams TD, another big return to
inside the 20 and a pick returned to inside the 10)
Game 5: Shutout (against the same team that scored 18 the previous week)
Game 6: 19 points allowed (Man-Child QB on the boot running over our
kids for all 3 scores, defense got kids where they needed to be,
thankfully we scored 42!) This game was a lesson for me, one that you
mentioned in the book and that I will use against our likely opponent
if we advance beyond our next game.
Game 7: Shutout, only 2 positive plays the whole game
Game 8: 12 points allowed (Too many penalties extended the first drive
and led to the first score, a GREAT run by the other team the second)

55 total points scored against us in 8 games
6 directly from special teams
We scored 8 for a net of 41 against our defense in 8 games, or a
little over 5 points per game.
4 Shutouts!

I look forward to playing better competition as we hopefully advance deeper into the Pop Warner tournament. I just wanted to thank you for your book, practical insight and detailed explanations.

Happy Halloween,

Marty Venticinque

Hey John-

1st time youth football coach, and grabbed your book this summer to try and learn about coaching defense. I have not been disappointed. After a 1st week loss, we have put up 3 straight shut outs, in large part due to the GAM design and execution.


Alan Kroll


Fellow USMA [West Point] ('92) grad (and 150s [Army intercollegiate 150-pound limit or sprint fooball team] player) here.

First, I want to send you kudos for your books. I coached my son's 4th grade and 5th/6th grade teams and credit your books for helping/counseling me as a youth FB coach. Although I did not run a single-wing offense, I ran a contrarian offense that followed many of your principles: direct snap to the running back, minimize passing (even/especially on typical NFL passing downs), signaling plays in to the QB, etc. In season 3, we saw many teams running the direct snap, while in season 1, none were, and we'd often hear comments from the opposing team suggesting we were crazy for doing it until they were too busy figuring out how to stop it. In fact, most teams incorrectly identified it as a shotgun formation, which I guess it might look like if you're used to watching the NFL on Sundays.

Additionally, I avoided the typical coaching mistakes that I saw other coaches making. We had a combine during the first week of practice (no pads allowed anyway), which allowed us to position players by strengths/weaknesses vs. casting (where they looked like they should play). I had a pre-season parent's meeting and covered the importance of little Johnny learning one position well to set him up for success in doing the basics (blocking/tackling) vs. trying to learn/play many positions which would just encourage doubt/hesitancy which would put him out of position and make it hard for him to block/tackle successfully. I limited the parents on my coaching staff to two (myself & one close friend who I could trust not to fall into the typical parent traps) and recruited some younger, successful football players from work to round out the coaching staff.

It's amazing what crazy ideas parents will accept when their kid is on a winning team. We went 21-1 over those three seasons, and it was my first time coaching youth football. We lost the second-to-last game to a very good team because of a fumble which gave them one more possession and 6 more points than we had. Perhaps if we would have been playing the GAP-air-mirror D, for which I have your book, we would have won that game, although our D had many, many shut-outs, and in most games held the opposing teams to one score or less. I had parents of our football players suggesting that I coach their kids' hockey teams, although I've never played organized hockey. If you would have written youth hockey books, I might have considered it!

Sure, you can use my comments. I think I've probably bought all of your books…but the two I used the most were the base Youth Football book and the contrarian offense book.

I bought the GAM book, but I had a really good D-coordinator (the other dad), and his D was so dominant in all but our second to last game. He also reminded me today that there were restrictions placed on us that prevented us from deviating too much from the norm—linebackers had to play 3 yards off the ball and couldn't move forward until the ball was snapped, linemen had to be on the LOS, etc. We played a symmetrical 5-5-1 and occasionally slipped a linebacker up to a 6-4-1, which was one of our forms of a stunt; the other method was just to stunt the linebacker on the snap.

I don't have your book in front of me, but there's an offense where the QB/RB lines up in the middle and has a half-back on either side of him (power-T?). We found the timing to work better if we moved the halfbacks a yard behind the QB or the QB in front of the halfbacks (can't remember which), so it looked almost like a wishbone, except instead of a fullback in a 3-point, we had the QB/RB in a 2-point receiving the snap. After we had installed our offense, at some point I caught a HS game on TV late at night in a hotel room that was running out of this formation, so I was bummed to learn I had not invented it. I still don't know what it's actually called. Believe it or not, we were running a triple-option by the end of the 3rd season. After the first season, the league scrambled most of our returning players to other teams; we had the least number of 6th graders than any other team and most of our new 6th graders were first year football players. However, they gave me back my two QB/RBs (mistake, my two best athletes) and of course my and the other coach's kids. I turned out that the new 6th graders were pretty athletic and thanks to having never played a down, didn't have any bad habits, learned our contrarian offense quickly because they didn't have to re-learn, etc.

You're right. With leadership comes disciplined teams, and disciplined teams with decent athletes can beat undisciplined teams with better athletes in my opinion. Of course, disciplined players look like better athletes when they're winning and undisciplined players don't have a chance to showcase their better athletic ability. I heard lots of complaining from opposing team parents that thought we had a stacked team. (Maybe they didn't notice my 65 lbs offensive guards.) With respect to typical parent conflicts, I think what I found was that winning forgives everything; if you're winning, it doesn't matter if Johnny's playing OG or HB; he's having fun.

Again, thanks for your advice/counsel I found in the books. It was invaluable.


Mr. Reed-

First, thank you for your invaluable books and articles on coaching youth football. I am in my second year of coaching youth football, and your books are the best on coaching youth football. I served last season as the defensive coordinator of a 6-9 year old youth football team. It took me until midway through our preseason to convince my head coach to run the Gap-AIr-Mirror defense. The results were remarkable. As soon as we switched to the GAM defense, we had 4 consecutive shutouts, and 6 others games we only allow one touchdown.

Jason Velo

Good Morning Mr. Reed,

I coach youth football in the Dallas, TX area. In 2011, we won the 8 yr. old league championship using both the Single Wing & GAM. We had the highest scoring offense & the best defense in the league!

"Henderson, Steve G." <>

RE: Our 2011 season Using the GAM

Hello Mr. Reed,

I would first like to state that the GAM is great against the off tackle plays. We played the league's powerhouse team (Super Bowl Champions). This organization's teams have been running the Power I at all levels for 40 yrs. They get 70 kids per team to sign up and they cut, to end up with 28-34 players on the team. They will run the off-tackle until you take it away from them. They had nothing off tackle, they needed to pass and sweep. They tried to go B gap from 1 yd to end zone and were stuffed. We held the Counties' super bowl runners up to 6 offensive points. We ended the season 4-4. We could have easily won at least 2 more games but our offense just could not get going. Our defense found it self starting with there backs against the end zone very often. With all this against the defense we allowed an average of 13 points per game.

As a rookie coach, it was very rewarding to hear the opposing coaches complement our HC for the defense after games. I heard phrases like, "Wow, that defense is tenacious," "What do you feed those boys?" and " We could not get any[thing] going".

My choice of DE raised a lot of eyebrows. Well one of them at least. My short side DE…. But watching him play last year I noticed 2 things about him. First he would do exactly what the coaches asked of him, second he had the heart of a lion. This young man [does not have a John Wayne personality]. But he played his position exactly like I instructed him to. I will just say that one of the best moments I had was towards the end of a home game, his father walks over to me and says thank you. His named kept being called out via the PA. Sacks, busted plays etc etc. his father was so proud to see the success he son was having.

During our first game, the opposing team got two very long runs from a counter. Our lineman refused to bear crawl. Without getting to much into detail, [some adults] did not believe in the technique. [Reed note: What you demand, you get. What you tolerate, you encourage. You absolutely cannot tolerate failure to bear crawl the first two steps in the 4 interior down line positions.]

This created a lot of tension throughout the beginning of the season. I call the smallest kid on our team over. He was 4 feet tall and weighed in at 50 lbs. I sent him to right [defensive] guard, they run that counter, and run right into a pile created by my sole bear crawler. Needless to say, slowly but surely, more and more people become believers in the Defense. Our first win came in our third game against a single-wing team that had success in previous games with the wedge. They gave up on that very soon.

We shut out two teams, we allowed 6 points once, and twelve two times. In one game our offense never made it to mid field and was unable to punt. This was one of those teams that only scored 12 points on us, 6 of which were on a pick 6 against our offense. This team went on to win their conference and was runner up in the super bowl. We allowed teams to score more than twelve only twice, 34 and 35. We faced the top 3 offenses in our league of 14 teams. One of the games in which we allowed more than 12 points was 6 to 12 with 5 seconds left in the first half. The other game in which we allowed more than 12 was against the top offense in the league. They ran triple option out of the pro set I or Power I. They did not run true option, play was called by coach, Dive, toss , QB keeper or pass, every play the same motions and blocking. They also had several of the fastest kids in the county, and the fastest in our conference. For this reason we set up in a Okie 5-4. [Reed note: Against triple-option teams, I recommend going to an Oklahoma 5-4 with zone pass coverage in my GAM book.] And played assignment football. Missed tackles and turnovers on offense allowed them to pull away from us.

I want you to know that I truly appreciate your defense and the fact that you wrote a how-to-manual for it. Gap-Air-Mirror Defense for youth football is detailed enough that even I, who never played a day of organized football in my life, was able to teach and implement. The fact that you warned in the book about the threat option offense represented, as well as the trouble shooting section, made it very easy to seem like I actually knew what I was doing. The HC made me promise I would stay on with him for next year. Let me tell you that in this Florida county, football is a way of life. We often had ex College and NFL players visit our practices, even though our organization is only in its 3rd year of tackle. We have had so much talent recruited from this county that about half the kids on our team had a brother, cousin, uncle or dad that played college. This made the work of the coaches that much harder because you had this constant barrage of people commenting publicly on our work. And just as you state in your books, they could not grasp the concept that youth football is not the same sport as college or High school football. One of the assistant defense coaches was an ex semi pro coach here in Florida. His grandson was our best defensive lineman. Not only was he a beast at 137 lbs, but was extremely fast and nimble for a 9 yr old. Needless to say by the end of the season he believed in the bear crawl.

I think you deserve more credit than I do. The [other adults were] supportive most of the time. But had…doubts at certain times. However, most of the critics said the same things you write about in your books and website. I was always prepared with an answer based on defensive fundamentals. For example, GAM DE takes on lead blocker [Reed note: on a sweep to his side], [one adult] thought it was insane, HC…went to local High school HC, he asked a few questions about responsibilities and scheme, he concluded ..... DE must engage lead blocker EVERYTIME. In fact he went on to show us how he has defenders doing the same out of a 4-3 cover 2. I was so relieved, this HS coach had taken his previous team to 2 state championships as defense coordinator, very highly respected in the county.

Sorry for going on for so long, thanks and good luck.


Gus Sanchez

Dear John,

We bought your book on GAM defense and have done an amazing job this year. 85% of the time we have 2 or 3 defenders in the backfield blowing up the play before it has a chance to develop. Last year, we averaged 3 touchdowns against us per game. This year, we are averaging less than one. Our first year of coaching was last year and we got schooled every way imaginable. This year we look like super stars as do our kids.

We have our most compliant players at defensive end. But, they are not our best players. We have followed the book to a T and it works! Our linebackers are rock solid and good athletes who make lots and lots of tackles, our corners are average but cover passes well.

Todd Miller
Oklahoma City

A week later, Todd sent this email:

Played last night. Beat the same team we [beat] 7-6 three weeks ago. We hadn't pitched a shutout all year. They had tons of speed and good athletes.

[We] won 25-0.

Figured out something we were missing. Even though our DE's were line up correctly, outside the widest guy, they were still a little too tight and the team last night does crackback blocks on DE's with their wide receivers constantly. We coached against it all week, ramming the swee[p] spot down our DE's throats. Worked like a charm. They still cracked down on our DE's but our DE's were always watching for it. And, since they were in the sweet spot most of the time all they did was clog up running lanes even more each time they did it. [Reed comment: getting your wide side defensive end to the sweep spot on every play is the main key to stopping the sweep—it is explained in the GAM book]

They finally resorted to trying to run sneaks up the middle which simply isn't going to happen effectively with this defense. At this age, if you take away the outside game, you demoralize the other team.

We just missed our average on [takeaways] by one. We are averaging 4 [takeaways] a game. Got 3 last night.

Todd Miller

Fantastic books on youth football. Thanx a million for keeping my coaching mistakes lower! {I'm still making them,but fewer}

Ray Landstrom

Mr. Reed,

In case you were wondering who I was, I thought I would fill you in. I have bought and read a number of your coaching books. Last year was was my first year coaching, so I turned to a good friend of mine to ask for guidance. He gave me one of your books, and I liked how straight forward your material was. I bought others, read them and put my knowledge to use on the football field. As a first year coach I wasn't given much credit, and I used that to my advantage. Our team went on to win the championship. The runner up team was running Dave Cisar's SW-just FYI.

This year I'm coaching another peewee team and will have 2 of my sons on my team. Needless to say, I'm excited for another season.

Thanks for "friending" me on facebook Coach.

Carlisle Bannister posted on Facebook

Dear Coach Reed,

I have the Coaching youth football, GAM and Coaching Youth Flag Football books. I just finished my first season of 5 on 5 NFL flag (7, 8 and 9 yr olds) with a record of 8-0. We outscored our opponents 273-32. 20 of our opponents points came during the super bowl after we had established a 36-0 lead.

What I gained from your coaching books that helped my team become so dominant was that we did not do purely conditioning segments. We had two practices per week of 1 hr and 30 minutes. While our opponents where jogging around the practice field we were running plays full speed ( about 3 per minute) with the kids not on offense for the particular play on defense. We also did this without flags for the first hour of practice, 2 hand touch was the norm. Come game time our offense was so precise parents would come to me after games and just say "I can not believe how much you have taught my son". I had eight kids on my team. All scored TD's during the season and 7 put points on the board for us in the super bowl. My kids never got tired during any game, including one day we had only 5 players make it to a game we played against the team with the fastest boy in our division. They were spent after 40 minutes of pursuit sideline to sideline, but they were able to stay with him throughout the game. Also, we always started the game with a hurry up no huddle offense. This led to our team normally scoring within the first couple of minutes of first possession. We would go to no huddle throughout the game and just kept our opponents on their heels.

I am very exited about the upcoming tackle season. I will be the defensive coordinator for our 9-10 yr old team. I will be installing the GAM which our HC is very exited about.

Thanks for sharing your experince and insight with the rest of us!

Best Regards,

Gus Sanchez

Charles Zimmerman coached an 11-12 team in 2010 in Evansville, IN using the GAM defense. After the season, he was unexpectedly asked to help with a 9-10 all-star team in an Owensboro, KY tournament where they played several games. After a poor defense performance using a non-GAM defense, the head coach asked Zimmerman to put in the GAM. When? During the following day’s pre-game warm-up. Zimmerman only had 35 minutes to put it in. None of the players on the all-star team had ever played in the GAM defense before. The result? The 9-10 all-stars shut out the opponent, who had beaten them previously, and gave up only one first down.

I want to thank John T Reed for publishing his books on coaching football. We had all rookie coaches who were coaching 19 rookie players. Not one of our players had ever played before. We purchased the books for the coaches and implemented the single wing offense and the gap-air-mirror defense. We followed the books and we ended up winning the 7 year old championship our first year. We were told that we were the first team from our league that has ever won the title with 100% rookie players. We never could have done it with out following the suggestions from the books. Thank you again so much!

Steve Brewster
Bulldogs Coach
Rome, GA

My youth football organization has run the single wing and GAM with great success.

Brian Meekins

Hi John,

am not sure if this email will ever find its way to you, but I wanted to say how much I enjoy your insights on life, coaching and business. I coached youth football and baseball for 8 years (my son is a sophomore now) and I loved your coaching books and recommended them to many guys coming up that I mentored. Sadly, some parents in my affluent area ”just didn’t get it” and it was a source of encouragement and confirmation that I wasn’t out of line expecting discipline, teamwork and allocating playing time based on merit. Not only did I learn a lot from your books, but it was a pleasure reading the no-nonsense way you delivered the message (maybe that’s my military upbringing). I especially enjoyed the way you described how some coaches miss-assess talent and quoted those pages countless times to other coaches that were new to youth football. Now that I am done coaching it is gratifying to see my Pop Warner kids thriving in high school and the way they light up and say “hi Coach” every time I see them. I am toying with the idea of coaching at the high school level some day when I have more time and will be sure to purchase your books on that subject if I decide to take the leap.

Needles to say, I am going to purchase Succeeding, read it, and then give it to my 15 year old son as a gift for Christmas.

Happy Holidays,
Dave Roper

Coach Reed:

Just a short note to say we won our championship this year for 11-12 yrs old running the GAM for the full season. We could of worked on more man to man play which was our weakness, but it all worked out great in the end.


Les O'Hara on Linkedin

John, we are 8-1 for the regular season going into the playoffs first seed, we scored 209 , only allowed 33 points [using the GAM].

David H. Whitt from Facebook

Hi Coach

Thanks for your advice this season. As I said before, this is my first year as head coach on any team. I purchased all your books and followed them to the best of my ability.

We won the league championship game 25-0. Your SW, GAM, and Warp-speed no huddle really work. So many people were complimenting me on all "my" innovations this year. Glad to see your books have not penetrated into my league yet. The coaches of the team we played in the championship were so freaked out the first time they lost to us that they totally chucked their entire offense and defense for a new one just for us. I think this is on your list of stupid youth coach mistakes. Needless to say we crushed their 1-week-practiced O & D with the [your] strategy that we installed on day 1.

Best Regards

Gary Grena
[Reed comment: Actually, my books have penetrated Grena’s league. He read them. I think my books are rapidly approaching the optimum situation for my readers: every league has one Reed reader. Consequently, he is often, like Grena, the league champion. For my income, everyone in the league reading them would be better. But there will always be many who claim you “can’t learn how to coach from a book” or who lack the guts to use contrarian approaches in spite of their obvious advantages. And although selling more books is nice, I like being part of championship seasons, too.

One other thing. In youth football, first-year head coaches often do not score a point or win a game all season. So for Coach Grena to not only do better than all zeros but with the league championship on his first try is pretty amazing.]


I coach the Jeff North Lil’ Chargers….I am the founder of our small rural Pee Wee team….that is big on heart and aggressiveness, but very small. Generally, we are outweighed 30-40 pounds per man along the line in our league. Still, we compete based on speed and have been a playoff caliber team in our leagues toughest division. We are now at the 5th grade level and allowed to play other than the league standard 4-3-4 defense…..I read your book and installed the GAM as our second defense behind the 5-4.

We played a Jamboree last weekend and started with the 5-4….the opposing team got one first down then fumbled. On the next series we used the GAM….on the first play, my son, playing the wide side end sacked the quarterback for a 16 yard loss……we did not give up a play for positive yardage the rest of the day…..the Lil Chargers are sold. Based on the result, the league moved us back into the competitive division….we play a tourney this weekend against the toughest teams in our league and 2 big traveling teams from St. Louis….personally, I think they are in for a big shock.

I am buying more [GAM] books for the Middle School and High School coaches.....since I train the boys from 2-6th grade....they should probably understand what we're doing. The season has been great.....our defense simply overwhelms most teams.....I have a very good MLB (we call it safety) who is our fastest kid and a very sure tackler. …we are going to go down swinging and this defense gives us our best chance.

The Lil Chargers are 5-2 in league, 5-0 in our conference. We are 3-2 in non-league against the toughest teams I can find. For instance, Silverlake H.S., perennial KS power (currently #1 in KS 3A) crushes our HS 50 and 60 to nothing at every meeting. The Eagles Pee Wees escaped us 16-12 on a late touchdown....our 50lb GAM lineman facing off with their 100-120 pounders prompted their coach to comment..."most heart of any team I've seen in a long time".....The Atchison County baby tigers survived 12-6 in OT (0 first downs) before their HS team thrashed us Score Chargers 33 Red Raiders 0....the Red Raiders had -97 yards and 5 fumbles......they are the feeder program for Lawrence Free State a 5A KS program.

Our first playoff game is Saturday....we play Platte County, a Missouri HS Football powerhouse that our High School could not hope to compete with. I would say the line on the game is PICKEM.....a moral victory, all by itself. I will send you an update and possibly a film clip, we will be in standard GAM....I've filmed them....they are very right-handed and wide side oriented, and probably cocky enough to persist......that will be a mistake......wish us luck and feel free to quote and or use any clips I send you. guys practiced until after dark last night.......its a really exceptionally focused group of kids and parents....tired of being the laughing stock.......the Lil' Chargers are taken seriously, even feared (if only of the ultimate embarrassment of losing to Jeff North).....we'll see how it works out today.....

Jeff North Lil' Chargers 20 Platte County 13........we gave up one offensive touchdown....championship next weekend against St Joseph North....they are undefeated and unscored on over the past two seasons.......

It was a big win for our kids....and really, the community...the upcoming game is a real test, but I think they play right into the hands of the GAM....our win last weekend was the first playoff win by a Jeff North Football team at any level in over a decade......the crowd traveling 50 miles will be bigger than we get at our home HS games....I'm counting on the addictive qualities of winning to lift this program up by its bootstraps.......

Go Chargers!

LTC(R) Bob Kiser
Jeff North Lil’ Chargers

…really liked the GAM alignment,…[we got] gashed on the off tackle play.  [We] did follow the GAM plan for the interior line, and you are right in your book, our interior lineman gave up practically zero yardage on many wedge attempts as well as almost every other effort to run inside.   Some say that GAM's problem is that you need linebackers in case of breakthrough.  I can see this is patently false.   There will be no breakthrough if the kids stay low as they are told.  We simply dominated the interior as there was a huge pile up every attempt to run inside.
Our problem, however, was off-tackle.   Instead of following the GAM alignment v. Single Wing, [we] tried to adapt…"stack" ….   We did run 4-4 stack with some success in other games, but we needed something different for this undefeated Single Wing team.  So we had the two corners off the LOS, playing like linebackers in stack defense. The idea was to stunt these four stacked players, and with two playing off the LOS, we were hoping that it might confuse the offensive lineman as far as who to block, instead of just lining them up on the line.  Made sense.  But it didn't do the job.  Their guys downblocked on our tackle, and managed to entangle and/or kick out the other four players to the outside of the tackle, creating a big breach between our tackle and them.  ([We] also had the Middle Linebacker over on the weakside, instead of in the middle, for fear of a reverse.  So he was no help).    We were down 20-0 at the half, and were getting whooped.  Our kids were dejected, and frustrated.  Some were crying and feigning injury.  The good news is that just before halftime, having read your section on adjustments to stop off-tackle, I suggested…simply move our tackles over a bit, toward the C gap, and instruct them to play in the gap.  This worked very well.   [Reed note: This is the GAM-T adjustment explained on page 32 of the current edition of my GAM book. This is a slight adjustment—maybe two or three feet, but it transformed this game.] Maybe we gave up a little strength on the wedge, but they weren't trying it anymore, having been stopped in the first half on that.  They kept going off tackle, and we totally shut them down in the second half.   We were a brand new team.  Our "hurt" kids suddenly weren't hurt anymore.  The offense could not get that breach off the tackle any more.  And our kids regained their confidence and got fired up, playing for pride, and hitting them real hard.  The game ended 20-0, with our offense driving, and on their one-yard line last play.  A bunch of their kids were crying now.   (Not that we wanted to see that, but their coach said post-game we were the hardest hitting team he's ever faced).  They actually celebrated like crazy when time ran out, and we didn't score on that last play.  The feel of it was that it was a second game, and we had really won the second game.  That was largely the result of the change we made with our tackles.  Once we shut down their off-tackle play, their Achilles was broken.  Our kids felt so confident, after that second half, that they are begging for another chance to play them. [Reed note: I also wrote a book on offense, namely the single wing, the offense this opponent was using. The first play in the book is the off-tackle play. Our line captan make a line call before every play. That line call identifies the location of the defensive tackle. We do that because the blocking scheme at the hole is different. There are three such blocking schemes. Had a reader of mine been on offense in this game, when the GAM defense team moved their tackles out, his line captain would have started making a different line call and we would have changed the blocking to reflect the new DT location. Those two books of mine: Gap-Air Mirror Defense for Youth Football and Single-Wing Offense for Youth Football, are the two most detailed offense and defense books ever written. This game experience is the perfect illustration of how the detail in those books helps you win—details that took me years to experiment with and work out.]

Michael Stepakoff

Thanks for your books! I am just wrapping up my first year as a head coach and used the GAM defense and your single wing Offense. We are undefeated and best of all the kids have had a blast. I have had 3 referees come up and ask me where we came up with this offense and silent snap, they cannot believe 10 year olds can get pull this off. What they don't know is it is actually easier. thanks

Mark Wade from Facebook

Coach Reed,

I played a team yesterday that uses this D [GAM]. I play them again and I need to learn it so I can attempt to be better prepared. We were 5-0 until yesterday.

The only successful play I had all day was...A counter play where you fake to the 6 hole and counter to 5 hole...They were over pursuing and it worked...I put up 20 in the first half, but in the second half I was shut out..
Thanks John,
I really appreciate what you provide :) I don't think I can implement it this year but I am going to this defense next year.

Mike Ricci

I wanted you to know that I enjoyed your GAM Defense for Youth Football.  I had never coached football before when the opportunity came to coach the defense on my son’s 6/7 yr. old team.  I did a lot of research on the web and found many good things regarding the GAM in youth football.  I ordered your book, spent three weeks studying and drawing Xs and Os and the rest, as they say is history.  We finished our season 11-0 and are Super Bowl Champions of the 6/7 yr. old Cherokee Youth Football Association.  Thanks for the great manual and ideas that helped me coach this team.  By the way, because of our dominant defense we outscored our opponents 217 to 84.
Neil Blackman

Sequoya Chiefs (6/7)

Canton, Georgia


I am not trying to be a "kiss ass" but, you are the best. Not only have I learned coaching techniques from you, I've learned communication skills as well.

My boy got a full ride to play football in college. What he learned in 8 years I coached him in youth league came out of the John Reed books. I did everything, exactly, how you instructed. He played at the highest level of High School football, and still to this day says our youth league practices were better organized. [Reed note: I have been hearing for years from parents and players who played college football that my pratices in youth and high school were far more efficient and far better organized than those in their college. I went to one college practice because I was skeptical and darned if that player wasn’t correct. My GAM books says how to organize every minute of your practices in pre-season and during the season.]

I will pass your "Full Scrimmage" lesson on to all of our coaches.

Take care and God Bless,


Picked up your books late in the season, but the GAM defense got better each week and took us into the playoffs.
Lost a heartbreaker in the last 2 min to the undefeated 10-0 studs. Your books made a big difference in my coaching and our outcomes.


Les O’Hara (posted on LinkedIn)

"First Game running strictly GAM. Awesome day today against a much more talented team!! 2 ints( one for TD), 4 forced fumbles, gave up 1 td on busted coverage, 1 on kickoff. Was told by many in the organization "that was the best defensive showing this team has had in years against that team!" as they compared me to Monte Kiffen!LOL. Unfortunately our Offense is just tha t"offensive" and we lost 13-12, ending with Def TD and special teams TD. We converted a lot of GAM skeptics today! Thanks coach Reed!"

John Pages from my Facebook coaching page

Hey Coach
Our head coach and I, bought the book this year, but we decided to go with something else. What a mistake!  We were gashed our first two games and started 0-2.  We put in the GAM in one practice and shut down an undefeated team, whose closest [previous] game was a 33-6 opener. They scored late with all [our] subs in.  Two shut outs in a row have followed, what a difference!!!  First of all , Thanks!

David Dimond

[The following is about a 2009 game where I was asked for suggestions to defend a shotgun team. I mainly said run the shotgun stunt on pages 33 and 34 of my GAM defense book.]

Jack, we won 32-6. We had scouted the team doing 100% shotgun but they went under center in today’s game way more than we thought they would. They ended up only running the shotgun about 25% of the time, but my defense moved in and out of base and shotgun defense like clockwork. I have never coached a defense that the guys mirror themselves so fluidly. OLBs and CBs following motion, and covering trips a few times. The only calls I had to make were shading OLB’s and CB’s back just a touch when they opposition needed to start passing in the 4th quarter.

Thanks for your help!

Brett Davis

[Reed note: Don’t shade the OLBs and CBs back when the other team starts passing. They need to delay the receivers’ release on their pass routes. It’s easier to bump, and thereby screw up timing, than to cover a route.]

Your books on football coaching are fantastic. I've had them for 5 years now and still learn things each time they're read. Great antidote to the nonsense that passes as coaching these days. Thanks!

Shawn Frasier

Thanks, Jack I've purchased 7 or 8 of your great books and refer to them often. Football for real dummy's made easy thanks!!! for making me look great and know, REALLY KNOW what I'm doing!

Buddy Hicks

Mr. Reed
I am  a believer.
In the past, I have assisted at the Pee Wee, and Jr. Midget levels on the D side. 5-3, 5-4. Last year my younger son started in Mite Might’s, and I became the one of the Defensive coaches. Our town is small, so we don’t usually get a lot of kids to pick from, much less have a full team. Needless to say our teams don’t have a lot of winning seasons. I think the MM’s have been 0-8 the last couple of years. Long story short. I got your book, and we ran the GAM defense, had 4-4 season, rarely giving up more that 6-12 points a game.
If we would have had an offense that could score, we would have won most of them.

Robert Zolla

Please go to Part 2