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Can you turn your youth football team around during the season?

Posted by John Reed on

You can turn your youth football season around during the season. I have many testimonials in which readers tell me that for whatever reason, they were not allowed to put my Single-Wing Offense or my Gap-Air-Mirror Defense in at the beginning of the season. Half way through the season, the coaches who initially would not let the coordinator use my scheme finally decided they might as well try it because what they are doing is not working.


Somewhat to my surprise, many readers who did that had great success for the rest of the season—even undefeated rest of the seasons after a winless or losing record! Some of my testimonials report great success even after only having one practice or a pre-game warm-up or a half-time to put the system in. Obviously they could not put it all in that fast or refine it, but it had enough effect to turn the season around that fast. In subsequent practices, they were able to complete putting it in and iron out the wrinkles.

Free ‘tech support’

There are also coaches who did put in my offense or defense at the beginning of the season, but who are not getting one or two offensive plays to work or being unable to stop one or two opponent plays on defense. If you are one of them, running my system and having some problems, please call me at 925-820-6292. I will take the call if I am home—which is where I work. I cannot return the calls though so try again if you miss me. I can usually pinpoint the problem through questions about the details of what is happening or not happening, then prescribe the remedy within a minute or two because I have been doing this for decades.

Personnel changes

In some cases, it is not my scheme that is causing the problem, it is putting the wrong kid in an important position. Replacing the wrong kid with the right one can also turn a season around—actually at all levels up to the NFL. Turning a team around midseason with a new scheme is mainly a youth football thing.

In youth football, I can often diagnose the personnel problem even before you call me: nepotism. The head coach’s son or offensive coordinator’s son is playing QB or running back not because he is the best but because the coach father feels putting his son there is the compensation he is entitled to because of all the time he has spent coaching the team.

I can remedy that problem, too. The remedy is obvious. Replace him with the best player for that position. The local politics of it are beyond my competence. 

But I have other personnel tricks. For example, the most important player on a youth defense is the wide-side defensive end. Many coaches treat it as an unimportant position, or they recognize it is important, but put the best athlete there rather than the best kid. For that position, best athlete rarely works. Those are undisciplined in youth football.

What you need is the most obedient kid at that position. Size is irrelevant at wide-side defensive end in youth football. That is one where I can diagnose it and tell you how to fix it in a minute or so. And there typically is not much politics involved with that position. That sort of personnel change alone can turn your team around, at least on that side of the ball.

Not all teams are salvageable. I cannot help you if you have a systemic recruiting disadvantage. Not the usual coach whining about lack of speed or “soft” children in your town. I’m talking about situations like my 2006 12-14-year old team. In our San Francisco area, most high schools are four-year schools and have a freshman football team. But the Oakland schools were only three-year high schools so their 14-year olds were on their youth team, not their high school team. Berkeley, one of our opponents, had a four-year high school, but it was the habit in that town for the 14-year olds to prefer the youth team because it had more than nine Saturday games and had playoffs. Freshmen high school had just nine Thursday-night games and no playoffs.

So I had 12-13 year-olds—middle-school kids—playing against 14-year-old high school kids. My players would get intimidated during the pre-game warm-ups and claim injury or illness to get out of playing in the game. There was no nepotism on my part on that team. None of my sons was on it. But we were so far from competitive that no moving around of personnel or change of scheme would have helped. I know because we tried.

Here are my Single-Wing reader success stories, some of which speak of mid-season turnarounds.

Here are my Gap-Air-Mirror Defense reader success stories, some of which speak of mid-season turnarounds.

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