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Coaching Youth Football corrections and supplemental material

Stretching of questionable value says study
I have always been very skeptical about the value of stretching especially for youth athletes. Like most of my pre-cable-TV-video-games-computers generation, we lived on athletic fields as kids. We played the three major sports dawn to dusk. We never stretched. And we never got injuries other than bumps, bruises, and lacerations.

On 4/27/04, the San Francisco Chronicle printed a New York Times story that said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed six decades of research and found that stretching does little to prevent injury and may in some cases actually athletic performance. And that’s for adults.

Expo2 Jumbo Dry Erase Markers
As far as I can tell, these are now only available from Ellsworth Stationers, 800-765-4031 (Ask for Dale), 112 North Glendora Avenue, Glendora, CA 91741 I recommend them for writing play codes on a white board at games.

Ralph Friedgen’s 12% rule
Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen won NCAA coach of the year at the I-A level in 2001 for turning the previously 5-6 Terrapins into a 10-1 team and taking them to the Orange Bowl. He has a “percentage-of-error rule.” It says that if you are below 12%, you will probably win the game. Errors are turnovers, dropped passes, penalties. You total the number of such error plays and divide it by the number of total plays to get the percentage-of-error ratio. In 33 seasons, Friedgen has never lost a game in which his team was below 12% error plays. He has won a few games where his team was at 12% or over.

I think youth football coaches really drop the ball on this one—both figuratively and literally. They kill their own drives by tolerating far too many incomplete passes, interceptions, and penalties. If you cannot complete your passes to your own receivers, stop throwing them. If you cannot run motion or a shift without drawing a penalty, stop using those techniques. If you cannot vary the snap count without drawing false-start penalties, stop varying the snap count. And so on.

Coaches love to say, “Mistakes killed us” after a loss. It’s a sneaky way of blaming the players. Mistakes are only the players’ fault if they were abnormally high in the game in question. But if the mistake rate in the loss was normal for the team, it’s the coach’s fault for not fixing those mistakes earlier in the season or for not avoiding calling the plays or playing the players that trigger them.

Field width
On page 27, I said the field is 55 1/3 yards wide. It’s 53 1/3 yards.

Bill Yeoman’s book on the veer offense

I recommend the veer offense for youth football. It is a contrarian offense and I believe a simplifed version of it is viable for a youth team. Bill Yeoman, the father of the veer, sells his old University of Houston play book for $25. It is so simple, you could use it for youth football almost without modification. You can order it from him at 3030 Country Club Boulevard, Sugar Land, TX 77478. No shipping or sales tax.

‘Hard to throw the ball at the freshman level’
I attended the parent meeting for my 14-year old’s freshman football team on 4/10/01. The head varsity coach was speaking about the kind of offense they will run and commented that, “It’s hard to throw the ball at the freshman level.” This particular head coach was a college quarterback at Arizona and Santa Clara in his playing days and coached at the I-A college level.

I did not disagree with him, but I was amused at how easy it was for him to figure that out and how hard it is for youth coaches at even lower levels to give up on the notion that they are going to run pro-style passing plays.

Missing words on page 183
The bottom of page 183 ends before it should. Add these words

is the left flat. The actual play is for the quarterback to either run the ball himself or to pass to the tight end coming across if a defender takes away the quarterback’s running lane.

Free shot after illegal first touch
I said to have your punt and punt-receive team catch a straight up punt and try to advance it in CYF. The reason is there is no risk if the ball did not go beyond the expanded neutral zone—2 yards into the receive team side of the LOS. The same is true for the receiving team after an illegal first touch. The kicking team is not allowed to touch the ball first after a scrimmage kick—punt or field goal attempt. If they do, the receive team gets the right to have the ball where the kicking team touched it illegally, or the result of the play. So try to pick it up and run, even when surrounded by bad guys. Worst that can happen is you get it where the kicking team touched it. Proviso: For this to occur, the officials must A. know the rule and B. see the illegal touch. (H.S. Rule 6-2-5) The illegal touch rule does not apply if the kicking team member was pushed or blocked into the touch by a member of the receive team. This happened in a Steelers-Raiders game 12/3/00 and in a Vikings-Lions game on 11/30/00.

MLB alignment in GAM defense
On page 108 of Coaching Youth Football 3rd edition, I put M on the #4 receiver in quads. It should be on the # 3 or middle receiver.

Super book
I just read and really liked Lou Tepper’s Complete Linebacking. Highly recommended.

No one-sport children says American Academy of Pediatrics
On page 223 of my book Youth Baseball Coaching, I said it was bad for children to specialize year round in one sport. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement in the 7/00 issue of Pediatrics saying the same thing regarding children under 12. AAP says such specialization causes both physical and psychological damage to children. Physical problems include overuse injuries. Psychological problems include stress, eating disorders, and burnout. The new policy was prompted in part by the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan. It details training methods of young gymnasts and figure skaters. Once again, youth football turns out to be one of the safest sports. It has never even considered going year round.

Add Syskos Sports Books to the list of catalogs. 30 West Main Street, P. O. Box 6, Benton, WI 53803 800-932-2534 fax 800-932-2511 e-mail:

Two book I read recently and liked very much. Both have excellent discussions of the history and strategic evolution of pro football. The Pro Football Fan's Companion by Ralph Hickok. 1995. MacMillan. And Total Football, the Official Encyclopedia of the NFL by Carroll, Gershman, Neft and Thorn. 1997 Harper Collins. These book remind me a bit of Tom Flores' Football, the Violent Chess Match, which I liked and recommended. Unfortunately, Flores' book has gone out of print.


Reader Dan Palazotto says he found a place to order The Violent Chess Match:

I got a book I did not like at all: Football for Dummies by Howie Long. It contains many errors like saying that right-handed running backs should put their right arm up when receiving a handoff and saying that ball carriers should “put their head down” when they need to make tough yards. (They should put the arm closest to the quarterback up. No football player should ever put his head down when he is about to make contact. That’s how you get your neck broken. Put your shoulder down.) I suspect that former NFL Pro Bowler Long has not spent enough time learning about positions other than the defensive line he played, and that he has too many irons in the fire (Fox TV football pre-game show, motion picture actor, Radio Shack commercials, etc.), to also engage in writing books.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Football by Joe Thiesman on the other hand, is good, although not highly recommended because it is rather simple.