Football: How to Give Playing Time to Every Player ...and Still Win!

Football: How to Give Playing Time to Every Player ...and Still Win!

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

One of the most difficult things about coaching a school football team is finding ways to get every student some playing time without ruining your chances of winning the game. And winning is important - a recent study in Michigan found that losing is one of the three main reasons why youth football players leave the sport (along with bad coaching and a lack of playing time).

Here are some tips by Dave Cisar on how to get every player in the game without compromising your ability to win. Dave Cisar is the president, founder and coach of the Screaming Eagles football program in Omaha, Nebraska and is one of the most successful youth coaches in America. His teams have gone 97-13 over the last 11 seasons and he has accomplished this in four different leagues, two different cities and with eight different teams. And he plays every kid on every team in every game!

Minimum Play Standards
Even if your league doesn't require it, establish minimum play standards based on number of kids on the team. For example, you might decide that every player gets a minimum of eight plays in every game. Knowing these parameters will allow you to establish a game plan that includes your less-skilled players.

Choose the Best Place and Time
Put less-skilled students in plays and situations where they can do the least damage and have the greatest chance for success. Remember, it's not fun for kids to feel like they've let the team down. A good example is to use less-skilled running backs on plays in which their job is to fake a run or follow the ball carrier.

Predetermine Situations
Discuss the situations most suited for less-skilled players and establish these parameters in advance. For example, "When the field is short on his side and it's not an obvious passing situation, you can put Justin at the cornerback position."

Substitute Right From the Kickoff
Substitute your less-skilled kids right from the start of the game, not at the end when the game's outcome is already decided. It will make them feel like a valuable part of the team, not just an after-thought. And, by putting them in right from the start, you'll get the chance to insert them in situations that maximize their chance for success and add value to every play.

Assign Coaches to the Non-Starters
It can be difficult for the head coach to remember who has and hasn't played, so spread out the job among the assistant coaches. For example assign four offensive non-starters to the offensive coordinator and four defensive players to the defensive coordinator. It's the job of these coaches to get these athletes into the game for at least their minimum number of plays.

To make it easier for these coaches to make quick decisions, make sure their non-starters follow their coach everywhere he goes during the game.

You could also set up a chart to remind your coaches about everyone's playing time. For example, if have two players playing right cornerback, the chart might remind your coaches that Fred will get four plays out of six versus two plays for Tom.

Maximize Starters
To give yourself the best chance to win, have your best athletes play more than one position. So, when non-starter Frank subs in to play fullback, your 1st string fullback might move to tight end - you still have your best players on the field and Frank gets to play where he has the best chance for success.

Also find out what optional position your less skilled players can play so you have some flexibility when subbing them in.

Run the No-Huddle
If you have a lot of players and are having difficult getting them all playing time, try running a no-huddle offence. A no-huddle will give your offense 20% more snaps.

Reference: Dave Cisar, (Founder, President and Coach, Screaming Eagles Football, Omaha, Nebraska), "Youth Practice Organization: Keeping the Fire." A DVD from Championship Productions, 2009.

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