The Sweeps – The Cheapest Football Plays in Youth Football

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The Sweeps – The Cheapest Football Plays in Youth Football

The Sweep the “holy grail” of youth football games

While the sweep is a legitimate football play at all levels, it is a play I personally hate in Youth Football. Too many youth football games are decided by one player on a play that often requires little team work or real execution, the sweep play. It sickens me to see poorly coached teams play sweep after sweep play for touchdowns, coaches fists up in the air in triumph for what? For the fact that through the skillful performance of geography, their youth soccer team had just signed up one very fast player for their particular team. Wow that takes a lot of coaching skills and team effort, congratulations. The facts are, once these one trick pony sweep teams play a well coached team, they will struggle.

In the last 6 seasons of running the defense in my book, our first team defense has only given up one sweep play of over 20 yards. Our defense is designed to take away the sweep, yet many of these one trick wonder sweep teams still try to run the game even after running many sweeps for losses. It’s really a pretty simple game to shut down with the right scheme and one simple technique through your defensive goals. We closed the sweep cold, even when we had teams with little or no speed and played downtown teams with exceptional speed.

On offense, the sweep and sweep pass are in our playbook and we run it as a lead play with pulling lineman and in a bucksweep fashion, ala Wing-T style with a splash in the line fake (or held) by the fullback. While the sweep was a very successful football play for us, I rarely run it as an offense.

In 2002 we ran 2-3 sweeps all season, my tailback was extremely slow (and small), so slow he would get caught from behind on off tackle plays. He was all we had on a very talented short “B” team that still went 11-1. This past year remember this team ran an incredible Tailback out of the “I” formation, one of the best running backs in the history of the Screaming Eagle program, out of over 2,500 kids. This team was the biggest and most talented “B” team we ever fielded and “coach” ran lots and lots of sweeps. They obviously blew out the weaker teams, but lost to all the down teams and finished a very disappointing 3-5. All but 8 of the kids on this team moved the following year and what remained was a team that was the youngest and smallest team in the league that year. I took over this team to prove a point, that size, age and speed really don’t matter much. Hmmm 11-1 with a tailback that was slower than molasses and League Champs vs 3-5 with the best tailback our Org has ever seen, gee I wonder what the better approach was? To give you an idea of ​​how white this team really was, the following year in 2003 I coached the 8-10 year old A team and just 2 of the kids from my 2002 team were good enough to be selected to to play on this one. A” squad. In 2002 we ran the bucksweep to our blocking back and scored 7 of the 8 times we ran it, due to the misdirection of the play and great perimeter execution, not the speed of our running back, (he was also slow).

In 2003, we did have one speedy running back who could get the corner, but we only ran 25 or so times the season. If you see that season DVD, you see the whip was there for the taking in many games and we knew it. I wanted our kids to work for our scores and for them to know that we could run our basic plays and score against any defense. I knew at the end of seasons this age 8-10 “Select” team would play the League Champions of an age 11-12 competition in a huge Bowl Game and we would not be able to run them, so we prepared for the last game every week. My 2003 team went 11-0 and our first team offense scored on every possession of every game we played that season, running very few sweeps.

In 2004 with an all-rookie team that year, again with very little speed, we ran the sweep maybe 15 times this season and went 11-0. In 2005, we had one tailback with some descent wheels, but we only ran about 25 sweeps in that 12-0 season. In 2006, with even a very good velocity, we only saw the whip 30 times or so in an 11-1 season. Going without like we do and getting an average of 50+ snaps a game, you can see how rarely we use these sweep football plays.

The sweep from the Single Wing Offense is a great play and offers a great number of advantages and angles, but my distaste for the play in conceptual terms means we don’t run it, even when it’s obviously open. When we do run it, it’s usually a very big play. By the time we finally run it, the defense is usually snapped and it’s a big win. We execute excellent seal blocks at the point of attack, and also require our pullers to come downfield with proper helmet placement. However, if we play a weak team and dominate or obviously have more speed than the other team, you won’t see much of us playing. If we’re a score or two ahead, you won’t see the sweep from us at all. We gain little long-term progress by taking the sweep in either scenario.

Last season the head of an organization that often has very fast players but very marginal coaching told me at the end of the season “In youth football it just comes down to that one fast kid”. That is the epitome of what is wrong with youth football coaching and why I hate the whip so much. I have never lost to this organization or even had a close match with them for that matter. Even if they have great teams with huge size and speed advantages, they won’t play us in extra games. How come? Because even with much smaller and slower players we shut down their attack coldly and it is frustrating and embarrassing for them to do so poorly against a physically inferior team.

Don’t get beat by sweep plays and don’t make it the foundation of your offense. It’s like a 300 pound bully taking candy from a 4 year old girl, it takes zero effort or skill. But if you’re trying to take candy away from another 300-pound bully or even a 350-pound bully, and you’re depending on the whip, you’re going to get your brains blown. That’s why you often see teams blow past all the teams in their league by large margins, but go to an out of town playoff or bowl game and get blown out. How come? Because eventually that sweep happy team will face a team that has as much speed as the one trick pony player they have or has a scheme like ours that closes the sweep. Good teams beat good teams, a good player does not beat a good team or a well coached team in youth soccer. A good player only beats very weak or very poorly coached teams in youth football.

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