Championship defenses all have one thing in common, they all do a great job of swarming the ball carrier. There is nothing more demoralizing for an offense than having a defense that is absolutely smothering. Getting to the ball carrier is all about effort. The swarm mentality has to be instilled into your players from day one. It’s important that the kids understand that if they cannot get to the football they will not play much defense. The Swarm mentality is something that the kids have to buy into, and it is something that needs to be practice regularly. Developing a swarm mentality on defense doesn’t happen overnight, it something that will get better as time goes by.
Developing a SWARM Mentality on Defense
It’s important to understand that it is getting getting players to the ball carrier is a fundamental aspect of successful defense, but gap integrity and pursuit lanes are just as important. You can’t just have your defense disregard their gap and pursuit lanes by just recklessly chasing the ball carrier. We want our players to get to the ball carrier through their pursuit lanes. We try to be disciplined and aggressive at the same time. We aggressively get to the ball carrier through our pursuit path. If our players take the proper angles and pursuit paths to the ball carrier they will be able to get to him.
Accountability: We demand at least 5 or more defenders around the ball carrier every play. We hold the kids accountable during film sessions, the tape doesn’t lie. I count how many plays in the game that we had 5 or more defenders around the ball carrier. It’s important that we track this so that we can see if we are getting better at swarming. This season we will great incentives for our defense, if 70% or more of our defensive snaps we had at 5 or more defenders around the ball we will do one less suicide on Friday (for example). I’m still trying to figure out some incentive ideas, so if you have any suggestions please comment below.
Benefits of the SWARM Mentality
Prevents Big Plays
The more defenders that are able to get to the football the less likely a running back will break tackles and gain big yardage. One on one tackling is difficult on any age level of football, so it’s important that defenders get to the ball carrier to help their teammates out. When you get a bunch of defenders to the ball carrier it will close down field space and you to smother the ball carrier. When you are getting 5 to 6 defenders to the ball carrier every play, the defense will prevent the offense from gaining big plays. Developing the SWARM mentality on defense isn’t just about stopping the run, whether it is a run or pass, we demand all of our players run to the football. I don’t care if it is a 20 yard pass downfield, we want our players hustling to the football. The best way to deter big plays is having relentless pursuit to the ball carrier.
Pursuit Drill (executed every practice)
Pursuit Drill- Blitzes and Slants
We also practice execute our blitz and slants during our pursuit drill.
(See Also) The Pursuit Drill in Youth Football
Frustrates the Offense
There is nothing more demoralizing for an offense than having a defense that is flying around are swarming your ball carrier. It not only frustrates the players, it frustrates their coaches as well. It’s not a good feeling when every single play there are 5 + defenders around your running back. It isn’t hard to frustrate kids and once they are demoralized they will not play well. In youth football, so many offenses rely on big plays. The likelihood of an offense going 10+ plays and scoring is slim. When you make the offense have to drive the field it will only be a matter of time before they take a penalty, fumble, or make a mistake. Don’t give anything easy.
The more defenders you have around the football the better chance you have at forcing a turnover and or recovering a fumble. When you have 5 defenders around the ball carrier you have defenders to secure the tackle, force a fumble (rip at the football), and recover the fumble. Generating turnovers is a numbers game. The team with more players around the football will have a better chance at recovering a fumble or getting an interception off of a tipped pass. How many times have you seen a tipped pass in youth football that falls on the ground or an offensive player is able to catch it? A lot I bet . A youth football offense will give you at least 4 chances (per game) to get a turnover because of a mistake they make (unforced turnover). If you instill the mentality to get to the ball carrier, swarm the ball carrier, and rip the ball out, then you will generate a ton of turnover. If you win the turnover battle, you have great chance to win the football game.
The SWARM mentality is something that your players can own. It’s fun to play defense, it’s fun flying to the ball carrier, it’s fun forcing turnovers, and it’s fun frustrating offenses. It’s important to make the pursuit drill fun, have the kids flying around with energy. It’s important that all coaches share that same energy and enthusiasm. Celebrate plays that you had 5 or more players around the football. Celebrate the pursuit drill in practice, overtime it will be a drill the kids will actually look forward to doing. Playing defense is fun and every player should want to get to the ball carrier and be involved in the play.
(See Also) 3-5-3 Stack Playbook