Playing Time in Youth Football
Playing time in youth football is a very debatable topic. Here is how I feel about it- when you are winning and it is obvious that you are the better team, sit your starters and let some of the other kids play. When I say let the other kids play, I mean more than their required plays. Youth football coaches should not run the score up on inferior teams. Any chance you get, you should let some of the back-up/minimum play players play additional plays.
This past week my team was up 20 to 0 at halftime, with us receiving the ball to start the second half. I could have elected to put up another 20 points if I wanted too. I took that opportunity to let all of our minimum play players play the rest of the game (4th quarter mostly). I was able to get a player that plays and practices hard every day the ball and he scored a touchdown! He usually plays the second team right guard and is a minimum play player. This touchdown made his day and it will be something he will remember for a long time. My starters were on the sidelines for most of the second half. This was a great opportunity for them to root on their teammates. We ended up winning 27-6.
This not only made their day, it also got them game reps. It was good that they got some game reps because we have a small team of 19 players and we cannot practice 11 on 11 during team practice sessions. It also pleased the parents. Parents are sometimes hard to deal with, because of their bias views towards their children. But, I am able to avoid most of that because I do not coach any of my relatives & I am fair. If you have the best interest of the kids in your heart and your are fair, you will never have parent issues.
Yes, you can win and/or maintain your lead with the minimum play players playing additional snaps. We do it all the time…
Here is how we work our playing time in youth football-
- If we are up by 3 scores (we clearly are the dominate team) we will get the other players in. Obviously, if you are up 3 scores on a good team you don’t want to take the foot off the gas. This applies when you are the superior team.
- 3rd and/or 4th and long we will work a minimum play player (MPP) in a safe position. If it is 3rd and 20, we will put the kid at nose guard. You might lose some interior pressure/penetration but it won’t kill you. Plus when the parents see that you are using their son on a 3rd and long (important situation) they will be happy.
- We will have two offenses. Our second offense will feature some of our back-up players playing skilled position and our starting backfield playing the offensive line. This actually works very well. Sometimes you move the ball better when your best athletes are on the offensive line. This will allow you to get first downs and get those required plays done.
- You can put the back-up/MPPs on one side and go unbalanced to the other and run to the unbalanced side.
- When we want one of our MPPs to score, we will load up one side of the O-line with our best players and run the kid behind them. We will tell our better players that you better get this kid into the end-zone! Every single player on our team plays the offensive line at some point so it is just business as usual.
- There are plenty of opportunities throughout a game to get these kids extra playing time.
Playing time in youth football is earned. If a player deserves to play he should always get additional playing time regardless of skill level. If a player works hard, he should be rewarded. Remember this is youth football, always do the right thing for the kids. There is more to it than just winning. The door swings both ways. If a player doesn’t deserve playing time they shouldn’t be rewarded with addition playing time- regardless of their skill level.