Youth Football Game Management Tips

By FirstDown PlayBook on Aug 30, 2023

Every year across the country youth football coaches get a taste of game management. Occasionally we get out to see a Pop Warner game or two ourselves. This blog about game day decisions often comes to mind.  We hope there are a few nuggets of coaching advice that you might be able to use as your 2023 youth football season continues.

I am watching a youth football contest between two teams. We will call them the “blue” team and the “red” team. The blue team was the better of the two teams and they wore down the red team scoring the first touchdown. The blue team appeared to be a little better athletically but the more I watched the game the more apparent it became that the blue team was also better coached. It was apparent that as a result they executed better.

Also, the red team’s offense was having a hard time getting anything going and this had much to do with their execution not the blue team’s play. Towards the end of the first half the blue team took the ball and scored on a long drive and this made the score 14-0 just before the half.

Now this is where I get to the point of this article. The blue team kicked off to the red team and they fumble the ball around but eventually recover the ball on their own 10 yard line. The officials blew the whistle and say the half was over.

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Okay,14-0 isn’t a good deal but at least the coaches can go back and regroup a little and get the kids back on the right track. It’s at this point that the officials say hold on. There are a couple of seconds left on the clock. There is time for one more play.

Immediately I’m thinking “DON”T DO IT!” If you are the red team you are on your own 10 yard line and have 90 yards to go for a score. This team has not and is not going to score a 90 yard touchdown this entire year so the only thing that could happen was something bad.

The red team sends in a play and yes, you already know what happens next. The QB drops back and throws a duck to the blue team and they run it back for a 10 yard interception touchdown. Now the poor kids on the red team are down 21-0 not to mention being demoralized right before half.

It just didn’t need to happen. I’m trying to be sensitive to the fact that youth league coaches don’t have nearly enough time to prepare for game situations like paid coaches do but a youth coach can still manage the game on a basic level.

Here are a couple of fundamental things that can help:

1. Have a game plan. What is a game plan? It’s a plan that tells you what plays to call in different situations. It’s not just a list of all of your plays. Break it down by down & distance, situations and field position. This way you will be more aware of game management situations instead of trying to decide in the heat of battle what play you should call. The play calls should already be worked out for the most part before the kickoff.

2. Delegate some of the game day assignments to your other coaches. If you are trying to do everything something will suffer. If you are trying to call the offense, defense and special teams AND manage the game it’s just a matter of time until you miss something.

3. Breath and stay calm. If you’re emotional on the sideline you will have a greater chance to mis-manage a game situation. Emotions screw up communication between coaches and between coaches and players, not to mention just being a general waste of time. I saw the obligatory coach ball cap throw while I was watching this game and I think it made the coach feel a little better after he did it but I’m pretty sure it didn’t help his team much.

4. Stay focused on what can happen next not what just happened. This separates the really good game day coach from the others. Practice is for correcting what is wrong. If you want to correct something on game day it had better be in between series when your players come off to the sideline. If you are correcting a player while he is on the field then you have no chance to stay up with the play call or game situations.

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Trust me when I say I get it. There are a lot of differences in youth league football and the NFL. What is not different is that there is a play clock and the coach must keep pace with the flow of the game. There may not be as many plays or defenses involved with a youth game plan. The complexity of the game plan may not compare either. However, if a the coach takes a little time be organized on the sideline for Saturday’s game then he has a much better chance of avoiding huge common sense game management errors on game day.

FirstDown PlayBook offers you 12 different youth football offensive formations . You should consider one or two of these for your Pop Warner offense. Tap on any one of the tiles below to visit the article describing that formation. Then get on over to FirstDown PlayBook to get busy coaching your Pop Warner team with the best football playbook available!

Eric Crouch