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The Sweeps – The Cheapest Football Plays in Youth Football
Sweep the “Holy Grail” of youth football games
While the sweep is a legitimate football play at all levels, I personally hate it in youth football. Many youth football games are decided by one player on one play that usually requires little teamwork or actual execution, the sweep play. It bothers me to see poorly coached teams running sweep play after sweep play for touchdowns, coaches with fists in the air? Thanks to a clever feat of geography, their youth football team has signed up a very fast player for their particular team. Wow that takes a lot of coaching skills and team effort, congratulations. The fact is, once these one trick pony sweep teams play a well-coached team, they will struggle.
In the past 6 seasons of running defenses in my book, our first team defense has only given up one sweep play of over 20 yards. Our defense is designed to eliminate sweeps, yet many of these one trick wonder sweep teams still try and run plays, even after running numerous sweeps for losses. With the right plan and a simple technique to shut down your defensive end, it’s a really simple play. We’ve pulled off sweeps cold, although we’ve had teams with little or no speed and the intra-city teams played at an exceptional pace.
On offense, sweeps and sweep passes are in our playbook and we run them as a lead play with the pulling lineman and the fullback dropping into the line fake (or hold) in a bucksweep fashion, ala Wing-T style. Although the sweep is a very successful football play for us, I rarely run it on offense.
In 2002 we ran a 2-3 sweep all season, my tailback was extremely slow (and short), so he would get caught behind on off-tackle plays. That’s when we had a very talented little “B” team that still went 11-1. Keep in mind this past year that this team had an incredible tailback running out of the “I” formation, over 2,500 kids Sreaming Eagle was one of the best running backs in program history. This team was the biggest and most talented “B” team we have ever fielded and “Coach” ran a lot and made a lot of sweeps. Of course they blew away weaker teams, but lost to teams of all stripes and finished a very disappointing 3-5. All but 8 boys from this team advanced the next year and the team that remained 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. Hmmm with an 11-1 tailback that was slower than molasses and the league champs vs 3-5 the best tailback our org has ever seen, I wonder what was the better approach? To give you an idea of how week this team really was, the following year in 2003 I coached an 8-10 year old “A” team and only 2 kids from my 2002 team were good enough to be selected to play on this team. A” squad. In 2002 we ran a bucksweep on our blocking backs and scored 7 of the 8 runs we ran, due to poor play direction and excellent perimeter execution, our running backs were not short, (it was very short).
In 2003 we had a rush that could get corners, but we still only swept 25 times or more that season. If you watch the DVD of that season, you’ll see that there were sweeps in most of the games and we knew it. I wanted our guys to work for our score and know that we can run our base plays and score against any defense. I knew that at the end of the season the 8-10 “select” teams were going to play in the 11-12 age group Champions League in a big bowl game and we wouldn’t be able to beat 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, much less a sweep.
In 2004 with an all-rookie team that year, again at a very low pace, we swept maybe 15 times this season and went 11-0. We had a tailback with some decent wheels in 2005, but we only swept 25 in that 12-0 season. Even better in 2006 we saw only 30 or more sweeps during an 11-1 season. You can see how rarely we use these sweep football plays without going no-huddle like we do and averaging 50+ snaps a game.
A sweep out of a single wing offense is a great play and has many advantages and angles, but my gripe with the play conceptually is that we don’t run it when it’s obviously wide open. It’s usually a huge drama when we run it. By the time we finally run it, the defense is usually pinching and it’s a big gainer. We execute great seal blocks at the point of attack as well as require our pullers to get downfield with proper helmet placement. However, if we’re playing a weaker team and are dominating or clearly outpacing the other team, you’re not going to see a lot of play from us. If we are ahead by a point or two, you won’t see a sweep from us at all. In any case, sweeping gives us little long-term progress.
Last season the head of an organization that often had very fast players, but very little training told me at the end of the season “in youth football, it just comes down to that one fast kid”. It epitomizes what is wrong with youth football coaching and why I hate sweeps so much. I have never lost to this organization or had a close game with them for that matter. They won’t play us extra games even though they have huge size and speed advantages. why Because even with smaller and slower players, we shut down their offense coldly and it’s frustrating and embarrassing for them to do so against a physically inferior team.
Don’t get beat by sweep plays and make it the basis of your offense. It’s like a 300-pound bully taking candy away from a 4-year-old girl, with zero effort or skill required. But when you’re trying to take candy away from another 300-pound bully or a 350-pound bully and you’re relying on sweeps, your brain is exhausted. That’s why you often see teams outscoring all the teams in their league. By a wide margin, but go in and out of a playoff or bowl game out of town. why Because eventually that sweep happy team will run into a team that has as much speed as the one trick pony player they have or a scheme like ours that shuts down the sweep. Good teams beat good teams, a good player does not beat a good team or a well coached team in youth football. A good player only beats very weak or very poorly coached teams in youth football.
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