Coaching Youth Football – Statistics That Really Matter

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What are “good” football plays when you are coaching youth football?

There are many ways to define a “good” football play, but many players, parents and youth football coaches have it all wrong.

Many youth football coaches don’t even bother to analyze their football plays. They have a general “feel” for what is working and what isn’t and rely on that “feel” to determine which plays they should continue to go with or those they feel they should stop running.

First Step- The Stat Guy

The first season we had film and a real stat person, I was shocked at how my perceptions varied from the results on the film and our stat charts. Many times our internal biases or emotions get in the way of accurate analysis of what’s actually happening out on the field.

We now use a very simple manual “Easy Scout” method that is detailed in my book. Our stat person knows ahead of time which play we will run. We are a no-huddle team and our stat-person, just like all of our players and coaches has a wrist band and he knows the codes we use to call in the plays. This allows our stat guy to know which play we are running before we run it. His accurate stats then give us a non biased and non intrusive “realtime” data compilation of our plays ready for us all to see.

Easy Scout

Using the “Easy Scout” we then determine during each defensive possession our strategy and adjustments for the upcoming series. But how do you do that for your team? Many coaches just use an average yards per carry stat to determine if a play is successful or not.

Real World Example

Let’s take an example, a 43 Reverse play. Let’s say your team got the following yards the 5 times you ran it: -5, 0, -7, 1, 80. The average yards per carry would have been about 14, a nice average right?

On the other hand let’s take a play like 16 power, let’s say you got gains of: 6,1,7,5,2,6,10,0,5,6 for an average of 4.8 yards. If you take the average yards per carry comparison, it looks like the 43 Reverse is a much better play doesn’t it? You have 4.8 yards compared to 14, seems like a no-brainer, but hold your horses.

How to Determine “Success”

The way we determine if a play is successful or not is if we achieve our intended goal on the play. However not all football plays are created equal, each of these plays has it’s own unique goal. We don’t run the 43 Reverse very often, we only run it when we see the backside linebacker flowing to the QB’s initial flow. Our yardage goal on the 43 Reverse is 14 yards. Using the average yards per carry stat, one would have called this a successful play in the above game right? Let’s look a little closer.

The 16 Power is one of our base plays which we will try and establish, with the intended goal of getting the defense to over-shift or overreact to said play, which opens up several other options off the very same backfield action. We are looking for 5 yards every time we run this play for it to be called a successful play. In the above example, we didn’t achieve that goal if we look at the average yard per carry stat of 4.8 yards.

Useful Statistics

But how accurate is the average yards per carry stat? In the 43 Reverse example we had one big play and four that were pretty bad. In the 16 Power example we were fairly consistent but averaged less than our intended goal. But did we really? In the 43 Reverse example we achieved our intended 14 yards goal, just 1 in 5 tries, for a 20% average. On the other hand our 16 Power got 5 yards on 7 of 10 tries for a 70% average.

What this new stat tells us is which football plays are really working and which aren’t. Don’t let one big play or missed tackle skew your stats and give you a false sense of how a play is doing. What you are looking for is consistency and execution and the average yards per carry simply doesn’t do that for you. I look at the percentage of times we reached our intended goal rather than the average yards per carry. What we are looking for is to hit or exceed the yardage goal for the play on 70% of our snaps. When we do that, our team is executing well and our playcalling is effective and efficient.

Stats can be a very powerful tool when used properly. One of the best youth coaches I know (Eric C) is a professional statistician and has been using variations of this model for years. His teams have done extremely well I might add. But you don’t have to be a stat genius like Eric to effectively use statistics. This is very simple to do and just takes a little bit of effort, a clipboard, wristbands, planning and a stat guy that isn’t just paying attention to his own kid.

Dave Cisar
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