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The Sweeps – The Cheapest Football Plays in Youth Football
Sweeping, the ‘holy grail’ of youth football matches
While sweeping is a legitimate game of football at all levels, it is a game that I personally hate in youth football. Too many youth football matches are decided by a single player on a game that often requires little teamwork or real execution, the sweep. It sickens me to see poorly coached teams executing sweep after sweep for touchdowns, the coaches fists raised in the air in triumph for what? For the fact that, thanks to the skillful feat of geography, their youth football team just got a very fast player signed up for their particular team. Wow, that takes a lot of coaching skills and team effort, congratulations. The facts are, once these one-trick pony sweep teams go up against a well-trained team, they’ll struggle.
In the past 6 seasons of managing defense in my book, our first defensive team has only given up one sweep from over 20 yards. Our defense is designed to eliminate the sweep, but many of these one-turn sweep teams are still trying to lead the game, even after they’ve done a lot of sweeps for losses. It really is a fairly simple game to stop with the right pattern and simple technique by your defensive ends. We stopped cold sweeping, even when we had teams with little or no speed and played downtown teams with exceptional speed.
On offense the sweep and the sweep pass are in our playbook and we run it as a main play with a lineman shooting and in sweep style, Wing-T style with a dip into the false line (or keep) from behind. Although sweeping has been a very successful game of football for us, I rarely execute it on offense.
In 2002 we ran 2-3 sweeps all season, my tailgating was extremely slow (and small), so slow that he got caught from behind on off tackle plays. He was all we had on a very talented short “B” team that was still 11-1. The year before, remember, this team had an incredible short tailback of the “I” roster, one of the best running backs in the history of the Sreaming Eagle program, of over 2,500 kids. This team was the biggest and most talented ‘B’ team we’ve ever fielded and ‘coach’ did a lot of sweeps. Sure, they knocked out the weak teams, but lost to all the downhill teams and finished a very disappointing 3-5. All but 8 of the kids on that team progressed the following year and what was left was a team that 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 didn’t matter. Hmmm 11-1 with a slower than molasses stopper and the league champions against 3-5 with the best stopper our organization has ever seen, damn it, I wonder what the best approach was? To give you an idea of how weak this team was, the following year in 2003 I coached the 8-10 year old “A” team and only 2 of the kids on my 2002 team were good enough to be selected to play on this “One Squad”. In 2002 we executed the sweep to our blocking back and scored 7 of the 8 times we executed it, due to poor play direction and excellent perimeter execution, not the speed of our running back (he was slow too).
In 2003, we had a fast running back who could get the corner, but we still only ran the sweep about 25 times that season. If you see this DVD of the season, you see the sweep was there for the taking many games and we knew it. I wanted our kids to work for our scores and know we could run our base plays and score against any defense. I knew that at the end of the seasons, this 8-10 “Select” team was going to face the league champions of an 11-12 league in a huge bowling match and we couldn’t outrun them, so we prepared for the last game. every week. My 2003 team went 11-0 and our first team scored on every possession in every game we played that season, running very few sweeps.
In 2004, with a rookie team that year, again with very little speed, we ran the sweep maybe 15 times that season and went 11-0. In 2005 we had a traffic jam with downhill wheels, but we only made about 25 sweeps in that 12-0 season. In 2006, even with really good speed, we ran the sweep only about 30 times in an 11-1 season. By not huddled like we do and averaging over 50 snaps per game, you can see how rarely we use these sweeping football games.
The Single Wing Offense sweep is a great play and offers great number advantages and angles, but my distaste for the game in conceptual terms means we don’t run it even when it’s obviously open. When we run it, it’s usually a really big play. By the time we finally run it, the defense is usually pinched and it’s a big winner. We execute excellent sealing blocks at the point of attack and require our shooters to descend into the field with proper helmet placement. However, if we’re playing a weak team and we’re dominant or obviously have more speed than the other team, you won’t see much play from us. If we’re ahead by a score or two, you won’t see the sweep from us at all. We gain little long-term progress by setting sail in either scenario.
Last season, the manager of an organization that often has very fast players, but very marginal management, said to me at the end of the season: “In youth football, it comes down to this fast kid”. This is the epitome of what’s wrong with youth football coaching and why I hate sweeping so much. I have never lost to this organization or even had a close match with them for that matter. Even when they have big squads with huge size and speed advantages, they won’t play us in extra games. Why? Because even with much smaller and slower players we coldly shut down their attack and it’s frustrating and embarrassing for them to do so badly against a physically inferior team.
Don’t get beaten by swipes and don’t make them the base of your attack. It’s like a 300 pound bully taking candy away from a 4 year old girl, it takes no effort or skill. But when you try to take candy from another 300 pound bully or even a 350 pound bully, and depend on the sweep, you’ll get your brains beat. That’s why you often see teams outrun every team in their league by big margins, but go to a playoff or an out-of-town Bowl game and get blown up. Why? Because eventually that happy sweeping team will come up against a team that has as much speed as the one-trick pony player they have or has a plan like ours that stops the sweeping. Good teams beat good teams, a good player does not beat a good team or a well trained team in youth football. A good player only beats very weak or poorly trained teams in youth football.
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