The 5 Fundamentals of Youth Football Defense
- Block Destruction
- Creating Turnovers
It is important that our alignment is correct each play. We must adjust to the offensive formation. We cannot allow the offense to outnumber or out flank us on any side. For example, say the offense comes out in an unbalanced formation to the right. The offense has 6 players to the right and 3 players to the left. This is an unbalanced formation because there are more players lined up to one side. It is imperative that we shift the defense to account for the offensive players lined up to the right side. We do not want to get outnumbered on one side of the field. Having film on your opponent is a must.
The key to coaching youth football defense is tackling! A good tackling defense will have great success regardless of scheme. Angle and open field tackling is the most important. With that said, angle and open field tackling will be practiced often. A good starting point is proper form tackling drills. Pride your defense on being sure tacklers both inside the box and in space (open field).
Players cannot tackle the ball carrier if they can not get off blocks. Meaning that the offense is not just going to let you tackle the running back, they are going to try to block you! This is a commonly known thing in football right? “Well Of course the offense will try to block the defense coach Jeff duh!?” So why do coaches still avoid working on getting off blocks? I just do not understand why block destruction is not practiced more often by youth football coaches. When we practice tackling drills we always start with our players having to lose a block and then make the tackle (coach holds pad or another player tries to block them). This will also kill two birds with one stone-getting off blocks and tackling, which are the two main aspects of defensive football. Rip move is the best technique for losing blocks, wrong arm or straight up rip. Rip through blocks (block destruction) do not go around blocks. The swim move is a waste of time in youth football; therefore we do not practice it at all. For more, check out: Swim vs. Rip move.
Pursuit to the Football
Getting every defender to the ball is another area of defense that we pride ourselves on. Taking the right angles to the ball is vital. Defenses that are able to get to the ball rarely give up the “big play”. Swarm to the ball is the motto we use. Gang tackling is a trade mark of a dominating defense. Securing gaps, getting to pursuit lanes, and gang tackling is the key to solid team youth football defense. Long story short, hold containment, gaps, and SWARM to the ball with passion and energy.
Creating turnovers for your team is huge. It will make the difference in many games. My winning percentage when my team created two or more turnovers a game is roughly 80%, give or take. It is demoralizing to the opposing team, and a huge positive swing for the team that created the turnover. Swarming to the ball is a key to creating turnovers and overall solid youth football defense. Securing the tackle first is the number one priority. When gang tackling, defensive players can hack at the ball, which can lead to turnovers. Ask yourself this question, how often do you practice ball security in practice? Not much I bet. So having your players hack at the ball consistently will lead to fumbles and a potential turnover for your team. The underneath punch is also a great way to create a turnover, especially when you are running down the ball carrier from behind.
Getting an interception is another area that we try to focus on. Creating interceptions are sometimes difficult because youth football is so run oriented. But keeping the wide receivers in front of you and delivering a blow can pop the ball in the air, leading to a potential interception. Keeping the receiver in front will give your defender a chance to get an interception because the ball can tip off the receiver’s hands quite often.
If you practice these five fundamentals of youth football defense you will have much defensive success! Get off blocks, tackle well and swarm to the ball! Energy, Passion, and Aggression, that is defense!