Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mailbag question: What defense is the best to use for young kids?

Mailbag question: What defense is the best to use for young kids?


I'm a youth football coach in Miami, FL for 9-10 year olds. This is my second year coaching tackle football. I am responsible for the defense this year.

For the last two days, I have been scouring/studying the internet trying to figure out the best defense to run. My initial work tells me a 5-3 is probably our best overall basic package with a cover 3 formation for the safety and corners. Our opponents are some of the best players in South Florida. Most likely, they will always have one or two faster players. We will be facing I formations and the spread offense in most cases. Any help and suggestions for a guy still wet behind the ears?

All the best and Go Blue,



Thanks for the question.

The key to a successful and appropriate defense at your level is stopping the run, because frankly at the youth level the scheme should involve stacking the box and daring the other players and coaches to try and beat the defense by passing the ball. Most coaches would rather lose a game by forcing a young qb to throw a "perfect pass" rather than just having the other team running past, over, or around the defense.

Further, take into consideration that in most cases (youth football) the best athlete is likely the quarterback. Most of the offense at this level involves having that athlete (the qb) keeping the ball or handing it off to the next best athlete on the team, the running back.

The purpose of using the spread in youth football is to spread the defense out and create bigger lanes for the best athletes to make a play. In the old days, youth teams, who were bigger, used very tight splits on the line, and the smaller faster teams would try wider line splits. The spread takes the above philosophy to its natural conclusion.

Playing a 5-3, with cover 3, is a solid defense to stop the run. You could also play a 6-2 against the I-formation teams or when you realize the team is mostly running the ball. The 5-2, cover four, is great for an all-around defense but leaves a defense a man short against an offense that will almost always run. Colleges have somewhat abandoned the 5-2 defense, although a 4-3 defense with a linebacker on the rush side is similar.

A scheme that is an excellent run defense, and might be one to check on, is the old bear 46 defense. It is excellent against the run, and can be adjusted to use against the spread. This takes some research.

Note carefully: at this age level, keep it simple!! It is a mistake to overcomplicate the defensive scheme. This tenet applies to all levels of football and players will only play hard, fast, and go by instincts when they can just play football.

Good Luck whichever defense you choice, and congratulations on entering coaching. It is extremely rewarding.

Thanks for stopping by Go Blue Michigan Wolverine
If you have any questions please E-Mail

Written by CoachBt and ErocWolverine

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