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Outsmarting Yourself as Youth Football Coach

What is outsmarting yourself in youth football and does it happen? Yes, yes and yes if you have been doing any youth football coaching, you’ve seen it. It happens and outsmarting yourself is: instead of doing what will most likely give your team the best opportunity to succeed, instead they will do something cute, totally out of character or something that has little to no chance of success.

If that sounds like something you’ve done, don’t sweat it, it happens at the college level too and I will give you an egregious example of it later in this article. Some coaches feel like they have to be the “smartest guy in the room” or do something totally off the wall. Why do they do this? Sometimes they feel it’s the only chance they have to succeed even if the odds are long. Sometimes these coached just want the accolades of doing something totally off the wall and succeeding, if they were by chance lucky enough to pull it off.

What are examples of youth football coaches outsmarting themselves?


Putting in an entirely new offense in one week to “change it up” in a week 9 game

Running a bunch of trick plays that have never worked in practice

Running the ball consistently 4-5 yards a crack right down the field. With first and goal on the 5, they throw the ball for a pic 6

A core group of plays is consistently working, yet the coach continues to dig deep into the playbook for plays that consistently don’t work

A team onside kicks and pooch kicks all year. They score the go ahead touchdown with 15 seconds left and decide to kick deep, the other team of course returns it for a score.

With one weeks practice a team adds in the true triple option to their playbook

Deep into the season a coach forgoes nearly all of its individual and group practice time in lieu of scout offense and defense team time

The problem often times is that “plays are there” if you count the box or look how teams are aligned, But NONE of that matters if you can’t execute the plays that are “there”.

Don’t feel like you have to use your entire playbook or go away from what is consistently working. Even if you see something that is open, it may be more effective to dance with the one that brung ya, ESPECIALLY if other plays in your playbook haven’t consistently worked in practice.

Do you really want to throw that throwback screen at the opponents five yard line when you’re only completing 3-10 in practice? It doesn’t matter how “OPEN” it is, don’t play smartest guy in the room. Youth football coaching doesn’t have to be complicated 007 stuff.

This actually happened to one of the teams in my program. Back in 2010 one of our teams was winning a close game and just took a 2 score lead late in the third quarter. They had onside kicked very effectively all season and the opponent knew that. The opponent had moved their second line in close and their single deep guy was only at the 30. So the deep kick was “open”. You guessed it, we kicked deep, the other teams best player retreated to pick up the ball and viola he returned it for a touchdown. Our kids had never even practiced covering a deep kick. The other team grabbed the momentum from the kick return score and ended up winning the game. It happens.

Even the College Guys

You don’t have to go any further than my Nebraska Cornhuskers to see these same type of problems at the collegiate level. NU played a very poor Illinois team this season. NU was ahead by 6 with just 51 seconds left to go in the game. NU was on the Illinois 27 and it was 3rd and 7. Illinois had NO timeouts left. All NU had to do was either get the first down, or run 2 plays, or run 1 play and punt it. If the ball had been run on both plays, there would have been just 10 seconds or so left for Illinois and the ball would have been downed inside their 10 with NU’s All American Punter. So they would have had to go 90 yards in just 10 seconds.

Well it didn’t quite end up like that. The NU offensive coordinator was having one of those “smartest guy in the room” moments. Despite it being windy and NU only passing for 10-31 for 105 yards, he called 2 passes in a row. The clock stopped after each play and Illinois got the ball back with 41 seconds instead of 10 and they subsequently completed 3 passes to win the game 14-13.

The “smartest guy in the room” who probably saw a couple of plays that were open on paper, saw his team lose a game that he gave away. He went from Einstein to the biggest goat in the state. Don’t be that guy, don’t overthink things. Do what works, don’t be cute to be cute and end up being the goat.

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