The first thing to remember is that in youth sports the first goal is to have fun. Kids need to have a positive experience so they will want to keep playing and not just sit in front of a Wii or Xbox for the rest of their lives!
That being said, I think kids today are way too soft and not nearly competitive enough. I try to mix in a healthy dose of competition and hard work to help them realize that they are capable of anything. Here are some of the drills I use and two basic plays. Implement these into your practice and your players will develop and have fun at the same time.
Tackling (Flag Pulling) Drill
Let the kids take turns being the running back and have them line up about 10 yards away from the defense. I start out with three defenders on the line, and on go the running back tries to get past them, while staying in bounds. During this drill I focus on teaching the kids how to take angles and not let the runner get by them.
As the defenders get better at pulling the flag I switch it up and have only two defenders, then one on one. In youth flag football the team who can pull flags wins – Hands Down.
Tackling Game (Hidden Conditioning)
My kids beg to play this game every week at practice and it is great for competition, conditioning, and flag pulling. Mark off a square using cones or rope for boundary lines. Each member of the team enters the square and cannot go out of bounds. The idea is to pull flags without getting your own pulled. The last one with their flag on is the winner. This game teaches them to pull flags, how to avoid getting their flag pulled, and how to stay in bounds. After playing this game several times the kids will be ready for a drink and you will be able to continue practice having burned some energy out of your players!
This is always a favorite at my flag football practices. I have the kid’s line up and practice recovering fumbles. First, I give them a chance to recover a few fumbles on their own. Then I have them compete and see who can come up with the ball. To do this, simple have the kids line up side by side and throw the ball about 10 feet in front of them. This drill develops the kid’s reaction time because the ball bounces differently each time. It is also good for competition and conditioning.
Start with the basics; teach each player the fundamentals of the play. Have the kids practice hiking the ball, being the quarterback, and running the ball. I run the play over and over again in practice so that the kids have a chance to work out the timing and can feel confident during the game. At this age almost every play is a run, so the defense basically knows what is coming. Being able to run the play fast and smooth will give you an advantage over other teams.
I coach a 3-4 year old football team and a 5-6 year old team right now and we run this pass play all of the time. We are the only team in either flag football league to run pass plays and they work great! I have the center and the quarterback in the middle of the field and I line everyone else up about 15 feet to the right. Have your receiver stand behind all of your linemen about 3 yards. Once the ball is snapped the quarterback just turns and throws it to the receiver. The linemen are all there to block and the receiver can run in either direction. If the other team has all their defense line up to guard the receiver, then have the quarterback just run it himself. This play spreads out the defense and gives your players room to run.