One of the largest difficulties I have faced in designing a program for Middle Level football is the lack of resources about such programs. There has been a lot of material written for the high school level and college level programs and plenty for youth coaching. But, Middle school athletes are capable of more than what younger children can accomplish, yet cannot run high school schemes yet. There are of course exceptions, like if you coach talented select teams that cut non-performing athletes. But, here at Mahar, anyone who steps on the practice field plays. Many years we struggle with enough numbers to run effective practices.
So, my solution at first was to use a watered down version of our high school program. I figured this would get our athletes in tune to the philosophies and techniques they will see later. This would make transitions easy and create one solid 7-12 seamless program. This did not work as I would hope. Again, as stated in the last paragraph, our athletes could not perform the same schemes as a varsity program. They did not posses the football knowledge or physical ability to perform. Watching 11-13 year olds attempt zone blocking is quite the site. And, we saw very different opponent schemes than our varsity counter parts. Our needs on offense and defense did not align with the varsity program’s.
So, I went backwards instead. I started looking into youth programs which showed success at the early years. I ran into Dave Cisar’s book, “Winning Youth Football.” this is an excellent resource which outlined a philosophy which was perfect for my team. We started implementing the defense after our first week one loss of the season and then installed a variation of the offense starting the second week. This book outlines a successful program and addresses how to implement the system for older teams. Our coaching staff put together our first winning season, 5-3, using parts of this system. We will integrate more of it this coming fall. I can’t wait to see the results.