It is generally accepted wisdom that the offensive line is likely where you will find the most intelligent players on the field. As a coach you won’t get very far with the Wing-T if you don’t use intelligence as a decision factor when building your starting o-line. The rules and footwork are hard to grasp as an adult, let alone as an 8–9 year old kid.
I believe as well that because these are often the smartest kids on the field, they are also less likely to be outwardly craving attention and glory. This makes it extremely important to overtly recognize their contributions. All too often I see coaches yelling in at the line when things aren’t going well, and failing to thank them when they are executing at a high level. I know I’ve been guilty of this.
What are some things you can do to make sure you give the offensive line their due?
- Make a point each practice and each game to find points of positive feedback for as many linemen as possible. For example, perhaps you get through an entire team offense session without a single mis-handled snap. Give the center specific feedback: “Great technique snapping the ball out there Carter. When we have perfect C/QB exchange through an entire series like that, we stay on schedule and will usually find a way to score.” Read this post to see some valuable techniques for giving positive and negative feedback.
- Devise a special recognition program for your offensive linemen. In Sherwood Youth Football we’ve had the Black Knight program since the inception of the program. After each game the coaches involved with the o-line get together and select a single player to be awarded the Black Knight award. A coach announces it in the final team huddle, again giving very specific feedback on why. The player gets to wear the special Black Knight jersey to each practice in the subsequent week, and we write an article that gets published in the newsletter that week.
- Coach your skill position players to consciously recognize and thank the linemen. This is a great lesson on two fronts: (1) it trains the players to understand the importance and value of positive feedback, and (2) it underscores that football is a team sport.
- Mix things up and find creative ways to showcase your o-line. If your linemen are eligible to carry the ball, find a way to incorporate them into your running game and make a big deal out of it. We also have a trick play we run which is legal under NFHS rules that has one of our guards carrying the ball. I’ll write that up in a future post.
What other ideas do you have to recognize offensive linemen in youth football? Leave a comment below.