Installing the Wing-T - Week 1

Installing the WingT Week 1

One question I often hear about the Wing-T is this: the plays make sense, I understand the assignments, but what is the best way to install it at the youth level? I’m not sure I know the best way, but my approach has evolved over the years and I thought it would be useful to share some specific week 1 installation plans. A few caveats are in order though to set some context:

  • My experience for the past 5 years has been with 8th graders (13–14 year olds). What I show here might take twice as long for 8–9 year olds. The core concepts still apply though.
  • I assume my teams are like yours in that just about every player is going to play both ways (offense and defense) plus special teams. Practice time is precious but you must divide time between the three phases.
  • Before school starts we are allowed 10 hours of practice per week, so my plans assume a full 10 hours for the first week.
  • We require 10 hours of conditioning before putting on pads and going full contact. In my organization we have always used this conditioning time for a group camp and evaluation period before dividing up into teams. During this time we don’t do much in the way of play installation. Instead we focus on football conditioning and skill work, heads up tackling progression, and combine-style evaluation (shuttle run, 40 yard dash, heavy bag carry). So by the time we break into teams we are in full pads and working up to full (but controlled) contact.

First thing: have a specific goal in mind for the first week. For older youth teams, I think having two basic series installed (e.g., Belly and Buck) is reasonable. It won’t be perfect, but each player should know their basic stance, alignment, and assignment. I always start be sticking with a single formation concept, either the double wing or single wing with halfback. For a younger team, getting a single series in place is reasonable and I think that series should be the Belly series. This includes at least the Down, Counter for young teams, and either Down Pass or Down (Belly) Sweep plays for older teams.

Day 1 Schedule Summary

Here’s what my day 1 schedule has looked like for the past few years. I’ll describe each section after the summary.

Day 1 Installation
Time Backs Receivers Line
0:00 – 0:08 Dynamic Warm-ups
0:08 – 0:10 Fast Water Break
0:10 – 0:25 Backs Indy WR Indy Line Indy
0:27 – 0:29 Fast Water Break
0:29 – 0:44 Backs/WR Group Line Group
0:44 – 0:46 Fast Water Break
0:46 – 1:06 Team Play Walk-through
1:06 – 1:08 Fast Water Break
1:08 – 1:41 Team Play - THUD or Bags/Shields
1:41 – 1:43 Fast Water Break
1:43 – 1:58 Plays on Air Conditioning
1:58 – 2:00 Coach Chat

Day 1 Schedule Details

Let’s break down each section:

  • Dynamic Warm-ups – Fast paced warm-ups designed to raise the heart rate, perform dynamic stretching, and do a small amount of conditioning to get players ready for practice. I’ll write more about this in a future post.
  • Fast Water Break – Self describing, but we do this FAST. Players run back to the sideline to hydrate, then run back to their stations. No time for chit chat.
  • Indy Periods – This is where we generally do every-day drills (EDDs). Early in the season we build patterns for repetition such that the players can run it themselves. As the season goes on we’ll mix things up a bit.
    • Backs Indy – These are agility and ball skill drills. We generally aren’t teaching play specific footwork or techniques during this period. Early on the QBs will do the same drills as our running backs as we expect them to be able to be running backs. Starting in week 2 when we introduce the passing game the QBs will often break out during this period with WRs to work on the passing game.
    • WR Indy – Our wide receivers are blocking on 90–95% of our plays, so we always start the season with a focus on blocking technique for split ends. We’ll also work on release technique. Later in the first week we’ll start introducing pass catching drills and include the tight ends.
    • Line Indy – I cover the offensive line drills in my free Belly series playbook. During the first week I would focus exclusively on Get-Offs (Power, Reach, Flat), Strike a Blow, Fire Block, Reach Block, Gap Block, Down Block, and Backer Block. Also check out my article offensive line basics.
  • Group Periods – Here we start to introduce Wing-T specific concepts as well as assignments for our first plays.
    • Backs / WR Group – We start with cones and basic rules for getting alignment and spacing working for our backfield and WR. Use a line hose if possible to provide a reference point, or if you have a lined field to work on you can just use cones or bags to represent the linemen.
    • Line Group – We work on splits and our expectations on how the line gets ready to execute play. I’ve run no huddle for the past 5 years so this means having the center immediately get anchored on the ball, the guards to get their proper width spacing and depth off the center, and tackle to get aligned with the guards with proper split. The TE waits by the center and QB for the formation call. Then we move into blocking assignments for our first play, which for Belly series would be the down play. We’ll run this both to the right side and left side.
  • Team Periods – This is where it starts to come together. Whenever we introduce new plays we will always start with a walk-through to make sure each player understands their assignment. We’ll do this with a static defense in place (often coaches or players holding bags / shields), usually with an even front (4–4 stack or split 6) as that’s what most teams will play against us. We’ll transition from walk-through to full speed after the basics are down (for ALL players - make sure you are rotating). For older players we may go directly into managed contact with a THUD call. THUD is full speed, full contact except we don’t bring players to the ground and we will blow quick whistles. For younger players you should probably keep coaches / players with bags while you install. I strongly encourage you to script the plays for this period.
  • Plays On Air Conditioning – Why run lines / gassers when you can get the same conditioning benefit but continue to instill football skills and play repetition? That’s what plays on air does. Build two complete offensive groups (depending on your numbers some players may need to work with both groups, or you may need to rotate 3 players through 2 positions) and have them run plays continuously on air (no defenders) and run out 20–40 yards. Setup cones downfield so they know how far to go, then they sprint to the sideline, loop around, and get ready to repeat. You’ll have a continuous cycle of plays going and the kids will always be moving. This is not the time to be making corrections or teaching. The focus here is on fast repetition, so make sure all of your assistant coaches are on the same page. Re-use your script from the team period to make sure you cover all of your formations and plays.

Schedule for Rest of Week

While we start with a full 2 hour practice focused on offense, subsequent practices will likely not have a full two hours as we need to also start installing our defense and special teams. Here’s what subsequent days look like for my teams.

  • Day 2 – 2 hours of defense installation, including heads-up / Hawk tackling progression.
  • Day 3 – Repeat Day 1 script. Introduce cross block drill during group offensive line segment. Have TE split time with WR group and line group during group period and begin working on pass catching and routes.
  • Day 4 – 2 hours of defense installation, including heads-up / Hawk tackling progression.
  • Day 5 – A mix of offense and special teams. By now your EDD period should be shortening as there’s less instruction. 10 minutes should be enough. During the group and team period you will install the next play(s). For the young kids this might be counter, for the older kids you might finish the Belly series with Down Sweep or start moving into the Buck Series.
Day 5 Installation
Time Backs Receivers Line
0:00 – 0:08 Dynamic Warm-ups
0:08 – 0:10 Fast Water Break
0:10 – 0:20 Backs Indy EDDs WR Indy EDDs Line Indy EDDs
0:20 – 0:22 Fast Water Break
0:22 – 0:37 Backs Indy WR Indy Line Indy
0:37 – 0:39 Fast Water Break
0:39 – 0:55 Backs/WR Group Line Group
0:55 – 0:57 Fast Water Break
0:57 – 1:12 Team Plays On Air
1:12 – 1:14 Fast Water Break
1:14 – 1:43 Special Teams
1:43 – 1:58 Special Teams Conditioning
1:58 – 2:00 Coach Chat

That’s a reasonable start for week 1. Obviously if you have the luxury of separate offense / defense teams you can go faster than this, but I haven’t seen that happen at the youth level!