Wing-T Reader Q&A: Can I Teach an 8 Year Old to Cross Block?

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A coach from NJ, USA asked this question:

Can I teach an 8 year old to execute a cross block or should I be content to just get them firing out and making contact?

This is a great question and gets to the heart of the challenge for coaches of younger football players. We need to keep things simple for them while not underestimating their abilities and potential to learn the basics.

My short answer is Yes, you can teach an 8 year old to execute a cross block! He won't do it as well as a 12 or 16 year old, but if taught properly and in the right sequence it will be pretty simple to install.

If you don't incorporate cross blocking into your scheme, I think you'll have a hard time calling what you run a Wing-T offense. So many blocking schemes involve the cross block or variations of it. For example, I think the footwork with the trapping player (the lineman stepping around the adjacent down block) is very close to the playside guard footwork on buck sweep. Here's a brief list of plays that will use footwork similar to the cross block:

  • Buck Trap
  • Buck Sweep
  • Down
  • ISO / Belly XB
  • Tackle Trap

Cross blocking is important enough that it is integrated into my every day drill (EDD) routine for linemen.

So for the younger players, how and when should you install the cross block? Here are some guidelines:

  1. You must start with the down and gap blocks. After teaching the basics of stance and blocking technique, install these two blocks.
  2. Make sure when you cover splits and alignment that you are maintaining at least 1 foot split distance (OK for younger teams), ideally 2 feet. Make sure the line is as far off the ball as allowed, meaning the guards will have their helmet right on the hip of the center.
  3. When the players are proficient with down and gap blocking, bird dog the cross block technique. Break it down and start slow. Because the linemen are starting deep off the line, they will have time to mesh their steps before engaging the defenders. This will help give them confidence. Teach this to all of your linemen, not just guards. It keeps everyone involved, and sometimes you get surprised with athleticism.
  4. Gradually introduce limited contact and get to full speed. Start off by setting the kids up for easy success. For example, place two defenders heads up on each linemen and have them attack slowly head on. As they get better at the cross block, introduce some slanting and two-level blocking (e.g., lineman plus linebacker).