How Do I Stop the Speed Running Back in Youth Football?

Speed is king in all sports, but especially in Pop Warner football. If you have a player that cannot be caught, you will have a great season without having to do much coaching. If you are facing a team with great speed then you need a game plan.

How your speed matches up versus their speed will dictate how you design your defensive game plan. You have to devise a scheme to contain, or at the minimum harness, the quickest player in the opposing team.

I have become a big believer in no surprises as a coach. I believe using intense scouting, with complete reports so you have an idea of what you will be facing. A complete scouting report is your most valuable tool.

As a coach preparing the game plan for the upcoming opponent, the first inquiry a defensive coordinator must ask himself is who is the fastest player on the other team? You will set up your defensive backs and ends based on this guide. There goal is to get their speed back outside your containment defender so he can run free down the sidelines.

Your primary defensive strategy must be not to allow this to happen. You must convey to your players that they need to contain the speed running back. By using team defense, you will have your containment players force their fast running back towards the middle of field and back to where you other defenders are. You can minimize the speed advantage by forcing him to run to the middle of your defense. It sound easy, but trust me it isn’t. It is not impossible and with the right preparation you should be able to harness the speed back.

When designing your defensive scheme, line up your defensive ends and corner backs at a minimum of 4-5 yards closer to the sidelines than you would in your base set. This will make it hard to run around the ends and get to the outside freely. This helps the ends see the play as it develops. When a running back sees a defender, his instinct is to run the other way, even if it is back in traffic.

The opposing offensive coordinator rapidly gets frustrated and has to make over his game plan live while the game is in progress. Even if you have a back up plan in place, it is hard to adjust on the fly.

I have witnessed quite a few opposing coaches enter half time, yelling at his speed back, blaming the kid when he, as the coach, has no idea what is happening.

In conclusion the best way to negate speed is to make your opposition run to the middle. The other reward is you are making the speed back go where you have more defenders to help make the tackle.