Speed is one of the most important in all sports, but especially in Pop Warner football. If you have a player that can’t be caught, you’ll have a great season without much practice. If you’re up against a very fast team, you need a game plan.
How you match your speed against theirs will determine how you design your defensive game plan. You have to devise a plan to contain, or at least harness, the fastest player on the opposing team.
I’ve become a firm believer in there being no surprises as a coach. I believe in using extensive exploration, with full reports so you have an idea of what you’ll encounter. A full survey report is your most important tool.
As a coach preparing the game plan for the upcoming opponent, the first question the defensive coordinator should ask is who is the fastest player on the other team? You’ll set up your defensive backs and ends based on this guide. The goal is to get his speed back out of your containment defender so he can run freely on the sidelines.
Your primary defense strategy should be to not allow this to happen. You must convey to the players that they need to contain the speed of the retreat. Using team defense, you’ll have containment players force them to sprint towards the middle of the field and back to where the other defenders are. You can reduce his speed advantage by forcing him to run into the middle of your defense. It sounds easy, but trust me it’s not. It’s not impossible and with the right setup, you should be able to harness the speed again.
When designing your defensive scheme, line up your defensive ends and corner backs at least 4-5 yards closer to the sidelines than you were on your starting lineup. This will make it difficult to run around the edges and reach the outside freely. This helps the parties see the play as it develops. When a runner sees a defender, his instinct is to run the other way, even if he’s back in traffic.
The opposing offensive coordinator gets frustrated quickly and has to adjust his game plan right as the game progresses. Even if you have a backup plan in place, it’s hard to adjust quickly.
I’ve watched a few competing coaches come in at halftime, quickly yell back, and blame the kid when he, as the coach, has no idea what’s going on.
In conclusion, the best way to negate speed is to make your opponent run towards the middle. Another bonus is that you make the speed come back as you have more defenders to help make tackles.