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Old 10-10-2011, 12:13 PM   #1
Bret Goldstein
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Question Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

I was thinking of what group to ask about this issue and I felt that this group might be best in terms of what I was looking for.

I coach Pop Warner football for the 80lb tackle team where I live. I have been coaching for four years. I am running into an issue with our offensive line - both holding and sustaining blocks. Let me quickly digress because it will help you help me - I hope.

We were having problems with the interior defensive line. We were soft in the middle and teams were running through the A gaps pretty easily - even with kids lined up directly in the gaps. What was happening is the boys were coming out of their stance and essentially standing up and getting pushed out of the way. No matter what we tried we couldn't get the children to stop standing up. I saw it as a complete failure on my part. I believe in my heart that no matter what sport, if the child is dedicated and trying and yet failing - that the failure is mine and my fellow coaches. Something wasn't working and I couldn't get the kids to stay low.

My impression was that I was giving the boys too much to handle and that I had to simplify everything to keep them doing what we needed to do. I ended up doing practices where the interior defensive linemen - some of our smallest kids (you try to keep the faster more physical kids on the outside to prevent being attacked at the edges) simply bear crawled into the gaps with their heads up. It worked. They essentially became stoppers in the hole - that either completely slowed the runs into the 1 and 2 holes (A gaps) or the kids would see the pile up and bounce outside, directly into the arms of the other defenders. Very very effective - not the best football - teaching four point stance is 1970's football - but it worked. I found something that the boys could accomplish that was effective.

Well, we are not sustaining our blocks well and are not staying low on offense - although some of the boys do this extremely well, not everyone does and we want to give everyone equal time on the field.

Can anyone make any suggestions as to physical exercises and or specific techniques that you feel would be helpful in doing this?

I know this is a bit off the beaten path for a Crossfit board - but lurking here, I have grown to respect peoples opinions. Also, we are teaching our boys tenacity, balance and strength - things that are seemingly part of the crossfit exercise philosphy as well.

I am open to suggestions.

Regards.
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Old 10-10-2011, 02:14 PM   #2
Jason Wallis
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

Times have changed... our coaches used intimidation, humiliation, and sadistic "conditioning" drills to get us to do what they wanted. If that didn't work, occasionally one would actually show us the correct technique (the latter was always used as a last resort)
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Old 10-10-2011, 03:09 PM   #3
Steven Thunander
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

I would recommend contacting Johnny from Socal Strength and Conditioning. He puts together the Crossfit Football WOD's.

raven@socalsc.com (Link WFS)

His website:
http://talktomejohnnie.com/ (WFS)
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Old 10-10-2011, 03:57 PM   #4
Eric Montgomery
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

Never played football but just started up with rugby, and I've found that being able to out-squat, out-deadlift, and out-clean most of the guys I play with helps me drive them back during rucks provided I get low enough. I don't know that I'd put 8 year olds on a heavy barbell lifting program (especially given the limited time you have with them) but you can build some strength and explosiveness in them by having them throw sandbags around or by pushing or dragging a sled. They'll learn the benefits of staying low and using their hips/glutes/hamstrings pretty quickly when they're pushing a heavy sled around...obviously "heavy" being relative to their age and strength levels.

Tire flips are another fairly easy-to-teach movement for kids--they won't be able to handle a full-sized tractor tire or anything, but you could take a normal size tire and maybe weight it down with some cement on the inside.
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Old 10-10-2011, 04:36 PM   #5
Kevin Bowman
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

Do you have any way for them to fire out from the hole and under something (we had bars)? A "mat tunnel" would work. They must come off the ball and through the tunnel before they raise up. Or, fire out, through the tunnel, and level a tackling dummy.

If they hit the mat, then they must run (short sprint, shuttle runs) or exercise (air squats, pushups, burpees, etc.). Nothing extreme, just enough to make them want to stay down more than do another burpee or run.
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Old 10-10-2011, 10:25 PM   #6
Chris Mason
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

Are you saying they don't understand you when you tell them they need to stay a bit lower? Do you have them block each other and try different styles to see that staying lower helps?

My guess is that it an issue with lack of aggression. Physical rough play is so nonexistent these days with kids most of them never develop the ability to be physically aggressive when called upon.
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Old 10-11-2011, 10:33 AM   #7
Bret Goldstein
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

Since I am the "strength and conditioning coach" too (in a manner of speaking) these kids do bushups, jumpies, burpies, squat jumps, bear crawl, sprinting - a ton of things that are full body exercises that improve strength and coordination but don't actually involve lifting a "weight." I try to stay away from that at this age group. When you go up to teenage players then you can incorporate some of the things mentioned again, without getting into significant squat, oly lifts, etc. until their bodies are ready to handle it. There are all sorts of theories about when that starts - but 8-10 year olds would be a no-go for that sort of thing.

I do hear the "lack of aggressiveness" thing and I agree with it. In many ways we are building a society that rejects that sort of behavior, even on the football field. That being said, with the rise of concern about concussions we have had to teach a new way of tackling - no more hat in the chest and drive.

I think that at 8-10 there is a limit to what most kids can handle as far as technique. I firmly believe that at entry level football the most simple basic tasks are the limit for 85% of the children. During games, complex directions go out the window with 99% of children.

I am looking for a simple basic method of teaching blocking to young children that is easy and understandable to them. I love the idea of having a tunnel which compels them to stay low. I just have to figure out how to do that on the FB field with the equipment we have. The instinct to stand up is very strong and I need to find a way to keep the kids low and yet give them the agility to maintain blocks for about 3 seconds - which is reasonable in football terms.

Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 10-11-2011, 11:58 AM   #8
Anthony Giurato
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

In high school I remember a drill where we had a long thin piece of rubber/foam. It was about 1 foot wide and 6 feet long.

The drill was to have linemen go head to head starting from either end of the mat. The linemen were to straddle the mat, which means just have one foot on either side. This make each person keep their feet apart. You'd lose your footing if you stepped on the mat. From there, the goal is to drive the other person back.

This drill made it pretty apparent what you need to do to block someone.
  1. Fire off
  2. Keep a good base
  3. Chop your feet
  4. Get your pads under theirs

Since it is pretty restrictive in that you have to go head on, whomever does the 4 things above the best wins. Perhaps a drill like this could help develop the instincts to stay low.
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Old 10-11-2011, 05:20 PM   #9
Christopher G. Woods
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

King of Ring/Sumo drill. Mark off a square with cones and have them go one-on-one trying to push each other out. This should help them work on basic concepts of position, leverage and hand placement.
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Old 10-11-2011, 06:23 PM   #10
Kevin Bowman
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Re: Coaching Line Blocking to 8 Year Olds

Bret,
What equipment do you have?

It could be as simple as 2 PVC's pipes held by teammates to determine the height.
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