The “Holy Grail” sweep of youth soccer plays
While the tackle is a legitimate soccer move at all levels, it is a move that I personally detest in youth soccer. One player decides too many youth soccer games in one play that often requires little teamwork or actual execution, the sweep play. It sickens me to see poorly coached teams running sweep after sweep for touchdowns, coaches’ fists raised in the air in triumph for what? Due to the fact that, thanks to a clever feat of geography, your youth soccer team just had a very fast player signed up for your particular team. Wow, that takes a lot of coaching skill and team effort, congratulations. The facts are, once these one-trick pony sweep teams play against a well-trained team, they will struggle.
In the last 6 seasons of running the defense in my book, our first-team defense has allowed just one 20+ yard sweep play. Our defense is designed to eliminate the sweep, yet many of these wonder-trick sweep teams still try to run the game, even after running numerous turnover sweeps. It’s really a pretty simple play to close with the right layout and simple technique on the part of your defensive ends. We’ve closed the cold sweep, even when we had teams with little to no speed and played inner-city teams with exceptional speed.
On offense, the sweep and the sweep pass are in our playbook and we execute it as a lead play with a lineman throwing and in a sweeping style, Wing-T style with a fake line dive (or held) by the fullback. While the sweep has been a very successful football play for us, I rarely execute it on offense.
In 2002 we made 2-3 tackles all season, my tail was extremely slow (and small), so slow that he would get caught from behind on plays outside the tackle. He was all we had on a very talented short “B” team that was still 11-1. Keep in mind that this year before, this team had an amazing running back run out of the “I” formation, one of the best running backs in the history of the Streaming Eagle program, out of over 2,500 kids. This team was the biggest and most talented “B” team we had ever fielded and the “coach” did a lot of sweeps. Of course, they beat the weak teams, but they lost to all the relegated teams and finished with a disappointing 3-5. All but 8 of the kids on this team moved up the following year and what was left was a team that was the youngest and smallest team in the league that year. I took this team to prove a point, that size, age, and speed really didn’t matter that much. Hmmm 11-1 with a queue that was slower than molasses and League Champs vs 3-5 with the best queue our Org has ever seen, geez I wonder what the best approach was. To give you an idea of how good this team really was, the following year in 2003 I coached the 8-10 year old “A” team and only 2 of the kids on my 2002 team were good enough to be selected. to play. this “A” squad. In 2002 we ran the bucksweep to our running back and scored 7 of the 8 times we did, due to poor play direction and great perimeter execution, not our running back’s speed (he was too slow).
In 2003, we had a speedy back who could take the corner, but we still ran the sweep only 25 or so times that season. If you watch the DVD of that season, you’ll see that the sweep was there for the taking in a lot of games and we knew it. I wanted our kids to work for our scores and to know that we could run our base plays and score against any defense. I knew that at the end of the season, this 8-10 year old “Select” team was going to play the 11-12 year old league champions in a big bowl game and we wouldn’t be able to outrun them, so we prepare for the last game. weekly. My 2003 team went 11-0 and our first-team offense scored on every possession of every game we played that season, getting very few sacks.
In 2004 with a rookie team that year, again with very little speed, we ran the sweep maybe 15 times this season and finished 11-0. In 2005 we had a tail with a few wheels going down, but we only made about 25 sweeps in that 12-0 season. In 2006, even with very good speed, we saw ourselves sweep only 30 or so times in an 11-1 season. With not teaming up like we do and averaging 50+ snaps per game, you can see how infrequently we use these sweeping football plays.
The Single Wing Offense sweep is a great play and offers great numerical advantages and angles, but my distaste for the play in conceptual terms means we don’t run it even when it’s obviously wide open. When we run it, it’s usually a very big play. By the time we finally get him executed, the defense is usually pinch and he’s a big winner. We run great seal locks at the point of attack and require our marksmen to advance downfield with proper helmet placement. However, if we’re playing against a weak team and we’re dominating or obviously have more speed than the other team, you won’t see much of our play. If we’re ahead by a score or two, they won’t see the sweep at all from us. We make little long-term progress by taking the lead in either scenario.
Last season, the head of an organization that often has very fast players, but a very marginal coach, told me at the end of the season: “In youth football, it all comes down to that fast kid.” That is the epitome of what is wrong with youth soccer training and why I hate tackling so much. I have never lost to this organization or even had a close game with them. Even when they have big teams with big size and speed advantages, they won’t play us in extra games. Why? Because even with much smaller and slower players, we shut their offense down in its tracks and it’s frustrating and embarrassing for them to do poorly against a physically inferior team.
Don’t get beat up by sweep plays and don’t make them the foundation of your offense. It’s like a 300 pound bully taking candy from a 4 year old, it requires no effort or skill. But when you’re trying to take candy from another 300 pound bully or even a 350 pound bully, and rely on the sweep, your brains will be knocked out. That’s why you often see teams that beat every team in their league by wide margins, but go to an out-of-town playoff game or bowl game and get knocked out. Why? Because eventually that sweep-happy team will either run into a team that has as much speed as the one-trick pony player they have or has a scheme like ours that closes the sweep. Good teams beat good teams, a good player doesn’t beat a good team or a well trained team in youth soccer. A good player only beats very weak or poorly trained teams in youth soccer.