Youth Football Formations

Youth Football Formations


One of the most searched for youth football topics on google and often misunderstood is football formations.  Interestingly enough the search queries tend to peak in September during the heart of the youth football season when I suspect many offenses are struggling and coaches are looking for that magic play.

Formation Alignment Rules:

  1. Must have a least 7 players on the line of scrimmage, but can have as many as 10.  I say 10, because someone has to be able to take the snap.
  2. Can have up to 4 players in the backfield, but as pointed out in Rule #1 there can be as few as 1.
  3. Of the players on the line of scrimmage only those players on each end are considered eligible receivers.
  4. All players in the backfield are considered eligible receivers.

Youth Football Nuances

High School, College, and the Pros have numbering restrictions when determining the eligibility of a receiver.  Due to the nature of Youth Football, most youth leagues don’t enforce this restriction.  Also for those youth coaches in leagues where there is a maximum weight for a ball carrier, they are often faced with the restriction that players on the end of the line of scrimmage must be of ball carrier weight.

Having Fun with Formations

As mentioned above we must have at least 7 players on the line of scrimmage and the end players are eligible receivers. Below is what Coach Bruce Eien calls his Stupid formation:

Football Formations - Bruce Eien's Stupid Formation

Football Formations – Bruce Eien’s Stupid Formation

Remember by rule the end man on the line of scrimmage is an eligible receiver.  Because the “C”enter is an end man he is eligible to go out for a pass.  From this formation you can run Sweep, Counter, Sweep Pass, and as mentioned before a Center Pass.  Keep in mind that if you use this formation and you participate in a ball carrier weight restricted league, the Center must be able to carry the ball.  If you are interested in learning more about the Stupid formation, as well as other exotic formations Coach Eien uses check out his Trick Plays and Exotic Formations clinic.

Here is another fun formation that we learned from Coach Mike Ranson called Monster:

Football Formations - Mike Ranson's Monster Formation

Football Formations – Mike Ranson’s Monster Formation

Again in this formation the Center is an eligible receiver because he is an end man on the line of scrimmage.  The trick with this play is the snap which looks more like a lateral, but is legal as long as it is one continuous motion. The following video illustrates what I am talking about:

What is the Purpose of a Formation?

While we have been having fun with some of the more unusual formations above, there are a couple of questions that you should ask yourself when wanting to use a new formation in your offense.

  1. What advantage or leverage does the formation give me ?
  2. Can I run most of my base offense from it or is it a “one trick pony”?

Often times inexperienced coaches utilize formations and really have no idea why they are doing it other than it is something they saw another coach use successfully.  Because they don’t understand why it was successful, they often don’t enjoy the same result.  Another mistake many inexperienced coaches make is that they run a single play from a specific formation.  While the play may work once or twice, the play or formation will become almost useless as they get deeper into the season and other teams have had an opportunity to scout them.

Now is the time to be planning and thinking about what formations you plan to utilize this coming season.  Don’t be the typical youth coach searching for formations and plays in September.