OT: Help/Suggestions for Managing a One-Day Flag Football Team

Submitted by B-Nut-GoBlue on August 22nd, 2012 at 8:23 PM

Hello all.  Long story, short, in two weeks a group of "co-workers" and I will play in a flag football tournament.  Tournament Details:  7-on-7, double elimination, 80 yard football field lenght  but half the width, QB can rush IF the defense blitzes, 20 yards for first-downs, four 8 minute quarters non-stop clock with a half-time, one timeout a half.  Ask, if I'm forgetting something.

If it were a group of athletic males and some had football backgrounds, I wouldn't be here.  The team, however, is exactly NOT that.  It is a: cluster of a few athletic males (myself included), a few guys who know nothing about football (but are slender and agile), and a load of females.  I'm not one to look down upon females' physical abilities, let's get that out of the way.  I am a realist.  Some of the girls/women will do just fine (physically), but most know nothing of the game.  I also will not get into the politics of this team but this year we're shooting for equal playing time and all the rainbows and butterflies that go into team sports (though, come gameday, we'll see how long that lasts).

The competition:  Teams are mostly teams full of athletic, young to middle aged males who are out to WIN.

We are having a practice Sunday and that will probably be it before we play in a few weeks.  I am not the coach, but one (THE one) with football background; obviously not the best background becasue I'm here asking for help.  I will probably play quarterback and secondary on defense.  I guess I'm asking if anyone here has any suggestions on how to make this team go out and play in a respectable way.  Has anyone ever assembled something of the like and if so how did you go about it?!  Is it a lost cause or are there ways to assemble somewhat of a playbook for players who know little about the game?  Zone defense will be the way to go as far as that's concerned.

I've thought about using the simple passing tree and trying to teach that to everyone and as a QB pre-snap yelling out routes down the line to the 3-5 recievers going for routes.  (A quick refresher, 0-9 are pre-assigned routes 0=drag to middle 1=drag to outside 2=slant 3=10 and out 4=10 and in crossing route 5=hook to outside 6=button hook inside (10yds) 7=flag foute 8=post route 9=Fly route), with a few more routes added for the guys who can mentally handle them (slant-and-go, seam routes, reading defenders and picking a route, etc).

Sorry for this novel of a post.  If I get little feedback I'll assume you all think I'm eff'd....and I will agree and be on my merry way.


Michael Scarn

August 22nd, 2012 at 8:35 PM ^

If you're dealing with people who don't know football, don't run a zone defense.  Their instincts, especially with a quarterback who will likely have all day to throw, will be to run with receivers.  Half of them will do it, half of them won't, and someone will end up wide open.  Play man.  

Depending on the lineman requirements and limitations, you'll need to make a decision about rushing the passer.  I would do it game by game based on the athleticism of the quarterback, and then have no more than 2 defenders communicate before each play on a pressure decision for 1 or the other, or occasionally both.  

Unfortunately, on offense, you're screwed based on the make up of your team.  Find your best athletes, and just get the ball to them.  Don't bother involving people who don't know football.  Split them out and just hope a defender stays on them.  Sounds dickish but if you want to win, that's the way to do it.  


August 22nd, 2012 at 8:37 PM ^

Throw the ball to the center.  Often.  If they make the mistake of rushing two, somebody is open and more often than not a lineman is wide open.

Greg McMurtry

August 22nd, 2012 at 8:44 PM ^

So you had better be good. Sound football players can beat athletic fast guys without football knowledge. You need to explain to everyone what the defensive plan is. I'd agree with the first post that man D will be the easiest, but if you explain the zone it will work better if your team is less athletic.

I would not use a route tree. Just call 3 routes in the huddle (1 for each WR.) make sure WRs know how to run each route before the game. Learn the rules: can you bump n run? Block downfield? Flag guard? Can you jump, dive or hurdle? How mant timeouts? Is there intentional grounding? Etc,


August 22nd, 2012 at 8:49 PM ^

Keep it simple. The more complicated you get, the more it'll get screwed up. The passing tree is fine but I'd just put together three simple passing schemes (like a smash package) and run them over and over. Like a pick and roll in basketball, if run well, they won't stop it.

Also, rush your most athletic player or you're getting toasted on QB rushes.


August 22nd, 2012 at 9:11 PM ^

Yep.  Learned that last year.  I should edit the OP as I or another one of our good guys will be a blitzer.  Pressure is crucial with a weak secondary (sound familiar!?).

And as far as routes, I do like that concept you mentioned.  More or less running the same routes/concept (maybe different ones on each side of the field) and getting them to do those "well", vs giving them 6-10 routes to "remember".  Smash/stick/divide/slants/crossing(widening and layering the field)/screens up and down the field, play after play, along with QB shenanigans, can work.


August 22nd, 2012 at 11:11 PM ^

I've played in a few leagues and usually play pickup games during football season...

As long as you can blitz every down, I would send one of your best athletes up the middle right at the QB. If your DBs can cover man for 3 sec, you should be ok. But make sure that your blitzer can contain. I feel if you don't force the QBs hand, they'll pick you apart with drags, etc.

If you do blitz, come at an angle that would force the QB to throw across their body ( make a right handed QB run left). Chances are, they aren't as comfortable and/or accurate, and probably won't throw to the other side of the field across their body.


August 22nd, 2012 at 8:58 PM ^

Re: defense.  I agree with you on instincts taking over and just running a Man-Man.  However, I was thinking that Sunday practice would be a day I could go over the concept of Zone and teach that. As one of you noted, with less athleticism a zone would be more beneficial, in my humble opinion.  If it doesn't go well, though, we'll go with the man-man and tough it out.

And yes, the center in Flag Football is a key player (from the games I've played in); those seam routes after he/she snaps the ball (especially if delayed) can burn defenses.


August 22nd, 2012 at 9:14 PM ^

You have to play like your back in grade school on the playground. Man-on-man defense with people just trying to get open on offense. The athletic people on offense will get open. Don't try to be Tom Brady out there checking off the different receivers running routes. Somebody running a 5 yard out and then stopping when they hit the sideline because they aren't open isn't going to do you any good. 


August 22nd, 2012 at 9:22 PM ^

Number system:

1. Deep/Fly

2. Curl

3. Slant

4. Cross

5. Outs (not really necessary with rolling game clock)

No huddling. Plays are called by numbers. Each digit represents a WR going right to left.

"13-31" yelled "THIRTEEN-THIRTY ONE" = Outside WR deep, inside slants. All OL are dump off passes/flats. This would work if a team is stupid enough to run zone as it uses the curl(WR)/flats(OL) play with an extra set of deep routes. I also suggest "13-32" for this situation if your QB has a decent arm.

"14-31" = Outside WR deep, inside left slants, inside right crosses, All OL are dump offs. This would be better against man as you have your deep routes clearing out any help and gives a cross toward a right handed QB's natural roll out side.

I also like the "11-11" as a screen play to the OL. Clears out all the coverage and leaves you with the less athletic pass rushers to defend close up.

For defense, if the QB can't run unless rushed, don't rush. Play blanket man with one  safety. QB won't be able to run and you theoretically could have everyone covered. Free safety shadows the QB, but doesn't have to be the deepest guy on the field. They should probably stay middle of the field as you probably won't face a QB with an arm that keeps you from providing help deep.



August 22nd, 2012 at 9:26 PM ^

team speed to compete at flag football. Speed makes up for mistakes that can happen in defensing run and pass plays.

On defense, force the opposing QB to run in the center of the field rather than giving up the edge. Study who are the athletes on the other team in trying to defense them. good strategies for offense are offered above.

Good luck.


August 22nd, 2012 at 9:45 PM ^

have the females be checkdown recievers. If you discover one is dependable catching the ball, make her your go to reciever for a few yards when nothing else is available. Run a lot of slants and thow in a few slant and go's to your best reciever to catch them cheating. I would have mesh and slants as your go to plays, but sprinkle in a variation of the slants and have the outside recievers run a slant and go, maybe run 4 verts a few, and whatever else. mesh is when the 2 inside (1 on each side) slot recievers run 5 yard slants basically but in the middle they pretty much brush shoulders to set a pick for eachother and get open with running room. Very good against a man defense. Basically your playbook should be a very simple Mike Leach/Air Raid playbook.

Also I would huddle, and have your plays have a number. Audible at the line if you need to, but dont let them catch on to what is coming. (dont call out 2! over and over again, then run the same play every time)

Also search youtube for a trick play to run once a game

I put together a team of people who didnt have a team, and played decently (went 1-4). But considering every team was more athletic than us, and most teams had played together for years, or were former members of our very good D2 football team that got cut. Oh man we had a fun game where me, a slow 6'6" scrawny white boy who's football experience was solely playing NCAA on the PS3, trying to cover man to man the best reciever from a team thats ussually in the top 25 in D2 every year.

The Implication

August 22nd, 2012 at 9:45 PM ^

If you really feel like running a zone, rush one athletic person to force the QB to roll one direction (say to the QBs weak side). Then run a heavily weighted zone to that side of the field. You should have to cover much less space as a league like this will not have a QB who can throw across the field, away from the direction they are running. Plus with more defenders on that side QBs running will be less effective. It worked in IM flag football. Just a thought.

Good luck


August 22nd, 2012 at 9:46 PM ^

I played in an IM league that allowed run plays. Our team was not athletic with the exception of one guy. He would run jet motion and we'd do a read option. We gained huge yards off this running it 3 times a game, then on the 4th instead of me keeping it and running, I'd throw to the wide open go route.

If running isn't allowed though just keep it simple...get good at 3 or 4 pass play concepts, then in between games conjure up a trick play (double pass back to QB Navarre-style or something). If you're not the most athletic team though, you're highly limited on defense. That's what killed us in the playoffs.


August 22nd, 2012 at 10:52 PM ^

Unlike real football, I don't think good old 7-7 flag football has evolved much over the years. I captained IM football teams all through my years at UM, then in grad school then in the real world in a Chicago Parks league.

1. Don't get too complicated, your inexpereinced players will get confused and frustrated, they will forget if a 7 is a slant or a smash route and just run a simple out pattern. I forsee chaos with suggested system of calling routes at the line. I recommend as others have mentioned, practicing just 3 or 4 plays that can be mirrored (left or right) and then running variations on those as the game progress, for example in the huddle you say " Flood left, but this time Joe goes out and up instead of a 5 yard out."

2. Have your first series scripted, and just run the four plays you practice most in quick succession with no huddle and no signals, just run back to the line and hike the ball as soon as everyone is set. This almost always works if the plays are well practiced, the other team isn't prepared for this. You can do it again later.

3. If legal, have at least one of your set plays involve putting a man in motion. Almost no one ever does this in flag and if there are inexperienced players on the other team this will really confuse them. Depending on how they react you can find ways to capitalize, and it quickly ques you in as to whether they are playing zone and know what they are doing or man.

4. Hope like hell one of your girls is a surprisingly great athelete.

5. The center is the key player on offense.

6. I agree with others who suggest man over zone with inexpereinced players.If you want to get fancy then play a combo scheme with  some players in zone and some in man, but now I'm getting carried away.

7. I don't agree with whoever suggested rushing no one, they'll pick you apart.

8. If your rush one consistently, mix up who it is a little to confuse their blocking.Every once in a while blitz 2.

9. on offense the pass blocking is done by a back who lines up next to the QB as you don't know where the blitz is coming from. You can even keep two backs, the one on the side where no ruxh is coming immediately releases into some short route.

10. Good luck! Wish I could play.



August 22nd, 2012 at 11:46 PM ^

From everyone, that is.

Blueto, great list.  I've definitely got some of your list covered, after personal playing experience, like yourself and after some diagramming done lately (how to blitz, center being a staple on offense, motion, blocking blitzers).  But like others have mentioned and advised, your first couple bullets may be the strategy to lean towards; keeping it simple. 

I've definitely thought up and diagrammed some strategy but I think much of it to be too complicated for the people playing (save myself and 2-3 others).  Getting it to the playmakers, as redundant as that may sound, is the way to go.  I'm really trying to figure how to get the less skilled players to be proactive and actually helpful; from everyones advice it seems keeping them on short routes, using them for screens/mesh routes, maybe even as pass protection, is the way to accomplish this.  And omahoblue, yes, Leach/Mumm/Chow airraid is definetly an influence (thank you Chris Brown @ Smartfootball.com; reading all that wonderful "football stuff" gets put to use for this type of fun).

The whole defense thing is tricky.  I agree with both methods.  I think the pass rush is key; forcing the QB to one side and forcing him to use only part of the field is good strategy (which has been employed by myself in the past).  Man scares me as many of the females won't be able to keep up (literally, after 2 steps).  So if I can teach a zone/man-under-zone-top, I feel that may be the best way to amp up our shortcomings (combined with a Brandon Graham zone blitz/pass rush by our athletes; one is enough).

Thanks to all for the feedback.  ('ll be reading this thread, so keep it coming)


August 23rd, 2012 at 12:23 AM ^

Am I correct in assuming that all your players are eligible receivers? It sounds like you're describing a basic "go out and get open" type game like I played on playgrounds, rather than the more organized variety with three ineligible players that I grew up with. Makes a pretty big difference, obviously. 



August 23rd, 2012 at 7:30 AM ^

Keep it simple is the key. You've got too many inexperienced players and they themselves likely know it so they will make up for it with effort. On defense, the inexperienced players can play man coverage. With that said, they will get burned easily (especially deep). So, I favor a hybrid man/zone if possible in this situation. Depending on the opposing QB rush one or two, keep an experienced player for linebacker or safety. Everybody else in man coverage.

On offense, the biggest mistake inexperienced players make is they bunch up together and basically eliminate themselves from the play. For that reason I would avoid pick routes as their timing is usually bad. In your practice, make sure they understand spacing. If you want to try a pick kind of play, I would suggest trips to one side and the outside receiver breaking inside, the inside breaking outside and the middle going deep. It keeps the spacing but accomplishes the same thing as all the picking occurs at the line.

Good luck!


August 22nd, 2012 at 11:38 PM ^

Not sure if anyone said this, but if the qb is right handed, have your rusher come from the left side of your defense. This forces the qb to roll to his left making a right handed throwers accuracy worse. Switch this if they are left handed. This is a great tactic we use in my flag leagues and it's amazing when defenses don't do this. Most qbs can't compensate and end up using half the field or throwing ducks across the field ripe for ints.


August 23rd, 2012 at 12:12 AM ^

You could play 2 deep zones with 2 short zones because of the narrow field and then go man on their 2 best receivers with your two fastest players, or have your girls play (wo)man on their girls.


August 23rd, 2012 at 12:15 AM ^

Your enemy is time--you have almost none, and this isn't serious enough to give people homework to study. So keeping it simple isn't just a good idea, it is absolutely crucial--you must give your players just a couple of things they need to know. You're better off doing three things well than ten things not-so-well. How do you do this?

First, identify the players that you want to handle the ball, and how. If you have a fast player who can't catch to save their lives, for example, you can use them accordingly. Once you have that determined, you...

Run the Oregon Offense

Okay, not literally. But you design perhaps four plays. Two basic plays that attack the whole space of the field, with pairs of players interacting with each other to produce quarterback reads, and a constraint play for each. I would run some kind of read-option on every play--not exactly the Oregon/RR zone read, but perhaps the aforementioned jet sweep (added bonus, great place to put a player who is quick but can't catch for anything) with a pass route taking advantage of a defender moving to defend the run on the playside, with a separate route interaction on the backside. The constraint is there to keep the defenders from cheating, of course.

You practice these four or whatever plays for whatever time you have. Keep it simple, and leave the decision-making to you, the football guy. Your average player runs maybe four different routes, all the time, interacting with one other player and always watching for the ball.  Easy enough to remember. Have an absurdely easy playcalling system, too--really easy. 

Then you play it fast, fast, fast. Use the script for the first four like mentioned above, then just keep at it. If your plays work at all, the defense won't be able to talk things over to fix it right away. That's pretty much why Oregon's offense works so well anyway.

If things don't work on the field, you can always huddle up to talk it over. But you give yourself something.


August 23rd, 2012 at 1:07 AM ^

Regarding up-tempo.  That was my initial thought process.  Get out and keep them off-guard and unable to diagnose what we're doing.  I do have experience in playing with these folks, and we didn't quite do that in years past, but it's been on my mind as to trying it out.  However, this thought came across recently: Huddling after every play, taking as much time as possible (as I don't really recall a "playclock", limiting possessions, and making it a low scoring affair.  This, so our less-talented team has a chance and doesn't get too far behind (as playing catch-up would not be ideal).  Thoughts?


August 23rd, 2012 at 1:50 AM ^

The Giants-Bills Super Bowl strategy has some merit, just by reducing the stastical sample size of plays and increasing the likelihood of a random result. You still need to execute to win, though, and a more straightforward selection of pass routes increases the likelihood of being outmatched. Sometimes the less talented team wins, but usually they just lose by 21 instead of 35.

If nothing else, it's something you can keep in your back pocket if you get a lead or if whatever else you work on in practice doesn't work. Spend time in the huddle, draw up plays on the palm of your hand, and wing it.

The reason I like the idea of a few, crisp plays is that an hour or two of practice can easily just become a pointless game of pitch-and-catch, and you can add value to your program by having something you actually perfect. It gives your team some confidence and increases the possibility that you will have an advantage to exploit--if you don't have an advantage in athleticism, you're going to need one somewhere. The advantage you have is that while your team has little time to prepare, you have time to put something together (because it's fun, right?). If you can figure out a way to consistently make a defender wrong (option, route combo, whatever) you have an advantage because an unathletic guy who can barely catch a ball is still better than the empty space that's covering him.

The key is that you put it together, but then you only teach the people a few key things. You can spend the whole practice teaching 10 different pass routes that nobody quite remembers right, or you can give them 3-4 things that they actually get kind of good at. If you have a plan and know what to teach, they'll buy in a lot easier. And it will be more fun.

Some additional thoughts: Since you have all eligible receivers, you're going to hurt yourself if you keep everything short. Counter-intuitively, I think the best idea with the unathletic <cough>me<cough> types is to send them deep every play, unless you have to go long. Either defenders go with them, clearing space for you to work with your better players, or they are hand-wavingly wide open and you can actually give them a blind-squirrel-finds-nut shot deep. Anyway, send them away from the players you want to get the ball most of the time, so their defenders can't help out.

Remember, there are probably a lot of people posting on this thread who are like me--total hacks who have never actually managed to get our "theories" tested in real life. Your mileage may vary, but it will almost certainly be more mileage than we have accrued.



August 23rd, 2012 at 1:17 AM ^

I have 3 thoughts on your Dean Smith offense.

1. It is likely that the refs are actually counting to "30 mississippi" or something and will flag you if you are obviously delaying.

2. We all want to win but this is supposed to be fun. This doesn't sound like a lot of fun - maybe late in the game with a lead ok, but your kind of killing the whole point of it being a game that's supposed to be fun.

3. I used to try this sometimes in computer football games and it oftern didn't work out. My philosphy over the years has evolved to a strong belief that an up tempo style of play gives you more plays and thus more chances to score as many points as possible, and is a better strategy than playing keep away.usually.


August 23rd, 2012 at 1:29 AM ^

"..but your kind of killing the whole point of it being a game that's supposed to be fun."

Nick Saban would wonder what in the hell you're talking about!

In all seriousness, I do concur.  I wouldn't want to do much to inhibit the natural flow of the game.  More suggesting not to rush and to take our time, resulting in less plays and only using the clock to our advantage; nothing deleterious to lessen the fun by any means.  You're right, this is supposed to be fun.


August 23rd, 2012 at 5:29 AM ^

I've had some experience on the hspd 7v7 flag tourneys and I can almost 100 percent assure you that you're going to see some sort of Zone coverage. If you're seeing man coverage the best routes to run are mesh, crossing type routes that present a natural pick for the defender to have to avoid. Zone coverage is a little more complex but I see a lot of one high safety with a man rushing the qb and the rest dropping into zones. In 7v7 turnovers absolutely kill you. Take care of the ball at all costs. Set them up for future success. Example ( take your best wr and have him run a few quick., high percentage slants or hitches. Once the defense starts to creep up the sluggo and hitch and go off pump fake action is sure to create some separation. Lastly. Find your best matchup to exploit for your "must have" third downs.

Hope this helps. You guys should also get a wrist coach and draw up 8-10 plays that can be easily transmitted from the huddle to the live play. Always unless behind try and run the clock as much as possible.

micheal honcho

August 23rd, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

I've played on a coached some 7 on 7 with a bunch of former HS football players and I can tell you one thing for sure. Misdirection works real well. We started out using a typical pro set formation with 2 wideout, 1 back and 3 lineman and it was only semi effective. We switched to a pistol snap version of the venerable wing-t using 3 backs and no wideouts. We practiced the fakes, got everyone to commit to carrying them out and we began just CRUSHING every team we played. We had essentially 6 run plays and 2 passes plus a couple versions where the QB kept it and ran. Those were the biggest touchdown makers in our playbook because once the defense starts to adjust to the fakes in the backfield they become suckers for the boot pass or QB option.  Using 1 of the 3 backs to double team the D-end and create a seal while the remaining 2 are either getting the ball or carrying out a fake then pinching the pursuit off with a timely block downfield. This can be run with tempo very well once the guys/girl know the plays.


August 24th, 2012 at 2:33 PM ^

Would you mind posting some info on joining this flag football league. I've been looking for a fun flag football league to play in but I can't find much. Thanks !