Should You Perform the Triple Option in Youth Football?

Triple option and youth soccer training

How beautiful is it to see a team with three well-executed options? If you’re like me, it’s like moving poetry. I’m a big fan of the Navy and Georgia Tech, just because of the way they run triple so well. As a Nebraska native and fan, I was raised in optional football and played it in high school. Of course, when I got my first job as a youth soccer coach in 1986 or so, I went back to what I loved and knew about, optional football.

What many people do not realize is youth football and the College game is a very different animal. Although both are played on the same field and use a similarly shaped ball, there are many differences that significantly affect the ability of the College game to be replicated on the youth field. We won’t even take advantage of the NCAA rules offering optional teams versus NFHS rules that 48 of the 50 states use as a basis for their youth soccer rules and include Pop Warner and AYF.

Most people do not even realize that many of the options they are watching on the college field are NOT triple option football, despite what the so-called television “analysts” tell you. Did you know that option guru Tom Osborne’s Nebraska Cornhuskers never praised the triple option? Read Tom Osborne’s book, all they did was a double option called, not a true triple. The reason Osborne didn’t train triple is that he said he didn’t have enough training time. You see, this was with a group of 18- to 22-year-olds who practiced 6 days a week, played a game on the seventh, and practiced spring as well. On the other hand, most youth teams practice 3 times a week, about half the time college kids do. After adding spring practices, film and classroom sessions, the young player practices about 20% of what a college player practices.

Note that many of the options you see on Saturday television are not triple options either; they may look like triple options, but when was the last time you saw a pitch in an internal vein? Much of what we see on Friday nights and Saturdays are dual options, like what Nebraska did on option days and 3 national titles over a 4-year period.

There are other things to consider, in college football, offensive players play only on the offensive side of the ball. These quarterback options for Navy and Georgia Tech aren’t starting at Linebacker or Corner, as they are for their youth football teams. These great Quarterbacks and Running Backs are not returning kicks or kicking PAT “S like the kids on your team.

There are simply no more two-way players and very few players start their special teams. In youth play, all of your players will have positions in attack, defense and, in most cases, special teams as well. In college football, offensive players, especially skill players, are practicing on the offensive side of the ball 90 percent more of the time. At the youth level, these skilled players are their best players, playing both ways and on special teams, they can never leave the field. These kids are practicing offenses, defense and special teams, obviously much less specialization than college players. When you take this into account in your effective practice time equation, the qualified young player is receiving 7 to 10% of offensive preparation as a College player. We achieve this by taking the 20% rate and multiplying twice the offensive practice time that could be obtained in a typical youth practice of 35-50%.

At the college level, all players have experience in the game, most of them with reasonably good fundamentals. While the fundamentals are fundamental at every level of football, most college kids have a basic level of competence and have overcome fear of contact. In youth football, this is certainly not the case. At the college level, there are no minimum standards of play, goals or requirements at the youth level for most existing programs. At the youth level, we are spending too much time teaching the basics and how to play the game, not to mention how to make children comfortable with their equipment and the fear of contact. At the youth level, we have to invest time that the college coach never has to worry about.

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