The Art of Successful Flag Football Play Calling – Part 3: Deception
There are hundreds of effective flag football plays that can be used in an offense to help your team succeed, but sometimes it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Knowing when and how to ride a select few plays all the way to victory is key, and the tips below are meant to help you optimize your current flag football plays so that you can make the most of them.
Part 3: Deception
Motion Is Your Friend
Using motion in your offense is one of the most universally important strategies that can help teams of all levels from couch potato to elite. The simple act of sending a man in motion can have many benefits and give you many advantages, and there’s a reason why you see NFL and College level teams using motion in a large percentage of their plays. For one, it can help tip you off to what defense your opponent is running. Taking notice of how the defense reacts and aligns itself during the motion can tell you if they plan on playing man or zone defense.
Another major benefit is to cause confusion among the defense. If you motion into a formation that the defense was not prepared to react and realign appropriately to, you can catch them out of position which usually means you’ll have a receiver running wide open for easy yards or a score. And another good reason to incorporate motion is the ability to run the same or similar play from a variety of different starting formations as to not give away what you’re running. You’d be surprised how many formations you can start out in and by motioning one player prior to the snap set your self up in a whole new formation and making the defense constantly have to think and react. The more inexperienced the opposing team is the more likely motion will be effective. Unless the play clock is running down and you don’t have time to pull it off, there’s really no reason not to use motion every play just to try and keep the defense off guard.
The Ultimate Set-Up
Many teams think they need to have a flag football playbook of 40-50+ plays and use them all in some magical system, yet are afraid to come back to the same play more than once or twice in a game. The truth is some of the best teams out there do have a large variety of plays they can choose from, but in any given game they may only use a couple of the same plays if they’re effective and then use those to set up other similar plays with slightly different routes to try and catch the defense sleeping.
For instance, when I play 5man I use the same couple of 5 on 5 flag football plays as my go-to’s multiple times a game, switching one or two routes around from time to time, using similar motion and formations so that the defense thinks it’s the same play. Even if they know it’s coming, some of the route combinations can be very hard to defend whether in a man or zone defense. After a couple successful attempts, the defense will try and switch up to defend it better, and then I come at them with a slightly different variation. It’s a chess match, but there are many plays that are effective against a man or zone defense where you could literally run the same or a similar play all game by switching up one or two routes to keep them guessing. For many teams, this is an easier way to call plays as opposed to running 25 completely different plays and formations with new players who may not be on the same page every play on what type of routes you’re looking for.
The Annexation of Puerto Rico
Trick plays are no stranger to flag football, and there are many type of flag football plays that can both keep the defense off guard and also keep your team energized when you pull it off, because everyone loves a good successful trick play. The best trick plays use a high level of misdirection and deception, with plays ranging from hiding the ball on your centers back while he takes off right down the middle untouched, to multiple handoffs and throwbacks, quarterback wheels, reverses, and more. I usually try and use my trick plays after I’ve established the above two strategies in using alot of motion throughout the game and then setting up the trick play using a couple other similar formations and plays. Trick plays are usually designed to get alot of yardage by giving the defense something they haven’t seen before, but typically are not very effective if used more than once, otherwise it’d just be a good basic play!
In short, you can make even the most boring flag football plays more exciting and versatile by incorporating motion and using it to set up similar plays with slight variations, while keeping the defense off guard and hopefully out of position. The rest is on you to execute and take advantage of the opportunities given, but these are solid strategies that all teams should be taking advantage of regularly.