Middle School Manual

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Okay, it is hardly a manual, and it is also in a “rough draft” form. Still, I have put a lot of time and thought into its creation. I believe that it can serve as a good set of guidelines that will help middle school coaches (and athletic directors) think critically about how they can meet the needs of middle school boys AND prepare them for the high school program.



Don Jacobs                  wingtcoach.com@gmail.com


Being a middle school coach can be about as basic as you’d like, or it can be as sophisticated as you’d like. Before you design all of your plans, however, you need to be aware of your level of responsibility. The middle school coaches lay the foundation for the varsity program. Slack on fundamentals, or proper teaching of the head coach’s offense/defense, and the ripples could get big. You are representing the school and the school board, so you have to be concerned with accountability. It isn’t quite like youth football where the kids are dropped off by a parent and already dressed, then leave right after practice. You have to monitor the locker room and the field at the same time, in all likelihood. Grades have to be checked, and poor grades addressed. Behavior in the classroom will be your problem. You’ll take a bus to away games. All of these things may be what you are used to if you’ve coached other sports, or may be brand new to you if this is your first school coaching job.


Prepare ahead of time and it’ll be a fun job.


  • Off-season (Decide on this ASAP)
    • What are the responsibilities for allcoaches?
      • Paperwork to AD (“fundamentals of coaching” course, cpr, sports medicine, finger prints & background check, etc.)
      • Studying/knowledge of the team’s schemes. The head coach has to drive this. If you wait until July to develop your playbook, then expect the other coaches to be behind. Coaches who are behind lead to players who are behind. Do the math. If you have an inexperienced coach running a certain position group, then YOU need to ensure that the guy is up to speed. By providing the right kinds of drills, you will help ensure that the players are ready to execute your offense/defense.
        • Each coach needs to know his position and how he fits into the offense and defense
        • Each coach needs to be able to install the offense & defense for the position that he coaches
        • Each coach needs knowledge of individual drills that directly relate to his players’ position(s)
        • Each coach needs to know how to fit in to special situations, like 7-on-7, including both sides of the ball
          • E.g., If you are the OL coach, and the team is doing offensive 7 on 7, then you could run the scout team defense, or you could take the leftover guys and run drills that will make them better
    • In-season duties for individual coaches (**The head coach cannot be on the field and in the locker room at the same time. Some of these responsibilities MUST be delegated to assistants.)
      • The coach who will stay after practice until all players are gone (have rides home) **Think liability**
      • Locker room (no kids unsupervised) **Think liability**
        • Somebody needs to in the locker room until everyone has left for the field, and in there before the kids go in.
        • When it comes to your superiors, there will be no acceptable excuse for something that happens in an unattended locker room.
      • On the field first (no kids unsupervised) **Think liability**
        • Somebody needs to be out there monitoring before kids get there.
      • On the field last (no kids unsupervised) **Think liability**
        • Somebody needs to stay out there monitoring until all the kids are off the field.
      • “Equipment” coach for when a kid has lost his helmet snap or shoulder pad buckle, as well as inventory.
        • Some guidelines need to be established to assist the “equipment coach.” For example, kids need to get their equipment dealt with after practice or by fifteen minutes prior to the start of practice. Don’t put this guy in a position where he gets to the field and THEN kids start asking him for something that is back at the locker room.
      • Contact & public relations person: When is practice? What is the summer schedule? Who do I contact if my kid gets hurt and won’t be at practice? These are reasonable questions, and providing the information electronically is convenient and prevents many issues. A simple website with a calendar, a game schedule, and contact information will cover most questions.
        • Emails, website, twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. Someone needs to be the point man on social media, proactively posting information and pictures. Give people something to “like.”
        • Don’t be left behind in the 21st Century. Help your people learn about your program.
      • Collection and checking of forms from the players **Think liability**
        • Fees, EMFs, physicals, bus permission slips, picture day forms, spirit wear forms, etc.
        • Again, if anything happens to a player and there is a missing physical (or something else), no excuse will satisfy your superiors. Just be proactive with this paperwork, letting the kids and parents know that no one will practice/play until the forms are in.
      • Coordinators
        • As the head coach, you will probably be a coordinator. If possible, try to just coordinate one aspect of the game. To be both the offensive and defensive coordinator would likely be too much for one guy. Sometimes, based on staffing issues, you may have to do it all, but try to avoid that.
        • It is a good idea to get together with the varsity head coach (HC), the offensive coordinator (OC), the defensive coordinator (DC), and the special teams coordinator (ST). As part of a “program,” you’ll want to do your part to get the young kids ready for when they reach the varsity level. Use common language when you teach. If the kids hear the same play (or blocking scheme or formation) referred to by the same name from grade seven on, it will be that much easier to master.
        • Offensive Coordinator
          • Who knows the offense the best? Does he want the job? (Everybody wants to call the plays, so this one will be easy.)
          • The offensive coordinator should obviously be running what the varsity head coach wants him to run. Basically, you are looking for a basic version of the varsity offense, usually with fewer plays, formations, etc.
          • When choosing position coaches, consider providing them with the specific drills that you’d like to see performed.  You want your coaches to have some freedom, but also want to make sure that they are doing the specific drills that will get them ready for the OC’s offense.
          • Play installation is his job, as well as running team. He should be able to assign roles to other coaches to assist him. For example, subbing players, keeping track of down and distance, watching specific defensive players/positions, etc.
        • Defensive Coordinator
          • If the varsity head coach wants you to run a specific defense, then that is your job. As with the offense, he will likely want you to run what the varsity runs, so that the players will be prepared once they get to the top level.
          • Take care as you assign kids to specific positions. Lots of kids will change positions over the years, based on team needs, growth, and other factors, but it would be nice if a player could develop at one position for six years.
          • Decide how you want to divide coaches up as position coaches. In some cases, you may be able to have one coach work with inside linebackers and another work with outside linebackers, or you may just have one guy to work with all of the linebackers.
          • Installation should be at the DC’s discretion. The base defense with keys and reads should come first, then on to formational adjustments, blitzes, stunts, etc.
        • Special Teams Coordinator
          • This is not such a huge responsibility in the middle school (in Ohio), as you do not have kickoff and kickoff return responsibilities. The punt and punt return teams do, however, have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
          • Again, get with the varsity coaches. Maybe they rugby punt, so you should too.
          • Find a guy who is knowledgeable, or willing to become knowledgeable, about punting and returning. Also, don’t just pass this job off to some guy just to make him feel better. A slouch will not teach things right, and then someone else will have to take over duties anyway.
      •  “Discipline” coach for teacher reports/poor grades
        • A kid who messes around in class projects a bad image for the whole team, and he is likely going to goof off at practice. By addressing the behavior, you will gain support from the school staff, and send a positive message to the player that you care about his decisions on AND off the field. Be firm, but positive, and be proactive. Better to head off the behavior than to kick a player off the team (usually).
        • Bad grades are usually the result of bad effort. Getting an “A” can be hard, but so very few middle school kids who actually try end up with an “F.”
          • You need to be on your 7th graders about their grades as soon as school starts, so that they don’t fall into bad habits. In some cases, a player can become ineligible during the season due to failing grades.
          • 8th grade eligibility is determined by the grades earned in the fourth quarter of 7th grade. Boys will want to just “ride out” the remainder of the year and let their grades slip. This is not good for the individual(s) or for the team. Just be diligent and proactive.
        • **The guy(s) that you pick for discipline and grades need to be well suited for the job. Don’t pick a guy who is too nice, or his impact might be limited. Don’t pick an over-the-top screamer, as his impact will also be limited. You need a guy who has the respect of the players and who can get into them without shutting them down. This is an important job.
      • More, I’m sure








  • BFS (Bigger-Faster-Stronger, or whatever you want to call your preseason conditioning)
    • Time of year & how often – We start MS conditioning when we return from spring break, and just do it Tuesdays and Thursdays. Two days a week is not enough to turn them into Olympians, but it will get them active. It helps the kids who are really out of shape realize that they need to do a little more to prepare for the season. It is also enough to start to build some team chemistry and establish the coach/player relationships. Part of that relationship is that the coach sees who is likely going to play football and checks on the grades of those who struggle.
    • Attendance – Does it matter to you or not? What about kids who come sporadically? What about kids who don’t come at all, but then show up for football? You have to decide your policy ahead of time so that you can lay it out to the kids (and parents) well in advance of off-season activities.
    • Encourage participation – Get the word out about the schedule, what you’ll be doing, and WHY a kid would want to be a part of it. How “fun” can you make it? Many MS kids aren’t diehard enough to just show up and sprint till they puke. Having structured workouts that push the kids prepares them for the physical sport of football, but conditioning them with “games” will probably get more kids involved.
    • Sessions need to be planned out ahead of time. Sessions need to be planned out ahead of time. – I typed it twice on purpose. Don’t show up and wing it. The kids won’t perform optimally, and they’ll likely see that you haven’t prepared. That does not inspire confidence. You also place your assistant coaches in a tough position. With a predetermined plan, the assistant can be ready to help out. They feel more ownership and become greater assets.
    • Warm-up: Static or dynamic? Why?
    • Stations/exercises: How many kids do you think will show up? Having players in lines of twenty, waiting to get to the ladders or cones (or whatever) means a lot of down time. Split kids up to get them more reps.
    • Variety & purpose: try to mix up the activities for the players, and try to choose activities that will translate into something useful for the field. Will an exercise make the kids faster, or help with change-of-direction speed?
    • Air football? Some other game that is fun for the boys, but allows you to evaluate athleticism. After working out at stations, the guys like playing a football-related game to have a good time. They get to run around and show their athleticism, and you get to see who can do what.
    • Who will stay at school until all have gotten a ride home? As a coach, think accountability. If your players are still at the school, and you go home, a lot can happen. If a kid breaks a window after your workout, the principal is going to ask, “Well, where was the coach?” Expect that to be the case. Make it clear when workouts will end and stick to that schedule. That way, you can emphasize the importance of picking players up on time. If you run late, then caregivers will think that showing up later is fine. Consider rotating which coach will stay late on each given day. And, just to be clear, the head coach is ultimately responsible.
    • Conclusion: When in doubt, ask for help. We sometimes feel like the only person we can count on is our self. This usually isn’t accurate. Talk to the other coaches on staff and get their suggestions. Talk to the head coach and ask him what he thinks is best. Is there anyone else that used to coach the middle school who would be available to help?







  • Offensive Installation
    • Calm down, Lombardi! Don’t try to install the shotgun zone read option run & gun Wing-T, just start with the Wing-T. Running eight plays out of a few formations will be PLENTY. Once it looks like they’ve mastered those, THEN consider adding more. Get good at the Buck and Belly series, add Jet and/or Rocket, and you’ve got a tonof offense.
      • See what your varsity HC & OC want you to run. They will likely give you a short list of “musts,” and then let you add what you’d like.
      • Trying to do too much will result in a low level of execution on each play. Better to run eight plays very well against various fronts than to run a hundred plays poorly.
    • Specific jobs for each coach on offense (this also applies to defense and special teams)
      • If each guy is not directly involved, then he’ll end up taking away from the team (chatting with players, checking texts, or generally not HELPING make the team better)
    • Individual skills first, before installing plays
      • Where do you line up, what is your stance, what do you do before the snap?
      • You’ll get experienced kids, and you’ll get noobs. You need to teach ALL of them the expectations for your program. Are your WBs going to be cocked in, or have their shoulders square to the LOS? Are your linemen going to be deep off the LOS, or will they be crowding it? (*these are things to check with the varsity coaches about)
      • What are their first steps? Utilize bird dog drills.
      • What skills are necessary for your position?
        • RBs & QBs need handoff drills, ball security drills, receiving/passing drills, etc.
        • The linemen need shoulder blocking drills, Buck and Waggle drills, Trap drills, etc.
        • SEs/WRs will be stalk blocking (hard to do with no pads) and running routes. You really do need to teach them what the difference between a hook and an out is, where they start their cut on a slant, as well as what all of your routes actually look like. If you don’t do it, don’t be irritated when the route is imprecise.
      • Rules for plays
        • The more you can get them to memorize, the less “thinking” they’ll need to do
        • Example: The TE on Bucksweep is Gap-Down-Backer; is someone in the gap? If  Yes, then take him. If No¸ then look to block down. If no one is there, then look to climb to a LB inside you.
        • All line & RB positions have rules, and I can get them to you if your HC or OC does not have some that he wants you to use
    • One series at a time (Buck, Belly, Power)
      • Probably the Buck series first (check with the HC or varsity OC)
      • Use your July camp days where you can’t use equipment
        • Ten days are available (in Ohio) and can be used in June and/or July.
        • With middle school, I’d suggest two five-day weeks prior to the official start of practice, which is often the first Monday in August. (It varies, though.)
      • ***My old installation schedule is pasted at the end of this document***
      • Each position coach needs to what the order of installation will be so that he can be prepared and prepare his players
        • Will it be Buck Sweep and Trap on Monday and Tuesday, then add Waggle on Wednesday? Decide, stick to it, and move on when ready.
        • Don’t tell your coaches on Friday, “Hey, we’re moving on. We’re gonna move on to Belly today” IF they were expecting to start it on Monday. They won’t know what to do, their players won’t get the instruction they need, and the kids will lose some confidence in the coaches since they look disorganized
      • I would suggest the Buck and then the Belly series, then Jet & Rocket. After that, add Jet & Rocket motion to the Buck and Belly plays where they will work.




Below is a basic plan for the summer. It is not too detailed, and far from perfect, but shows you how you could initially lay things out.


Summer Schedule


  • Racehorse philosophy – plan it all out ahead of time (including scripting of plays for practice)
  • Assign proper positions, focusing on the best starting eleven (depth is a luxury)
  • Every kid has a water bottle every day (water breaks are included, but each kid can drink at ANY time)
  • Get the core offense in during the mini-camp(8 runs and 2 passes)
    • Buck Series (FB Trap, Bucksweep, Buck Waggle)
    • Belly Series (Belly, Belly Keep Pass, Tackle Trap, and Down)
    • Rocket
    • Jet
    • Punter?


First day of summer clinic (July 20, 2009):

    • Buck Series (FB Trap, Bucksweep, Buck Waggle) out of 100/900 vs.4-4 Defense
  • Start with classroom chalk talk
  • Focus on the “Big Picture” with all players together
  • Indies: position techniques, and installation of buck series plays


Second day of summer clinic (July 21, 2009):

  • Indies by position
  • Buck Series (FB Trap, Bucksweep, Buck Waggle) out of 100/900 vs.4-4 Defense


Third day of summer clinic (July 22, 2009):

  • Indies by position
  • Buck Series (FB Trap, Bucksweep, Buck Waggle) out of 100/900 vs.4-4 Defense


Fourth day of summer clinic (July 23, 2009):

  • Indies by position
  • Belly Series (Belly, Belly Keep Pass, and Tackle Trap) out of 100/900 vs.4-4 Defense


Fifth day of summer clinic (July 24, 2009):

  • Indies by position
  • Belly Series (Belly, Belly Keep Pass, and Tackle Trap) out of 100/900 vs.4-4 Defense
  • Review of Buck Series, Belly Series, and Down


Sixth day of summer clinic (July 27, 2009):

  • Indies by position
  • Review of Buck Series, Belly Series, and Down
  • Down out of 100/900 vs.4-4 Defense


Seventh day of summer clinic (July 28, 2009):

  • Indies by position (Skip Indies today?)
  • Review of Buck Series, Belly Series, and Down
  • Rocket and Jet


Eighth day of summer clinic (July 29, 2009):

  • Indies by position (Skip Indies today?)
  • Review of Buck Series, Belly Series, and Down
  • Rocket and Jet


Ninth day of summer clinic (July 30, 2009):

  • Indies by position (Skip Indies today?)
  • Review of Buck Series, Belly Series, and Down
  • Rocket and Jet


Tenth day of summer clinic (July 31, 2009):

  • Indies by position (Skip Indies today?)
  • Review of Buck Series, Belly Series, and Down
  • Rocket and Jet


August 5, 2009:

  • Equipment issue

First day of practice with equipment ():

Official/Mandatory Practice

  • August 6, 2009: Five weeks out from Game 1 (Which is September 10)
    • Offense:
      • review Buck, Belly, Down, Rocket, and Jet
      • no new plays (good review and new kids)


    • Defense:
      • Install the 5-2
      • Focus on stopping the run
  • Four weeks out from Game 1
    • Offense:
      • review Buck, Belly, Down, Rocket, and Jet
        • repetition, repetition, repetition
        • same plays out of multiple formations and vs. multiple defenses (52/53)
          • Multiple formations include: Double TE, Shotgun, Ace (?), Rock/Load (?), Unbalanced (Black and Purple?)
      • pre-snap shifts-introduce TE trade
    • Defense:
      • continue the 5-2
      • continue focusing on run assignments, but begin introducing facets of the pass
  • Three weeks out from Game 1
    • Offense:
      • review Buck, Belly, Down, Rocket, and Jet
      • add Jet/Rocket motion to Trap, Belly, Tackle Trap, Belly KP, Down
    • Defense:
      • continue the 5-2
      • begin focusing on stopping the pass and the run
  • Two weeks out from Game 1
    • Offense:
      • review the plays that we have installed
        • repetition, repetition, repetition
        • same plays out of multiple formations
      • continue pre-snap shifts
        • QB keep?
        • Shotgun, but same play?
    • Defense:
      • Continue the 5-2
      • keep focusing on stopping the pass and the run
      • begin introducing blitzes
  • One week out from Game 1
    • Offense:
      • review the plays that we have installed
        • repetition, repetition, repetition
        • same plays out of multiple formations
      • continue pre-snap shifts
      • continue audibles
    • Defense:
      • Continue the 4-3 (base, over, and under)
      • keep focusing on stopping the pass and the run
      • continue with blitzes



When do we start hitting formations hard? Throw in a few at camp? Wait until week 2 of practice?