As we finish summer and prepare for the 2017 high school football season in Alabama, let’s take one last look at 7 on 7 competitions. All coaches have different takes on the subject with some loving them, some coaches hating them, some participating just because everyone else does and some coaches just refusing to have anything to do with them.
One thing almost everyone can agree on is that a head coach needs a philosophy when it comes to these events. Is the goal to win? Or is it more important to work as many players as possible to evaluate them? Do you want to play against stronger and more talented schools than you will face in the fall? Is your goal just to improve your coverage and passing skills? Are you more interested in teaching players how to handle different situations in competition? The coach must know what he wants to get out of 7 on 7, and steer his team in that direction. He must also plan his summer carefully, scheduling the right amount of these competitions. He must know just what teams he will be working against in an event, and be careful to allow his players some precious summer off time. So here is the good, the bad and the ugly of 7 on 7 for the summer of 2017.
- Teams get to work on coverage skills and defensive calls. With so much spread offense out there, some schools who aren’t in the spread can get work here that is difficult to get in their practices.
- Competition. 7 on 7 is a good way to structure some competition for your athletes, and evaluate them against similar or better players, and teach them some mental toughness when the other team has success.
- Quarterback and receiver development. It is an excellent tool to develop your quarterback’s ability to read coverage, throw progressions and just compete. Receivers get to see and work against all kinds of coverage.
- Improve Your Red Zone Passing. In 7 on 7 you spend a lot of time in the red zone. Learning how to get guys open and use your best receivers to score down there can translate to points in the fall.
- Conditioning and Fun. Can you name anything else where you can get this much running and players still think it is fun? When it boils down to it, it is still touch football.
- Keeping kids active and involved with the coaches. 7 on 7 allows more time with some of your players in the summer, when they are away from the discipline of everyday school life.
- Players get to compete, fellowship and come to know players at other schools. This can only be good for high school football.
- Coaches get to see other coaches. 7 on 7 is a great time to catch up, share and encourage other coaches.
- Players get to compete in big events at different places in the state. Whether at a college campus, a high school or the city of Montgomery, athletes get to see places they might not normally get to go.
- Success in 7 on 7 does not necessarily lead to success on Friday nights in the fall. You still have to block and tackle, which are both illegal in 7 on 7.
- No one is rushing the QB. Yea everybody knows. If you can’t protect your passer, you have problems. Some QBs look great when no one is rushing, but they might not like getting hit, leading to fumbles and interceptions and losses.
- Your whole team cannot participate. For those team purists who still believe you do everything together, the skill guys are certainly having more fun than the linemen who are lifting, practicing or getting their tails kicked in a lineman challenge with no pads on. In some events, you are limited to the number of players to 20 or so. Some of your young players may be left at home or you have to rank them before fall camp starts. That’s not good for team building.
- The possibility of injuries before fall practice even begins. This is always a concern, but proper coaching and officiating can help with this. Beware of adjoining states. Their 7 on 7 rules are different. Some do not use helmets, which can lead to deadly consequences with the wrong collision.
- Run oriented teams that are not spread are left out in the cold. It may still help their defense, but to compete such a team may have to put in a bunch of plays they will never run out of some formations they will never use in the fall. This takes away some of their summer time that they could spend on their own offense.
- Outside 7 on 7 teams have begun forming. These are led by adults who seldom have the best interests of the young man in mind and could care less about your team. Sometimes they are recruiters for other high school programs. Next thing you know, your best wideout decides to transfer.
- Costs. Sooner or later you may end up paying for travel, meals or hotel rooms with money you could use for your entire team in the fall.
- Your team’s self image can be damaged. If you go to a 7 on 7 event and lose all 6 contests, your players may feel like they are not very good before the seasons starts. This hangover might be costly if you have some tough games early in the year. It is also possible to have a little burnout fatigue if you played too much 7 on 7 in July.
- It is important to coach sportsmanship. Teach players ahead of time what you expect of them in competition. 7 on 7 events that get too mouthy and too physical will lead to fights which damage the reputations of our schools and the game we love. This can be avoided. If you have players who are talking too much or who are having conflicts with competitors on the other teams, take them out of the competition. Winning a 7 on 7 match will never be more important than what could happen if a fight gets out of hand.