We use one single flag pulling drill in coaching youth flag football. And it’s actually very simple. It also teaches the players a few other very important concepts in flag football.
We play a modified game of sharks and minnows. There is one shark and everyone else is a minnow. The minnows need to get to the other side without getting their flag pulled. If your flag is pulled, you are a shark. We keep going until there is one player left and he is declared the winner.
We have all the players line up on a very narrow part of the field, like the end zone. Something that’s no more than 10 yards wide. We want it narrow so that they can’t just run wide and escape the flag puller.
The S in the above diagram is the shark and everyone else is an M, or minnow.
They are not allowed to run out of bounds. We have parents line up on the sides and watch the kids. If you step out of bounds, you are out and get to just sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else play. This reinforces the importance of cutting it back inside and staying in bounds.
You are not allowed to look down or look back to see if your flag was pulled. You run to the other side as fast as you can, then look to check your flags. This reinforces the concept of run till the whistle blows or run until the referee tells you to stop. Most kids look down or look back, and it slows them down significantly.
The narrow field forces them to use juke moves and to learn to stop and cut. You will need this in flag football, especially cutting back inside and not going too wide.
You are not allowed to leap to avoid a flag pull. This reinforces the concept of staying on your feet and not jumping which can lead to serious injuries, especially once they get into tackle football.
You can not run through a shark. If a shark has both feet planted, you have to go around them. This also teaches players to use their body and position to force runners back to the inside where they have help.
Last but not least, this is a fun conditioning drill. You are not forcing anyone to run suicides or a mile. Instead they get to play a very fun game that they are always begging to play. Make football fun, not torture!
We spend the last 15 minutes of each practice playing this game to improve their flag pulling skills. It’s very hard to pull flags, this will get them used to it!