Youth Football Coaching: Linebackers

Linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense. They have to make the defense right. Focusing on the run and the pass, it’s the hardest position on the defense.

Having great linebackers leads to a great defense, so really focus on the linebackers when coaching your youth football team.

Run First

Run first, because if you’ve ever been successfully run on in a football game, you know how demoralizing it is. If they can get a free 5 yards every time they hand it off, they are going to win the game. It’s really that simple. So, have your linebackers play run first, and get to their pass responsibilities second.

Play Fast

Your whole defense should play as fast as possible, but linebackers should aggressively be filling holes and stopping the run. They shouldn’t ever have their feet stopped during a play. Always be closing space and attacking the ball carrier.

Part of playing fast is playing aggressive. Your linebackers have to want to hit and have a personal pride in hitting. They have to want to be nasty. There really is no other way. At the youth football level, I don’t care how small they are, but they need the want to to play fast and have pride in football.


Speed bags are great for linebackers. They need that quick explosion. Work on the speed bags for like 10 mins every practice. They will see a significant increase in burst after a few weeks of the bags.

Teach them about read steps. The first step as a linebacker should be forward, because you always play the run first. You see a lot of linebackers take steps back first, especially at the youth level. Teach them to actually do a read step correctly


A lot of kids will get caught with their eyes in the backfield, getting tricked by a play action pass or just not even looking at anything in particular. For a youth football player, just have them focus on the guards.

If you read high hats, which is pass protection, it is a pass. Some teams aren’t as good, which means they won’t give you as good of keys to work with. For example, read for low hats/helmets on run plays, but an undisciplined team might be high on run plays because they weren’t taught the correct technique.

Another trick is to read the hands of the linemen. Look at the hand that is down on the ground. If the knuckles are white, there’s a good chance it’s a run play, because they are leaning forward ready for the run play. And if they are light on their hand, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a pass.

Football IQ

Basic football IQ is so important for linebackers. Knowing down and distance, and knowing where to line up is just so important. Knowing your plays and responsibilities is super important for everyone, and especially for linebackers. Linebackers need to know everyone’s job, just like a QB should know everyone’s job on the offensive side of things. Spend time walking through defensive packages with your players so they can get a firm grasp on your scheme.

Coach your linebackers well. If you need anything else coaching wise, check out the For Coaches Page here. Or get the youth football playbook for free here.