Youth Football Coaching: Running Backs

Depending on the offense, a running back could be the most important position on the field. Especially in youth football, running backs are typically the most athletic players on the field, with an insane ability to take over games. So make sure you put you’re best player here, or wherever gets the ball the most.

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Speed, and Quick Feet

First of all, there aren’t going to be big plays if you aren’t fast. So have your running backs and receivers participate in sprints a few days a week.

Start with:

  • 10 yard sprints 4 times
  • 20 yard sprints 3 times
  • 30 yard sprints 2 times
  • 40 yard sprint 1 time

This will help with speed, and conditioning. If you need more speed drills, check out the plyometric style workout in the coaching wide receivers article.

Plyometrics workout

  • 10 Tuck Jumps
  • 6 Scissor jumps/lunge jumps
  • 30 yard bounds down and back

Find a line in the field and continue with these 4 exercises.

  • 20 seconds: lateral one leg hops each leg
  • 20 seconds: Forward/back single leg hops each leg
  • 20 seconds: lateral step overs
  • 20 seconds: Forward/Back step overs

Have running backs go over bags if you have any, or run through cones.

Basically, getting your players as athletic as possible is the way to win games, especially at a younger level. I always wished we trained like this, because I think it’s really important.

Vision and Knowledge

The running backs have to understand where the line is moving people. And they have to know where they are supposed to go. It’s very simple, but hard. If it is an inside run, stay inside where the linemen are blocking.

Go outside on an outside run, but you can cut it up. A lot of young kids are so obsessed with the big play, that they try for a big play every single time. And while that may work sometimes, it is always more effective to get consistent yardage, and eventually, you will break a long run off.


While not as important as it is for receivers, hands are still insanely important for running backs. Work swings, angles, and some screen and wheel routes with them.

Make sure they can catch and be a reliable weapon in the passing game, because sometimes running the ball just doesn’t work, and you need a way to get your athletes in space still.

If your team is really advanced, you can split running backs out wide, or into the slot. If they can catch, this adds an extra element to the offense that can be deadly.


If they can throw, that opens a whole lot of trick plays up for you. Tossing the ball back to them and letting them just let the ball loose can be a dangerous threat to a defense. It gets the defense on their heels, and makes them just slower to the ball in general, especially if you put it out there on film. Run a trick play around once a game or even twice.


If your running back isn’t tough, they aren’t going to be great. They have to be able to handle the pain and beating that this position gets.

If they can’t punish the defense and make the defense scared to tackle them, then running back isn’t the position for them. You have to be nasty as a running back, even if you’re smaller. You don’t have to run through people, but just make them feel it.

Ball Security

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN FOOTBALL IS THE BALL. So, protecting it is so important. Make sure you teach the proper way to carry the ball. Through the hole with two hands on the ball, or one hand tucked against the chest with all the points of contact. The gauntlet is a great drill to work on ball security.

Have two lines of about five people in each. A ball carrier will run through and the people in line will try and rip it out. This is great for ball security, because it is like running through a hole.

So all in all, make sure your running back is really athletic, because they have the ability to take over games.

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