Coaching Running Backs for Flag Football

A running back playing flag football runs with the ball

In youth flag football, the running back position will be the star of the game.  As the players get older, the quarterback will be in the spotlight, but at the younger ages, completing passes is extremely rare, thus, the offense goes through the running back.  Coaching running backs for flag football starts with the basics.  The videos below illustrate stance, the technique for the running back to take a hand off from the quarterback, and how to carry the ball.

The Stance

The most common stance for a running back is the 2-point stance.  This stance allows for the running back to go left, right, or forward.  The knees should be bent with the hips down with the feet about shoulder width apart.  Hands should be placed on the knees.  The running back should line up identically for each play regardless whether the play is going left or right, whether they are getting the ball or not so the defense can’t read the direction or type of play based on where or how the running back is standing prior to the play.


Taking a Handoff

When taking a handoff, the running back must create a pocket for the quarterback to put the ball into.  The quarterback gives the ball the running back, the running back does not take the ball from the quarterback.  The running back creates the pocket to receive the ball by raising the arm closest the quarterback and holding it parallel to the ground with the hand facing down.  The opposite arm is also parallel to the ground with the hand facing up with plenty of space to receive the ball.

For younger players, there are three common mistakes.  The first mistake is watching the ball being handed to them.  Second, is reaching out to grab the ball with their hands instead of receiving the ball into the pocket.  Third is knowing which arm should be on top and remembering during the heat of the moment.  That’s where the benefit of practice and repetition come in.




Carrying the Ball

The most effective way to carry and protect the football is to have five points of contact on the football.

  1. The tip of the football should be between your index and middle finger.  Squeeze the ball with your thumb and index finger and the other three fingers.
  2. Grip the ball tightly in the palm of your hand.  There should be no space between the ball and your palm.
  3. Protect the bottom side of the ball with your forearm.  The tip of the ball should be pointing slightly up.
  4. The nose of the ball should be against the inside of the bicep.  Use your bicep to squeeze the ball tight to your body.
  5. The ball should always be tight against the chest.

The key to ball security is maintaining these points of contact.  If at any time the ball comes away from the body while the player is running, it becomes easier for a defender to strip the ball.



Flag Football
I am a lifelong lover of sports. I have coached soccer teams of all ages, flag football, basketball, wrestling, and baseball. I currently play in an adult flag football league, recreational softball league, and a soccer league. I am working to become a high school football referee starting this fall.

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