7-on-7 has advantages, drawbacks

Posted Monday, Jul. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Like most other high school football programs across the state this summer, Lake Ridge and Summit are participating in local 7-on-7 competitions. It’s a form of touch football that has grown in popularity over the last decade and offers teams a chance to hone some skills in the offseason. Still, both Eagles head coach Kirk Thor and Jaguars coach Travis Pride understand the shortcomings of 7-on-7 and try to keep the focus on fun and competition.

“To me, 7-on-7 is a chance for kids to get together during the summer,” Thor said. “It’s a non-school sports league, so they get together with other kids in the school and play, and they get to run around and stay in shape and throw the football a little bit. They get some team camaraderie and bonding and get to hang out together.”

Though there is ultimately a state champion crowned in 7-on-7, Thor is quick to point out that it doesn’t necessarily translate at all to success in the fall.

“A lot of times people make it out to be a big deal, but it’s not the state championship,” he said. “It’s still good for our kids to get together and play. It’s just like if they were going to play pickup basketball at the gym or throwing the football in the backyard. It just keeps them active and they get to do it with their teammates.”

The nature of 7-on-7 allows for a lot of throwing and catching, and most programs look at it as a good way to develop some chemistry within their passing games. Lake Ridge and Summit are no exceptions. But even at that, the coaches realize the inherent differences between 7-on-7 and tackle football, and how these summer games can only help so much.

“I think, for all of our quarterbacks who play 7-on-7, it’s good for them to throw the football and get some timing down with receivers,” Thor said. “The bad thing about 7-on-7 is that, a lot of times, wherever you play, it can give you bad habits because there’s no pass rush.

“There’s nobody standing in front of you,” he added. “It’s a whole different thing when you get into a scrimmage situation and when you start practicing in August and during the season. When there’s a pass rush, and when you’re throwing the football in pads, it’s a whole different ball game. So, in a sense it’s good for them to throw the football and keep their arms going and get some timing with receivers. But in a bad sense, it gives them a false sense of throwing the football because it’s so different than a real game.”

Summit finds itself trying to develop a quarterback ahead of next season. Sophomore Braden Nolan will step into the starting role without having a varsity snap to his credit. And like Thor, Jags’ coach Pride sees benefits and potential drawbacks to Nolan’s experiences in 7-on-7.

“Every throw and every snap he gets is one more than he’s ever had,” Pride said. “So that chemistry and that development has been very big for us … but there are some bad habits you can develop. Four relaxed, completely undisturbed seconds to throw a ball doesn’t happen very often in a football game. So, your quarterback get a little bit too comfortable.”

As a result, Pride and his staff have aimed to hammer home that 7-on-7 is little more than a sandlot practice session, though it still has some relevant teaching points.

“I think everyone uses it for a different purpose,” he said. “We’re trying to continue to get the kids to be competitive through all sorts of avenues. Whether it’s a pickup basketball game, or a 7-on-7 game, or a bowling game, it doesn’t matter, we want the kids to learn to compete and try to win. So that’s one thing we get out of it.

“Another thing we try to get out of it is that we try to practice our offense. We are very young in some positions and we’re inexperienced in almost all positions,” he continued. “We have all these kids that don’t have varsity-level reps, so every snap, every ball, every catch, everything is vital for us as far as team chemistry and repetition of the offense or the defensive schemes.”

Defense is rarely considered a focal point of 7-on-7, and the rules somewhat dictate that.

“The defense is the ones I think really put at a disadvantage because they can’t bump, they can’t collision, they can’t re-route receivers,” Pride said. “There are a lot of ways it’s really not football, and we just try to re-emphasize that. All we’re trying to do is take advantage of the things we think we can get from it. We can work on our routes; we can work on our throws; we can work on our catches; we can work on our reads; we can work on our back pedal and stick-and-drive and our pass breakups.”

Another thing Summit tries to gain from 7-on-7 actually has little to do with reps on the field. Instead, it has to do with leadership of its players. The Jags let the players themselves handle much of the team’s 7-on-7 organization.

“We utilize it as a chance for our kids to take some ownership of their own program,” Pride said. “We as coaches go over there and stand in the end zone or sit in the stands or we’re afar observers. I think it’s a great opportunity for some of the kids to establish some leadership and develop some roles on the team.”

Pride sees the value in 7-on-7, witnessing weekly growth in his team and players. But he sums up its importance by noting, “Just like with a lot of things, there are pros and cons to it. You know, we win a 7-on-7 game, we’re not celebrating like we’re going to be playing in late December.”

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