There is one skill that all flag football players need above all else when it comes to defense: flag pulling.
Flag pulling is perhaps the most important skill in flag football, and when coached correctly, it can be truly transformational to your team’s flag football defense. Solid flag pulling can turn a poor defense into a solid competitor and turn a mediocre defense into a great defense. A team that is good at pulling flags will make it very difficult for the opposing offense to score, while teams with weak flag pulling will often see 5 yard runs turn in to 50 yard runs and 10 yard plays turn in to touch downs.
Individually each player can improve their flag pulling by learning and performing the proper techniques. Below are some guide lines for teaching players how to excel at flag pulling. Establishing these techniques early in the season, and practicing them often will pay huge dividends in your teams game time performance.
1. Stay on your feet. This is first in the list for several reasons. First off it’s against the rules in many leagues for safety reasons. Secondly a player that dives and misses, has effectively removed themselves from the play. Instead you should coach the players to follow step #2
2. Run through the ball carrier. This may sound a little odd, and its important to emphasize what this ISN’T. This isn’t a collision or tackle. There are 2 reasons to coach this method. First, teaching your players not to stop and take a swipe a flag as the runner goes by a full speed. Second using your body to slow the runners momentum.
3. Use both hands. As the player approaches the ball carrier he should spread his arms out slightly with hands in front of him. The player should always attempt to grab a flag with each hand, one on each hip.
4. Focus on the hip and swipe down. This is simple, but not something many kids come up with on their own, so they need to be coached in to it. Players should start at the top of the flag belt and move his or her hand straight down the length of the flag.
Once your players understand proper flag pulling, the skills must be reinforced continuously with drills. For individual skills try this drill on our coaches drill page. Your entire flag football defense will benefit from your players learning and executing proper flag pulling techniques.