What Is a Route?

The building block of pass plays


| 2 min read

Simply put, a flag football route is a specific pattern or path run by an offensive player. Go deep, cut to the sideline, hook back… you get the picture. Put together a combination of different routes and you’ve got a play. Calling plays is one of the more fun and challenging aspects of coaching youth flag football. But first things first — teach your team the basics. 

It is important for receivers to have specific, predetermined routes so that the QB knows where they are going and where to look for them once a play begins. Having, and knowing, a plan is the best thing until we become telepathic!

Where to start?

If you’re working with the youngest players, keep it simple. Practice a couple of routes, a couple of plays, and stick to those during a game. Coach tip: Give plays fun names to help kids remember where to run. 

NFL FLAG’s route tree assigns numbers to common flag football routes. As players get older and more comfortable with learning routes, coaches find it easier to yell out numbers than funny names or full route descriptions. 

The classics

Most routes are used for passing plays. The route combinations a coach puts together for a play depends on what their team needs to get done. A hitch route, for example, sends a player out seven yards, then pivots back to catch a quick pass. Perfect for short yard gains. 

A corner route is a straight run with an angled cut to the sideline – great if you need a player to step out of bounds after the catch to stop the clock. 

A chair route is fun for agile, speedy players. The receiver runs an out route then cuts back straight to the endzone, like a fly route. Now that player is open to receive a deep pass for the first down or even a TD. Players love to hear, “Go long!”

Next level

If you’re coaching older players who are ready to make some of their own decisions, give this a try — assign routes to all receivers but one. This gives your QB the opportunity to call a route on the line of scrimmage once they see the defensive line. 

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