How to create a winning flag football playbook

Learn how to build and customize a flag football playbook for your team’s growth and success in your upcoming season.

As you prepare for your 5 on 5 flag football season, it’s important to build a flag football playbook ahead of time. This keeps your team’s offensive strategy consistent and organized at the beginning of the season. It also helps players build the fundamental skills necessary to succeed in flag football, setting them up for a fantastic season. As players grow their skills, and gain confidence, football playbooks can be adapted, reorganized, and rearranged. Nothing is set in stone in the world of flag football!

While we have provided many plays for you to pick from, it is important to note that all of our plays can be customized and tailored to the strengths and skill level of your team. 

Have a few really strong runners? Put in more deep fly routes!

Want to trip up the other team’s defense? Add an additional cross of two receivers.

Plus, all of our plays can be adapted for 7 on 7 flag football playing and rules. In this section, we have compiled a list of pro-tips on how to make a strong personalized flag football playbook. 


5 key steps for making a youth flag football playbook 

1. Start with eight to 10 individual plays in your flag football playbook. This allows your team to have enough variety in formations, plays and motions, without becoming too confused between the different options. Once your team feels confident in those plays, you can then expand and add more to try out.

2. Most players are visual learners, so feel free to print out our flag football plays and walk your team through them. They can even be put into wrist guards for quick reference. This will help when you call plays at the beginning of each down, and when you or the quarterback needs to make a speedy play call during the game. As you build out these wrist guards, make sure to number them in order. You’ll be quite happy they’re organized when the quarterback yells “Play 3, play 3, play 3!” at the line of scrimmage with eight seconds on the clock. Snap judgments will be easier and better organized for all players as well. 

3. Include plays of various difficulty levels in your flag football playbook. We have labeled all of our plays as beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, so it takes the guessing out of which plays are more difficult than others. Mix and match these levels to your team's experience and strengths. We recommend starting with more plays suited for beginners to build the needed fundamental flag football skills. Then your team can work their way up to more advanced plays as they gain confidence and skill.

4. Practice makes perfect. As you start finalizing your flag football playbook, practice the plays with your team before your first game. This will give you a good idea of what football plays your team excels at, and what should be swapped out ahead of time. This also illuminates hidden strengths of individual players that can be emphasized throughout the season. Again, we recommend giving the plays fun, unique code-names or numbers for reference when practicing, so you can quickly get into formation during gameplay.

5. Know your routes. Knowing the fundamentals of flag football is the most important part of the game. Make sure you teach your team the individual routes before diving head first into detailed plays. Think of the individual routes as the foundation: Like many aspects of life, without a solid foundation to build off of, it’s near impossible to grow. Focusing on the fundamentals makes it much easier for players to absorb the complexity of the football plays, and adapt to play changes and customizations when needed.

Tips for organizing your flag football playbook

Offense: As you start to build your own personalized youth flag football playbook, we recommend starting small and simple, and working your way up. This allows your team to master a smaller subset of plays, routes, and formations before expanding upon them and trying more difficult setups. Fundamentals are key in flag football plays, and this strategy helps emphasize that.

Start with eight to 10 flag football plays in your flag football playbook. For a quick refresher and to reference all of the NFL FLAG 5 on 5 flag football plays, you can visit our offensive plays page.

There are three different ways you can organize your basic flag football playbook by:

Formation: When organizing your flag football playbook by formation, group together all of your plays by their respective player starting locations, or formation. For example, you can have a section dedicated to single back plays, a section for spread plays, another for bunch plays, and so on. 

This allows you to call effective plays quickly upon discovering weaknesses within the opposing team’s defense. For example, if the defense appears to be weaker on the right side, you can swiftly browse your trips right formation plays to find the perfect choice. By sorting the playbook by formation, it also allows you to have multiple iterations of a similar play next to each other, so you can try different customizations out. We can sense the first down already. 

Difficulty: You can also group your football playbook by the difficulty of the individual plays you have selected. We already labeled the difficulty level of all the official NFL FLAG plays—beginner, intermediate, and advanced—so you don’t have to second-guess whether a play is too simple or advanced for your team.

Regardless of the skill level of your team, we recommend having a few plays of each difficulty within your flag football playbook. Even the most skilled team can reference a beginner play and score some quick, heavy yardage. Also, intermediate and advanced plays act as an opportunity to challenge newer players and teams. Experiment across plays to find out what makes your team tick.

Yardage: Lastly, you can organize your flag football playbook by the intended yardage gained by the plays. For example, you can have a group of short-pass plays, a group of medium-length plays, and a group of plays designated for long yardage. This allows you to quickly reference your plays and select one for the needed yardage in that unique situation.

Is it the final minute of the game, you’re 20 yards from first down, and you’re in a pinch? It’s a good thing you have a group of plays pre-selected for this yardage distance. We recommend some fly routes!

While it may seem beneficial to have only long yardage plays—who doesn’t want a touchdown every play?—this is not actually recommended. Often long yardage plays have a lower completion rate and a much higher interception rate. If you’re always shooting for that long distance, more things are likely to go wrong in between. Also, sometimes short, quick plays can be the most successful and result in the most gained yards.

Pro-tip: By having a variety of yardage plays, it will always keep the defense on their toes, because they won’t know where, or who, your intended receiver is. Keep them guessing!

How to adapt your football playbook

Three words: Customize, customize, customize. While we have laid out routes, starting points, organization ideas, and various other recommendations, all plays can, and should, be adapted to your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, all of our football formations, routes, and plays can be adapted to 7 on 7 playbooks, if needed. 

For example, change the in play to an out play. Shift your star receiver to the right side, instead of the left. These seemingly subtle changes can make a big difference in your flag football playbook. And we encourage creativity from our coaches! 

We look forward to hearing, and seeing, how you’ve utilized our official NFL FLAG plays, and how you’ve customized them to make them your own. Even if this is your first season coaching, your outside view and opinion is crucial to the team’s success. Make sure to think strategically, and creatively, and trust your natural coaching gut. 

You’ve got this, Coach.

5 plays that all basic flag football playbooks have

To get you started on your first basic flag football playbook, we have hand-selected five flag football plays that all playbooks should have. These plays will focus on always-needed fundamental skills so players can feel confident as they build their flag football foundation.

As always, these plays are fully customizable and it’s not required to use them. We just think they’re a great place to start. If you find yourself needing a quick recap of the flag football positions while you read these plays, you can find it here

Skill level: Beginner

To start this play, get your players in a traditional single back formation, with one receiver on either side of the center and quarterback, and one a few yards behind the quarterback.

At hike, the receiver on the right does a fast sidestep, then does a fly route—designated for long yardage. The receiver positioned behind the quarterback starts with a slant and then cuts toward the right sideline, filling the space that should be open from the defender moving backward to cover the fly route.

At the same time, the other receiver and center do respective post and corner routes to cut off their defenders.

Skill level: Beginner

To start this flag football play, set your players in a spread formation, with two receivers spaced out to the right of the quarterback, and one receiver spaced out on the left.

This play utilizes simple crosses, which teaches new players the importance of screen plays. Upon hike, the inner right receiver does a five yard out play, seemlessly crossing the far right receiver who does a hitch play. The left receiver and center also cross, as they both run slants across the field.

Skill level: Beginner

First, make sure your players are in a bunch formation. For this example, have two receivers close to the right of the center, and one close to the left of the center. 

The goal of this play is to get the defensive line bunched up with each other in the center of the field. Then the receivers spread out to various points of the field for openings.

The left receiver and the inner right receiver both perform a seven-yard run, then a corner route on their respective sides. These are the recommended receivers if you need some long yardage. The far right receiver and the center run a five and out route, both cutting for the sidelines. Both of these spots should now be open for a quick catch, as the defense hustles backward to cover the deeper receivers.

Skill level: Beginner

In this formation, one receiver is on the left of the center, and the other two receivers are on the far right, one stacked above the other. The benefit of stacking receivers is that defensive players also have to bunch close together, without having indication on which way the offensive routes will go. This makes it harder for the defense to follow these routes.

After the hike, the top right receiver runs a fly route, and the bottom right receiver does a slightly angled five and out, staggered out to avoid collision. Meanwhile, the left receiver performs a fly and the center runs a five and out. This play provides variety for the quarterback, with two options for short yardage, and two options for long yardage.

Skill level: Beginner

To set up this play, have two receivers spaced out to the right of the center and quarterback, and the third receiver a few yards behind the quarterback.

Following the hike, the far right receiver runs a post route, meanwhile the inside right receiver runs a corner route, crossing each other for deep yardage. The back receiver performs an angled fly route, thus opening up the shallow left side, where the center releases and runs a five and out.

In summary, while we think these five plays are a splendid start to your first basic flag football playbook, we strongly encourage you to mix, match, and add plays that emphasize your team’s strengths. Remember that variety in difficulty, formation, and yardage makes a successful playbook. We hope this helps steer you in the right direction! 

How flag football rules impact your flag football playbook

As you start to further build out your flag football playbook, and customize your plays, it is important to remember to accommodate plays to fit NFL FLAG rules. Here are four flag football rules to keep in mind: 

The quarterback is not allowed to do running plays. While quarterbacks are allowed to move around behind the line of scrimmage to complete passes, they cannot gain yardage.

Direct handoffs are only allowed behind the line of scrimmage. These handoffs can be done by the center, quarterback, or between receivers—as long as it’s behind the line of scrimmage. Handoffs are a great strategy and twist for your plays, just make sure they are within the rules.

Center sneak plays are not allowed. We encourage you to get clever, just not in this way. 

All players are eligible to receive a pass. Whether it’s a receiver, or your center, or even your usual quarterback, all players can receive a pass. This gives you a little more freedom when drafting out new plays.

These four examples are some pro-tips to help keep your plays organized and optimized within the NFL FLAG rules. Make sure to read all rules ahead of time, as you start to build out your flag football playbook.

Good luck on your season—it’s going to be a blast!

Check out our YouTube page for all 5v5 playbook videos!

5v5 Bunch Formation | NFL FLAG Football Plays

5v5 Double Back Set Formation | NFL FLAG Football Plays

5v5 Single Back Formation | NFL FLAG Football Plays

5v5 Trips Stack Formation | NFL FLAG Football Plays