What is so special about the Wing-T?

There seems to be an ongoing debate about the usefulness and importance of the Wing-T offense in football, with proponents saying that more division I college (and NFL) teams should run it and detractors saying that it is too old school, too easy to defend, and lacking in the explosiveness needed to engineer come-from-behind victories. Despite these differences of opinion, few doubt the value of the Wing-T in youth football. Sherwood High School has had consistent success running the Wing-T (for close to 15 years), as have nationally renown high schools like the Bellevue, WA Wolverines.

SHS<em>2008</em>HS_Playbook.pdf (page 5 of 109)

I've coached the offensive line for the past three years and I can say that ramping up 3rd-6th graders on Wing T o-line is real challenge - that's what makes it fun for everyone involved. In addition to teaching fundamental techniques like steps, staying low, down blocking, reach blocking, and pass blocking we must teach pull and trap techniques. It is no surprise that we often put the two of the top five athletes on the team at the two guard positions. We run ISO plays which require play-side guard line calls after they recognize the defense. On our buck sweep plays we pull both guards to play-side - a challenge for the guards to get out in front of the half-back, but often an even greater challenge for the center, tackles, and fullback as they plug the gaps left by the pulling guards.

Buck series

The Wing-T is a series-oriented offense that relies on misdirection. The canonical example is the buck series of plays: in its simplest form, the four backs make the same moves on every play in the series. The fullback runs a dive straight up the middle. The halfback (#1) runs a sweep to strong side. The wingback (#2) provides support blocking on the defensive backfield. The quarterback hands off or fakes the dive, the sweep, then boots to the weak side. While this makes things fairly simple for the backfield, the complexity is there for the linemen as they have different steps and responsibilities depending on the play. The dive play requires a trap cross block with the two guards and center. The sweep requires both guards to pull to play side and lead the half back. The boot requires one or both guards to pull to weak side to lead for the quarterback or provide pass protection.

I'll delve deeper into coaching line techniques for this offense in a future post, but I thought I'd share a video I put together last year for some personalized instruction given to our linemen:

The typical progression for play calling is to stick the the basics (dive trap, off tackle, sweep) as long as you can make them work consistently, then periodically throw in the "money" play for the big gain. The money plays for most wing-T teams are the belly counter and the boot pass (aka waggle). Our focus this year on offense will be ball fakes - getting our backs to work very hard at deception to keep the defense guessing who gets the ball.

Here are some other useful resources to learn about the Wing-T:

Vancouver Island

For over a year Julie and I discussed various ideas for a special trip to celebrate her 40th birthday (coming up in early August). Our original plan was Italy but in the end we decided on something closer to home. Or rather I decided on something closer to home as I planned this trip as a semi-surprise for her, dropping various hints along the way. The San Juan Islands seemed like a great choice, but when my parents offered to give us some timeshare points I used that to narrow my search and found a great property on Vancouver Island (Pacific Shores). You can find more photos from our adventure in my Flickr photo set.

We drove up the Olympic Peninsula and stopped at a few sites along the way, including a nice beach walk at low tide to see the clam and oyster harvesters on the Hood Canal. Also observed were dozens of beautiful bald eagles.

Clamming on hood canal

We spent much of our time hiking the areas around Nanaimo and Nanoose Bay. One of our favorites was the hike to Englishman River Falls.

Waterfall at Englishman River Falls

Julie and I spent a day kayaking off Cedar-by-the-sea with our guide Kim from Wild Heart Adventures.

Julie and Chris kayaking off Cedar-by-the-sea

Our hotel / condo / timeshare way exceeded our expectations, and we found ourselves dining in most nights. This meant picking up fresh fish or steaks from a local grocer, veggies, wine, etc., then strolling out to the point on the bay to cook outdoors and enjoy the sunset. This also led to some great conversations with other visitors.

Heading back to room after a lovely sunset dinner on Craig Bay

I think Julie would agree that our favorite day was the 5-6 mile hike around Newcastle Island off Nanaimo. This is provincial park with no residences and some great hiking trails. We timed the visit so that we could walk across to Protection Island and have a beer at the Dinghy Dock pub before taking a ferry back to the mainland.

Gratuitous timed self portrait

About Me

My name is Chris Brooks and I coach youth football in Sherwood, Oregon. I have another blog where I talk about boardgames, travel, and family stuff. As of 2009 I'm coaching my 4th season of football, assisting Jim Nappe at the JV level (mostly 7th grade and some 8th grade).

Let's get that straight from the start: I'm not really qualified to talk about coaching football. I didn't play football past junior high and had no football coaching experience prior to getting drafted into it 3 years ago. Still, I've had some success and maybe there are others out there like me looking for some tips on practice management, youth football defense, game strategy, and (ahem) parent management. For the past 2 years our teams have made it to the championship games (losing each one by only a touchdown) and our teams have steadily improved throughout each season.

I'm honored to be a part of an amazing youth football program here in Sherwood. We get tremendous support from the high school coaching staff (Greg Lawrence, Wes Montgomery, and the other assistants) and the collaboration amongst the youth coaches is remarkable.

I specialize in defense but have also spent a lot of time coaching the offensive line. All Sherwood teams run the Delaware-style Wing-T offense and it suits us well. This is a challenging but very fun offense for kids to run: challenging because the blocking assignments can be very difficult, fun because everybody gets in on the action and there's lots of misdirection. Defensively, my teams favor the split-6 / 4-4 / gap-air-mirror style of even fronts, but this year we'll be running quite a bit of 3-5-3 to prepare them for high school play.

Extreme Cash Budgeting with Wesabe

I've long been a personal finance geek, starting as an early user of Quicken and CheckFree in the early 90s, and culminating in my role as CTO at Corillian where I helped build online banking products for many of the world's largest financial institutions. I left Quicken in favor of Microsoft Money about 5 years ago primarily because Money's budgeting tools made more sense to me and fit with my workflow. Julie and I like to use a zero-base approach that allows us to re-allocate categories mid-month but ruthlessly avoid going over the aggregate outflow budget. For example, we might budget $200 in a month for dining out but decide half-way through that we'd rather use $20 of that bucket to buy a couple of CDs that weren't in the entertainment budget. Money made it easy to allocate between budget categories, a feature that Quicken did not make easy.

Two years ago when I switched to an all-Mac world, I kept Windows (via Parallels) around so that I could run two programs: Microsoft Money and TroopMaster, a specialized application I use for tracking advancement and other records for our Boy Scout troop. It was a hassle to jump into Windows just for budgeting or financial review and the information wasn't easily accessible when not at my home computer. I was ready for a change and my first step was to explore options for the Mac. Quicken for the Mac is largely an afterthought (though QuickBooks Mac is quite nice), and the other niche products had nowhere near the robust capabilities for online integration (pulling my bank data via OFX, for example) or budgeting. Time to look for an online solution.

There are 4 big players out there that provide online financial management with robust account aggregation and budgeting: Yodlee, Mint, Mvelopes, and Wesabe. All are free with the exception of Mvelopes. I've spent a decent amount of time in each of the products and think highly of all of them but Yodlee. Yodlee (disclosure - I have some history with them as they were a competitor of Corillian's and remain a competitor of the companies that bought us, CheckFree and Fiserv) has extremely robust account aggregation but I still do not like their user experience. Mvelopes is nice but the fees are a bit steep for the value offered, especially in comparison with the two great free offerings from Mint and Wesabe.

Free Personal Finance Software, Online Money Management, Budget Planner and Financial Planning | Mint.com Wesabe > Your Money. Your Community.

Before I talk about Mint vs Wesabe, let's turn back the calendar a bit to January 2009. My income was severely cut back as I worked to bring the startup I work at to a solid financial footing as we seek a stronger customer base and funding. Julie and I have always been diligent with our finances but like many couples that see household income grow steadily we had become a bit too tolerant of casual luxury spending. It was time to get serious about cashflow and see how much we could cut back and sacrifice.

We have been Dave Ramsey disciples for many years. We live a largely debt-free life with our only financial liability being our beach vacation house that we own jointly with family. We don't use credit cards, own our personal residence free and clear, and will likely never borrow money again. When Julie and I sat down in January we did a six-month cashflow forecast to ensure that we could live off a very meager income without having to go beyond our emergency fund into investment savings. Some drastic changes were in order given the spending levels we wanted to get to, so we decided to go with an all-cash system for all of our discretionary spending. This was in addition to cutting many recurring spending categories, including delaying or drastically reducing some strategic long-term goals such as retirement and college savings.

Our cash system is the tried-and-true envelope system. Our envelopes are: Groceries, Dining Out, Entertainment, Pet Food, Hair Care, Allowances, School Lunch, Incidentals, Cash for Next Month, and Board Games. We set very aggressive spending levels for each and withdrew cash at the start of the month to fund the envelopes. Julie has always been a frugal grocery shopper, relying primarily on Winco and Costco for food and using common sense to save money on our big staples like milk, cereal, and meats. She took things to another level starting this year, spending a significant amount of time every week scouring for sales, coupons, and ways to multiply the value of both. Surprisingly, the typically higher-priced stores (Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer) became regular destinations for Julie. Julie learned the rhythm of each store and built a targeted strategy for planning her trips and purchasing. She's been able to get our monthly grocery spending to the $500-$600 range with no sacrifice in meal quality. If anything, our eating has been enhanced as she introduces healthier fare with more raw and scratch ingredients. With two (rather large) teenage boys we consume a lot of milk, cereal, fruit, etc.

My board game budget went to zero, meaning we don't directly fund it each month. I only spend what I earn through sales of existing games or other income sources tied to the hobby. We cut the school lunch spending in half and instead give the cash directly to the boys and let them choose if they want to spend it on school lunch or make their own lunch every day. I pretty much stopped eating out for lunch and started brown-bagging it. Dining out became a special occasion for all of us, a surprisingly nice side effect of this behavior change.

Turning back to the Mint vs Wesabe discussion, it was very important that whatever tool I chose easily supported this change in financial tracking and planning. I want my finances mostly on auto-pilot for recurring transactions that flow through my bank accounts, but I need a lot of control over cash tracking. Wesabe wins this battle hands-down as they allow me to manage my supply of cash just like it were a real bank account. This is critical as there are times when we do end up using our debit card for discretionary purposes (ordering online, forgot to put cash in wallet, etc.). Let me give an example of how we make this work - let's walk through something that happened this month. Wilco's new album was just released and I gots to have me my new Wilco, so I ordered the pre-release CD online at Amazon for about $10. This comes out of our monthly entertainment budget, which we funded with an ATM withdrawal at the start of the month.

1) I withdraw $380 to fund several cash accounts: Dining Out, Entertainment, etc.. There's also a $3 service charge which I track, though USAA refunds those back to me at the end of every month.

Wesabe: USAA - Primary Checking

2) I purchase the Wilco album online for $9.99. This gets allocated against the Entertainment category, so right away I'm $9 over budget because we pre-funded the full $140 for the month with cash.

Wesabe: USAA - Primary Checking

Wesabe: Dashboard

3) I move $9 from the Entertainment envelope to my "Cash for Next Month" envelope. Note: it helps to keep plenty of $1 bills around to make it easy to do this, especially when paying allowances to the boys.

Wesabe: Chris and Julie's Cash

4) I record a cash transaction in my Wesabe cash account with a $9 credit. This offsets the $9 purchase I made in Amazon and balances the books. Note that the cash balance in my Wesabe account always matches the amount of money you'll find in my "cash for next month" envelope.

I go through a similar process at the end of the month as I clean out the envelopes to feed forward into the next month. I enter credit transactions into the cash account on the last day of the month and move the money to the "cash for next month" envelope. This gives a reasonably accurate view of the actual spending levels for each category each month and helps us understand where we might be able to trim. At times we might steal between categories (e.g., use some Dining Out money to pay for Groceries) but we don't track every penny that flows between the envelopes.

Mint does not support this sort of fine-grain cash tracking transaction - it only allows you to subdivide banking transactions against a cash account. Where Mint really shines is in the wide range of accounts it can aggregate (I think this is largely courtesy of Yodlee) and therefore it gives a much more robust net worth picture. But Wesabe truly gets it done for our process and I'll stick with them as long as it helps my workflow so completely.

Will Julie and I leave the cash model once our income returns to "normal"? Almost certainly not - by seeing how low we can go, we feel freed to be very deliberate about establishing long-range strategic goals for our extra income (trips, luxuries, eventually board games again). Imagine the prospect of having $5,000-$10,000 of free cashflow to work with every month on important goals - we expect to be there again soon.