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How to Strategize in Arena Football

By Steve Silverman

Arena football has many of the same elements of the outdoor game. Teams have to excel at blocking, tackling and executing plays. However, the strategy in arena football is significantly different than in the conventional game. In many ways, arena football strategy is similar to tennis. In tennis, you must win on your own serve. In arena football, you must score when you have possession of the ball.

Attack downfield with the passing game. The key to putting a successful offense on the field is to throw the ball downfield to stretch the defense. There is no using the run to set up the pass. Instead, an offense that can attack efficiently will force an opposing defense back on its heels. Each possession is important and coaches and quarterbacks must play the game aggressively. Winning in arena football requires a calm, cool quarterback who throws the ball accurately. A powerful arm is a bonus, but it is not as important as throwing the ball accurately in tight coverage. Younger quarterbacks normally try to overpower their throws, a technique that is often detrimental in arena football.

Don't try to ram the ball down your opponents' throats. On the narrow field of the indoor game, the defense is simply too packed-in to allow a running game to take hold. A running play can succeed every once in a while, but even the most dominant Arena Football League teams find it very difficult to run the ball consistently.

Force turnovers on defense. In the NFL and college football, head coaches and defensive coordinators consider it a success when their teams can force their opponent into a "three-and-out" or a punting situation. There is no punting in arena football. At the very least, an offense that does not turn the ball over will attempt a field goal or a fourth-down conversion. Stops are rare in the indoor game. As a result, coaches preach forcing turnovers. Winning the turnover battle in arena football is even more significant when it comes to winning and losing than it is in the outdoor game.

Make sure your players understand that arena football is an even more intense experience than outdoor football. By playing on a field that is about the same size as an ice hockey arena, hard collisions and vicious hits are simply the norm. There are no downs to be taken off. Play hard on every down or risk a significant injury.

Understand the timing of arena football. The game is played with four 15-minute quarters, just like the NFL or college football. However, the clock does not stop on incomplete passes or when the ball goes out of bounds. The clock only stops after scores and changes of possessions until the final minute of each half. In the final minute, the clock stops after every incomplete pass or when the ball goes out of bounds. The clock also stops if a ball stays on a completed pass or run if the offense does not cross the line of scrimmage.

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