The Snap Progression drill develops your running backs and teaches them proper stances, footwork, ball seating, ball security and acceleration to the point of attack. By adding the �squeeze� portion to the drill it also teaches acceleration through contact, keeping the shoulders square on impact and staying low on impact.
Too often, youth football coaches want to rush into running football plays without building a good foundation, don’t fall into that trap. Don’t worry about getting into your playbook without first putting each building block in place.
For youth football coaches, this is a drill you can do early on with everyone as an evaluation tool to determine who your backs will be. This drill is a simple one you do the first day or two to keep the kids interest, you know how they all want to touch the ball.
Here is how we do it:
Divide the players into groups of 5 to keep their interest and get some �hidden� conditioning in.
Coach With Ball……………Cone…….Cone
First review the running back stance of: pinkies together, outstretched hands, fingertips touching the ground, head up, feet shoulder width apart, and knees flexed slightly inward. This is basically the “ready” position of the 3 point stance with different finger placement. Have everyone demonstrate as a group the correct hand configuration of pinkies together and hands outstretched. As a group, have them all get into the running back stance.
Next teach them how to “seat” the ball in their right arm and elbow. The ball is drawn into the crook of the right elbow with the tip of the ball firmly imbedded in the bicep with the other end covered over the tip by the right hand. The football is firmly pressed against the forearm and the ribcage, with no gaps. You shouldn�t be able to see daylight from above the ball to the ground. Hand each player in your group the ball and have him show you the “seated” position of the ball.
The next step is putting the first two steps together. The coach faces the players on one knee, the player at the front of the row gets into the TB/FB/BB stance at 2 yards directly in front of the coach, set up a cone as a landmark. Call the cadence of : “down ready set go”, making sure the player brings his fingertips to the top of the ground on “down”.
Snap the football at medium speed and low on “go”, aiming just above the ground. Bring the ball from the ground and toss it underhand in one motion as you face the player on one knee. The player then seats the ball correctly and then on your “go” he runs the ball back to you. Never let a player throw the ball to you, it wastes valuable time, as you play “fetch” with all the poorly thrown balls.
Next, set a pair of cones even with yourself at about the 6 hole which would be about 2 yards to the right of the coach, set the cones about 1 yard apart to mark the area you want the players to run through . Set another cone about 20 yards “downfield”. On this step of the progression again make sure the stance is perfect, then have them seat the ball making sure they freeze after they have seated the ball perfectly, on your “go” they then run the ball in-between the two cones you have set up and to the 20 yard marker downfield. They then run the ball back to you. As they get better at seating the football, remove the freeze protion of the drill and let them do it on one motion.
Explain the drill, demonstrate it then choose the smartest player in the group to demonstrate it for the rest of the group. Don’t get ahead of yourself by allowing anything but perfection on each step. If a player isn’t getting it after several times through, correct him and offer encouragement but send him to the back of the line, don’t let him run the drill all the way through. Make sure to observe who has the fluid motion and the speed to the 20 yard marker; this is the place to see who has speed on your team. Also check for “false steps”, where the player takes a short step backwards before taking his steps forward to the hole. This is easily corrected, just make sure his knees are tilted inward ever so slightly in his stance.
The last part of the progression is to add a “squeeze” at the 2 cone area on the “line of scrimmage”. This can be either 2 large round dummies set about 2 feet apart or just less than shoulder width apart for the shoulder size of the age group you are working with. You can also use shields, either way this is the place you need your dad helpers from the crowd. The dummies must be held close enough to each other and with enough resistance that the players have to accelerate, keep their feet moving and stay low to make it through. Remind the players to keep their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, pump their knees, keep their heads up and ACCELERATE through the contact.
Once the player makes it through the “squeeze” he needs to regain his speed to the 20 yard marker and then run the football back to you. Good backs power through the squeeze and regain reasonable speed quickly, this separates your players with just speed from your tailbacks, fullbacks and blocking backs.
This progression may seem to some to be a bit time consuming. It only needs to be done once and nearly all your players will have the technique down pat for the season rather than spending time each practice correcting poor technique. Coaching youth football properly means not rushing the basics. You can save the squeeze part of the drill for when you have already separated the backs from the linemen to conserve time.