Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Our 7th Football Practice of the 2007 Season

Our 7th Football Practice of the 2007 Season:

As we approach our first real league game in just 11 days we are stepping up our full contact level, team reps and now our special teams. Here is a look at how our 7th football practice unfolded:

We jumped the gun today and started football practice about 3 minutes early, as one of my coaches got the kids started while I set up the cones and dummies for the drills both teams would be doing. Since the second or third practice, I�ve been able to arrange the drills while my football coaches run the kids through our 10 minute dynamic warmup that includes, stance, high knees, butt kicks, cadence, �no play� and angle form fit tackling. We are getting through this entire routine including multiple reps going both directions on angle form fit tackling in 8-9 minutes. This practice will be all about defense, with some special teams being mixed in.

I�ve heard from dozens of youth football coaches using our system this week. They e-mail or call me and brag about the fact they are doing real �football stuff� the first minute of their practice and on to real football drills and teaching while their compatriots are stuck doing a bunch of time wasting cals and agility drills. I had one coach tell me he had done his warmups, angle form tackling, a blocking drill and done a teaching session on his blocking rules and had a water break, before his sister team in the park had even finished doing cals. I wonder how well these youth football teams with very different priorities, will be prepared for their first game? I bet the guys doing lots of cals will be very good at doing cals, too bad for them they won’t he particpating in a pushup contest instead of a youth football game.

We kept both squads together as we did a tackling circuit, The tackling circuit is a great way to improve the tackling of each player, challenging him, while not allowing him to move on until he has mastered a specific tackling skill. We set up tackling stations with our: Splatter Tackling Drill, Close Quarters Tackling Drill, 3 Slot Challenge, and Open Field tackling Drill. We put the players into the drill they were best suited for with our poorest tacklers on the landing matt tackling drill we call Splatter Tackling. Once the player has the proper form and aggression they move on to the Close Quarters Tackling Drill. Of course we divide the kids up to start and many players start on this one right off the bat, while others join it after they �graduate� from the Splatter Drill. The 3 Slot challenge is for more mature and aggressive players and the Open Field Tackling Drill is for the kids that not only tackle very well from a form standpoint, but are aggressive and attack in the 3 Slot Challenge Drill. As you move up the tackling circuit, the more space there is between you and the ballcarrier. We don�t want kids that are not proficient at base tackling form, moving on to tackle players �in space� until they have mastered good form and they have reasonable acceleration into contact. By moving in this fashion, it also groups players with players of like ability, so you have fewer mismatches in the drills and you have fewer kids with their head in the sand. Out of about 40 kids, we ended the session with 17 players in the Open Field Tackling Drill, 7 in the 3 Slot Challenge, 7 in the Close Quarters Drill and 9 still stuck in the Splatter Drill. All these drills are detailed with pictures along with minute by minute daily practice plans are included in the book.

We then moved to individual work, with stations set up for our Defensive Tackles, Bearcrawlers, Linebackers and Defensive Ends and then our Defensive Backs.The Bearcrawlers did their squeeze to form tackle fit drill and then went live versus double team blocking. We got to see how they performed with some real contact, several of the kids pleasantly surprised us, and all but 1 was consistently using the proper technique.

The Defensive Tackles did their swim to form fit tackle and swim to pass recognition drills. The Defensive Ends and Linebackers did more tackling in space and technique instruction on using their hands to avoid blockers. The Defensive Backs worked basic pass coverage drills along with some more open field tackling.

At the start of the second hour, we went into team defense as we separated our two youth football teams but put them back to back so I could instruct both. We are working against cones now, working on lining up properly in the correct gap and tackling the proper first 3 steps. We reviewed our base linebacker stunts and added our corner and defensive end stunts.We aligned the offensive cones to reflect various offenses including twin receivers to one side, trip receivers to one side, twins to both sides, motion and various wing and slot alignments. We do not expect the kids to recognize each set, the coaches call it out and the players adjust to the set as instructed. We then worked various ball movements against the defense with a coach and dads running a few plays out of the backfield. We were looking for proper first steps and that each player was meeting his responsibilities.

We alternate kids in every play so they all learn their positions and we get very good at subbing. We had to make a few kids run because they were not sprinting in to get into position while slapping the person they are going in for on the hand. This is a requirement for us, as youth football players and teams often substitute poorly and do not line up prperly when subbing in. We are going to sub early and often and our kids have to be great at coming in for a play or two and then getting back out. This problem was resolved after about 20 minutes and a few laps.

We then worked on figuring out who our kickoff kicker would be. We allowed everyone to try out as we set a cone at the spot we wanted each player to kick to. We didn�t overcoach this, we lined up the ball and put a marker where we wanted them to start their approach. We did everything rapid pace with a kick taking place about every 6 seconds, as we had coaches tossing the balls back in a relay line. After everyone went through twice, we started weeding kids out by sending those that were not going to be further considered to get water. By a slowly eliminating players by this process, we got to a final 3 for each team. Over the next week we will whittle it down to a starter and a backup as well as pick a field goal kicker out of the bunch. To wrap things up we got some more conditioning in by running our kickoff team on and off the field and we covered about 5-6 kickoffs.

On Thursday we will do more team reps on offense, perfect the football plays we have in, add some technique work to the O-Line and firm up our special teams. We hope this helps you understand how we do things, what our priorities are and maybe how far you should be along by your 7th football practice of your youth football season.

If you aren�t this far along, don�t panic, just reset your priorities and pick up the pace. Coaching youth football is a fluid process, in order to do well, you have to adjust.

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