Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Youth Football: The Dummy Relay Race To Evaluate Youth Football Players



The Dummy Relay Race Game for Evaluating and Conditioning Youth Football Players.

We use a variety of fun games to not only condition our kids but for team building and evaluation purposes as well. Youth Football is a game that values core strength, this is the strength a player has from just under his hips to just under his chest. This strength is what allows players to control their bodies. Youth Football is all about very short bursts of speed and changes in direction. Those that can burst, stop, change direction and accelerate in very small areas are those that have the natural ability to go very far in the game of football.  

Unfortunately the typical 40 yard dash or pushup contest doesn’t measure for this skill set, but there are games you can play that will help reveal those that do and do not have this core strength. One of the kids  favorite “games” and mine as well (game for the kids, an evaluation and conditioning tool for me) is the Dummy Delay race. This is a game that once you do it, the kids will beg for it all season. You will undoubtably hear “please coach pleeeeeeese, pleeeeese can we do dummy relay races” from your players at most every practice. It’s a game that will get all the kids shouting encouragement for each other and have the parents howling with laughter from their seats.

Getting Started

You start by dividing your team into “teams” of 4-5 kids. You may want to have each assistant coach be the “head coach” of a single team to bring some competitive fire into the game. Put a pylon down to mark where each team lines up to start. The players from each team are  in single file line behind their team captain or coach. Next put a pylon directly in front of each teasm starting cone at about 15 yards for 9-10 year old kids. You can go longer distances for older kids and shorter distances for the younger kids. Just make sure all the teams are lined up side by side and have the same distance to run to their cones. Now have the captain of each team start  it off by grasping a tall blocking dummy, this is usually done by holding the dummy the long way close to the chest in bear hug type fashion. The goal of the game is to run with the dummy around the pylon and back to your teammate, it is a relay race. When the player gets back to the starting pylon he hands the dummy off to the next player on his team. We usually have the 4 losing teams do 5 pushups to make it interesting with coaches shouting encouragement for their respective “mini” teams. 

How It Works

What you will find is the kids that have core strength, the athletes, will have little problem holding the dummy and running around the pylon. If you hold the dummy to your chest the long way you can feel the strenght it requires from your core to keep the dummy upright and stable. On the other hand, those that have poor core strength will wobble when they try to run with the dummy and will rarely be able to run it a straight line, they will look like a listing ship or even fall over. The results of this game may really surprise you. We have often had nice looking big kids we thought were real athletes, struggle with this, initial looks can deceive you. On the other hand we have had small wiry kids that didn’t look like they were very athletic at all just crush this drill and go on to play significant roles for our teams at “skill” positions. This game really separates the kids that can play from those that can’t, a huge time saver we all need in that first week of football practice.


If you do this game using a quick enough pace with small enough team sizes, it can even help you with your conditioning. Think about it, the distance covered is 30 yards, about 7 seconds worth of a short burst, then the 4 other players do their 7 seconds and time to do 5 pushups means a total “rest” of 40 seconds beween when a player does his 7 second burst. Sounds like the interval many football plays are run in real games, a 6-7 second burst followed by a 40-50 second interval to get the ball set and in and out of the huddle, hmm imagine that.

The Real Fun Part

Once we have had ample time to evaluate the players, we like to add a twist to this game for purely fun and team building reasons. Pair teams against each other by having just 1 pylon for both teams. The goal is to run around the pylon and back to your next relay player, but now contact is allowed. So when the competing players go around the pylons they can run into each other using the dummy against their chest as a big cushion. The squeals of laughter will be heard in the next county on this one, I promise and your parents will think you are some kind of cool coaching genius. Be careful not to allow mismatches as the kids are not wearing pads or mouthpieces.

We usually do this game at our first practice of the season. In the end you will know who your players are and have a bunch of enthusiastic, motivated and satisfied kids and parents.

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  1. chris manning

    coach, I bought and plan on implementing your system with my 8/9 team. My problem is we get one week without pads where two bantam teams are mixed because teams havent been chosen yet. After this first week, and the draft, I have only two weeks in pads before our first game. I spoke with the AD and asked whether I could do the player evaluation combine this week and not worry about windsprints. He seems open to it but the fact that I would evaluating two teams of players and possibly involve the other coach (I dont want to tip my hat on the best players to him) may cause problem. The other option is that wait for combine until first week of pads and practice every day for two weeks, to install sacred six, then go to three per week practices. thanks, chris

  2. Malcolm Robinson

    The best all time indicator of athletic ability for football is the bear crawl drill. In this brutal, blind up players for a five a breast and have them assume a four point stance with hands and feet touching the ground. The coach or coaches can stand approximately 10 to 12 yards downfield at the finish line. On command the players attempt to be the first one to the finish line by bear crawling on their fingertips and toes. Some kids have a problem staying on the fingertips because their hands may not be strong enough.

    Immediately you can tell who is athletic. Those players who can coordinate their fingertips and their toes in a smooth running fashion are very athletic. No, they may not be your offensive lineman, because they may lack size or core strength. They may not qualify as your quarterback, but they should be playing somewhere.

    Kids will improve with repetition of the drill but those that initially struggle with it will not like it because it requires so much coordination.


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