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Hard work doesn't stop when the coach blows the whistle after practice, or after the final play of the season. If you are passionate about improving and being a starter the following year, you must train hard in your downtime. Here are some great drills to practice to keep your skills sharp and improve your game. The drills have been outlined for warm-up/endurance, offence, and defense with a focus on positional stances.
Dynamic Warm-ups from Positional Stance
Find an open space outside or in your home, and begin by doing sets of ten exercises to get the blood flowing and the muscles loosened up. These can be anything from Frankensteins to burpees, to high knees, jogging, reverse up and downs, you name it. The key is to start and return to your positional stance perfectly after each repetition.
Start with the hit position, and incorporate your key positional stance into alternating reps. This keeps the mind working at the same time as your body is working physically. Start slower for the first five minutes as a true warm-up, then increase the intensity and incorporate different positional stances into the regimen for a truly dynamic drill for endurance and athleticism.
Offence: Bird Dog
This is a blocking drill suitable for all offensive players, because if you play offence, you should know how to block properly, yes-even quarterbacks. This is a 3-step drill: Step, Guns, Flippers. The first is a quick 45-degree angle step back with alternating feet. The step is short, only 6 inches. Keeping the shoulders square to the hips, and level to the ground, head is up and alert. The play is named “Bird Dog” because the player looks like a bloodhound pointing it’s nose in the direction of a fallen bird during a hunt.
It is to get the defender moving in one direction or the other. “Guns” means to place your fists on your hips as though you were drawing pistols in a gunfight. “Flippers” describes the motion of driving the fists straightforward to the opponent’s chest with arms out forming to triangular shapes much like flippers of a killer whale. This motion of “Guns” to “Flipper” should be executed with each step forward or back.
Defense: Take Off
A simple drill in essence, but so very important in execution. Having an explosive “Take-Off” is probably the most important skill of any defensive player. The split second reaction to the ball being snapped is the difference in advantage to you or your opponent. It’s a killer instinct, reflex switch that sets off an explosion of pass rush towards the ball, quarterback, or space.
The purpose of this drill is to stay low, strengthen leg muscles, and improve your ability to burst forward pushing your opponent off balance. You will need to have someone call the snap to work on reaction time, but if you are alone, you can simulate the snap. Starting in a 2, 3, or 4-point stance, keep low and explode forward with hands and head up. Proper stance and position are critical to outmaneuver the opposition. After four or five steps, run out the remaining five yards to work on endurance.
Always working on your technique, speed, endurance, mental toughness, is a sign of great players. Practicing proper stances and drills at home will help improve your skill sets, and make you better on the field. Discipline and work ethic are a matter of practice and determination to succeed. Practice these drills at home, and you will see a difference in the next youth football league game.