A note from FishDuck.com: Today we have a unique treat, this article from a highly successful coach gives an inside perspective football fans don’t often get to see, the direct insight of football concepts from a coach in the know. This week Coach Curtis Peterson of Glenbard North High School and owner/editor of StrongFootballCoach.com is featured.
We encourage other coaches that are interested in possibly writing guest columns providing their unique insight to please contact us. For now, here is Coach Curtis Peterson!
One of the most exciting times of the year for every football coach, at every level, is the first couple days of two-a-days. Teams are healthy, everyone is undefeated, and there exists unbridled exuberance for the season ahead. As football coaches begin to build their teams during this pivotal time, there are five critical elements that coaches need to remember in order to make sure their crucial time during allotted two-a-day sessions are not wasted.
Tip 1: Emphasize Fundamentals
Fundamentals are critical to the success of any team, and many coaches talk about their importance during clinic season. But as soon as the pads start popping, an emphasis begins to shift to working on specific plays too soon. I encourage every coach, even if they’re just an assistant coach, to fight for time for individual position periods specifically designated to focus on their individual position’s core fundamentals. For instance, every offensive line coach should make sure they have time to do stance and start drills every single day, and work on 1-3 other skills individually. Make sure the foundation is sound before building the house. Check out these offensive line drills or linebacker drills for more fundamentals technique.
Tip 2: Combine Multiple Techniques into One Drill
As an assistant coach, there often is not enough time to work on fundamentals, regardless of the amount of begging and pleading done. Ultimately, the biggest effect to improving overall fundamental skill level is by combining multiple skills or techniques into one drill. For instance, work on down-blocking and a fold-block in one drill. Running back coaches may work on ball handling and stiff arms. Linebackers might work on run fits and tackling. Regardless, coaches need to utilize drills that represent multiple skills that players will execute in a game.
Tip 3: Work with Kids “On the Fly”
This can be a very tough skill for coaches to learn or accept, but perhaps a necessary evil. In order to coach on the fly, a.k.a. during the drill or in the transition seconds between groups executing the drill, coaches must keep their coaching points positive and quick. By the time the kids get back to the line they were working in, the next group should execute the drill. If it takes longer than 10-15 seconds to emphasize a point for multiple kids, the coach did not properly teach the fundamentals necessary to execute the drill or did not explain the drill properly. They need to stay positive because quick, negative points can indicate to the player that the coach is simply angry or giving up on them entirely.
Tip 4: Record Practice Drills and Team Sessions
With Hudl and cheap HD video cameras that can be ordered online or borrowed from the team’s own kids, practice sessions can be easily recorded. Use injured kids or non-participating kids whenever possible to make sure no action is missed. By recording the drills and team sessions, evaluation of the performance can take place at home or during a lunch break. It also makes it safer coaching the fly, because problems can always be identified later on film, and if using Hudl or something else, leave notes on the videos for the kids.
Tip 5: Emphasize Energy and Team Unity
Many football players, regardless of the level, will get “feisty” during two-a-days. They get sick of solely beating on their teammates. They get sick of someone being a “practice hero.” It usually starts with some trash-talking or some late whistle extra-curricular activities. It’s important to nip this in the butt as early as possible. Injuries and suspensions do no one any good during two-a-days, especially just before the season.
As a coach, focus on drills that are competitive, but in a good way. Obviously hitting and violence are a part of football, and to a point it needs to be inside of the whistles. Teaching kids how to work as a team and control that anger between the whistles in clean ways is a drastically important skill, and it does take time to develop for some kids.
Don’t let trash-talking get a stranglehold on the individual session. It is important to coach in your own style, but just keep in mind the bigger picture. There are some coaches who have no problem with fighting or trash-talking. Quite frankly, fighting between teammates has no place in football, and only gets teams off their goals.
There are certainly safety tips to also be considered during the strain of two-a-days, like keeping athletes properly hydrated and well-nutritioned. Coaches should also avoid the time periods during the day where it’s the hottest outside, being conscious of the possibility of heat stroke may prevent serious medical conditions. Tragically several athletes have died in recent years due to heat stroke at practice, and even one incident is far too many.
Overall, two-a-days is our best time to educate our kids. We make the biggest impact on technique during this time period. Don’t let “team” periods ruin that by just running play-after-play all practice–this gets boring for the kids, and quite frankly plays can’t be executed if the techniques necessary for a play to work don’t get proper attention in individual position time. Assistant coaches who complain at the end of the season that there wasn’t enough individual time simply did not build a strong enough case for it, and sometimes assistants need to step up for themselves in this regard.
If you need help with offensive line drills or defensive line drills, check out Strong Football.
Additionally, make sure that your football practice plan is well organized during two-a-days to ensure that you maximize efficiency.