More for Less – Creating Drills to Maximize Practice Time

We constantly look to find efficiency in how we drill and practice. After initial teaching and installation, our drills move from working single skills to working multiple skills in order to get the most from the time we have available. Even in situations where we are trying to fix a recurring problem we saw on film, we will work other skills within the remedy drill, though the emphasis will be on fixing the problem.
I’ve been filming practice since my first high school head coaching job in 2000. At the time we did not have an editing system, but we were able to pull film clips and show our players when needed. For the most part, that film was for the coaches to evaluate how well we were teaching and getting the execution we needed from our players. We were able to see where we still needed to improve and design our practices accordingly. Today’s technology allows us to do much more in terms of not only using that film and information with our coaching staff, but also allows our players to view video of practice even immediately after a play. Here is an example of what can be done on the field to give immediate feedback to players. I am positive that this type of use of technology that can be seen in the video below from the University of Nebraska will be something that continues to grow within coaching.

If you have an iPad available, filming some of your individuals drills and showing a player right there on the field can give him both the feedback and the instruction he needs to execute a skill properly. An injured player, student manager, or even you as the coach can target a player or two, or you can film a drill and show exactly what you are looking for during a water break. There are many possibilities of what can be done to improve performance with immediate feedback. This is something we will be incorporating in camp and throughout the 2013 season. I will be sure to report back on what we found to be valuable teaching methods.

One tool that each coach has is a basic drill record. This is a list of skills and accompanying drills that each position is required to perform in our offense. The skill list record gives our coaches a visual of what their individual position is required to perform, and the frequency with which they have practiced it. It allows them to see the last time the skill was worked. As the coach modifies or combines drills to work more of these skills, he can check off more boxes on the drill record.

Wide Receiver Drill Record-2013

We keep a list of the combination drills on a separate sheet. Many times we modify or create new drills to work multiple skills. One example of an everyday drill is the “settle and noose” drill that many teams use, especially “Air Raid” teams. Credit for the drill goes to the air raid guys. I’ve seen different variations of this drill with a number of different teams. The version we like to start with involves using the following skills for wide receivers: stance and start, foot-fire, strike defender, two step break, and look-tuck-turn. The quarterbacks are given both a progression to work with their eyes and feet, a pocket presence movement, and they work on ball placement (away from the defender). A few clips of this drill can be seen below.

We expect our players to be attentive to not only their rep, but also the reps of the other receivers they are drilling with. If you stand by our drill, you will hear our receivers giving constant feedback to each other. We preach to our players that they should serve each other and make each rep their own, whether they perform it or not. The goal is perfection. Here is an example of our “settle and noose drill.”

The set-up of the “settle and noose” drill is used for multiple purposes. For example, in one particular practice this spring we saw multiple receivers perform their dig break incorrectly. Here is a still shot illustration and video pointing out to our receiver how not getting his hip open caused a drift up field and allows the defender to stay tight to him.

We always follow up any incorrect technique that we point out with the proper execution of the technique. Here is the video we used in our meeting. You will see how the proper break with the receiver throwing the inside hip open allows him to get separation from the defender.

The drill that we started the next practice with emphasized many of the same skills as the settle and noose; however, instead of working back and forth between the cans, we worked upfield to a line and broke perpendicular to the line to the point of exaggerating getting the hip open on the break. The emphasis was on the dig break, and the quarterbacks worked a route progression that had them scanning across and moving right or left in the pocket before throwing the ball.

Another spring practice left us unsatisfied with our spot routes. We used the first drill of practice to work on our spot routes as we were warming up. The “settle and noose” set-up was used again with a defender being added to the drill. Another receiver with a hand shield was used to simulate the defender. The receiver had to execute the proper escape move based on the defender’s technique. The receiver then would execute his break at the top of the stem. The quarterbacks work their drop back footwork with their eyes in this progression along with proper ball placement.

With variations to one drill set-up that we use every day, we are able to emphasize working multiple skills for both our receivers and quarterbacks. We are able to emphasize skills that we feel need the most attention based on what we see in evaluating our daily video of either practices or games. We are excited about the potential that technology gives us in providing immediate feedback. A quick remedy to a player’s skills and technique no longer needs to wait until tomorrow.

Whether that feedback is immediate or the next day, getting the most out of every minute in practice allows your team and players to reach their full potential.