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- By Darryl Page
With spring practice just around the corner for many programs, here are a few things that if you teach and emphasize in the spring, it will pay off in the fall.
Spring football practice is one of the most important periods for any high school football program. I know that in some states, there is no spring practice (I couldn’t imagine). However, here in South Carolina, it starts on May 1st, and it is critical to what we do. It is a time of teaching. Teaching the what, when, where, how, and why of football to high school aged kids. That point (high school aged kids who think like high school kids) has to be considered in all that you do in spring practice.
Many staffs have been to clinics, studied film pulled from YouTube, and have visited spring practices at colleges throughout the country. From those excursions, staffs have a ton of notes and ideas that they want to implement. Go back to the previous paragraph and note the bold type. Just because it looked easy at Clemson or Alabama, doesn’t mean that it will be easy for your kids. Clemson and Alabama got “dudes” that you probably don’t have. With that in mind, I have created a Spring Practice Checklist. It is not a spring practice guide, but it is a reminder of what spring practice should be about (it’s a little time between spring practice and a real game). Create a timeline, re-examine it daily, and tweak when necessary.
1. Establish Discipline:
If you don’t have this in your program, you are setting yourself up for failure. Kids have to understand that there are “consequences (either positive or negative) for every action”. Rules are established during this time, and punishment is dispersed accordingly. The quicker that this is established, the teaching environment is set. Point of emphasis: it has to run throughout the program (from the head coach on down). Not one kid should think that he can go to this coach or that coach, and be allowed to do something different from what has been clearly stated. This is where you “prepare the ground for planting”!
“Everyone must choose one of two pains: The pain of discipline, or the pain of regret”
2. Establish Routine :
Can’t be emphasized enough. Everything starts with this. Routine includes: classroom time, daily practice (stretch, pre-practice, individual periods, special teams periods, tempo periods, tackling, key reading, etc.). This list could go on forever. Your job as a coach is to teach/train your kids. Regardless of what many so called “experts” think, kids appreciate routine. It helps them make good decisions. You can include such things as properly putting on equipment (you will be surprised at the number of kids who don’t know how), the way that the locker is expected to be kept, the proper attire for practice (there are not many kids who don’t own black shorts and white t-shirts), and reading and understanding the practice schedule (can be an adventure for the kid who is out for football for the very first time).
3. Offensive Emphasis:
The focus of your offense for spring practice should be establishing fundamentals at all positions. That includes, but is not limited to: getting into a proper stance, understanding the language (A gap, 3 technique, stem, outside release, hat reads, key reads, deep half, flats, swim, rip, kickstep, etc,). If this is a kid’s first year playing football, just those few terms can seem like a foreign language. We have not even touched on signals and indicators. Just the volume of terminology can be overwhelming. KISS is the best way. Give it to each position a little at a time. Make sure that they can digest it all, and then give them a little more. I can’t overemphasize the importance of a planned out calendar. Plan your work, and work your plan! Some of these can be included in your EDD (everyday drills) OL- stance, alignment of the down defenders, pass protection technique, constant foot movement, where the ball is going on run plays, whether you are on the playside or the backside, and base run plays. RB- stance, alignment, blocking (run and pass), fits in pass protections, ball security, base run plays, swing routes, and blitz alerts. WR- stance, alignments, formations, blocking out in space, proper route running, and identifying coverages. QB- this list would be too long. This young man will be the leader of your offense, and he needs to know what you know. You should have a fundamental period with him daily (if only for 10 minutes). Good quarterbacks are developed from the “neck up” He has to spend from 5-10 minutes in what I call “grid period” (run plays on air with the RB’s; great time to emphasize the fakes that he will use.). He has to throw the ROA vs. air (I like it against cans or cones; so that the QB’s can see where the defenders are supposed to drop).
4. Defensive Emphasis :
DL- stance, alignments, gaps, TACKLING, how to handle the double team, how to use his hands, attacking the offensive lineman (half a man), and his alignment in all of the base defenses. LB- stance, alignments, TACKLING, run fits in each defense, key reads, the alignments of everyone in the front 7 of every defense, pass drops, PURSUIT and ANGLES TO THE BALL, and identifying offensive formations. DB- stance, alignments in each coverage, TACKLING, PURSUIT and ANGLES TO THE BALL, knowing each coverage , knowing offensive formations, key reads.
5. Special Teams:
Often overlooked in spring practice (big mistake). 1⁄3 of football involves some form of special teams. Assign a minimum of 2 coaches to teach fundamentals of special teams (with at least 2 more serving as the assistants). Play your best players on special teams (be at least 2 deep at every position on every special team. Practice those kids in those positions, and move special teams to the early part of practice (so kids can see how important it is to you).
Find those kids who can run, yet are big enough and strong enough to make a real difference in special teams. Give those teams “nicknames” (for example, the KO team can be called “the bomb” squad- we blow sh*t up (feel free to change that).
Put the kickers and punters in pressure situations daily (field goal to win it at the end, an onside kick, punting out of the end zone, just to name a few).
This is not a “be all to end all” in regards to spring practice. Not once was installing a whole playbook ever mentioned. Teach the kids the fundamentals, because fundamentals will win for you a whole lot more than a double pass or a trick play. Have a great spring coaches!
This article was written by Darryl Page. Check out his CoachTube page here.