This is Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

My favorite practice of the week is Thursday (before a Friday game).  I like this practice because I really like to see the final product, what we’ve been working on all week, come to fruition.  I guess it isn’t really the FINAL product until Friday night, but you know what I mean!

This was on a Thursday practice in 2003, at Linfield Christian. One of our players had cancer; in a show of support, the rest of the team decided to shave their heads!

Traditionally, this is called your “walk thru” practice.  A final time for the team to literally walk thru their scripts for the game.  A time to fine tune anything that didn’t go as planned during the week.  This practice is your last chance to make adjustments to what you want to do to your opponent, and a good way to do that is literally walking through with your players what their specific assignments are.

Like a lot of teams do these days, I like to dress out the kids in helmet only, game jerseys, shorts and cleats.  (See the picture above to see what my teams usually look like on Thursdays.)  There isn’t any contact on this day, so I don’t see a point in wearing the pads. If the kids start to get to squirly because their pads are off, which I’ve had teams do, we will put them back in their pads until we have the focus we need to have on Thursdays.

This practice should be all about “mental reps.”

We preach that to the kids.  Don’t just come out here and go through the motions, but use each rep you get to mentally think through what your assignment tomorrow night is.  You don’t have to do much physically today, so use your brains even more!

Here is what my practice will look like:

PART 1 –  Special Teams Rosters

I’m a Special Teams freak!  I love them!  If I had to pick just one thing to coordinate on the football team, it would be Special Teams.  I think that a lot of games can be won and lost in this crucial aspect of the game, and I really believe that a lot of coaches, at the high school level specifically, overlook this crucial element of the game.  Remember, it is ONE THIRD of the game!

We meet under the goalpost for Special Teams rosters.  I will literally write down the name of every single kid on every Special Team.  Not many coaches do this at the high school level.  The great ones do.  How many times does a kid go down in a game, and nobody remembers that he is on one, two or three special teams.  All of a sudden, you are missing someone on the Punt team, and you find out your long snapper is on the doctor’s table.  Not good!

a.  So we go through slowly and deliberately every team.  All of the kids line up on the      end line shoulder to shoulder.  I stand on the 5 yard line with my staff.

b.  I call out “Kickoff Team.”  The entire team then yells out “Kickoff Team” to show that they are participating, they are active listeners.  I might say it three of four times!

c.  The kids on the Kickoff Team then jog out to the goal line.  They have been on the Kickoff Team all year, that is if there are no injuries!  But we do this EVERY Thursday!

d.  I have my Special Teams roster from last week with me, and go right down the list.     I will call out the positions on the Kickoff Team: “R1” – the player is supposed to say “here.”  I make sure it is the right player.  “R2” and so on down the list.

e.  Inevitably, a kid will not go out there, and he will say “Coach, you pulled me off on Tuesday because I wasn’t sprinting.  Joey took my place.”  Joey forgot about this because he only took a few reps at it this week maybe, and he isn’t used to being on this Special Team.  So, we need to get Joey out there on the goal line, to remind him he is on the team!

f.  Once we have all 11 kids out there on the goal line, and their names are all correct on my sheet, I will bring them together and remind them of a few important items for that week, and for that specific Special Team.  For instance, “Remember to stay in your lanes gentlemen.  Trust each other to do their job.  Remember (kicker’s name) we aren’t kicking to #2 this week.  He is on the right side.  Just like all week, kick it left, stay away from #2.  Any questions?”

g.  Then we go on to the next team.  The entire process should take no more than 5-7 minutes.

PART 2 –  Practicing the Walk Out and Spell Out

Since I went to the National Championship Game at the Fiesta Bowl to watch my Miami Hurricanes battle the Ohio State Buckeyes in one of the great college football games of all time back in 2002, I have used the Buckeyes walkout.  I really loved seeing them all walk out arm in arm.  Of course, it looks a lot better with 100+ guys!  But I have my kids line up shoulder to shoulder on the goal line, and walk out, locked arm in arm.  Brothers in arms taking the field.

We do this as part of our Pre Game Routine once the linemen join us on the field, after the Special Teams guys, quarterbacks, etc. have done some warming up.  It’s kind of our final trigger mechanism that “all systems are go baby, it’s game time!”  I’ve done this at different times, but usually, for a 7:00 pm game, it happens right around 6:32.

The guys all walk out arm in arm, to the 50 yard line, and then they turn around and sprint to their stretching lines.  In order for this to look really sharp, we have to practice it.  So, we spend some time doing this every Thursday.

Here is what the finished product looks like, from two different schools.

Linfield Christian, 2003.
Capistrano Valley Christian, 2008.

PRACTICE AGENDA DAY BEFORE GAME PART2 will be posted tomorrow.