The Offseason—Getting in Shape
The game of football requires enormous physical effort, and it can give your body a bit of a beating. You must be in good shape to play any kind of football, and the higher the level of your game, the more speed, strength, endurance, and flexibility you must develop.
A high school football player cannot spend all summer just lying on the beach and playing video games. Someone who does so will likely not make it through the first practice, let alone any games.
A high school coach will usually give the players a summer workout program that will gradually build up the players’ fitness. The idea is to come into preseason practices ready to play hard.
Offseason workouts include lots of running and weightlifting. The team might come in all together a couple of times per week for their workouts. Players who go on long vacations or who do special summer trips can still run, do pushups and sit-ups, and find a place to do weightlifting occasionally.
The summer is the time when many colleges offer camps to help players develop their skills. These may last a couple of days or as long as a week. The college's coaching staff often runs these camps. They show the players drills, films, and conditioning exercises that will help them develop into better players.
The camps can be a chance to compete against and practice with top players from other schools. By the end of the camp, everyone has a pretty good idea of what he can do well, which skills still need improvement, and who the really, really good players are.
A great way for a team to improve together over the summer is to play in a 7-on-7 league or to attend a 7-on-7 camp. Sure, it's important to develop individual skills, but it's even more crucial to play with your teammates in competitive situations. In a 7-on-7 game, quarterbacks can practice reading coverages and can learn how their receivers will react to different defenses. Defensive backs can practice not just one-on-one defense, but can be part of an entire coverage scheme.
If you're playing a game, then what you're doing feels like more than just practice. A great play can actually score a touchdown, just as in a real football game, and a mistake may cost points. The team is practicing under nearly real game conditions.
What Is 7-on-7?
In a 7-on-7 drill, the offensive and defensive lines are removed so the team can focus just on the passing game. The defense plays with three linebackers and four defensive backs; the offense gets a center, five running backs or receivers, and a quarterback.
The Tip Drill
One of the defenders’ favorite drills is called the tip drill. In one version, the coach throws a pass to a running receiver, who deliberately misses the catch and tips the ball in the air. The defenders have to catch the ball for an interception. If they can't catch the ball cleanly, they're taught to try to keep the ball in the air. Defenses love interceptions, and they can make an interception on every play of this drill.
When the team is faced with a truly real game in the fall, they will know how to react. They will have confidence in their teammates and in themselves, hopefully leading to a few extra wins.
Right Before the Season
Words to Know
TWO-A-DAYS: Preseason practice is sometimes called two-a-days because a team usually practices two times every day.
READ STEP: A linebacker's first job is to stop the run. So, a linebacker's first step should be TOWARD the line of scrimmage—this is the read step. Only if he's sure it's a passing play should the linebacker drop back to cover receivers.
The team gets together for two weeks or so of preseason practice. The coaching staff usually has two goals for this time:
Teach the team how plays are called and what to do on each play.
Improve players’ techniques so everyone becomes a better player at his position.
To accomplish these goals, many different teaching tools might be used. For example, the team might have classroom meetings with a chalkboard and notebooks to explain how some plays are supposed to work. On another day, the team might watch video of a college team executing these plays successfully. Sometimes it's useful to watch video of yesterday's practice to show who ran the plays correctly or incorrectly.
Football Great: Reggie White
Reggie, a defensive end nicknamed the Minister of Defense, lived all of his early life in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He went to the Howard School of Academics and Technology for high school and the University of Tennessee for college. His NFL career included dominant years with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers.
On the field, a chunk of practice is devoted to skill development with the position coaches During this time, the players run drills that help them practice a technique. For example, quarterbacks may work on hitting a target or on reading the safeties and throwing away from them. Linebackers may repeatedly practice taking a read step and dropping into coverage.
Another big chunk of preseason practice time is devoted to rehearsing plays. The offense might start by running the plays on air, meaning that they just go through what they're supposed to do without any defense around. Next, a few managers or second-string players might hold pads and stand where defenders might be. Eventually, the offense knows the plays well enough to run them against a live defense.