I hate conditioning. Always have. I hated it as a player and believe it is a waste of time as a coach. We only have so many minutes with our players on the practice field and every one needs to be used to better prepare players for gameday. Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the benefits of cardiovascular conditioning, and recognize the endurance and resilience necessary for a team’s success, but it should happen throughout the 2.5 hours of practice with football related skills and drills. It should not be done during the last 10-15 minutes with torturous sprints or long distance runs translating poorly to increased athletic performance on the football field and demoralizing kids while leaving a poor last impression of practice. Moreover, it should not be one size fits all. Asking offensive linemen to do the same conditioning as defensive backs is unfair, impractical, and yield sub-optimal results for both.
Up tempo drills focusing on acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and lateral movement should be incorporated into every position group. On defense, they should be done with reaction to a stimulus. On offense, drills reinforcing technique and schemes with a work to rest ratio of 1:5 can simulate drives at every position. Integrating both cardiovascular exertion with decision making is far more like the on field realities we need our student athletes able to face.
My long-time friend, Todd Zimmerman, who coaches the offensive line at Florida state champion Atlantic High School, recently shared what he does with his “Bigs.” He calls it “Learning & Burning.” He scripts 10 plays, places the ball on the -20 and runs them 8 yards at a time moving the ball from hash to hash all the way to the endzone then has the 2nd OLine do the same sequence coming back. All while he confirms line calls, steps, assignments, and expects decisions and communications throughout. Again, combining physical and mental endurance yields the most game-like simulation, and ultimately the greatest benefits.
When we make our players run we always make it fun. New coach to our staff, Kirk Becker, who brings a background in physical education to us from Illinois, shared a game called Sharks and Minnows. Everyone lines up on the sideline (Minnows) as if they were going to do Gassers (everyone’s least favorite activity) with 3 players (Sharks) in the middle of the field. When the whistle blows, the minnows have to get across the field while eluding the sharks. If they get tagged, they become sharks. The last minnow is the winner.
Incorporating skill development and competition to achieve conditioning causes individuals to work harder, better prepares players for gameday, and builds teams. That is the best use of our 2.5 hours.
Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!