With the Super Bowl fast approaching, I got to thinking about some Football. I've had this conversation in my head a million times, what would I do if I was in charge of a Football Program, more specifically a High School Football Program? What changes would I make to the traditional High School Football Program Protocols? Knowing what I know about training athletes as a Physical Preparation Coach, could I find areas to improve upon to build better systems?
I've spun this around in my head many times before and now I'm sharing this with you. This is how I'd prepare the team in the eyes of a Physical Preparation Coach!
This is all hypothetical and also as general as it gets, but read along and you'll see how some small adjustments, could go a long ways in improving player performance. What I'll be discussing in this Lifestyle Blog will be things I would change to help increase physical playing performances, most specifically under the Friday Night Lights! I won't be talking about which style of Offense I'd run, which coverage we'd be in on 3rd in long, or which play I'd call on 4th goal on the 1 yard line. I could tell you those, but I would be speaking from an unqualified angle. So I'll stay in my lane and stick to the physical performance side of things...
I want to share with you 3 Ideas that I would implement to help a High School Football Program improve playing performance. These are concepts and ideas that are coming straight from my world of Physical Preparation. I'm simply looking at Human Performance as I work through these ideas in my head. Again, these are general ideas for across the board for High School Football Programs!
Let's check them out!
1.) I'd Reschedule Weekly Practice Schedules
In my experience and current knowledge, majority of High School Football Programs practice Monday through Thursday, and play on Friday. Monday is usually a Walk Through style of practice, or at least an easier install day for the new week (if you lose, you'll probably do some punishment drills; another topic for another day). Tuesday and Wednesday are full pads and hard practices. And Thursday is a light practice to get game ready for Friday. This isn't necessarily a bad schedule, but I would tweak one thing around and elaborate on a couple things so that practices are structured with the idea in mind to improve Friday Night playing performance!
I would first make my schedule like this...
Monday - Hard Practice
Tuesday - Light Practice
Wednesday - Hard Practice
Thursday - Light Practice
Friday - Game Day: Friday Night Lights
Saturday - Recovery/Film
Sunday - Off
What I call a "Hard Day," I'm referring to a practice built around playing at FULL SPEED reps! I would give the athletes optimal rest periods so that they can actually RUN/MOVE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE every single rep during practice. We would focus more on Group and Team Sessions and emphasizing playing at full speed and executing like it's Friday Night. The goal would be to keep these practices short and sweet. Get in and get out. We could also schedule an In-Season Strength Training Program after these practices to maximize the Hard Day element by placing hardest stress variables on these days (this is another topic in of itself). The weight room workouts would be built around maintaining muscle strength and size but being friendly to the legs during the season.
What I call a "Light Day" for the Tuesday practice would be a day where the team focuses more on Individual Drills (drills that relate to Football Skills, more on this another day possibly), and a lot of teaching opportunities and things to clean up from Mondays practice heading into Wednesdays practice. A Tuesday night film session would be great post practice addition in this schedule!
At first glance, a coach may not be ideal to this type of practice, but we're essentially just flipping that original Monday and Tuesday practice around. We're doing this because by Monday, your athletes should be ready to run again after nearing the 72 hour mark since the game was played. And Tuesday, the idea is to let the body/legs recover so that we can come back and go FULL SPEED again for another practice on Wednesday! Coaches love to stress, "practice how you're going to play," this model will help instill that reality during the week!
Thursday, I would keep per usual with Pro Pads (helmets and shoulder pads) or Helmets only. This day would be a light day of course, but I'd focus on executing technique and player efficiency. I'd place position coaches on high demand that Thursdays, the players focus on position technique just as much as they would on what their responsibilities are! This practice should be short and no less than game situation rests between these plays. This is a light tune up practice, and it should look sharp and your athletes should be fresh after the practice. If it's done right, you're players should have more energy at the end of it than when they started.
Any Coach who understands Speed Concepts knows that you cannot replicate true Speed Work two days in a row. And by manipulating this schedule like this, we now can have 2 true speed practices and 1 game. This also equates to a great plan to execute 3 days of High Intensity Speed Work, which is also important to understand in training athletes to be fast!
By scheduling it this way, the athletes legs won't be dragging through the week and they will develop the ability to play as fast as they're meant to on Friday Night, if not faster than originally expected. The last thing you want is Football Athletes operating below 90% on Game Night. Anything below 90% is not considered their "A Game"...
Saturday, we'd watch film and we would go through Mobility Drills and Stretching. The goal is to hit full range of motions and stretch to relax the muscles. Some light power speed drills could be done to circulate the blood through their bodies.
Sunday is off and Monday we will be ready to practice again FAST!
2.) Build Off Season Preparation Around Speed
In the first idea, you read a lot about Speed. And get ready, because that's all we're talking about for this one as well. All coaches love the idea of putting fast athletes on the field. Especially in today's age of style of football. But, I see Off-Season Programs built around Body Building style workouts to just "Get Big." And we even see Strongman type workouts or Military Workouts to build "team bonding" and "toughness." I'm sorry, but those team bonding and toughness activities won't do the team any good when the other team is smoking by our athletes because our athletes are tough in the winter, spring, and summer months but unfortunately slow in the fall months :(
Running by pulling each other with bands, or throwing the foot ladder down on the ground to build "quick feet" isn't going to do the trick to create faster athletes!
Athletes need to be taught how to sprint! Sprinting is a skill that needs to be taught. If a football program has a bad off season program, the best thing they can have at their disposal is a good track program and hope to god that all of the skill athletes go out for the track team.
You may be asking, "Joel at your facility your athletes lift weights, this sounds different from what you do?"
And I'd say, "yes we strength train because it is a part of Speed Training and we train it with the intent to produce faster and healthier athletes out of my facility!" And we also do Speed Training Drills and we pair it alongside Strength Training all year long. It just happens in certain progressions. Same concepts I'd bring to a Football Program.
I'd be programming Sprint Work in often just like I do with my athletes. The team would perform Sprints, Jumps, and Throws for Dynamic Speed Work aka "Explosiveness." And we would utilize variations of Squats, Bench, Deadlift, Rows, and Ab Work as our primary focus to develop strength to create faster and healthier athletes!
3.) Totally Revamp Pre-Season Camp Schedule
If you're still reading but you think I sound crazy so far, hang on tight for this one. It's about to get a lot worse for you...
I'm not a fan nor comfortable of how August is handled for Football Teams. Two practices a day, 6 days a week. Everyday is basically a hard day of practice. And "camp legs" get created within days where it feels like you have 20 pound weights strapped to your legs...You better believe I'd do 3 things differently during camp for my athletes.
I know this is going to make you nervous if you're a true die hard Football Enthusiast (I am one as well), but please read on if you want to see Fast Athletes take the field and win games!
You're going to notice that in my way, there would be A LOT less Football Practicing than what we're used to seeing and understanding as normal...And in my world of developing and preparing athletes, Less in More is a very-very-very powerful tool to unlocking someones potential...
Make no mistake about it, I love hard work, dedication, and consistency more than anyone else! But I also love producing amazing results too! You can still have your cake and eat it too by just pulling back a little, in order to get a lot more from your athletes! This should be the new standard of "trust the process."
1.) I would only practice once a day. If there is a second session, it would be a walk through session for teaching.
2.) You know my Hard/Light Schedule I had for the season? I'd do this for Camp too. 3 "Hard Days" and 3 "Light Days" on rotation. No two Hard Days back to back.
3.) Because we get to cut down on so much of practice, we can spend more time in the Film Room, Weight Room, and also adding in some Recovery Sessions during the week so that the players are fresh, healthy, and performing at Top Speeds throughout the Pre-Season Practices!
Bonus: No end of practice sprints either. They shouldn't be needed when you have heavy concentrated loads of sport specific practice.
Again this may sound so counterproductive right now in your mind. You're thinking, "how will we be in shape for the season? We can't let other teams outwork us!"
"Trust the process" and read on...
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH: This is going to play out in our favor. While the other teams are "outworking our team" we will be fresh and fast while their kids are cramping and gassing out in the 3rd quarter. Our athletes will be "in shape" because we've been preparing to play at 90-100% while the other athletes from other programs are conditioning themselves to play at 60-90% during camp. When they're supposed to open it up and play, they're not conditioned to handle these outputs. Even worse, they're still going to be fatigued from their hard physically tough camp and won't be able to reach their full outputs until almost half of the season goes by. All across the board, many football teams do not look great until after Week 3. Like Vince Lombardi says, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all" and if our team comes out of camp fatigued and not prepared, the athletes WILL feel like cowards in the early weeks on the season with their bodies filled with fatigued from surviving camp!
By now, you can see that my changes would implement re-arranging and restructuring some elements in a Football Program. And I understand the resist that would be met originally with these ideas. That's because our eyes have got accustomed to watching football be done a certain way for so long. And these things aren't as visual to the traditional eye because almost every program is ran the same way, so we see the same results competing against each other every year.
Make no mistake about it, these changes would make life easier on all parties. Athletes would be able to produce better performances when the lights come on and Coaches would be able to get more out of their athletes as well as get to coach even more teaching opportunities. And I know I discussed a lot about athletes playing faster on Friday Nights, but if we could help manage fatigue better, I truly believe a lot of injuries would be heavily reduced all across the board!
Look, I grew up in North East Ohio, I still live here and if you look past some dwindling team numbers (at some schools) Football culture is just as strong as ever! We produce many great athletes out of this area as just as many elite coaches from this area too! This Lifestyle Blog was not meant to call out anyone, but instead realizing that almost every program is ran very similar to each others. It's a game built around tradition, in which I highly appreciate. But my goal moving forward is to challenge you to think outside of the box that football exists in and to see what other possibilities are available to produce even better and healthier athletes on Friday Nights! My goal is to only help make everyone else's jobs a little easier. Lets create an even better Football Tradition of High Performance!
If you have any questions or would like to speak more with me about Football Preparation, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss these details in much more in depth content!