Defensive Back Drills
A New Take on the W Drill
One of the most critical parts of playing Defensive Back is the ability to stay in a good stance during backpedals and being able to quickly change direction. There are a variety of different theories on the best way to train using football drills, this but we believe in keeping things as simple as possible for the players so they can focus on playing fast.
One of the best drills for practicing breaks is the W Drill. This is a classic defensive back drill that has been used for years to help players improve their ability to change direction. Many times the drill is done in a full effort pattern where the players are going full speed on all parts of the drill. Another variant for the drill is the length of the break and drop. Some coaches will use a longer drop and break to work conditioning while others will make the drill smaller to focus specifically on foot speed.
While the Traditional setup is a good drill that has many positives there are two major downfalls. The first comes from players using maximal effort the whole time.
If players are working at 100% effort the whole time there are two things that can easily happen:
The first one is that they will fatigue and their breaks will not be as sharp. While part of the purpose of drills is to build conditioning and practice techniques when players are tired, technique drills are not the ideal time to work on conditioning. There are a million great drill that can develop conditioning but it’s not something that the W Drill is designed to do. Instead what eventually happens is that players develop poor habits and techniques that carry over to the game.
The other problem with the traditional W Drill is that players seem to focus on the ground waiting for the cone to tell them to break forward. This is the exact opposite of what they need to be doing in a game. In the game they should be looking forward and reading their keys so that when they decide to make a break they can attack and make a play on the ball.
The New W DB Drill
The way we do the W Drill is a little different and it addresses these two issues better than the traditional W Drill. The downside is that it isn’t variable in length and doesn’t serve as a conditioning drill. We use other, more specific, drills to address those concerns. In our version of the youth football W Drill each player will backpedal for what they think is about 5 yards. After they have reached 5 yards they will burst on an angle to the next cone. The distance is not a major concern so we don’t harp on it much. It should be somewhere between 3 and 6 yards but the point isn’t to make sure they hit exactly 5 yards. This takes away the players focusing on depth and lets them focus on making a great break.
The other thing that we do is take away the speed from the backpedal section of the drill. In the backpedal section of the drill the player will go about 50-60% of their full speed but instead focus on their technique. This allows them to make sure their backpedal technique is perfect and also lets them put more energy into making an explosive break.
The area where we focus our attention is the break. We want to come out of the break as fast as possible. We don’t spend too much time on specific techniques, especially during the season, so our energy both as a coaching staff, and for the players, is making sure this break receives maximum attention and has full effort.
There are very few times where there is a specific right and wrong way of doing things. Instead most things have strengths and weaknesses. We use our version of the W Drill because it addresses our concerns better than the Traditional W Drill. When selecting drills it’s important to understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the drills you are doing and to pick the specific drills that address what you need to work on. We don’t believe our W Drill is perfect, we just feel like it does a better job of addressing our goals for the drill. By Coach David Weitz
(See also) Man to Man Coverage Tips