One of the more popular drills for defensive linemen to show off their athletic ability is called “Running the Hoop.” This is a simple drill that applies to linemen at all levels. The heart of the drill is that the defender gets a great jump off the ball, beats the offensive linemen to the outside before bending back in towards the Quarterback. While many coaches run this drill well, where they struggle is teaching their players how it fits into game scenarios.
Running the Hoop: From Drill to Game
Understanding the drill and how to run it effectively is the first step in creating the skills that players will be able to translate into the game. To run this drill correctly you will need a large hoop. While they are available online, we have had success using irrigation tubing and taping it together to make a large hoop.
We really like to create a progression so that our players not only know the drill but can feel what it is training their bodies to do. This progression is very simple and start with an easy drill that helps players learn how to bend their bodies. We start by putting two hoops about 3 yards apart from each other and having one player in the middle with another on the edge of one. On the coaches call the player in the middle will run away from the player on the other side of the first hoop by running a figure 8 around both hoops. On the whistle the roles will switch and the player that was being chased will now chase the other one.
While this is a very simple drill, and one that players tend to love, it’s the perfect buildup for starting to apply running the hoop to the game. What players should be feeling as they are running figure 8’s through the hoops is how their body is bending in towards the center of the hoop. Lots of times kids will do this on their own without having to think about it. Once their bodies have started to do this, you can explain it to them and then have them do the drill again looking to feel their body’s movement.
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On the next stage of the drill we will add the get off out of a stance to the drill. Players will align on a ball on one edge of the hoop. When the ball moves, they will burst forward and run around the hoop and finish on the same line that they started on, just on the opposite side of the hoop. The key coaching points here are to get players to feel their body bending and staying tight to the hoop. As players become more advanced, you should add in some hand fighting as they start to bend the hoop to simulate getting past the linemen.
The last component is getting players to translate the movement into the game. For this you want to explain to the players the concept and how it should relate to the drill that they just did. Where most players tend to struggle is that they start to run the hoop right at the snap of the ball. This causes them to turn right into the blocker and they never gain an advantage. Instead they must burst vertical to get even with the blocker. Once they are even with the blocker they can start to bend their path in and start moving towards the Quarterback.
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Running the Hoop is a classic drill that tends to suffer from overuse. The major reason why coaches struggle with making this drill effective is that they only do it because it’s what their coach did with them. As a result, they do not understand the purpose of the drill and how to teach it’s relation to the game. When you are teaching a drill, it’s not just important to run the drill correctly, you also must show how the drill applies to the game and where the skills can be put into play.