Youth Football Speed Training
One of the biggest lies I hear young coaches tell players is that you can’t teach speed. To me, speed is like any other muscle, if you train it right, you can improve on it. For example, I have seen college football athletes come out of school and participate in CFL (Canadian Football League) tryouts that don’t know the basic techniques of running.
Just knowing and doing the basic techniques will make you a tenth of a second faster. This is not just technique used by track and field athletes but they can be used on the gridiron as well. This technique is now being taught at the collegiate level because of the number of athletes that do not know the basics of running.
The first thing to understand is that the shoulders move the legs. The faster you move the shoulders, the faster you will move the legs. Have your athletes start in a standing position with their arms in an “L” position where their elbows are at a 90 degree angle. First teach them the movements in a simulated stance. By swinging their arms back and forth and never breaking the 90 degree angle. The hands should swing from the chin to the waist in a very fluid manner with the elbows close to the body.
Coaching Note: Do not allow the athletes break the 90 degree angle with their arms or swing their arms away from their body. This will cause a wasted motion and will slow them down.
Once you feel that the athletes have this motion down while standing still, have them now put it together in a slow walk. As the front foot steps, the opposite arm should be up and the hand at their chin and back hand is at their waist. Walk 10-15 yards doing this so they can see what it looks and feels like while going slow.
Coaching Note: This is the most critical stage, if they don’t see how it is supposed to look and feel like, then they will never pick up the motion.
Finally, you speed things up. Have the athletes do high knees while swinging their arms in the correct manner for 5-10 yards, then do a burst and sprint for another 5-10 yards. You can also have them run in place then burst and sprint for 5-10 yards. The point is to get the athletes to work this drill as much as possible.
Coaching Note: This drill can be also used while teaching wide receivers the shuffle step then burst past the Defensive Backs. This drill also helps all Defensive players on their explosion drills.
Like I said before, this is the most basic concept for youth football speed training. If this drill is taught correctly, it could pay off huge dividends in the athlete’s future. It is said that if you practice something 1000 times, then it becomes a habit. At the youth level, if you teach this drill every day for 3-5 minutes, you will see a huge difference in the way the athletes play.
By Coach Andy Bryson
Coach Andy was an intern coach at LSU and was an assistant defensive line coach for SLU.