Basic Skills and Practice Drills for Youth Football
For a winning and grinning youth football team, your players need to learn the basic skills for offense, defense and special teams. Offensive skills include blocking, passing, receiving and ball handling, and defensive skills involve tackling, containing, pursuing and covering. Special teams can practice kicking and returning kicks.
Blocking With a Dummy
If you don’t want your quarterback to get sacked, you need a strong offensive line with good blocking skills. You can use drills to teach your linemen different types of blocks, such as the crab, hip and drive blocks. For example, begin a crab-block drill by having the player crouch into a four-point stance -- a staggered stance on the balls of the feet with knees slightly bent. Both arms should touch the ground and align under or just in front of the player’s shoulders. Have a blocking dummy -- an adult holding a pad in front of his stomach -- stand 3 feet in front of the player. On a "go" command, have the player charge at the dummy, aiming for the dummy’s stomach. Then have the player slide under the dummy’s legs and raise his back up. A 15-minute practice session can instruct players how to tie up opponents with a crab block.
Quarterbacks and Passing
If you want your quarterbacks to pass the ball with accuracy while scrambling for dear life, you can do a variety of passing drills. These drills can also improve a player's wrist snap and release on a throw. For example, begin a drill to help your quarterbacks develop strong arms and wrist snaps by having two groups of players line up in two rows at 10 yards apart. Group one should face group two. All players should kneel on their throwing leg. Have the group-one players each place a football on the ground in front of themselves and then take hold of their balls with only their throwing hands. Have them lift the balls up and then bend their elbows to cock the balls behind their heads. Have them throw their balls to their partners in group two. Exaggerating the follow-through, they should draw their hands to the ground. Have each player perform 12 reps to complete the drill.
Honing Reaction for Defense
Young players have a natural instinct to defend their turf and the goal line. You can do drills that take advantage of this instinct and instruct your players how to force, contain, pursue and cover. For example, tackling is one of the most important skills for a young player. If he can’t take the ball-carrier down, he may as well call it quits. Begin a front-on tackling drill by dividing your players into two groups -- ball carriers and tacklers. Have the groups form two vertical lines that oppose each other. On a go command, the first ball carrier and the first tackler should charge at each other at 50 percent of full speed. When the tackler approaches within 5 yards of the ball carrier, he should launch off of his left foot and hit the ball carrier with his left shoulder pad for a tackle. Remind your defensive players to keep their gaze up, avoiding a tackle with their helmets. After each pair -- ball carrier and tackle -- has taken a turn, have your players switch lines and positions and then repeat the drill.
The Kicking Game
By practicing kicks and kick returns, your special teams can score points during a game as well as turn a losing game around. For example, a kickoff drill begins by having your kickers put their plant foot 3 inches behind and 6 inches outside of the tee. Instruct players to push their hips forward to lead the kick. Their kicking leg should swing forward with a high arc with their kicking knee leading their foot. Their ankle should be extended with their toes pointed. The instep of their kicking foot should impact just below the ball’s middle. For the drill, have players practice the kicking motion without the ball a few times and then do a few kicks focusing on form. Then, have them do three of four kicks in which they attack the ball and kick it downfield. In addition, place kickoff return players in position to return the ball.
- Youth Football Drills and Plays Handbook; Bob Swope
- Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Football; Jim Dougherty and Brandon Castel
- Teach’n Beginning Offensive Football Drills, Plays, and Games Free Flow Handbook; Bob Swope
- Human Kinetics: Practice Drills for Building a Tenacious Football Defense
- Youth Football Tips: Special Team Drills
- Football Tutorials: 4 Simple Drills for Better Special Teams Play
- USA Football: Technique -- Kicking Off
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.