Working in the Margins

How to steal Pre Practice time as a Receiver Coach

At Kutztown University our wide receiver individual period invests a minimum of ten to fifteen minutes each day on ball security and perimeter blocking skill development. That does not leave much time for injecting ball skills into the practice time during individual periods. However, our practice prototype mandates a daily scheduled and planned pre-practice block of time that is aimed at ball skills. We want our blocking and ball security drills to be game speed intensity and competitive, so we do those after stretch. Ball skills can be developed during pre-practice time and during one period of individual. Our receivers will stretch as a unit, then we transition to our various pre-practice ball drills. Those drills are designed for a large group of receivers to get reps in a variety of situations. It’s the ‘bad ball drill’ on steroids. Within many of these drills we will also emphasize contested catch, ball security and restricted vision elements. If receivers view pre-practice as punishment it won’t be an effective use of time. After we get through the planned drills for that day’s pre-practice, we get them a drink before team stretch and remind them what we accomplished in ten minutes simply by being organized and professional about our work. Four drills we will outline in this article are some of our staple pre-practice drills.

The Back Hip drill as shown above gets players warmed up, yet still targets a specific skill. The receiver takes off and runs five yards and looks at six yards. The ball should be placed on the hip closest to the coach who is throwing. This simulates a flat route that the QB was late on or a handcuffed scenario.

Horizontal ball drill as shown above is another staple of our pre-practice routine. This drill simulates a very common scenario with the receiver running a crossing route and the ball being thrown behind the receiver. The key coaching point is to open up the back hip and try and get both hands on the football. The other item to emphasize is to have the receiver not stare at the coach throwing the ball the entire time. It is not realistic to stare at the quarterback/coach the entire time.

Three man slant as shown above is a high rep pre-practice drill. It simulates a contested slant route. The inside player serves as the harassment element. The middle player is the receiver and the outside player attacks the ball. This is a good drill for large groups of players and forces receivers to make contested catches and secure the ball.

Three man duck drill as shown above is another quick hitting, easy to organize, hi rep, large group pre-practice drill. Three receivers run in a tight line toward the coach. The first receiver has his arms up and ducks as the ball is thrown at him. The second receiver extends arms and catches the throw. Receiver three tries to strip the ball out. Three man duck is a distraction drill and ball security drill rolled into one. Make sure the three receivers stay close together, otherwise the drill will not be as effective.

Developing an organized pre-practice drill routine can be a nice way to augment your individual periods. Pre-practice can be both a dynamic warmup and a skill building opportunity. It is important to have a big picture plan and be organized. We are always looking for new ways to steal time during the allotted NCAA hourly limits. We will do seventy-five percent of our ball skill work during pre-practice and save the remaining twenty-five percent for specific targeted individual period drills. We hang our hats on securing the ball and blocking the edge, so our individual period must reflect those priorities. However with a daily plan that works ‘in the margins’ of the practice schedule, it is possible to cover all the fundamentals every day.

By: Steve Heck and Matthew Pirolli

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