How To Create & Run Football Drills

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

Drills are the foundation of any sport. In football, doing proper drills that translate to the game helps players develop the necessary skills and techniques.

In order to build an effective practice schedule, you should have your drills planned out the night before practice. But what drills are necessary to run? What are good drills and how do you teach them?

We’re going to answer all of these questions and more in this article.

Creating Football Drills

When creating or running football drills, with any player at any age, there are a few things to keep in consideration. The key points that we list below have been tested with youth and high school athletes, and are proven to help keep players engaged and develop skills.

Direct Correlation To The Game

This is one of the biggest mistakes coaches make when developing drills or even copying drills they see online. You have to ask yourself the question: Does this drill correlate to the game?

A lot of times, coaches will create drills because it looks cool or because they can have hard collisions to post on social media.

An example of a drill that relates to the game is a movement or activity that will appear in a game scenario. For instance, punching the sled is great for teaching players how to use their hands. However, in a game, the player will face someone who will move and give a hard opposite force toward the player hitting it.

If you don’t have progressions off your drills (which will talk about further down the article), you are not directly relating them to the game.

Decrease The Numbers Of Players Standing In Line

Another mistake coaches make when developing drills is they have too many players standing around. If you’re a youth coach, you’ve probably gotten pretty frustrated with kids fooling around in line.

The way to prevent this is to have no more than 3-4 players in line. Shorter lines mean 2 things:

  • More reps
  • Less time to talk talk and fool around

More reps are crucial because it means the player is getting more work and is engaged. Lines that are 10-12 players deep, often mean fewer reps and more time to fool around. Space out your players, keep them moving, and keep the lines short.

Shorten The Time

Are your drills 15 minutes long? Imagine doing one thing for 15 minutes straight. Even as an adult, it’s very hard to do. If you have one drill where the player just hits the sled for 15 minutes. It can get very tiring and very boring.

Remember, we live in a short-form world, where attention spans need to constantly be engaged.

Schedule your periods anywhere from 5-7 minutes before moving to the next drill. This will allow the players to stay engaged and moving.

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Developing Drills

When developing drills, I like to take the approach of “crawl, walk, and run.” This means we are approaching every technique or skill in 3 phases.

Individual Drills

Starting with individual drills, these periods should be slowed down. We call this the crawl phase because it needs to be taught at a slow pace.

For example, if you’re introducing tackling to your players, you shouldn’t start with a head-on tackling drill. You should introduce the players to approach, shoulder contact, how to wrap and drive your legs, and so on.

This phase is very important because it allows players to understand techniques and ask the appropriate questions. Treat it as such.

Group Drills

Group drills, also known as combo periods, allow players to get the feel of a group setting, without having to go 11 vs 11. For example, if you have your quarterbacks and wide receivers together, you can get a feel for timing.

Players will work on the skills and techniques they learned in the previous individual periods but at a faster pace.

Another example would be for defensive tackles to work against offensive linemen. The drill is controlled but also simulates a game-like scenario.

Here is an example from the Oakland Raiders. Notice they don’t need 11 players to run this drill, but rather the Linebackers and defensive line can get work on the defensive side of the ball. In addition, the offensive can focus on working to one side of the football to develop their front-side attack.

Team Drills

The “run” phase would be a full-out team period.

This means going completely live (tackling or no tackling, completely up to you), and mimicking the game as close as you possibly can.

A good way to treat a team period is with situations. For example, you should practice:

  • Down and distance situations (1st and 10, 2nd and 4, 3rd and 1, etc.)
  • Field zone situations (Goal Line, Mid Field, or Opponents Goal Line)
  • Scoring situations (winning or losing and by how much)

Team drills should be a high-intensity part of practice, so players can closely align with the chaos during the actual game. Substitutions should be made, coaches should call or signal plays in, and players should loudly communicate on defense.

Create A Drill Library

Now that you have an idea of what kind of drills should be run, along with the different types of drills, start to build a drill library.

What’s a drill library?

It’s a way to organize all of your drills. That way when you need to work on a specific technique, you can open your drill library and pull the necessary drills out.

We recommend using Powerpoint, or even a Word document to organize all of your drills with a description attached. We’re currently working on a solution for this. If you have any interest in trying out an alpha version of our drill tool, simply send an email to [email protected]

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.