It’s hot. The sun is blazing down. Coaches are yelling and heads are spinning trying to absorb all the information coming into the helmet. The pads are heavy and uncomfortable. The cleats are old. Flat out, many times players just don’t want to be on the practice field. Football is that one rare sport where the amount of practice time is significantly more than the amount of actual game time. It’s that rare sport which requires so much situational attention, attention to detail and cohesiveness. But, how do coaches get players to lock in for two and a half hours, sometimes more? How do coaches make practice, which is not fun…fun? How crucial is “energy and tempo?”
Good teams tend to have good practices. Great teams create tempo and endorse energy at practice which carries over to the games. Over the years we have been able to travel and observe so many different high school football practices and one thing is consistent with the really good teams…Their practice energy is not by accident. It is created, promoted and contagious throughout the players.
Down south at Braden River, head football coach Curt Bradley has molded his young program into one of the most successful and consistent programs in all of the BCP area. After one win in his first season, Bradley and his Pirates have won no less than 9 games a season the last three years. “Tempo at practice is set by the coaching staff and the offense. If the offense has a sense of urgency in getting lined up then that forces the defense to have that same sense of urgency. Competition makes practice fun, knowing that the next guy is ready to take your starting position forces everyone to perform and give great effort” – Curt Bradley, Braden River
Coming off a 6A state championship game performance and a 13 win season in his first year as a head coach, Lake Gibson’s Dough Demyer knows how to run a crisp, high tempo practice. “Our energy at practice starts with the coaching staff. Coaching staff is very competitive and that carries over to the kids. We have competition drills everyday such as tug of war, races, main event, making clutch field goals, downing punt inside 10 yard line. There is a punishment (push ups, down ups) for losing group. Practice is designed to have short 5 to 10 minute periods before moving on to next item at hand. If kids aren’t moving from point A to point B at necessary pace, whole team can be punished. We do many one on one drills without taking anyone to ground. Kids are pushed mentally and physically everyday.” – Doug Demyer, Lake Gibson
Plant and Armwood are always littered with college coaches and spectators. One could attend these practices for entertainment value alone. Both practices ran extremely different. But, their success is much of the same. The attitude of the players on the field comes across as if there is a point to be proven all the time. It shows on the practice field. Plant head football coach Robert Weiner had this to say about the energy his team practices with. “Energy and what we call ‘pulse’ are always crucial elements of a successful practice for us. We use music at practice every day, along with creatively scheduling competitive periods and constantly tweaking the way in which we approach the same skills.” – Robert Weiner, Plant
“Well, starts with coaches having positive energy in meetings before practice. We need to establish enthusiasm also in pre practice and warm ups.” Those words are from East Lake head football coach Bob Hudson who has established his program as one of the premier programs in Pinellas County. “If things aren’t moving with pace and excitement you need to mix it up. Yesterday we were flat so I called the stretch captains over and basically challenged them to set the example and pick up the enthusiasm in their position groups.” Now watch this. Again, another commonality with winning teams…”We design little competitions where they [players] have a chance to get excited and create game type atmospheres in drills against each other and in team segments.” – Bob Hudson, East Lake
Done. No fancy conclusion. No smooth transition. You get the point.