Ball Security Drills
One of the most underappreciated aspects of what we do offensively is the emphasis that we place on ball security. There's a common misconception that if you run an option offense, then you're going to experience a large number of fumbles. This fear causes some coaches to shy away from the pitch phase of the option, or from running the option altogether. These fears are misplaced. Like any offense worth it's salt, our goal is protect the football. Like most programs, we work a ball security circuit in practice. Some programs do it once or twice a week. We do it as part of our E.D.D.'s. One of the most common phrases that you'll hear at our practice is, "Keep it high and tight." If I see a player walking around with a football, I'm expecting him to carry it "high and tight." No exceptions...ever.
If a football is fumbled during practice, our "reminders" for ball security are Up-Downs (10). No exceptions, no excuses. All offensive players perform these "reminders," because a fumble affects the whole team. We are all responsible for ball security. A player that cannot protect the ball, cannot play, no matter his talent level. The good thing is that ball security is a 100% coachable skill. We teach a fairly standard version of holding and gripping the football:
- The first thing we do is have the player pin their elbow to their ribcage. We talk about, "not showing any daylight" between the ball and the body.
- We want to cap to the top of the ball with our hand and fingers. Then we want to roll the wrist downward and the fingers upward. This should place the player in a position where the back of the hand is pointed in the direction that they're running.
- We apply pressure with the forearm to the panels of the football and squeeze the ball into the pec.
- The ball should be oriented in an up/down manner rather than sitting on its side. This is what we refer to as keeping it "high and tight." Some players cannot carry the ball straight up and down due to having shorter arms. We normally have those kids angle the ball a little bit inwards with the point aiming over their other shoulder. They still have to keep the elbow pinned to the body.
We do our ball security drills as part of a circuit. We put all of our offensive skill players through this circuit every day. We break into 3 groupsv(QB/B's, A's, and WR's) and rotate them through the drills. Here is a list of the drills and how de run them:
- This is a great drill if you have a blaster and ropes. If you don't have a blaster, then at least try to invest in ropes. We like to have 2 coaches work this drill (1 each at start/finish).
- At the start, the coach will check ball security (cap, forearm, elbow) with a prod, pull, punch or poke on the ball. Once satisfied, he'll send the player through the ropes. Player will maintain high knees and keep eyes up. Speed is not the priority. We're looking for high knees, eyes up and keeping the ball high and tight. This seems to be the most difficult of all the drills for players to break bad habits with ball security.
- Once they clear the ropes, the player will accelerate through the blaster. We want them to attack it and not get slowed down. It's okay if they turn their shoulders to get through quicker. Once they clear the Blaster, a coach will mimic the actions of a defender. The ball carrier is required to turn his shoulder pads ("get skinny") and also choose the correct side to attack the defender.
- We teach our players to attack the defender based on his pursuit angle. Our goal is to "back shoulder" defenders, which means exactly what it says. Whenever a defender is moving towards us at an angle, we are attempting to break his angle by sticking our foot in the ground and cut off his back shoulder, making him overrun the play and also causing the defender to try to tackle us with a backhanded arm tackle. We've been very successful with this technique and it's really helped us break tackles for big gains.
- If a defender isn't over-pursuing or if he has an angle on the ball carrier, we will simply turn our shoulders away from contact in order to protect the ball.
- By teaching these 2 skills, I feel that I don't have to teach kids to switch the ball to the outside hand every time they get the ball. I teach my players to carry the ball in whichever arm feels more comfortable. By doing this, players only have to work ball security on one side and we get more reps at protecting the ball on that side.
- You need stepover bags, cones and players for this drill. You can also use 2 Coaches on this drill as well if you'd like, one at the Start to check ball security and one at the Finish to work "back shoulder."
- Players are placed on each side of the stepovers to form a gauntlet. The players try to punch, poke, prod, or pull the ball free as the Ball Carrier moves through the gauntlet. Ensure that they are not grabbing the Ball Carrier or slowing him down too much. All they need to do is lift an elbow, poke or prod the ball.
- Ball carrier is trying to move through the gauntlet with knees up, eyes up with ball high and tight.
- Back shoulder or turn shoulder the defender.
Fat Man Jog.
- We'll normally work this drill from sideline to Hash. We use Slipskins from Gilman Gear for this drill. We also work some slipskin balls into the other drills as well.
- Players partner up and will travel from one side of the drill to the other at a "fat man job" pace. During this time the defender is doing everything he can to strip the ball out. We really work on pulling the elbow up or grabbing the cap (top) and ripping it away.
- The last thing we do is teach the players that if they feel their hands or elbow coming off the ball, then they need to drop to a knee and go down. Yards are not more important than the ball. Extra yards mean nothing if we lose the ball. We practice "going down" by having the defender attack the ball with both hands and do everything he can to grab and twist the ball out. The ball carrier MUST practice this. We add competition to this drill by having the "loser" do 10 pushups. Ball carrier must not fumble ball. Defender must strip the ball loose. Someone wins, someone loses.
Hopefully these drills are helpful. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.