Turn your players into specialists: a coach’s guide to the best football training equipment
Great players are characterised by their relentless focus on skills development.
As coaches, we need to be able to identify the needs of our young players and support their development. Physical, technical and psychological skills are all important to become a rounded player.
The ability to focus, listen and gain on-field awareness and vision come into play – as does the all-around coachability of a player.
Instilling mental toughness is also critical. Your players need to be able to recover quickly after making a mistake, or the whole game risks unravelling on you.
In this article, we look at some of the skills and traits needed to specialise in a given role and talk about the equipment that’s out there to help you.
It’s not comprehensive, but it should give you a rounded idea of kit you can use. And of course, there’s a lot of overlap. Something you buy for your linemen can often be used just as well by your wide receivers.
So, let’s get into it!
Your quarterback is the lynchpin of the team. Because of their crucial role not just in play but leadership too, your team’s performance is greatly impacted by the performance of your quarterback.
As such, a good quarterback needs to be able to motivate your players, keep them focused and positive even when losing and to make the right decisions under pressure.
A lot of your work with your quarterback will be about developing those decision-making and leadership abilities, but of course, there’s plenty of physical skills to work on as well. Improving the power and accuracy of your quarterback’s throwing is a priority.
To work on accuracy, use a Practice Net.
Bownet’s Qb5 is a heavy duty version with five pockets and will stand up to years of use. Throwing to a target gives your quarterback instant feedback and an objective measurement of accuracy.
That absolute accuracy is also useful to help a quarterback learn easily which types of pass need improvement. That said, it’s also important to progress your quarterback to moving targets as soon as you can.
Another great tool for throwing practice is the Passback Football.
Good for solo practice or fast drills with friends, the ball spirals back from hard surfaces. Because of the high reps achievable it helps to strengthen muscles.
You’ll need to help your quarterback with making moves too, of course. Taking the snap then moving inside or outside the pocket and transferring the ball are all essential drills.
You might consider adding a Tripod Trainer.
The Qb Tee activates its timer automatically when the ball is taken from the cradle which clears up arguments over timing. It’s especially useful in 7-on-7 football.
Of course, speed and acceleration are right up there, but a wide receiver’s role requires a range of skills. It’s important to develop enough strength and agility to hold off tackles and create enough space for a successful catch. A good receiver also needs to be mentally flexible and be able to adapt on-the-fly.
Speaking of the catch, a wide receiver needs to be able to catch under massive pressure in a crowded environment. Mental toughness and confidence is key to that, but so is technique and the ability, physically, to get to the right place fast enough.
A good place to start with improving catching skills is a Receiving Training Aid.
The SKLZ Receiving Training Aid has small balls that sit in the palm. It teaches catching with the fingertips rather than the palm.
The extra dexterity and confidence will result in fewer drops and make your wide receivers reliable catchers.
It’s quite an investment, but a Jugs Passing Machine will ramp up your training sessions.
It can launch balls up to 80 yards and simulate any pass type. It means you can train your receivers with maximum efficiency and without needing your quarterbacks or kickers.
On the physical side, consider adding a resistance parachute to improve stamina, acceleration and top speed. This one from Pamase is rugged and will help your receivers see space and get to it. Look for one that can rotate so your drills can include changes of direction while wearing it.
An effective running back is expected to be a jack-of-all-trades. Of course, there are the flashy long sprints but a modern running back is often a three-down player who needs to be able to cover many roles including pass protection.
Creativity and mental agility are also marks of a great running back. At their best, they are among the most impactful players on the field. To be reliable though, they need a strong core skillset. In training work on the fundamentals like ball security.
Work on avoiding fumbles and reliably taking the handoff. Too often, a running back will be thinking of the next move and lose focus on actually securing the ball, which can lead to costly mistakes. When in possession your players should know how to hold the ball securely.
Regarding equipment, use a Lateral Resistor to help your running backs develop explosive off-the-line speed as well as lateral pace. The latter is incredibly useful for the surging change of direction that is so effective on a running play.
Thinking about running plays, a set of speed hurdles are a great idea to develop agility and athleticism.
Beyond being quick on their feet, as we said running backs are often called on for pass protection. For that, combine your field work with Blocking Dummy drills with your linemen. Here’s a popular blocking dummy on the market at the moment;
Your linebackers are at the heart of your defense. They need to combine the strength to take on an offensive lineman and yet be nimble enough to make a play on the ball. Their ability to read the game and react is what differentiates good from great.
Develop their position stance technique and run drills to that practice getting into the right place. Angle drills, start drills and shuffle drills will also contribute to developing a player who knows how to intercept fast opposition.
Read drills are also vital. A good linebacker is an expert at read-and-react. Reading the play and making the correct counter-move takes time, and requires a coach with thorough footballing knowledge.
Linebackers need to be fast, but quickly changing directions is the key. Use the simple three-cone drill to develop their ability to surge in a new direction as the play takes an unexpected turn.
Of course, good tackling is essential for a linebacker. Consider something like this Football Tackling Ring.
At a higher level, you might look at a Football Sled with Tackling Dummy. This one is for indoor use and is great in the off-season. Your linebackers will develop their strength and hand placement. Lastly, it’s very durable and will stand up to almost everything you throw at it.
Defensive backs are your last line of defense. Often they’ll find themselves under a great deal of pressure. Their mistakes are often disastrous and visible to everyone.
As such mental toughness and resilience are key traits for your safeties and cornerbacks. But athleticism is also a cornerstone of a good defensive back. They have arguably the most athletic position.
Building speed and explosiveness is essential, but it’s not always for travel in a straight line, or even going forwards, for that matter. Your backs need to be able to keep up with a fast wide receiver and move fast when going backwards, shuffling or zigzagging.
To improve agility use some Agility Cones.
These are great for developing sure-footed changes of direction, but also for acceleration and deceleration.
Precise control of these movements is often the difference between an interception and conceding a touchdown.
Next, consider building strength. A Resistance Trainer creates functional strength and improves speed and even jumping – which is handy for a defensive back. Because this one works from pretty much every angle, you can train a wide range of moves.
Finally, think about tackling. The explosiveness needed to reliably stop a run can be trained using something like this Sandbag;
Because it trains both upper and lower body your defensive backs will build all-over power that will give them flexibility and versatility on the field.
In today’s game, a lineman is expected to be fast as well as strong. Technique has also become increasingly important, with stance, agility and precise movement becoming differentiators between a good lineman and a great one.
Arguably, linemen also need more conditioning that anyone on the team. They can’t fade away – they need to be able to explode off the line all day long.
Key attributes to develop in training include that fast, accurate first step and the ability to surge away. That needs to be backed up with a strong upper body.
Let’s think about building speed. Your linemen are the biggest players on the team, and the sort of acceleration we need requires some serious lower-body strength. Squats, lunges and power cleans are all useful exercises.
Out on the training field, use something like the SKLZ Speedsac, an adjustable weight sled. A good sled will build endurance and can be used when sprinting or shuffling – ideal for a lineman.
By adding weight, The SKLZ Speedsac can help you improve lower body muscle strength and overall speed.
As we said, precision of movement is increasingly valued at all levels of the modern game. Fast, accurate footwork that responds effectively to opposition movement is the foundation to an effective tackle. Try this Agility Ladder, also by SKLZ.
Using a ladder you can design drills that improve coordination, agility and stability. As your lineman get better on their feet they will be able to make their moves faster and catch their opponent off-balance more often.
Of course, a lineman spends a lot of time working on tackling, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a Tackling Dummy around. This robust one from Gorilla is great for simulated contact drills.
You might consider pairing it with the Blocking Dummy I went into detail above to give more variety to your training. Complement your dummy work with read drills, rapid standing band presses and hand fighting practice.