Once upon a time, at a Coaches’ Certification Class, I was asked how to train O-linemen to stay low at the snap of the ball.
At the time, my best answer was to not train them to play high. Everyone looked at me like I’d farted. But now that I think about it again, it’s still my best answer because it’s exactly what many of us youth coaches do: we train kids to play high. For lack of equipment, we routinely use stand-up dummies or players in a two-point stance to teach blocking techniques.
The key to playing low on game day is to get low during practice. The following drills may help you and your players.
The first drill costs $3.49 at Walmart’s. That will pay for a plastic container holding three tennis balls. Have your linemen get in their stance while you stand in front of them, about 2-3 feet away, holding a tennis ball about waist high. Drop or throw the ball into the ground — whichever creates the best bounce — and have them fire off and try to catch it before it hits the ground again. They don’t have to stay on their feet to catch the ball but they have to catch it.
Gradually move further away to increase their explosiveness and to force them to use a short, second step. To make it fun which always helps keep them motivated, you can turn the drill it into a contest about who can get to the tennis ball the farthest out.
The neat thing, too, is that this drill can also be done on an angle, to the side, to improve their pulling technique.
At the closer distances you will get explosiveness off the ball and as the distance increases, they will have to use a quick first step and most likely a quick second step as well.
The obvious answer, though, but a little more costly than tennis balls is to make linemen chutes.
You can get creative and use soccer or hockey nets and modify them to your needs or you can have your players hold laydown bags at chest level and have the linemen go under them, during their fit and fit-to-finish drills.
You can also use PVC to make a 2′ x 8′ frame with an old vinyl banner strapped to it that sits on trash cans or sawhorses as depicted below:
You can also use conduit to make a chute but make it wide and tilted on purpose. Make it as low on one side so your shortest players will benefit and as high on the other side as your tallest players will need. That way you can sort players by height and run taller and shorter pairs thru at the same time.
One coaching point to using a chute is not to freak out on a kid who hits the top bar of the chute. He knows he hit it and he knows he was high, so fix the reason he was high or rather than berate him , or the next time he’ll be slow out of his stance and duck under the bar which totally defeats the purpose of the drill.
Tell your kids not to worry if they hit the bar. You want them exploding out of the chute like they are being shot out of a cannon, and not thinking about anything else.
Another thing you can do to help your OL stay low is change your vocabulary. Eliminate the word “drive” from your vocabulary and replace it with “lift”. If you coach up your O-line to concentrate on getting lift, they naturally get lower and don’t come up unless they’re bringing a DL up with them. Coach them to re-sink their hips if at any point they stop lifting.
Consider too, as a warm-up or get-off, a drill in which the OL crab against resistance in a 4-pt stance over half-rounds or carpet strips to keep their feet apart. The player opposing them can have his hands on the crabbing OL’s shoulders.
Lastly, consider that kids might play high because, rather than “how”, they don’t know “who” to block. You can drill them till the cows come home in chutes, with balls, etc., but if they aren’t sure WHO to block, they’ll stand up and let a defender find them. Conversely, if they know who to block, they’ll be more aggressive.
And aggressive, when combined with being low, is exactly how you want them.