What’s the Most Important Thing You Teach? (Part 1)

29 Sep

In terms of technique, what do you think are the most important things you teach your kids?  I’ll pause to give you time to consider your answer.

Time’s up.

For me, it’s a simple question to answer when I consider that I’m not only preparing my kids for game day but for competition at the next level.  The next level for my kids is high school.  So, in this context, the most important things I teach are the 3-point stance and form tackling.   And, as an O-line coach, I would add one more thing that’s position specific: to finish their blocks.

Why you may ask would I rank the 3-point among my Top 3 things to perfect?  It’s simple:  everything starts with the 3-point.  If it’s wrong, then chances are that everything that follows will be as well.

How many times have you seen opponents whose players didn’t know how to get into a proper 3-point stance?  Their butts were above their heels; their helmets were jacked up so that numbers on the front of their jerseys were exposed; their toes were splayed out like a duck and their stance was so narrow they were about to tip over or, worse, they were leaning out over their down hand, creating a white-knuckle effect.  As a result they’re either standing straight up at the snap or they’re false stepping to catch themselves from falling flat on their face.  You’ve probably seen this alot.  I know I have and each time I was embarrassed for the opposing coach.

The 3-point is fundamental football.  How you teach it is your business, but teach it you must and not simply during two-a-days.  A 3-5 minute review each day of your players’ stance can resolve a lot of game day issues with execution.  As a line coach, it’s simply smart coaching.  It not only helps me keep our OL low coming off the ball but it allows them to move in different directions with speed and ease.  For me, the common traits of a good 3-point are balance, comfort and vision.

Now when I say vision, many coaches may think I’m referring to a player who is looking thru his eyebrows because we’re so focused on him having a flat back.  That’s old school and the way I was taught.  It’s not what I teach now.  To see the defense, I teach players to slightly tilt their back so that their butt is lower than their shoulders.  I don’t want them exposing the numbers on their chest so that they’re looking like a duck, but I do want their eyes level with the field so they scan the defense.  The pictures below will show you what I mean by a slight” tilt”.

"Titlted" 3-Point Stance

Eyes level with the field.

Balance is attained by the tri-pod effect created when the player staggers his feet and places his dominant hand in the ground.  The down hand should be aligned with the inside of the staggered foot and not centered below the OL’s chin.  That will twist his shoulders.     The feet are commonly separated at shoulder-width but that too can be adjusted depending upon the individual player so long as their feet aren’t positioned inside their armpits.

Feet shoulder-width apart.

Position of down hand. The forearm is positioned incorrectly in this picture. Notice how it is titlting the shoulders.

Comfort is achieved by the even distribution of weight over the feet with the down hand acting like a tent pole but not bearing any great weight.  The key thing to remember is that your player will move in different directions depending upon his assignment and this is facilitated by his being in a balanced and comfortable 3-point stance.

The feet are staggered toe-to-instep or toe-to-heel if the player is tall.

The down hand doesn't bear any weight unless you're in a goal-line situation.

If there's air under the front foot then there's weight on the down hand.

The forearm is positioned outside the thight of the front leg. This will level the shoulders and be in a better position to explode into a defender.

To perfect this requires practice on a daily basis.  Not much.  Say 3-5 minutes.  You can circle them up around you and have them check their feet before squatting into their stance.  Then check for a “tilted” back and weight distribution.  Make quick corrections then repeat the process.  Practice this with them daily until it becomes second nature, then practice some more.

You’ll be surprised and pleased by how well they perform on game day because of it and, at the same time, you’ll be preparing them for the seasons yet to come.

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