Winning state is the ultimate cause of celebration in high school football. So Matt Young and the rest of Desert Vista (Phoenix, Ariz.) must have basked in glory after winning their first state title since 1998 this past November, right?
Wrong. Young led a players-only practice.
“The week after the state championship game is when we held our first practice to get ready for next season because we want it so bad and are willing to do anything,” Young said.
Young, a junior who will be taking over as starting quarterback next season, has been organizing practices all offseason.
“His thing is leadership,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “He’s going through it like we would in practice, just like a coach would.”
In the offseason, high school football coaches are limited in what they can do by their state’s athletic association. In some states, coaches aren’t allowed to work with their players on skill development until the summer.
So leaders like Young can be invaluable to a team’s preparation for the season ahead. Here are the five steps Young takes to organize a players-only practice.
1. GET THE WORD OUT
Before you can have a players-only practice, you need to get the players there. To do so, it’s important you tell the team as early as possible in as many ways as possible.
“I’ll use text messages, Facebook or just go around the school and let everyone know,” Young said.
Aside from telling players when and where practice is, he also gives specific instructions such as reminding players not to wear pads. A players-only practice should have minimal contact to avoid injuries.
“Matt’s been around long enough to know not to put the players in a bad situation,” Hinds said. “They don’t do anything out there that we don’t do when we’re around.”
2. STRETCH PROPERLY
Holding a practice is supposed to benefit the team, not hurt it. A poor stretching routine or not having one at all can make any player susceptible to an injury.
“We start off it with dynamic stretching, where we loosen up the muscles and get the fast-twitch muscles firing,” said Young, who says his team starts off by stretching for about 15 minutes.
Dynamic stretches can include high knees, quad walks and low lunges.
3. START SMALL WITH DRILLS
The most fun part of practice can be having the offense and defense line up against each other, but it’s important to naturally progress to that point to ensure everybody gets warmed up.
After stretching, Young and his Desert Vista teammates break out by position. At this point the players will run whatever their coaches typically instruct them to during the season.
“We do mostly passing schemes, but we’ll do some running plays for the running backs,” Young said.
Players who don’t play skill positions work on technique.
4. COMPETE AGAINST EACH OTHER
There is plenty of competition at practices Young organizes. It helps come fall.
It typically starts with the quarterbacks and receivers going up against the defensive backs with one-on-ones, two-on-twos and zone reads.
Then it’s time to get the whole team involved with seven-on-sevens to end practice.
5. COOL DOWN
No matter how long you’ve gone, it’s vital to finish properly in order to avoid injuries.
Unlike the beginning of practice, Young’s team does static stretches. Some of the most common types are a butterfly stretch to work the groin or touching your toes to stretch the hamstrings.