Youth football coaches need to understand the relative speed their players have in relation to one another to help determine positions. The ability for a player to control their body, change direction, strength and desire are also just as important factors in determining appropriate positions. Linear speed is not as important as most coaches think, but is still something that does play a part in determining positions.
Most youth football coaches determine speed by timing players in 40 yard dashes. That may not be the most accurate measurement of speed, as most football plays at the youth level anyways rarely go for 40 yards or more.
Most youth football players tire of standing in line for a 40 yard dash that may or may not be timed correctly. There are much better ways to determine speed than 40 yard dashes.
The way I determine speed is through the Deer Hunter and Rabbit Chase games detailed in my book in Chapter 4. They are much more fun than timed 40’s and also measure other skill components other than linear speed. We also on a rare occasion will do some competitive races using group movements to not only see how our kids rate compared to one another, but to get some conditioning in.
When doing this drill, we only run 25 yards or so, as mentioned above 40 yard football plays don’t happen very often and for young kids the 40 may have an endurance factor to it. We also like kids to compete and run against each other in a group. We find many players will run significantly faster when competing rather than just running against the clock. We also find those timing 40 yard dashes are not always very accurate in using the watch, not to mention having to record a bunch of times and having kids wait in line to get timed.
To do our group movement races, we divide the kids into 4 groups of similar speed based on a best guess. Let’s assume you have 24 players, that would be 4 groups of 6 players.
Groups are 1,2,3,4 with the 4 being your fastest group. The players race, the fastest 2 from each group go to the next highest number group and the slowest 2 go to the next lower number group. The 2 in the middle stay there. Once the middle groups thin to a handful of players just move 1 player up or down based on the top or bottom finisher. In the end you will have your fastest kids in group 4 and your slowest in group 1 and some in the middle.
Coaches just have to keep and eye on the 2 winners and 2 losers each time to move them to new groups. I like to know where the kids fit in relation to each other as well as who my fastest and slowest players are. This method has been very helpful in determining that without having to resort to timed 40s.
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