More important than a wide receiver’s pre-practice routine Is his everyday rituals. Routine is a sequence of actions that is regularly followed. Ritual is a series of actions that is regularly and invariably followed. In other words, routine is what the players are used to doing before practice. The rituals are priorities that must accomplished every single day, without fail.
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At many high school and college programs, student-athletes arrive to practice directly after class, making it difficult for some players to dress, see the trainers and make it to the field in time for a full pre-practice warm up (this is generally not an issue at the higher Division 1 level college programs). To combat inconsistent pre-practice arrival times it’s useful for receivers to have a checklist of rituals each day that can be completed after practice, but must be finished before leaving. This also allows pre-practice time for any new installation or assignment review that is often necessary during a typical game week practice.
Wide receiver practice rituals:
- Stance & Start – a great stance and take off can only become second nature by accumulating reps and practicing stance & start every single day with intention. Receivers should focus on firing off the ball low to lower and practice different plans to beat press coverage.
- At least 10 take offs each leg before leaving the practice field.
- Duck Walk – this is a great exercise to align the receiver’s insteps (inside part of foot), knees and hips so that when a player pushes off his insteps on routes and releases, a more violent hip-shift is created & hip flexibility increases.
- Duck walk from the sideline to the top of the numbers, down and back twice.
- Backward Reach Run – a great warm up exercise to directly target the hamstrings and build hamstring strength over time.
- *On a personal note – I once had five different receivers battle ongoing hamstring pulls throughout one season and in my offseason research, athletic trainers informed me that backward reach run would be a good ritual to adopt as part of an everyday warm-up. In the past two seasons since adopting backward reach run, there has not been a single pulled hamstring in the group.
- Backward reach run from the sideline to the far hash, down and back twice.
- 100 Catches – each receiver is required to catch 100 extra passes before or after practice in addition to any passes caught during practice. The extra catches should consist of a combination of focused, intentional ball drills, not a casual game of catch with a friend before practice.
- Group stretching – players will stretch and cool down as a position group every day immediately after practice to start the recovery process as soon as possible.
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Knowing that each player will complete these rituals every day allows the coach to maximize the pre-practice routine to best prepare the players for the task at hand that day.
Wide receiver pre-practice routine (in order of preferred completion):
- Walk through plays, concepts & route detail – setting aside pre-practice time for play review allows the players to start practice with confidence and jump right into individual periods drills and group periods without spending practice time to review.
- Backward Reach Run, Stance & Start, Duck Walk – these are three rituals that can serve as a functional part of the players’ warm up and are preferred to be completed before practice starts if time allows.
- “Run at Me” ball drill – a great ball drill to continue to warm up the players while acclimating their hands and eyes to catching a full-speed football with limited reps before practice.
Regardless of the routine a coach chooses for his players before practice, the goal should be to prepare the players to play with confidence and allow the group to maximize allotted practice time. Doing so requires a combination of both mental and physical work that has the potential to be different each day.
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Photo Courtesy: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe
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