It’s easy to get wrapped up in technical drills, become focused on complex concepts and find oneself entrenched in tape.
Sticking to the basics of football and its fundamentals can be difficult, but according to Saint Scholastica (Minn.) offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta, those fundamentals will likely be what you lean on come game time. “If we’re running a pass concept and you develop everyone’s fundamentals on catching the football – running great routes, releases – I think that’s where our team is going to make their money.”
What the former wide receivers coach at Syracuse is focused on with his athletes is engaging those fundamentals when the athletes aren’t actively thinking about it. “It’s the mental trigger. Can our guys trigger under stressful situations and perform the correct technique and the correct assignment? That’s what we focus on,” says Acosta. “Because if there’s a delay in that mental trigger, most likely [our player] is a step slow.”
This can even be scripted out prior to practice with the coaching staff in order to ensure the fundamentals are addressed during practice. “I sat down with my coaching staff the other day, and we went through install number one in the script,” says the Queens native. “I just say, ‘Play number one, dual right 51 Chevron.’ What’s the quarterbacks read? What’s the progression? What’s his footwork? And now, the staff is going to send a trigger word out there.”
The idea with the staff communication is for the players to identify and self-correct, or engage, those fundamentals. “[A member of the coaching staff] will say, ‘Coach, he’s a three-step one piece. Angle of departure is 6 yards over the B-gap.’ So you really start to teach your coaches and the coaches teach the players,” adds Acosta. “Now if our coaches and players start to think instinctively and use great technique, I think we have a better opportunity to win that football game.”
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Acosta also addresses the importance of ensuring that the drills his team uses have a purpose and engage the fundamentals. “It’s like Michael Jordan. When he went out and shot 100 foul shots every day, that’s connected to what he does. He’s a good player, so people are going to foul him and he’s going to get to the line,” says Acosta. “With football – catching, throwing and blocking – our coaches have to find the correct blocking drill so our guys can get better.”
The importance of integrating fundamentals into each part of practice isn’t something that looks to waver in the near future with Coach Acosta. “When the scheme is not working, when the [opposing] team is bigger, faster, stronger, you go back to your fundamentals, and that’s not going to let you down.”