Playoff time will soon be on us – win or your season is over.
All of a sudden, your team’s success hinges on performing well on a cold, wet, muddy field.
That beautiful fall weather of 70 degrees and dry conditions has given way to a sloppy, chilly forecast.
What is a coach to do? Pack everything in tight, play conservative and hope you don’t turn the ball over?
The tight formation run game is probably what opponents expect you to do. If you have prepared and practiced for the situation, and your players are comfortable with handing the ball in the rain, you may be able to surprise them by keeping an open, attacking offense.
If it’s raining on practice night, use it to your advantage. Too many coaches will change their plan and do new drills. Use this as a chance to teach “wet-ball” tactics.
Otherwise, a few buckets filled with ice and water can simulate some bad weather on your own.
Here’s some tips:
Quarterbacks and centers
- Nothing stops a drive quicker than a fumbled snap. Soak a football in cold water then hand it to the center. Give the quarterback a quick cadence and practice snapping the ball while it’s still slippery.
- Same basic premise for shotgun and special teams snaps. Dunk the ball, hand to center, quickly snap and secure.
- Running backs should do their normal ball security drills with a wet, cold ball.
- Ask your running backs (and their parents) if they plan to wear any special arm sleeves or long-sleeve shirts if game day is cold and wet. If so, make sure they practice in it. Those cold gear products may repel some moisture but they still get slick and change the way the ball feels against the forearm, making it easier for the ball to pop free.
- Muddier fields usually mean players bunched up near the line. One run successfully bounced to the outside can be the difference. Try this Find the Hole drill to help your backs recognize when something opens up.
- Like with running backs, if a receiver plans to wear gloves or sleeves on game day, make sure he practices in them.
- Soak some balls in cold water and try some basic catching drills or easy route running. You don’t need to have kids sprinting all over the field. Remember, the learning objective is catching the slick ball.
Linemen and linebackers
- Teach these players how to duck walk to better dig ALL their spikes into muddy ground. They may think they look silly, but it beats spinning and slipping in the mud when they need that first quick step.
- Find a spot on your practice field where the grass has thinned out. Use the mud for stance and start drills and to get young players used to putting their hand in the wet and cold.
- Run a simple drive block/shed drill in a muddy area so they get used to finding traction in adverse conditions when pushing against an opponent.
- In cold, wet weather, opposing offenses tend to bunch up blockers in the middle of the field. It’s easy for young defensive backs to get trapped too close to the ball and not be in position to defend a wide run. Consider this when setting alignment.
- Changes of direction drills in bad weather are essential. Remember, keep your feet under your hips so you don’t spin out, and think about getting your cleats in the ground.
While buckets half full of ice may sound like torture, when used smartly and in correct doses they not only teach important skills, but youth player often enjoy them. What is more fun than a bucket of ice to a 10-year-old?
Common sense says you do not want to ruin your practice field, so be smart about how and where you program mud drills. To keep things under control, I suggest doing these drills at the end of practice as your last period, something fun and unique to supplement your normal