Anthony Stone provides top drills for each position to get the team ready for practice.

Though it may seem unimportant, the brief time right before practice can set the tone for that day’s workout. When used correctly, a lot can be accomplished in a few minutes. It’s similar to a “bell-ringer” in school, what teachers use to maximize their time with students. Bell-ringers stimulate the students’ brains to be ready to focus on the subject. As coaches, we also aim to squeeze the most out of every moment with our athletes. Use this pre-practice to touch on areas the team needs to work on, but don’t have time to cover during practice.

Consider this example of how a pre-practice plan can help at the youth level. Imagine you’re a volunteer coach for your child’s team. You get everything set up 15-20 minutes before practice, then receive an unexpected, but important, phone call. You’re only on the phone for five minutes, but the players use that time to goof around and mess with the equipment. Now you have to set everything up again, corral the players and get them to focus on you—a waste of valuable time.  

Lay the groundwork during the first few practices. Show the players what you expect them to do so they know the football assignment to accomplish before practice starts. This helps build their leadership skills.

Start with stretching, then have the players divide into small pods to work on position-specific drills. Make sure to explain why they’re doing each drill so the players understand what’s expected of them and what you want to achieve.

Here are some examples for each pod to do during pre-practice.


1) Warm-ups

2) Center-quarterback exchange

3) Jump rope

4) Option/zone read steps and movements

Running Backs

1) Run, switch, stiff arm and go

2) Mesh drill

3) Quarterback/running back mesh (preferably with the center)

4) Catching galore 50: pluck and tuck

Wide Receivers

1) Catch tennis balls

2) Catching galore 50: pluck & tuck

3) Cone route jog

4) Highest point/goal-pole catching

Offensive Linemen

1) Use garbage cans to simulate different fronts

2) Practice pulling

3) Six-point extension

4) Hand placement

Defensive Linemen

1) Take off with ball and stick

2) Six-point extension

3) First step

4) Hand fighting


1) Wave drill

2) Guard keys

3) Raptor drill

4) Around the bag drill

Defensive Backs

1) Back pedal

2) W/M drill

3) Raptor drill

4) Rip through the bag

Special Teams

1) Special teams pods

2) Long snaps

3) Extra-point snaps

4) Kicker and punter warm-ups

These drills are examples from Back to the Basics: Football Drill Manual, my book scheduled to be released in early 2018. Please share what you do for pre-practice on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #HUDLPrePractice, or contact me directly through my website

Anthony Stone is a physical education teacher in Rockford, Ill. and quarterbacks coach at Boylan High School. He was also the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Women’s Australian National Outback 2017 Team and writes blogs for Firstdown Playbook.

In July 2016, he was named to the Hudl 100 list. He has presented at IAPHERD, the top physical education convention in Illinois, on how to get students moving with his Games Galore presentations. He has also presented at the Chicago Glazier Clinics on quarterbacks & special teams. He was the defensive coordinator for the 2010 U.S. Women’s National Tackle Football Team, winners of the IFAF Women’s World Championship in which Team USA won its three games by a combined score of 201-0. Stone has coached in the CIFL and the IWFL Leagues as well as Beloit College (linebackers/special teams coordinator) and Rockford University (quarterbacks/wide receivers).

Stone has also coached football at the youth, middle school and high school level. He will be putting on fundamental youth football camps around the world in 2017. Please contact him to bring his “Back to the Basics Football Camp” to a city near you.

Follow him on Twitter @Coach_Stone_MT.