How to Effectively Create and Utilize a Drill Manual

Having a drill manual to reference helps coaches craft more effective practices and promotes player development.

How to Effectively Create and Utilize a Drill Manual

Having a drill manual to reference helps coaches craft more effective practices and promotes player development.

My last Hudl blog discussed why drill manuals are important and how to take them into the 21st century by using Hudl Technique. If you aren’t ready to tackle the technology side yet, stick to what you know and work your way into it. But when you’re ready, Technique can be the piece that helps take your athletes to the next level.

Drill manuals are applicable to any sport, not just football. They provide coaches with a point of reference on which to build. Some coaches will criticize the amount of work that goes into creating a drill manual, but I’m here to explain why it’s worth it. The longer you coach, the more drills you come across to incorporate into your practices. At some point, you’ll be at practice and know there is a drill you want to run but won’t be able to remember how effective it was or why. As time goes by, all the details of that specific drill start to fade as you accumulate more information. This is where a drill manual comes in. 

No one knows you better than yourself, and that’s what makes a drill manual so unique and beneficial. It’s the evolution of your football world on paper, your coaching masterpiece. Yes, crafting a drill manual can be time consuming and it requires work, but I’m not proposing you sit down and complete it one setting. It takes time to create, develop and add mod­i­fi­ca­tions. When you need to work on a certain football position you can look at your drill manual and find a section of drills at your disposal. It is not only a coaching resource that you create for yourself but also your staff. It is a valuable com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool. 

I am sharing with you what I include in my drill manual as well as a preview of a drill from my Back to the Basics: Football Drill Manual due to be released early next year. I personally have a drill manual for every position. When I first started coaching as a graduate assistant I decided I wanted to learn all aspects of football: offense, defense, and special teams. How could I be an effective coach and lead the team if I didn’t have full knowledge of every position? Just like with teaching, a coach can only improve with knowledge from learning and from experience.

In all my travels, working camps, and going to coaches’ clinics three questions continually come up:

  1. How do I beat a certain defensive or offensive formation or play?
  2. What’s a good drill to use to help a certain position or group of players improve?
  3. How do I handle new coaches and what do I give them?

My answer: have a drill manual!

A drill manual benefits you in the following ways:

  • Team improves against competition
  • Builds a player’s confidence
  • Improves staff communication
  • Identifies ineffective drills
  • Uses time more efficiently
  • Makes up for a lack of staff and resources
  • Helps for smooth staff change transitions

Drill manuals apply to every level of football because the offensive or defensive coordinator can tell the staff exactly what they want them to do during their individual sessions or group time with that position. 

Here’s an example:

  • A coach tells an assistant he wants a drill for linebackers so the offensive linemen don’t get their hands on them. 
  • I recommend my linebacker drill example that improves a linebacker’s ability to get off the blocks better. 
  • The assistant coach can either look at the drill book and decide if this drill works every time or if he needs a better drill than last week because the players didn’t improve.
  • The coach consults into his drill manual for linebackers and look under the section about getting off blocks. Practice moves smoothly without constant interruptions. 

Middle school, youth and flag football benefit from a drill manual because coaches at those levels typically have less knowledge of coaching and it helps fill in the gaps. Just because a person played that position back in high school or they are good playing a video game doesn’t make them an All-American coach.

Click here for an example from my linebacker drill manual.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Name each position or team that this manual will help.
  2. Break down each section by drill for a specific group so you don’t have to look around for a certain drill.
  3. Decide how you want to order your drills. Some coaches will put the them in alpha­bet­i­cal order while others will just list a table of contents. I like having it in sections so either after practice or while watching film so I can look at the manual and snag a drill to use to improve on the next day.
  4. Go into the specifics of the drill. You might have your own little spice or flare to include.

Here is the outline I use for my drill manual:

  • Name of Drill: What are you calling the drill?
  • Position: What player(s) would benefit from this drill?
  • Drill Speed Level: This is important to have as a safety component. The speed of a drill will go a long way in building confidence and also how suc­cess­ful­ly they will be practicing the drill.
  • Equipment Needed: What do you need for this drill to work?
  • Set-Up: How is the drill arranged? It is very important to make sure the drill is arranged correctly.
  • Relativeness to the Game: How is the drill helping the athlete? Is it making them a better player during live action?
  • Coaching Points: What key learning objectives should the coach make sure the athletes learn or what they should look for to take with them on the football field?
  • Modifications of the Drill: Coaches need to be able to make adjustments on the fly because the game moves fast. Make any changes to the drill that allow athletes to be more successful.

Now that football is in full swing, keep track of what drills you use and how effective they are. By the end of the season you’ll have your own drill manual. I’m continually compiling drills for various sports I coach to make sure the players are well-prepared and ready to be on the field. It’s never too late to start. 

I have written a book called Back to the Basics: Football Drill Manual. It is comprised of the most successful drills I have used over the years in an easy to read format. Keep an eye out for the release early next year.

Please share on Twitter or Facebook what you put into your drill manual by using the hashtag #HUDLDrillManual. If you want to share your drills directly with me you can visit www​.coach​stone​foot​ball​.com and send me a link or email.

Anthony Stone is a Physical Education teacher in Rockford, IL 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.