Open Field Blocking
Most of us coaching youth football teach our players how to tackle in the open field, but many fail to teach a player how to block in the open field. How many times have you seen your lead blocker whiff on a block in space? Many youth football plays require good open field blocking but too many coaches aren�t coaching it.
Here is how we approach that issue in our football practices:
There are several reasons why many youth running backs fail to make good open field blocks:
1) They are unsure of who they are supposed to block.
2) They are running too slow to get to the point of attack and be in position to make a good block.
3) They are not running under control and overrun their intended target.
4) They lunge and try to make a pancake type block on their intended target.
Obviously we are going to solve problem #1 by doing massive amounts of fit-and-freeze reps to insure our backs know who they are going to block on each play. In contrast to full scrimmage reps the fit-and-freeze reps require our backs to perform a perfect blocking fit with their head on the correct side of the defender and then they freeze at the point of contact, as does the defender.
Making the correct open field block requires timing and some finesse. Your football plays just aren�t going to work very well if your lead blockers don�t block well in space. The open field block is kind of like the Three Bears Porridge, it can�t be too fast or to slow, it has to be just right. Too fast and your player is out of control and he overruns his target, too slow and he doesn�t get to his target fast enough to be in position to make the block.
We dill our backs for open field blocking using the following drill: We set up a 10 yard by 10 yard box with cones. We set the running back and defender at opposite ends of the square in opposite corners. We then set a shell jersey up on a direct line inbetween the 2 players with the jersey being about 40% along the line away from the running back, this makes the defender run a bit further. The goal is to have the offensive back attack along that line and block the defender away from the shell with a 7 second time limit. The defender attacks along the line but can deviate from the line after his first two steps as long as he stays in the box. The defenders goal is to grab the jersey. This drill forces the back to find the defender and block him from various angles as well as to stay on his block for the duration of the play. We often start this drill with the defender using a blocking shield before we go �live�. The offensive player has to attack the defender, he is not allowed to sit and protect the jersey.
We develop timing by doing lots of reps of this drill and by varying the competition level so each player gets to block both fast and slower players. We do not look for a �kill shot� block here, we just want the blocker to maintain contact with his head on the correct side for the full seven seconds. We blow the whistle at 7 seconds and give accolades when the blocker �Makes the Horn�, kind of like the 6 second horn for rodeo bullriders. The average youth football plays take about 7 seconds, so that�s the standard we use.
You can add a ball carrier to the mix after you have done this drill a few times. The goal of the ball carrier is to make it to the opposite corner of the square, the goal of the defender obviously is to shed that open field block and make the tackle. We only do this drill with our backs and pulling guards, as most of our linemen are not blocking in space and their time is better suited for other activities.
We also use an �Oklahoma� style tackling drill to teach this skill that is detailed here in the tips section.
Coaching Youth Football well means figuring out what your critical success factors are and teaching and drilling to those you identify. Open field blocking is one of those factors your kids will need to get better at to compete against the best teams in your league.
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