Several years ago, I coached 7-9 years old for three seasons. During the first practice, I quickly realized I had 3 quarterbacks that were fairly accurate and could throw pretty deep. In the standard passing warm-up drills, they could make all the throws.
However, in the first few games, one throw that they were hesitant to make was any throw leading the receiver. Our passing game became almost exclusively a glorified hook offense. Every drag, out, and post would not be attempted until the receiver was at the end of the route, turning to face the quarterback, and calling for the ball.
Flag Football Drill
The video above shows a passing drill I started using in almost every practice. After a while, my more confident players were making better more timely throws (I let all the kids play quarterback in practice). The less skilled players eventually became confident as well as they were usually paired up with our better receivers. This confidence eventually carries over into our games.
This drill is also beneficial to the receivers as well. In games and scrimmage situations, they would often not sprint when running routes. Since they weren’t expecting the ball, they didn’t go all out. However, introducing a drill where it’s one on one and there is certainty (receiving areas), this made everyone more aggressive in practice.
The drill is simple to set up and you can split your team in half and run simultaneously as it only requires 3 to 5 players. Adding this flag football drill to your weekly practice plan should yield some good increases in both player confidence and your confidence in the plays you call during games.
Below is a loose transcript of the video:
At younger ages, quarterbacks tend to only throw the ball directly at the receiver. Think of the stereotypical first day of practice where kids go out for a pass, and stand with their hands in the air saying they’re open. During this past season of coaching 7-9 year olds, I had 3 kids that could throw the ball very well, however, they tended to wait until someone was really open before throwing.
This passing drill is designed to teach quarterbacks to lead the receiver instead of throwing right at the receiver. It will also help receivers who have a tendency to jog and float on the field instead of running hard to create separation from the defense.
To start off, mark off a couple of areas on each side of the field. These are the only areas where the receiver can catch the ball. Have the quarterback line up with a ball a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Start the drill with one receiver and one defender. The quarterback says hike and it’s up to the receiver to catch the ball in one of the areas.
At first, the receiver most likely will either run a slant or an out to an area. However, generally, the defense will remain in tight coverage. The first time you run this drill allow for some extra time in your practice schedule. Don’t provide too much instruction and just let the kids play. Watch as they try to get open. See how the kids adapt to the rules of the drill.
At the beginner levels, eventually, most of the receivers will be in a position where they tried to run directly to an area, but were covered, and then went to the other area, still covered. Then, they’ll end up in the middle. This is where you can teach sprinting straight across the field to an area or taking 2-3 steps toward one side and cutting back, sprinting to the opposite area.
Instruction for the quarterback is to throw the ball into the designated areas before the receiver enters the area. The quarterback should be throwing the ball out in front of the receiver, leading him to a spot. This is also referred to as throwing the receiver open. The quarterback throws the ball to an open area on the field and the receiver runs to meet the ball to make the catch.
Once your kids are comfortable with the drill, you can expand it to include two receivers and two defenders. Have one of the receivers start at center and snap the ball to simulate a real game situation.
Having a quarterback that can make throws to open areas and allow a receiver to make a play will expand the possibilities in your playbook and expand the number of plays you can confidently call during a game.