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4 Conditioning Drills for your Pre-Season Workouts

Sprint Ladders

  • 2 x sprint 10 yards, rest 10 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 20 yards, rest 20 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 30 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 40 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 50 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 40 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 30 yards, rest 30 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 20 yards, rest 20 seconds between sprints
  • 2 x sprint 10 yards, rest 10 seconds between sprints

Sprint/Stride Intervals

  • 20-yard sprint
  • 20-yard stride
  • 20-yard sprint
  • 20-yard stride
  • 20-yard sprint

Rest 30 seconds between sets and repeat for a total of four to 10 sets. Start on the lower set range at the beginning of your pre-season training and increase volume as your conditioning progresses.

Tempo Runs

  • Have players start at a corner of an end zone and stride for 100 yards
  • Focus on long steps, slower than a sprint, faster than a jog
  • Jog across to the opposite side of the end zone
  • Stride 100 yards again
  • Walk across the end zone to the starting point
  • Repeat four to 10 times.

Again, start with the lower training volume (4 sets) early on and increase it as the season progresses.

Four Quarters

Sets/Reps: 4×4 (2-3 minutes rest between quarters)

  • 10-yard sprints with a 10-second rest between sprints
  • 20-yard sprints with a 20-second rest between sprints
  • 30-yard sprints with a 30-second rest between sprints
  • 20-yard sprint, 20-yard stride, 20-yard sprint, 20-yard stride and 20-yard sprint with a 30-second rest between
  • This ends one quarter. Go again three more times.

Player Safety is Priority For Local San Diego High School Football Coach

For Coach Richard David Sanchez from St. Augustine Catholic High School in San Diego, Calif, gentrified North Park sector, his affinity for football goes far beyond playing the game.

That’s why, when his personal ball playing career came to an end after graduating from New Mexico State University (he later went on to receive his Master’s Degree from San Diego State University), which began in pop warner tackle when he was eight years old and continued through Sweetwater High School, the Mexican-born, SD-raised former athlete knew he wanted to pay it forward.

Saints Football

I always had a passion for the game and to share it with young men – that’s what the Lord wanted me to do… somehow, my calling was to get back to high school.

Inspired by his father and uncle, both who the 48-year-old self-proclaimed Charger fan credits with instilling “compassion, value of hard work and education” in him; encouraged by the coaches that coached him throughout his years as a player; and, most recently, influenced by the coaches he coaches alongside with today, Sanchez knew — and still knows — his calling is in coaching others. He started his mentoring career while in college and, almost eight years ago, found his home at the all-boy school of 800 students, whose mascot is the Saints, helping it achieve a winning percentage of over seventy-five percent in the last seven years, as well as win two championship games out of four consecutive appearances, bringing the school’s total to five championship wins since its inception in 1922. “These guys are some of the most disciplined kids I’ve ever worked with,” says Sanchez about his team, which includes 200 players between JV and Varsity. “I would definitely say they are over-achievers.”

Despite having such a love affair with football, Coach Sanchez is well aware of the physical consequences of the game, and as the ever-changing sport continues to place focus on safety, he continues to reinvent his program to make sure his players are up-to-date, informed and educated.
“About two years ago we had a kid that made a block and broke his vertebrae,” he shares. “He had to be helicoptered in to the hospital. The following week, we had a couple of players hurt pretty bad. Then, we were smacked in the face when Junior Seau, whose nephew was on our team as a Freshman at the time, took his life. It hit home what a head and neck injury can do… So, we stepped back and looked at what we can do [and] we started teaching kids about safety a bit more closely.”

Made up of three parts — Strength and Conditioning, Athletic Training and Educating — Coach Sanchez’s package makes sure to tackle (pun intended) every angle of player safety and prevention across the board.

“Strength and Conditioning’ helps strengthen movement of the head to restrict neck and head from moving,” he explains. During “Athletic Training”, there is a pre-concussion and post- concussion test conducted before and after a player is hurt to test the brain waves and make an accurate determination if there is an injury and potentially understand the severity of it. And, finally, during the “Education” portion, Coach Sanchez himself makes sure his kids understand what concussions are and are aware of the symptoms (headaches, blurred vision, etc) so they can more easily recognize if they’ve been concussed and so that the appropriate measures can be taken (which can include having a child abstain from football for a number of days or all- together and/or get medical treatment).

Most recently, Coach Sanchez and his team invested in a couple of KERR Collars, a new protective gear created by a New York City Chiropractor named Dr. Patrick Kerr that is worn by players and is intended to create an extra level of protection for the neck area to help prevent injury to the head. And, while they haven’t put them to the test yet since football season hasn’t started, he is hopeful they will add another dimension to his proactive safety philosophy.

“When you come from a school of 800 boys, it’s very seldom, if at all… that we finish the season with the same amount of guys we started with due to injuries,” concludes Sanchez. “But, if we can save one or two kids from getting concussions or broken shoulders or broken vertebrates, then, we are on the right track. Then, I’ve really done my job.”

Knees, Shoulders and Ankles: The “Forgotten” Football Injuries

With concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) dominating the football headlines, it’s easy to sideline the importance of preventing other football injuries on the field, especially for high school and college athletes looking to carry their love of the sport into a potential career. One bad injury left untreated is all it can take to dash pro ball dreams, so along with state-of-the art helmets and concussion awareness training, student athletes should make sure their team is vigilant about all injuries, including those classified as “traumatic.”

Traumatic Knee Injuries

The most common knee injury in football involves the extreme stretching or tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), often caused by a strong blow to the side of the joint during a tackle. Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries are less common than ACL but just as serious, usually occurring when the tibia is struck with extreme backward force. When torn, the ACL or PCL unravels like a braided rope and will not heal on its own—surgery is required.

A recovery time of 6 to 9 months is also required, which is why preventing ACL and PCL injuries is so crucial—all that lost training and practice can have devastating effects on an athlete’s ability to compete later, even if the injury heals back to 100%.

The best ways to prevent knee injuries is to always jump, land, stop, and move with your knees directly over your feet, and never let your knees collapse inward. Specific injury prevention exercises and drills vary but they share a common focus: improving flexibility, strength (particularly of the core, hips, and legs), balance, agility, and your ability to jump and land safely.

Traumatic Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries in football usually occur from direct contact with another player or the playing surface, and typically result in either a dislocation or separation. A shoulder dislocation is when the humerus ball pops out of the scapular socket, but a separation is much more serious: the ligaments attached to the collarbone partially or completely tear away from the shoulder blade.

Another common shoulder injury is a rotator cuff tear, often the result of overuse and repetitive motion such as throwing a football, but it can also result from a tackling-type contact or a fall. Partial tears can be treated without surgery, but complete tears must be fixed by a surgeon to regain the full range of motion and function.

The first step to preventing shoulder injuries it to wear regulation equipment and padding that fits properly. Practicing proper tackling and blocking techniques is also important, as are strength and conditioning routines that increase flexibility.

Traumatic Ankle Injuries

There are several ways for football players to injury their ankles, although sprains—stretching, twisting or tearing ligaments around the ankle—are the most common. Football players typically sprain their ankles when slowing down or accelerating suddenly, changing direction unexpectedly, or suffering a blow to the joint during a tackle or awkward landing. Fractures are much more serious and often confused with sprains so it’s imperative to seek medical help immediately.

Football players are also at high risk for Achilles tendonitis, which is caused by repeated use and stress to the Achilles tendon—inflammation can lead to degeneration over time if not properly treated. Heel pain in the form of plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue around the heel) is another common injury from spending excessive time on your feet. For younger players (up to age 14), a particular concern is Sever’s disease, which is an inflammation of the heel’s growth plate caused by frequent running or pounding on hard surfaces.

Prevention of ankle injuries often comes down to improperly fitting shoes, but the best way to ensure your ankles stay strong against the demands of football is staying fit and flexible and warming up properly. Balancing exercises are great for honing your body’s “proprioception,” or ability to control itself in all types of positions. Also make sure to use the right technique when running so your weight is evenly distributed, and players can tape or strap up their ankles for extra protection during games and practice.

Traumatic Injuries: Not Necessarily a Dream-Killer

While some injuries such as ACL tears were once thought to be career-enders (or career-preventers for those still in school), medical treatments and surgeries have advanced to the point where players suffering from even the most serious traumatic injuries can recover and play another day. It might take time, and tons of make-up training, but these injuries are no longer the dream-killers they once were—as long as players are vigilant about treatment…and preventing injuries from happening in the first place.

Feature photo: Flickr: micolumnasana (cc license 2.0)

Balance and Stability Exercises for your Young Athlete

Continuing from our discussion on Effective High School Football Pre-Season Strength and Conditioning, here are a few balance and stability exercises that you can implement into your team’s pre-season and in-season workouts.

A few points to remember when considering if balance and stability exercises are right for your program:

  1. Your core works as the foundation, that, when combined with the strength of your legs, determine how much force you’re able to generate when you’re playing football.
  2. According to James Stoppani, author of the Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength, the amount of stress, strength, and endurance you have in your primary muscles is directly dependent upon the strength of your core muscles.
  3. “Balance conditioning is a way to train the body to make better use of the strength you already have,” (Louis Stack)
  4. When you train someone for stabilization, proprioception and balance, by default he or she is at less risk for injury. Good balance reduces the need for additional effort.

Feature photo: USAG Livorno PAO (cc license 2.0)