We hear a lot about teaching our players to “play TO the whistle.” It’s important on defense so all 11 guys are running to the ball in their correct pursuit angles. I posted about this phenomenon 2 years ago. We were having problems with our defenders “easing up” when the 1st guy made contact. Too many times, the first tackler held on but the RB squirmed loose and made BIG gains on second effort while our kids let up and watched! Remember: This was all during games!
We started evaluating things and I quickly realized my error: I was blowing the whistle too soon in practice!!! I was conditioning our defenders to “gear down” when they saw the first hit!!!!!!!! Why? How? Cuz… in order to protect our Scout Offense RB’s and try to minimize the chance for injury… when I saw the first hit (in practice now… remember?!), I would blow a “quick whistle” on the play. I was inadvertently “teaching” our defenders to gear down and NOT continue to fly to the ball. My whistle (quick) whistle was teaching them a negative (for football) response.
How did I remedy it? (Again, I posted on this a while back but… I’ll be quick) When we did Pursuit Drill— which we did EVERY Wednesday— we would set up 4 of those big “Pass Rush” dummies (the kind with all of the weight in the base. We called them “Weebles” cuz they get knocked over but they don’t stay down!) Our DC would simulate a snap and all 11 would hit the ground, bounce up and… look to see which of the 4 “Weebles” the DC pointed to! (NOTE: they were spread all over the field!) The defense then took off on a sprint and had to get 9 of the 11 “Dog Piling” on the dummy before I counted to 4! THEN… I would blow the whistle!! If 9 (only 9 because the other 2 should be in cut back/cut off pursuit angle/position) did not “pile on” within 4 seconds, the rep didn’t count and they had to do it again.
When we went Team D vs. the Scout O, I explained that it was not live to the ground but we needed to “Drive For 5” like our Seahawk Tackling taught us while the other 7-10 sprinted to the ball or their correct pursuit angle. I was NOT going to give a quick whistle anymore!!! I wanted to see at least 7 guys “around” the ball carrier when I blew the (late!) whistle or they’d be doing some up/downs real quick. It was amazing how much better our gang tackling got after that!
I think the same thing holds true on Offense. I know a coach who does not ever blow a whistle in practice. I’m concerned about it cuz I’m not sure the players are being properly conditioned to “play TO the whistle.” Why? Cuz there never is a whistle!!! I think it creates laziness… particularly on the part of the offensive players who are the blockers on a play. It’s all about training. Without a whistle to “control” their effort, they will simply stop when they feel like it. Which, in most cases, is waaaaaaaay earlier than you want them to stop. This has a direct carry over to the game.
If you’re not using a whistle to “condition” or “train” your players to play TO the whistle, I would encourage you to start. It’s not too late!