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Youth Football Drills - Teaching Defensive Pursuit
By Charles Darling
Ideally, youth football drills break down seemingly complex skills into pieces that are much more manageable for youth football players.
This is not at all to say youth football drills should be vastly different from drills at other levels. In fact, I believe, if taught properly youth football players can handle many types of drills. The key is starting simple and progressing from there.
In my opinion one of the skills most critical to a successful team defense is defensive pursuit.
Often a team will have some players who naturally excel at this, and others who do not seem to naturally grasp the proper angles and speeds required to intercept a ball carrier. This disparity makes the overall team defense weak. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link! This is why defensive pursuit is the very first thing I drill with youth players.
Over the years I have determined the best way to begin teaching this skill is at a walking pace and with a minimal number with all the distractions removed.
By starting at a walking pace and with only one single offensive player (the ball carrier), I find even the players who are initially "lost" can grasp what is required of them to contribute to great team pursuit...
...I start with the following youth football drill I call "11 vs 1: Don't Touch the One".
Basically this means that beginning at a walking pace, the defense only has the one offensive ball carrier to adjust to without the distraction of the other offensive players, and the added complications of containment, etc. Players are able to naturally determine what angles and speeds they have to take to reach the "one." Obviously the "Don't Touch the One" part means the defensive eleven are not crush tackling the lone ball carrier.
Defensive Pursuit Drill Setup:
Prior to doing this drill at any speed I explain to the players the speed of the ball carrier, the player's own speed and how far away the ball carrier is. These three factors influence each kid's proper angle of pursuit.
Then the eleven defensive players take their positions. On a snap (from a stationary/invisible center) the defensive players all take their initial penetration steps. The ball carrier then walks to and then up the sideline while all the defensive players adjust their angles of pursuit.
Once this is mastered at a walking pace you can quickly progress to a jogging pace and ultimately a full speed pursuit. Most kids will quickly understand what the drill is trying to accomplish. So, while you should not have to spend too long at a walking pace, its important to start there.
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