Jan 29, 2015Spring Fever With The Yellow Jackets
By Jason Benguche, MS, CSCS, PES
Whether you call them Mat Drills, 4 Quarters, or Morning Runs, the drills leading up to the beginning of spring practices in college football are a crucial component of any off-season program. Across the country many schools are completing some variation of these training sessions with a few important goals in mind. Here is an outline of the goals and structure of spring drills at Georgia Tech.
Early in my career I had the opportunity to work at the birthplace of “Mat Drills,” Florida State University. In the early 80’s, Head Coach Bobby Bowden and his staff decided the most productive and efficient way to prepare their athletes for spring practices was to conduct a series of intense and highly organized agility and movement stations. Many schools have followed a variation of these drills over the past 30 years with much success, and they are now a staple in many collegiate football programs. Here is a description of our variation at Georgia Tech.
Our morning runs begin outside on grass at 5:45 a.m. and last 60 to 75 minutes. After a dynamic warm-up and pre-game static stretch, our team is divided up into six position groups. Each group starts at one of seven stations around the field, which are manned by two members of our football or strength staff. At the sound of a whistle, each group completes their assigned drill for a designated time period and then sprints to the next drill in a clockwise fashion.
All of our drills are selected and designed in nature to be specific to the needs of our football team. Every drill includes aspects of speed, agility and footwork. Together as a staff, we have deemed these characteristics to be most important to the development of our athletes and will be significant to our future success. Examples of these drills include: a pro agility cone drill, which is a foundation for change of direction; bag drills, including linear and lateral agility mechanics; and a four-point reaction drill, which works on speed and acceleration.
Quality and Intensity
As I mentioned earlier, many schools across the country are training like this in some form or fashion. However, it isn’t always about what you do, but how you do it that separates you from the herd.
At Georgia Tech, coaches at each station are pushing their athletes to perform to the highest possible standard in both the quality of a drill and the intensity. These two factors are more important than any drill selection or other variable that we have in place for these sessions. When drills are not done correctly they are repeated as a group.
Coaches understand that as fatigue sets in over time the speed and performance of a drill may slightly decline, but factors such as running through a given line or starting on command do not change. The intensity of all drills is nothing less than 100 percent. If an athlete is holding back or not giving complete effort, the entire group repeats the drill. When changing stations, groups are expected to sprint to the next station. If an athlete does not sprint, the group rotates back to the previous station and the drills are repeated.
Goals For football players, the benefits of training for agility, speed and footwork are obvious. In addition, the conditioning benefits are a part of our planned late winter and early spring training.
However, in looking at the big picture, our morning runs are deliberate in their development of other areas. Because of their structure, these sessions naturally promote competition. Athletes in every drill are competing against one to three other athletes.
Discipline and mental toughness are also being promoted during these drills. Whether it is the early morning start, being held to an extremely high standard during drills, or pushing themselves farther than they ever thought, athletes grow stronger mentally and become more committed to performing tasks the right way.
Lastly, breeding leadership amongst the team is of great importance and is a natural byproduct of our program. Our athletes are put in situations where they have to push each other, help those who are struggling, and encourage top end performance from their teammates.
In translation to football performance, our morning runs create an atmosphere needed to win games. Athletes are being held accountable, disciplined, and working together as a team. Regardless of the time of day, days per week or specific drills being done, spring drills are all about the vision and goals of a team. At Georgia Tech, our team goal is to be a collective unit that strives for perfection and competes to win on a daily basis. Morning runs are an important tool in how we work to reach those goals.
Jason Benguche, MS, CSCS, PES, is Assistant Director of Player Development for Football at Georgia Tech.