Conditioning and Timing Concepts

Conditioning and timing concepts that can help turn a “group of kids” into a tough, tight knit, highly conditioned team



By AZ- CA football coach Bob Whaley


I certainly do not profess to have all of the answers, and I know that some of you coaches already use some or many of the concepts listed below, but when you become a student of the “game”, you begin to pick up concepts that the highly successful coaches use. I have been fortunate to coach with some of the very best. One coach I worked with was voted the Az high school “coach of the century”.

Also on the list are NFL coaches George Allen, and Tom Landry. One thing that sets these coaches apart is not only knowledge, but their passion, and focus.

Conditioning – many of the coaches I have worked with over the years have had the philosophy that they wanted to get the most out of practice, so they do not condition during practice. They all did an excellent job of preparing their players preseason, and they maintain that their practices are so intense, that their players are conditioning the whole time. I could not disagree more. Well, there is a way to integrate real conditioning into practices that will be so demanding, that your players will be in absolute top condition, and they will develop real toughness in the process.

Suffering as a team – the team must pay when even one player falls by the wayside. Why is this concept is so important? Learning to win or loose as a team is critical to having not only the physical toughness , but the mental resolve too, to find a way to come out winners in a football game.

Introduce timing factors into conditioning, and assign a specific number of reps for each drill. Using this concept will change entirely, the results you get on the field. I realize that coaching, material, and the system have a lot to do with it too, but let me give you an example. Our new 4 man staff took over a 1-15 (prev. 2 yr. Record) high school team in ‘98, and we found ourselves playing in the state championship game in November. (See my website article “Going from worst to 1st.) We actually used 5-6 different conditioning drills every day that were integrated into our practice in a seamless way to accomplish a number of things. It’s important to note that we, as a staff, did not take over in time to implement a conditioning or weight program in time for the season. That’s right, none of our kids had any pre season conditioning! ( I am going to list below some of the drills we used)

Timing factors explained – Why is this any different than the status quo? It’s simple…..let’s say that you are running 50’s at the end of practice. Your players are tired, you tell them that “we are going to run just 12 50’s, but 12 perfect 50s. Put them on the goal line in two waves, and give the linemen type 9 sec to go to the 25, touch the line, and return. The backs/rcvrs have 8 sec.If even one person does not make it back in time…..that rep does not count! Believe me, when you are at about the 10th rep, if one person doesn’t make it and you say, “that one doesn’t count”, the entire team will get unbelievably pissed! There is than a group resolve for all to go 100%…together . Also, just as important, when you make conditioning a team effort, you also gain 30 something assistant coaches too. the whole team becomes aware of the progress of the slowest players…..I have had players grab a hold of each arm propelling a slower player across the line amid screams and cheers from the whole team. What do you think this does for the cohesiveness of the team? A certain individual and group toughness starts to exist within the team as a group that is so hard for other teams to defeat. When everyone begins to put out 100% effort, this drill can happen in 10 minutes. We always did this at the end of the practice, because when you got the players over on one knee at the end of practice, you have their undivided attention. Staff members always would trade off each day ….. taking 2-3 minutes ( rarely more) and talked about how our players should focus also on being good persons, developing character, and other inspirational topics. The kids love it!

Using an 11 front

Many coaches use this coaching technique, but few know the wisdom of inserting a time factor.

Why use an 11 front? You will be amazed at as they hustle into place, how many seconds and minutes you save of valuable practice time, especially over a season.. Just say “11 front” and watch them fly in seconds into formation right in front of you…w/eyes up.    From here you’ll be able to vector your kids easily into place for the next drill. Again, use a timing factor of 3.5, to 6 sec, select any time setting that will challenge your players to perform to their absolute top speed. Note: when you use a timed 11 front, you will have their attention and focus if you want to address the squad. If your players are spread out all over the field, and you want to talk to them, make a “V” sign and raise your hand up as you blow the whistle. Time factor here will be 15 seconds….believe me after a few up/dns, they will know that they have to get there quickly and save you time.


Conditioning drills, and timing factors explained(A coaching timer and stopwatch are critical for injecting a sense of urgency into what you are doing).


10 yd. Explosion Drill: Timer is set on 1.2 to 1.3 seconds. When: run, this 5 min. drill right after stretches/cali’s ….gets the point across that you want absolute speed and effort right from the very beginning of practice. Set up in an 11 front, they can go right into the drill. As the players are already set up in 3-4 waves, as they take off for the 10 yds. they can look down at the 10 yd line as the buzzer goes off at 1.3 sec to see if they made it. If a player makes it, have them raise their right arm up in the air.

You will be surprised to see how the kids bust their butts to make it! That group of 11 then turns around and reloads (see website video) This drill really promotes getting off the ball together on the snap count.

I don’t know about you, but as a coach, nothing brings a smile on my face more than watching my players come off the ball and eat people up.

Station To Station Drill – This 12 minute drill can be one of the most intense conditioning efforts you players can ever go through together as a team. It promotes incredible toughness too. Many coaches use this in some degree or another, but if you add a timing factor and hitting drills into it with an additional 12 minutes (for a total of 24 Min.) each back to back its Ka- ching!. One of the most important things you can do. We started doing this with our “98 team, and went deep into the season…at the end of Sept. we were still running it. If we had less than a sub par effort in Oct., we went back to it. In other words, we felt this drill was absolutely critical to our success. Timing factors: when the horn goes off, all 4 groups, instead of taking off separately for the next station, stand ready to sprint to the next station at the whistle. . They have 9 seconds to go the 50 yds. If anyone (or group) doesn’t make it by the buzzer at 9 seconds, the whole team has 10-20 up downs. Then they have to go back to the starting point and do it again. .Each station will have 2.5 min. of very active i.e. pushups, sit ups, monkey rolls, squat jumps etc. Hitting drills are another thing in the second 12 min. session. Here are some special toughness drills that really work, they are the most critical.




Hitting Drills for 2nd 12 min station session


This drill promotes good footwork, coiling and striking a blow, and staying low.  Coach must blow the whistle if the defender is so tired he cannot defend himself.  As shown above,  the defender with the LB shield  must defend his circle for a full minute.  Note:  We give out an award sticker to each player to go one full minute. The  attackers straddle three bags as shown above. Note that after the attackers hit the defender, they  must return to the back of their respective bags. Because of the LB shield held by the defender, this is an easy drill at first, but after 30 seconds or so, when the defender gets tired, he must suck it up to get the job done. This is one tough drill and really promotes confidence once a defender goes the entire 60 seconds. This is a very fast moving drill and has a high degree of conditioning associated with it. Before a defender has had experience with this drill, he will often times be knocked over repeatedly. Coaches should encourage the defender to get back up….you must watch the defender closely to make sure he can continue, and be ready to blow the whistle to stop the action if necessary. After a while, defenders get angry and loose their fear of contact….they learn to actually enjoy the contact in fact once they go the 60 seconds. You need a stop watch, or a watch with a second hand, or a coaching timer  to monitor how much time has gone by..

Station 2- Board Drill – Get 3 2x 10 ‘s 10’ Long 2 players (3 sets at a time) are nose to nose in the center of the Board, in 4 point stances.. At the whistle, each player tries to move the other off the board…(This drill goes 15 sec.) There are  winners when the other player has both feet on one side of the board, or if one player gets thrown off entirely, or if you drive your opponent off the end of the board. . It is best to designate which side are the off. players, because a stalemate or if the off. player lays on top of the def. player for the full 15 sec., it’s a win.  You must get low (4pt. stance) and use your strength and toughness to overcome your adversary. In our squad, everyone had to do this drill. Skill people too.

Station 3 : You can add any hitting drills you like. But another good drill is to use is to have 3 sets of 2 off. and 1 def. player …the Off. player has 10 sec to get to the football 10 yds away. Which ever group looses does 10 up downs.

After we added 12 minutes of hitting stations to our 12 min of conditioning stations with our state runner ups, those players got tougher by the day. You know when you coach a team, you hope you will have 3 to 5 really tough kids and hope that the rest can hold their own? Using the above methods, I had 30 players that were as tough as they come. One example of this was a junior 190 lb guard on my ’98 team, that, against an undefeated opponent, went up against an all state 290 lb Def. Tackle and by the middle of the 3rd quarter had bent up his own aluminum face mask into a mangled piece of metal. The un-injured D Tackle took himself out of the game, sat on the bench with his head down, and never came back in. Get down on your knees and thank the Lord when you get a player like that. I can safely say, that by mid way into the season, just about the entire team was at that same toughness level.Note: if you want to play some games with the kids, you can quietly bump the timer set time  up or down to insure success or failure of any rep to drive a point home.

Trap Drill and other quick hitting run plays (Buck Sweep, Counter, Dive, etc.)The trap drill should include the 3 major blockers going into LB shields and a RB. Start out at .7 sec. and see if you can get it down to .4 sec. (this is not a typo, see our website video) Use a stopwatch to determine optimum timing factors for any other quick hitting run plays and then set the timer accordingly.  Defensive pursuit drill: This drill really promotes getting after people too. Your DC will love this drill. Set up your offense, then line up your def. And when the ball is snapped to the QB (he can either go Lf, Rt, or throw to the outside rcvrs) your def. has to touch the ball in 3.5 sec. Everyone uses this drill, but the key is the timing factor (all except for the away side pursuit man, but he should take the proper angles.) It becomes a matter of pride that everyone makes the buzzer in 3.5 sec. or less.

Great conditioning Games
(With timing factors)



How would you like to watch your team condition together and put out an absolute 100% effort, and be exhausted beyond belief, but be laughing , yelling and cracking up at the same time….a coaches’ dream…yes? Check out these two drills…they are winners.  Hot Potato: I got this drill from the Univ. of Arkansas spring ball years ago, and have used it ever since. We would use this for end of practice conditioning as a change of pace. There was taunting, shouting, laughing too. Start with 11 front, name each team, set up an entire off. and defense on the whole field. Off. Starts on their goal line. Timing factor: they have 30 seconds to cross the opponents goal. But….they can only advance the ball by running, or with a legal lateral as they go down the field….anything goes except clipping or horse collaring (this is not touch…the Def. stops the player with the ball only if he hits the ground.  Or a penalty for forward lateral etc.  or if the 30 second time limit expires).  Some coaches give a 2nd Dn. If the Off. gets by the 50, an extra Dn. Is given, then time becomes an urgent mater and your squad learns to execute quickly what to do with seconds on the clock, and you have to score…and they will be poised and good at advancing the ball.  You may never need it in a season, but when you do need it, you really do. There are usually more than 2 teams… so if a team gets scored on, they are off the field and a new team goes in.  I never  had any serious injuries, but to be sure, I kept the kids in pads.   The winning team then gets to choose if they want off. or def.  I repeat this is not touch.  The def.  sets up on the 20 yd. line out, (any way you or they want to).  (the 30 second time limit turns it into a real conditioning experience too… We actually found some good Rcvrs & RB’s watching the squad play Hot potato, nobody could touch them or catch them.  Hot Potato – uses the whole field.Note: My philosophy is that anything you can do to make your player’s football experience fun, character building, and more meaningful, as you succeed, ….is worth its weight in gold.

9 on 8 or 12 on 11
This is a real conditioning drill for the end of practice. You set up 8 dummies across a field on the sideline spaced every 5 yards (on the lines)and send nine men at a time.(you always have one more player than dummies) Timing factor, 9 seconds to return (The player group has to wait for your signal to return) Everyone has to get back to the starting side line on time or they have up downs. You are limited in this drill to the number of standup dummies that you have. If your dummies do not stand up well by them selves, then you assign the group that just went to hold them up with one hand standing off by the side. You will always have one more player than you have dummies set up. The player who doesn’t get a dummy has to do 20 up downs on the spot. Anything goes but clipping, horse collaring, or anything dangerous . It’s amazing how much strategy develops. Try to match up kids with other kids with similar speed. Or you can give a slow lineman a 10 or 15 yd head start when you blow the whistle. The rest period occurs when a group that just went waits for the group in back of them to complete their turn. Don’t be surprised to experience a lot of laughter and cheering. What’s fun to watch too is to see kids go flying, de-cleated from a push from the side as they close in on the dummies. Special points can be awarded for a de-cleater. Its not unusual to see players fly into the dummies going horizontal at top speed to be the first to the bag. The fun comes in when the players change their minds in the last seconds about what dummy they want.Note: Our players know, that if for some reason they are ready to pass out and absolutely can not continue, they just drop to one knee and pause so as not to cause up downs or extra reps for the rest of the team ( a tap out). If a player taps out too often he joins the “Tap Squad” ,but we as coaches have to access each tap out immediately and find out if it’s medical or how to fix it if it can be fixed. Being a member of the Tap squad can limit playing time.

Some thoughts and phrases you may want to consider using when addressing your team…..”Speed can trump teams with better talent”


How did loosing in past years make you feel?” “Are you willing to work harder in order to be successful?” Do you know that the effort you put out individually and as a team is directly proportional to the success that you will achieve?” “Most people base their goals, dreams, and aspirations on


normal effort?” Are you wondering why we are spending so much time this year on having you be in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing?” (Not a bad philosophy of life…yes?) Study the champions and the road that leads to their success. Dan Gable is one, Lance Armstrong is another….Do you know that before Dan Gable became our first American wrestling Olympic Gold medalist, for years he would set his alarm at 11:PM and 3 AM, jump out of bed and do 100 pushups then go back to sleep?” Do you know that Lance rides 130 miles every day, rain or shine, 365 days a year, and he usually does it in 3 hours.


(If any of you coaches have other ideas or stories, please pass them on to us)

Coach Whaley with the number 1 all time AZ passing yards leader, Desert Ridge QB Josh McCown (Max Preps)