Using a Sound Actuated Timer

Now there is a way to demand quickness from your players in a way that they will very likely enjoy and put out an absolute 100% effort. So you ask, how do I accomplish that?

The answer to that is to use a Timer/Buzzer that lets your players know when any preset time has transpired. How can that encourage them to give 100%?

…Why is it any different than yelling?

The answer is easy…players now-a-days have grown up with electronic competition.! When a player knows that he must beat the buzzer…..he really busts his behind to be competitive.

For example…..1998 was the year that our staff took our H.S. team to the state championship game in 2A. (I was an offensive coach, we lost in a close fought game against the perennial power. By the way, we got there with a freshman QB after our Sr. QB went down in the third game ) We as a new staff, faced the challenge of overcoming a previous two year record of 1 win vs. 15 losses…in other words we were the league doormat.)

One of the things that turned the tide was a Timer/Buzzer that I developed that had a circuit in it that could hear a sharp command sound. One of the drills that demanded quickness was our explosion drill. Line up the players after calisthenics into 3 or 4 straight line groups of 10-12 each on the goal line.

To challenge our players, we would say in a low voice “Ready” … then use a loud “Hut” shouted at the timer to start it. We set the device at 1.3 seconds. We told our players that 1.3 seconds was the absolute best 10 yd dash time for HS players at the varsity level. The sharp “hut” then started the timer.

(You can also start the timer by push button if you want to work on defensive reaction by going on football movement while calling out dummy signals).

You don’t think those kids busted their rumps to see if they had gone that 10 yards when the buzzer went off? All they had to do was look down to see where they were in respect to the 10 yd line! Several times during the season, opposing coaches after a game would ask us “how do you get your kids to come off the ball like that?” As soon as a line would go, we would send the next line, and the next, while the lines that went before would hustle in back of the lines waiting to go. Even though the players were just sprinting 10 yds, they had to get back into line very quickly to keep up with the squad. We rarely spent more than 5 minutes on this drill…but we really got maximum effort and got the point across. This drill will really help the players that need it the most. They also learned to get off together.

Building a sense of urgency into your practices with a sound activated timer is much easier that you would think. Because of your player’s natural desire to beat the “Buzzer”, you need do very little to emphasize your point.

There should always be a natural balance to achieve good technique within a given time frame. If you don’t address the issue of how game timing wreaks havoc on technique, then when you face a good defensive team, there will be hell to pay. The timer allows you to concentrate on technique while demanding maximum (game) timing pressure too.

I built the sound sensitivity circuit into the timer primarily so that players could work out on their own with the timer, i.e. punters can set the timer at 4.5 seconds to emphasize hang time. They can turn the sound sensitivity up, and when they place the timer off to the side and trigger the start of the 4.5 sec interval by the sound of the ball hitting his foot. I got the idea when on the Ram’s practice field …because after just a few minutes working with their punter using the timer, his hang times increased by 3 TENTHS of a second , consistently. Even though he ranked in the top 5 among NFL punters, he still had room for improvement. Whenever he wanted to work on his hang time, he would use the timer on his own by using the sound sensitivity feature. Just think how this will help at the college and HS level! Generally, when you emphasize something, you get it!

Usually, punters work out by themselves…but with the timer, it’s like having an assistant coach standing right there with a stopwatch.

PAT’s and Field Goals should get off in 1.2 seconds consistently to avoid being blocked. (Punts in 1.9 sec.) Your place kicking timing can be done by using the timer on push button operation.

Another illustration of making our players perform under game timing conditions in practice is using the timer when working out your QB’s on their drops. A good HS drop time from under center for a 3 step drop is 1.3 sec. …..a 5 step drop at 1.7 sec., and a 7 step drop at 2.4 sec. (add .4 sec. for shotgun)

One additional advantage that the timer gives you is that the timer will only start with a sharp, “command” sound. The QB can set the timer on the grass where the center usually is and set the timer off with his voice. If a QB consistently learns to perform at game timing….when he performs during a game, he will have the poise to get the job done! This is a huge benefit that using a timer will do for you.

Many of the most successful NFL coaches use a timer when working 7 on 7 pass drills. No matter what level you coach, if you set the timer on 3 sec., you will instill a sense of urgency and force the QB to make his decisions on his read patterns within an optimum time frame. If the buzzer goes off and he hasn’t made his decision and released the ball, it’s a sack!

Because as I mentioned, the timer only triggers by sound with a sharp loud command, one very important byproduct of the device is that it will encourage your QB’s to develop a command voice. (A potentially critical talent for your younger signal callers)

Getting the optimum time setting for many of your drills is just as easy as noting what average time for any action is and cutting down on it ‘till you get the optimum time setting. You can find an time setting to challenge your players in any drill or action that covers the same distance every time.

Let me give you an example of how you can get absolute effort when running sprints (40 yd for example) at the end of practice. Most of the time, players running sprints will, when they start to get a little tired, start to dog it, and everybody starts to coast. At the start, we told our kids that no one in our squad ran slower than a 6.1 40 yd dash. Therefore, we were going to set the buzzer at 6.5 sec. We told them that we were only going to run ten 40’s, but everyone had to beat 6.5 seconds or the entire squad had to run that 40 over. You can put additional pressure by having two waves (one linemen, the other backs) that go at different times on the timer (5.5 suggested for backs)

Boy…..did they live in mortal fear of not beating the buzzer, so they run much faster than they normally ran, and they have an investment in how fast their teammates ran too! They were much more encouraging to their teammates.

(We, as a staff, watched our players closely for signs of overly fatigued players)

I used to get irritated at the beginning of practice when I would blow the whistle for the squad to form up for stretches and they would mill around and take a minute to a minute and a half to get into a good formation, with the leaders up in front…in other words there was no sense of urgency at all. So I devised a way to challenge the squad with a “ghost”. I got the team together on one knee, and told the boys that I had had a team in 1991 that could get into formation in less than 6 seconds. I said, “you boys are taking almost a minute….. you can run 10 yards in 1.3 seconds, so getting into a formation in 6 seconds should be a piece of cake”. I set the Buzzer on 6 sec. and blew the whistle….boy you never saw a bunch of players scatter like they did. There were still kids trying to find a place after 15 seconds, (long after the buzzer), so we called them back over on one knee and challenged them again to do it in 6 seconds. This time it only took 7 sec. (it only took 4 tries to beat the buzzer) We eventually got it down to 4 sec for a “World Record” (They loved the competition with the buzzer and it got the point across)

You can really play some games that the players really love. From then on if I had the buzzer in my hand when I blew the whistle, they knew they had to beat the buzzer or else they had up/downs. Believe me, they as a team watched me like a hawk, and if I put the whistle in my mouth, they flew into place. It was the whole team against the buzzer. Can you see how this sets the whole tone from the very beginning of practice? It isn’t often that you have the absolute attention of every team member without opening your mouth!


There is another exciting application where you can use the timer. Last season,

I watched a small D 2 school on TV beat hell out of a lower echelon D 1 school.

The D1 school had scheduled them at the beginning of the season as a

tune up game. They were supposed to win by 50 to nothing. The DII school did it

with a hurry up offense that just killed the D1 team.


Then I watched what one local coach here has done. His teams break the

huddle, sprint up to the ball into a two point stance, then wait one second, and go

on first sound. The defenses, trying to adjust to strength, usually got

caught up shifting LB’s as the offense got off the ball, especially when the TE came near the LOS uncommitted, then picked L or

R at the last second . (Talk about confusion)


The team was a pleasure to watch because they really generated excitement. Think about trying to defense this kind of play. When they got up to the LOS into a two point stance and were set for one second…sometimes they shifted or went down into a three point . Or they ran a freeze play. They were successful in drawing the other team off sides over 30% of the time when they did this.

You can use the timer when you first introduce a “hurry up” type of offense. Tell your players to break the huddle and get set at the LOS in 3.5 seconds. If you feel they can do it faster, then trim the time down. One thing this will do also, is to cause the wide receivers to get the picture as to how fast they have to hustle out to their positions and get set. Many times you can beat teams with superior talent by using a “hurry up” scheme or for your two minute offenses. You can use the timer any time you want to teach your team how much time they really have.

One more illustration on how you can get maximum effort from your kids, happened to me when I was at the National Coaches Convention in Washington DC one year and I ran into the then current coach of the Naval Academy. We were talking about the timer, and I told him that by using a Timer/Buzzer to emphasize quickness, I was able to get one of my HS QB’s from the last year to throw a quick hitch (1 step-QB) and get the ball into the RECEIVERS HANDS IN nine tenths of a second .He said, “did you say nine tenths of a second into his hands”? I nodded yes..he then said, “ that’s horse s—t”! I thanked him for the faith he had in what I claimed, and told him to go back when his team resumed workouts for the coming season, to challenge his QB to get the ball into the receiver’s hands in less than a second. Tell him you are going to time the ball from the snap with your stopwatch, and note the difference after emphasizing the timed action. Guess what, the next year, that very same coach from Navy came into my booth, and the first thing he said to me before he said good day, or hello was, “You were right, we did get our QB to beat one second.! In order to accomplish .9 seconds into the WR’s hands, you must use a 1 step drop the side you are throwing to, and make sure the QB comes up in one smooth motion into a quick release. His weight must shift to his back foot at the beginning of the throw and shift to his front foot as he releases.

Many coaches are developing specific drills using the timer to inject some urgency in other things they are doing. You can promise up/downs if the buzzer is not beaten…..there are many ways that you can use psychology to put game timing pressure on your players.

Remember, you can achieve the same thing with a stop watch and a whistle, but getting accuracy with a whistle is hit and miss, plus you can’t watch technique as well when you are staring at a stop watch. Besides, your players have a tendency not to believe you as opposed to using a buzzer to get the timing point across. Also once the timer is set, you don’t have to set the same time again….it resets itself automatically.

How do you get your point across to encourage each of your players to give it 100%…If your players go full tilt and have a sense of urgency in practice, they are more likely to have more poise under game timing circumstances. .You can accomplish this with the push of a button.