The 3 Most Important Football Skills And How To Develop Them

In Europe, it’s still the offseason in many countries, and there’s time to elevate your game before practice begins. A little improvement now can save you from watching from the bench.

As one who secured an late season bench position on his high school team, trust me when I say you’d rather be playing.

This isn’t about developing more size, strength or power. You’ve already been hoisting weights all offseason, right? You’ve done enough plyometrics to jump the Empire State Building.

No, this is about football-specific skills that will get you noticed for all the right reasons come that first fall practice.


Fast and accurate feet are essential for every position, including the big guys up front. Gone are the days when the offensive linemen could just be big, strong and in the way. Now, there are complex blocking schemes, and coaches expect their linemen to execute. In addition, defensive linemen are unbelievably quick now, even if they’re 6’2” and 275. If your feet aren’t too, your quarterback is on the ground.

Link to original article in USA Football by Steve Faber.

If you’re a running back, wide receiver, or DB, there’s no explanation needed. You make your living off quick feet. As the saying goes: “Slow feet don’t eat.” Spending the offseason with the rope ladder, hurdles, and cones, should be at the top of your priority list.

One defining difference between QBs who move on to the next level and those who pay for their own college isn’t just how well they can drop 40 yard dimes, it’s their footwork. If you’re fortunate enough to work with a top flight QB coach, they’ll evaluate and improve your footspeed and foot work. If you’re doing it yourself, here are some drills that will really help with quarterback footwork.

For other positions, cone and ladder drills are highly effective in improving acceleration, deceleration, direction changing ability, and elusiveness. Use rope ladder drills to improve foot speed. There are nearly limitless rope ladder footwork drills you still have time to work before coach sees how you’ve used the offseason.

Another effective tool for footwork is the low hurdle. Including 6” low hurdles in some of your drills helps make sure you’re getting your feet up. You can use these going straight ahead, or with similar foot progressions to ladder drills. Concentrate on getting the knees up and feet off the ground as quickly and accurately as possible.

Hand technique

It’s called football, but often how you use your hands is the difference between winning and losing. Sound hand technique is vital for all positions, but those who benefit most are wide receivers, corners, linebackers, and of course, linemen on both sides of the ball.

Good hand technique is a key part of a wide receiver’s release move when faced with press coverage, and on the flip side, for defensive backs using press coverage, using the hands properly helps disrupt the receiver’s route and throws off the precise timing necessary for success.

Both sides of the line can’t do their jobs well without good hand technique. For offensive linemen, poor hand technique means getting beat or flagged. An offensive lineman’s hand movements must be strong and precise, and also quick enough to defeat what the opposition is doing.

On the defensive line, good hands aren’t something their insurance company promises, but a key part of getting off blocks to make tackles or pressure the quarterback. Here are some excellent hand technique and placement drills for defensive linemen.

Linebackers must be able to shed blocks effectively to do their jobs. As defenders, they have considerably more leeway in hand use than do those on the offensive side of the ball. Taking on blocks with their hands lets linebackers shed blocks more effectively. In pass rush situations or taking on a lead blocker in running plays, effectively ripping the offensive player’s hands away and slipping past to make the play requires using good hands.

Field awareness

This one is vital, if somewhat more difficult to attain. Situational and field awareness helps defenders recognize plays more rapidly and lets offenses recognize defenses. It allows individual players to foresee how plays will likely develop so they can take advantage of the situation.

Trevor Moawad is a sports mental performance specialist who’s worked with elite football players and organizations, including Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson, and Florida State University. He points out physical training can only take someone so far in their quest to improve their game.

Being aware of:

  • where you are and are supposed to be on the field at all times
  • where your teammates are supposed to be on each play
  • down and distance
  • sideline proximity
  • exactly where you have to be for the first down
  • time remaining on the game and play clock

Myriad other factors are vital to be a great player.

Film study is one way to improve your situational and field awareness. Work with your coaches to find improvement areas on your game video from last season.

Playing 7v7 is another avenue to practice field awareness. While not the same as tackle ball, you still have an opportunity to work on recognizing field orientation, tracking down and distance, and at some venues, keeping an eye on the clock. 7v7 with good coaches who can not only help with the preceding skills, but analyze your technique and movement can be another big help.

Improving footspeed and agility, hand technique and field awareness during the offseason can make the difference between starting and not, or finally getting noticed by colleges. Whether you’ll be in the varsity starting lineup for the 4th consecutive year, or are a wide-eyed freshman trying to get the coach’s attention, working on footwork, hand technique, and field awareness is a powerful way to elevate your game.

usa-football-steve-faberSteve Faber is a freelance writer and content strategist who’s been marketing online since a stint with a high profile e-commerce start up during the first Internet boom. His firm, Most Pixels Marketing, works with organizations to create content and formulate effective content strategies to get noticed, engage customers and drive sales. His son just finished playing his fifth football season this fall and is looking forward to high school ball next year.

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