It’s football season again. Time for kids all over the US to work on their passing, receiving, flag-pulling, punting, and of course their touchdown dances! The following drills and mini-games will help your students prepare for football. Football takes teamwork, power, agility, communication, and the skills of passing, receiving, running pass patterns, punting and kicking, pulling flags, dodging defense, creating plays, etc. These 7 activities are designed to help your students build those skills, beginning with flag-pulling, passing, and receiving in 3-6, applying skills into mini-games in middle school, and finally playing football with a focus on specific pass patterns and playing defense in high school.
Drills and Games for Building Football Skills
Flag Pulling Drills
This 3rd – 6th grade activity focuses on both pulling flags (defense) and avoiding flag-pullers (offense). Half the class (ball-carriers) begins on one sideline, while the other half is scattered in the middle of the field. On signal, the ball-carriers run from their sideline to the other while the other half of the class tries to pull as many ball-carriers’ flags as they can. Switch roles every few plays.
In this activity, designed for 3rd – 6th graders, groups of 3 (a Center, Quarterback, and Receiver) in a small area try to score as many passing touchdowns as possible in 2 minutes. When time is up, they each rotate to a new position.
Zone Football, for 3rd – 6th graders, focuses on teams of 4 moving the ball from 1 zone to the next, keeping passes short and only to the next zone. All players get to play QB, be a Receiver, and Center to hike the ball. Complete passes move the ball into the next zone toward Zone 4 and beyond to the end zone to score. Play is quick and everyone is engaged.
Pressure the QB
This middle school football activity introduces pass rushing for the first time so the QB is under pressure for time to make a pass before their flag is pulled. Scores in this game are for offense and defense to give the D extra incentive to pull that flag. The original game begins with only 1 defender, but you can challenge your students by having groups play 3V3.
In Mini-Football, another middle school activity, the object is to score a touchdown in just 4 plays using a combination of football skills. Skills include punting, flag-pulling, hiking (centering), passing and receiving. Plays must be started before a defender counts to 15, so play-makers don’t take too much time.
Defenders is a high school football activity that teaches both zone and player-to-player defenses and allows for plenty of practice of each. Students rotate through each position to ensure everyone learns them all.
This high school football activity teaches multiple passing routes for receivers. In Passing Tree, teams of 5 practice these routes and are allowed just 4 plays each quarter. The goal is to complete as many passes as they can in those 4 plays. Teams switch roles after every 4 plays.
These are just a few of many activities that help your students learn and practice the numerous skills involved in football. Because football is such a big spectator sport in the US, teaching some of the skills and rules to students as early as 3rd grade helps them to appreciate the sport even more. It is a fun and safe game to play, when flags are used, and your students will enjoy getting into the game this fall!
BJ Williston, M.Ed. has a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis on Adapted Physical Education, and holds a California Teaching Credential in Physical Education and Adapted Physical Education. BJ has worked in the Physical Education/Physical Activity field since 1984. She has taught Physical Education in Hawaii, Oregon, and California at all levels Pre‐School‐College.
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