As many of you know I’m a huge proponent of using unique movements and games to help me determine who should play what positions as well as help the athletic development and conditioning of my players. One of the best games for doing this is the Deer Hunter game. Last weekend at my Coaches Clinic in Boston, a youth coach that has used the “Winning Youth Football” system shared with me his twist on my version of this game.

Why We Do It

Remember in football what we are looking for is a players ability to control his body, change direction and accelerate in very small spaces. The key component in doing well with this skill set is core strength, the power one has from below the rib cage through the upper thighs. Your best FOOTBALL athletes are always have a very strong core.

How We Do It

The way we do our Deer Hunter it is mark out a 20 yard by 20 yard square with cones or shells. With a 24 player team put 4 “Hunters” in the middle of the square, put yellow shell jerseys on them to signify to everyone that they are the Hunters. The remaining players are the deer, the deer spread out across the square, roaming freely. Each hunter has a soft nerf ball, any will do. On your count the game begins and the deer scatter. The hunters throw the nerf balls at the deer, to take the deer out of the game. Once hit the deer go get a quick drink and sit until this quick game is over and we start a new one. In most cases the hunters chase down the deer and get at very close range to knock the deer out with the ball. Only the hunters are allowed to throw the balls.

Hidden Conditioning

As you might have guessed, everyone gets winded very quickly doing what? Very short stop and go change of direction runs. Sounds like anything we do in football? In very short order you will be able to determine which players can change direction and accelerate, which players have body control and which don’t. At the end of the game when you have the 4 hunters chasing down the one remaining deer, you will see some of the most amazing football moves known to man. In addition to you being able to see who your athletes are very quickly, the kids get some great conditioning in AND have a great time doing it. They will breathlessly beg you for more of this game. When was the last time your kids begged for more conditioning?

New Twist

What my Boston friend added to this game was he put a bucket of cold water in the middle of the circle. The hunters were allowed to soak the nerf balls into the cold water for added fun effect. I asked this coach to e-mail me so I could attribute him in this post, but 10 days later and no e-mail yet. Thanks coach, great idea.

Added Benefits

We like to use this game at the end of the first practice. Not only does it help us determine positions but it gets the kids excited about being at practice more than a bunch of 30 yard sprints. But of course we are getting just as much conditioning in as with the guys doing gassers, it’s just that our kids are loving it. Don’t even get me started on how much the parents love it too. When you are coaching youth football you want them on your side as well.

You can do this game without the nerf balls, just play it as tag.

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