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Team Fly: a circle drill that creates a pursuit mentality. (Football).

OUTSTANDING FOOTBALL defenses swarm and tackle in large numbers. They are relentless in their efforts to get the ball-carrier. Defensive styles and philosophies may differ, but at every level, great defenses get to the football.

We have always believed that the players must be taught to excel in pursuit. We employ an intense, rapid-fire, physically demanding drill that enables us to develop a sound progression of defensive play. We call the drill "Team Fly" and, as you can see in the diagram, it is run on a 50-yard field marked with seven lined circles each of which is eight yards in diameter.

Six of the circles are drawn just inside the sideline on either side of the field. The first two circles are market at each end of designated LOS. The second set of circles is market 15 yards down the sideline, and the third set of circles is market 30 yards down the field. The seventh circle is placed 40 yards downfield directly in the center of the field.

We set up a scout offensive unit and a defensive unit on the LOS. The scout team is made up of live players at center, tight end, and wide end, with the coach at quarterback. We use a coach at QB because in this drill the QB is primary movement key for our defense. We want to make sure that the he shows our defense what we want them to see.

Players not involved in the drill can be used at the two guard and tackle positions. Smaller teams may choose be use trash cans or old tires (cylindrical objects) at these positions.

The circles are used as pursuit landmarks for the defensive unit against a simulated scout team (quarterbacked by a coach). The coach designates the destination (specific circle) of the defensive pursuit. He usually will start with one circle at the LOS and work around the perimeter until the defense has hit all seven circles in order.

The defense moves through a series of snaps in an up-tempo manner. Each defensive player has to line up correctly, execute his basic technique on air, and sprint all out to the designated circle. We look for high speed and perfect execution on every snap. The defense starts as a unit, with a scenario of 11 defensive players "tackling" the ball-carrier in the circle. Any breakdown - mental or physical - requires a repetition of the play in that circle.

The drill is called "Team Fly" to emphasize that we fly to the football on defense.

Note: We have used this drill in teaching defense at five different high schools over the past two decades. Though our personnel and schemes differed at each school, we were fortunate enough to develop outstanding defenses built on great pursuit, elimination of mental mistakes, and an intense effort from each player.

Running Team Fly

We approach this drill with a great deal of intensity and enthusiasm. We constantly remind our players that "Team Fly" is the backbone of our defense, and that it is everyone's responsibility to make it productive for each defensive unit as it moves through the drill.

Our varsity team usually has three complete defensive units. Each unit will run "Team Fly," hitting all seven circles before the next unit steps in to repeat the process.

As stated earlier, we will use some players not playing defense to act as scout players for the offense. This gives us the ability to change formations each time the defense comes out of the huddle, which allows us to check our capacity to adjust.

Any player not involved in the drill is expected to watch his position and encourage each athlete in the drill to go as hard as he can from beginning to end. This has always been a major factor in helping us build a team concept.

As a coaching staff, we want to create a rapid-fire tempo that will simulate the tempo of an actual game situation. We want our defensive players to understand that fatigue can create a lack of focus and poor execution, which lead to breakdowns on defense. We look for total concentration and maximum effort every time we run this drill.

Defensive Phases of Team Fly

Phase 1: Huddle, huddle breakout, recognition, communication, alignment, assignment, and stance.

The defense huddles and a specific defense is called. As they break the huddle, the players begin reading the offensive formation and begin adjusting and making the various calls used in our defense. This must be done correctly, clearly, and loudly. Each player must be in a precise stance and alignment. We look for any miscue created by lack of concentration or fatigue. Our expectation is to be perfect in communication alignment and stance.

Phase 2: Initial defensive move.

Once the offense (scout) sets in formation, the QB (coach) will begin a cadence. The purpose of this cadence will be to draw the defense offsides. No one on the defense is to move until the ball moves. We stress that our key is movement -- not sound. At the snap, the defensive line will execute its base technique on air while the defensive backs will perform their read steps.

During this phase, the coaches watch foot movements very carefully. We want to make sure that each defender uses the proper footwork to play his position. This is a very important part of "Team Fly." Footwork is critical to sound, fundamental defense.

Changes in the run front and coverage can require adjustments in footwork. This drill allows us to assess the footwork of each player in any front coverage we use.

Phase 3: Linebacker flow and secondary key.

After the snap, the coach/QB will open up to his right or left, moving on the LOS or dropping at a 45-degree angle. This will indicate ball flow and run or pass. If the QB stays on the LOS, it is read as run. If he moves off the line, it is read as pass. This tells the linebackers how to fit into the front or to drop into pass coverage. It also places the defensive backs into a run support or pass drop situation.

Versus run (QB on LOS): Each defensive player in our front must stay in his area of responsibility as dictated by the called defense and flow. He must keep his shoulders parallel to the LOS, feet moving, and pad level down. Our secondary defenders, seeing the QB on the LOS, must stop their read steps and get into what we call a bounce in preparation to run support.

Versus pass (QB off the LOS): Our defensive line must make a pass-rush move (swim or rip), call pass, and work into their proper rush lanes. Our linebackers must call pass and get into the correct drop. Defensive backs must execute their coverage responsibility based on the coverage called. Our primary key for run or pass is the ball on or off the LOS. We use other keys, but our initial key is the QB for run or pass.

Phase 4: Sprint in pursuit, check reverse, and cutback, sprint in pursuit.

After his move on or off the LOS, the QB will hold his position for several seconds to give our coaches time to see that the defense is in correct position based on the QB's movement. At this point, the QB will yell, "Go!"

On this call, the entire defensive unit, except for three players, will turn and sprint to a designated circle at maximum speed. The three players -- two backside front players (T and E) and one cornerback -- have to look for reverse and cutback plays.

On flow away, the two front players will count 1-1,000, 2-1,000 and then sprint to the designated circle. The corner opposite the designated circle will back-pedal five more yards after the "Go!" call before sprinting into the designated circle. This will be done in six of the seven circles. There are no cutback or reverse players when the defensive unit is running to the center circle.

Phase 5: Hit-up on air tackle.

Each player must hit the perimeter of the circle at full speed, sink his hips, and come up with his hands (uppercut) as if making a tackle.

Phase 6: Unit Breakdown and return to defensive huddle.

Once all of the defenders have entered a circle, they make three breakdowns, then jog back to the designated LOS, re-huddle, and repeat the process until they have hit all seven circles. We usually begin at one circle at the LOS and then work around the perimeter until all seven are completed.

We believe that as the players' conditioning improves, they will likewise improve in intensity, speed, and effort. The correct effort and intensity will push the players to the point of total fatigue.

After using "Team Fly" for several practices, we substitute one of our other pursuit drills which have a ball-carrier sprint down a sideline with a defensive unit angling in on him for a tag. We believe it is crucial to mix in these drills with "Team Fly" to teach the concept of tackling a moving target.

Following are the seven most significant things that "Team Fly" contributes to a program:

1. Helps build defensive pride and cohesiveness, creating a "Hold on, I'm coming" mentality.

2. Teaches young players how to play hard.

3. Allows a coaching staff to link the fundamentals taught at each position into a functional unit that provides a concept of how defense works as a whole.

4. Helps create a pursuit mentality for our defensive unit.

5. Provides a method of reviewing fundamentals in a rapid-fire, game-like situation.

6. Teaches athletes how to concentrate and focus.

7. Provides a meaningful method of conditioning players.
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Article Details
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Author:Reilly, Kevin
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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