Say what you want about American football, but it’s an insanely sophisticated sport. Aside from involving a lot of strategy, football is a very physical sport and requires peak conditioning from players.
You’ll have to go through years of training from youth to adulthood to become a force that needs to be reckoned with on the field.
Wide receivers are particularly notable in this regard. Staying in the shadow much of the game, receivers are key to an offense’s success.
To help beginning football players, I am going to introduce you to a number of wide receiver drills for youth to help with coordination, speed, and conditioning. This is going to be a pretty long read, so sit back and get ready to absorb information!
10+ Wide Receiver Drills For Kids And Beginners
1. The wide receiver stance drill
You should start with your stance – if you don’t solidify the basics, you can forget about making progress anywhere else.
Here are a few general tips on correct receiver stance:
- The inside foot should be forward, while the outside foot should be back. In reality, you may place whichever foot you want in the front, but generally, coaches teach the inside-front/outside-back setup.
- You should shift most of your bodyweight on the front foot. This is to allow you to more quickly take off. Additionally, this will ensure that defenders cannot knock you back.
- Keep your hands up and ready to press off the defenders.
- Your shoulders should be square. This is so that the opposing team cannot figure out which way you are going.
- You should be looking at the line of scrimmage. This will allow you to track the release and movement of the ball and react accordingly.
2. Ball flip drill
This is a fairly simple but physically challenging drill. Essentially, the receiver flips the ball only using their fingers.
The player may use only one hand or alternate their hands to more evenly develop finger strength and coordination. Wide receivers need to develop both hands to be able to catch the ball in any situation.
Thanks to its simplicity, you may perform this drill basically anywhere as long as you have a ball around.
3. Ball dribble drill
The ball dribble drill is another way to increase finger strength.
To perform this drill:
- Grab the ball with an overhand grip.
- Release the ball.
- Catch the ball with the same hand with overhand grip, not allowing the ball to hit the ground. If you struggle to catch the ball, then you may hold your other hand underneath the ball to catch it and avoid wasting time chasing after it.
Do 10 catches with each hand.
Like the flip drill, the ball dribble drill is extremely simple and may be done anywhere if you have a ball on you.
4. Stalk blocking drill
One of the key tasks of a receiver is blocking the opponent’s defenders. Although in some cases, a wide receiver may not need to break through a defender, stalk blocking is an exceptionally valuable skill.
To practice the stalk blocking drill, you will need a partner. You should be standing 5 yards away from each other. Your partner should be holding a foam pad.
Generally, here is how textbook stalk blocking is performed:
- You should come off the ball hard. This is to make the defender think that you are going to receive a pass.
- Close the distance to the defender, focusing on their midsection.
- Your feet should stay active to make sure that you can quickly react to the defender’s movements. Keep the defender in front of you at all times.
- Engage the defender as they start evading the block.
- Keep track of the defender and follow them anywhere they go.
5. The “sandwich” drill
The goal of the sandwich drill is to teach wide receivers to get open in traffic. The standard version of this drill is performed this way:
- The wide receiver stands between two other players, 1 foot away from each of them.
- On command, the receiver takes one fake and runs to the right or left. The two players attempt to block the vision of the receiver and push him around to prevent him from catching the ball.
- The coach throws a ball at the receiver, which the latter needs to catch.
There is a slightly different variant of this drill without any commands. Instead, once the players are in their places, the coach throws a jump ball, which the receiver needs to catch.
6. Basic ball catching drills
The USA Football blog has a wonderful overview of ball catching drills – you may check it out on your own if you want. Below, you’ll find a compact version of their tips and tricks.
So, according to USA Football, the 3 most common faults among wide receivers when catching the ball are:
- Not focusing on the ball. Keeping track of the ball is key to a successful catch. To reinforce the need to focus on the ball, some coaches mark an “X” on the ball’s nose as a point of reference for wide receivers. Others talk about “taking a picture of the ball”.
- Not adjusting to the ball. Balls aren’t always thrown perfectly, so wide receivers need to be able to adjust to subpar passes. Even if the quarterback fails to make a good throw, the wide receiver can still rectify the situation by adapting quickly.
- Not running through the catch. Running through after a catch also needs to be taught. Young receivers may struggle with following up a catch, so running through needs to be practiced separately.
And here are the proposed drills to fix these issues.
Lack of focus on the ball
This drill comes from Mike Leach, the head coach at Washington State. Here’s a drill Leach uses to improve focus on the ball:
- A player stands behind a goalpost with both their hands out.
- The coach throws a ball at the player. Beginners may use both hands to catch the ball, while more experienced players may proceed to one-handed catches.
The idea behind this drill is to help receivers focus on the ball and extend their hands to make the catch in crowded areas of the field.
Not adjusting to the ball while catching
Clemson University uses the following drill at every practice to help wide receivers adjust to the ball:
- The receiver stands facing the coach. The coach and receiver are about 10 yards apart.
- The coach throws several types of passes, such as inside ball, outside ball, low ball, and high ball.
By alternating between different types of passes, the coach forces the players to quickly adapt to the ball.
Not running through the catch
To fix the “not running through the catch” fault, Ohio State uses agility bags. Here’s the setup of the drill:
- Three bags are placed on the ground, with 1-yard spacing.
- Simulating various breaks and staying low, the wide receivers work through the agility bags.
- Once the receiver goes around the last bag, they catch the ball and explode upfield.
7. The circle drill
The purpose of this drill is to improve reaction to the ball and speed. Here’s how the circle drill is performed:
- 4 players make a small circle. Each of these players should have a ball.
- A fifth player stands in the middle of the circle, 3 yards away from each player.
- The player in the middle should face one of the outside players.
- Once the drill starts, the outside player should toss the ball to the middle player.
- The middle player should catch the ball, toss it back to the outside player, and turn to the right.
- The middle player continues to receive and toss the ball back with each of the outside players.
This drill is typically performed clockwise, though you may also do it counterclockwise. Additionally, the middle player may catch the ball with both hands or with only one hand.
8. The razzle A drill
This drill is somewhat similar to the circle drill, but it involves 4 players and 2 balls. The razzle A drill is performed this way:
- 4 receivers form a circle. The receivers need to be 5 yards apart from players to their right and left.
- 2 receivers that are facing each other should take a ball each.
- On command, the receivers should toss the ball to the receiver on the right.
- The receivers continue to toss the ball until the coach gives a command to stop or reverse.
- On the command “reverse”, the receivers should start tossing the ball to the left.
9. The razzle B drill
Razzle B is a more challenging variation of razzle A. It again involves 4 players, but this time, there are 4 balls.
Here’s how this drill is performed:
- 4 receivers set up in the same way as in razzle A – in a circle and 5 yards apart from the receivers on their sides.
- On command, 2 receivers that face each other should toss their balls at one another – one high, and the other low.
- The other 2 receivers also toss the ball at each other, but one tosses to the right side, while the other to the left.
The receivers should alternate between the tosses they make.
The challenge of the razzle B drill is that the receivers need to keep track of their ball, which can be fairly challenging for inexperienced players.
10. The side to side run drill
The side to side run drill improves coordination and catching ability. Aside from that, the drill is quite demanding and improves conditioning.
This drill is done as follows:
- Two players should stand on the goal line, facing each other. The players should be 5 yards apart. One of the players should hold a ball.
- On command, the players should start running sideways toward the end zone.
- As they run, the players should toss the ball back and forth.
- At the end zone, the players should take a short rest and repeat the drill.
The goal is to reach the end zone quickly while making as many passes as possible.
11. The end line catch drill
This drill’s purpose is to improve the wide receiver’s catching ability near the end zone. The end line catch drill is fairly simple in theory but rather challenging in practice.
Here’s how the drill is performed:
- The receiver should set up near the end line.
- On command, the receiver should start running along the end line at half speed.
- The coach should throw a high ball in front of the player.
- The player should catch the ball while staying as close to the end line as possible.
12. The tapdance drill
The purpose of the tapdance drill is to improve the wide receiver’s ability to catch the ball near the sidelines. Here’s how this drill is done:
- The player should face the sideline, standing at about 15 yards from it.
- On command, the player should start running at half speed toward the sideline.
- The coach should throw the ball when the player is about 5 yards away from the sideline.
- The player should catch the ball, planting one or both feet in bounds.
- The player should go out of bounds to allow players behind to perform the drill.
13. The turn & up drill
The turn & up drill is a variation of the tapdance drill. It again improves a receiver’s ability to catch near the sideline. However, in addition to catching the ball, the player needs to turn and rush upfield.
The beginning of the turn & up drill is identical to the tapdance drill. However, the coach should throw the ball 7-8 yards in front of the player. After catching the ball, the receiver should run upfield.
This drill should be performed on both sides so that receivers can learn to catch the ball on either sideline.
14. The M drill
Wide receivers may use the M drill to improve their footwork. Here’s how the drill is performed:
- Place 4 cones in a 5 x 5-yard arrangement.
- Place another cone in the center of your 4-cone arrangement. If you were to trace a line through the cones in a certain way, you would get the letter M – hence the name of the drill.
- The receiver should set up at one of the four corner cones.
- The receiver should sprint toward an opposite cone. Upon reaching the cone, the receiver should break down and chop their feet, while turning inward to sprint toward the middle cone. The turn toward the middle should simulate a curl route or a hook.
- As the receiver approaches the middle cone, he should again break down and start chopping his feet.
- The receiver should then turn toward the cone that is diagonally opposite to the first cone and sprint toward it.
- At the cone, the wide receiver should again break down, chop their feet, and then head toward the cone that is to the side of the starting cone.
When running, the wide receiver needs to as if draw the letter M around the cones. The drill also needs to be started from both the left and right sides of the cone arrangement for variety.
If you didn’t get the gist of it, here’s a video demonstrating the M drill.
More advanced players may also reach down and tap the cone with their inside hand. The purpose of this little addition is to help players remember to drop their hips into the break and stay low.
4th & 10
This post is in no way comprehensive, and experienced coaches will be able to provide many more wide receiver drills for youth to help you improve your game. But for starters, I think that the drills we’ve had a look at are quite enough!
Wide receivers should particularly focus on their catches and speed, though strength and the ability to break through defense are crucial as well.