By Austin Tedesco
In a game as complex as football, it’s necessary to lay the proper foundation before moving on to larger aspects.
Teams participating in the USA Football Under-15 Development Week during the World Football Festival in Austin, Texas, continued practices at Whitaker Fields on Sunday. Team USA was broken up into red, white and blue teams on three separate fields, while the Swedish players had a field to themselves.
All of the squads opened up with fundamentals. Quarterbacks worked without balls on their throwing motion and handoffs. Wide receivers executed their explosive first steps off the line of scrimmage. Defensive linemen practiced swim moves and jumping off the line. Cornerbacks perfected their footwork, dropping back without a receiver in front of them.
Although some of the drills can seem tedious from afar, the young players understand the importance of such skill work and relish the opportunity to get better.
“They’re great,” linebacker Chris Rowe of Fredericksburg, Va., said of the practices. “They’re a lot of fun. High intensity and quick. Just getting to the point.”
After 30 minutes of the basics, the quarterbacks and wide receivers teamed up to practice route running. The linebackers and defensive linemen worked on clogging the running lanes. It was clear that these instructors from across the country had a plan for the players.
“They’ve been very helpful,” Rowe said of the coaches. “They’ll teach you and let you focus on the stuff that you do bad, and then tell you what you’re doing in a nice way. They don’t just yell at you, so you end up learning a lot from them.”
During the last 45 minutes of practice, the players got a chance to put all of their work to the test and also have a little fun during 7-on-7 matchups. It was one of the first times that these players got the opportunity to line up against each other in anything resembling a game setting.
“Oh, it’s amazing,” Rowe said. “Seeing everybody from across the country coming here to play one sport, it’s nice. I’ve never had the chance to play with so many kids from across the country, and it’s really cool to meet all of them.”
“They’re all talented,” linebacker Chris Westbrook of Edmond, Okla., said. “Especially these running backs. They’ve got some good ones.”
The practices were instructional and enjoyable, but there was still one thing everyone was waiting for.
“I really like the practices. I can’t wait for the games. I just love football,” Rowe said.
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SHALL WE DANCE? Sweden began practice with their unique form of synchronized stretching. Almost dance-like in its execution, all of the players stood in a circle and made movements side-to-side as well as in and out of the circle to get loose. It appeared to work, as the Swedish field was the loudest and most energetic throughout the evening.