Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Handing Off

There was a practice I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was on the Redford Union High School football team.  It was late August or early September.  Part summer, part fall.  It was a rainy day.  Our practice field was off to the side of the regular playing field.  It was muddy.  There was a puddle.  A BIG puddle. 

Now understand we were high school juniors and seniors.  Almost adults.  Licensed to drive.  There were around thirty-five of us mature young young men.

Coach said we needed to practice fumble recovery. 

And threw the ball into the middle of the puddle.  We all yelled "FUMBLE!!!" and raced after the ball.  Can you imagine thirty-five of us splashing in that puddle trying to get control of the slippery ball?  Fifty years later I still smile when I remember that practice.

Fumbles are a part of football.  A bad part for your offense.  A good part for your defense. 

If you follow the game, you know the center passes the ball to the quarterback and the quarterback hands it to a running back.  Something as simple as handing a ball to a teammate shouldn't present much of a problem.  But it does.  First, the quarterback has to control the ball and lay it into the runner's hands. 

The process is complicated because the runner is running.  So the quarterback has to hit a moving target.  

It is further complicated by there being three hands involved.  Two belong to the runner, the third to the quarterback.  The quarterback has to hand the ball to the runner and pull her (or his) hand away, avoiding getting tangled with the runner's arm.  The runner crosses her arms to create a nest for the ball.  The higher arm is on the quarterback side - if quarterback is on your left, your left arm forms the top of the "nest."

Then the runner has to secure the ball.  She has to quickly get control of it because she is running as fast as she can toward the line of scrimmage.  Toward the defense.  Toward hostiles who want to knock her down.  Who would love to dislodge the ball from her grasp. 

One player getting the hand off, two others in the background
watching, preparing for their turn to try it.
Easier said than done.  So the Outlaws practice handing off.

And if the coach has done his job, this drill is taken seriously.  Not just for the one receiving the hand off but for the others as well.  Studying the teammate's technique.  Preparing mentally for taking a turn.

My turn.  Love the facial expression.  She knows this is important.  She is concentrating. 

Arms crosses creating a nest for the ball.  Coach playing
quarterback and sliding it into the nest.

Focused on getting the ball, arms getting into the
proper position.

This another try with the same running back.
She has it in her hands. 

Practice practice practice. 

Got it.  Both hands protecting it.  Come on tacklers, do your best.  I'm taking this ball
all the way to the end zone and you can't have it.

Secure the ball.  Get it firmly in control before you start getting hit by opponents.  That's the point of this drill. 

I've said that practice gets boring for me.  Drills get old.  Doing the same thing over and over and over.  That is important for the players, boring for the photographer.  

But maybe if the coach would do what my high school coach did all those years ago. Recognize that sometimes the ball does get loose.  Maybe the Outlaws won't fumble. That's why they practice hand offs.  But the other team might lose control.  If the ball comes loose it is a free ball.  Who recovers it gets to keep it. 

We practice everything else.  Let's practice fumble recovery.  Don't even wait for a rainy day and puddles and mud.  (Though that would be fun.)  Just throw the ball and yell "fumble."  I suspect I'd get some great photos as thirty or so Outlaws battle for the ball.

All these years later as I fondly recall that wonderful muddy practice, I wonder why nobody got drowned.  Guess the puddle wasn't very deep. 

Then I wonder about how we handled those muddy uniforms and soggy shoes.  I do remember going to the shower with the uniform still on.  But that only got some of the mud off.  Who did the serious cleaning of our practice uniforms?   Our school didn't provide that service.  Must have been mom.  Moms of the players. 

Being a mom is hard work.

Outlaws, do you do your own laundry?

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