The 40-Yard Dash as a Team Drill

Even something individual like a 40-yard dash can be made into a conditioning drill that emphasizes teamwork. All you need is a team.

Team 40-yard dashes are used by numerous strength coaches in the college football ranks. As few as four players and as many as you have can participate. It's a drill that conditions each individual athlete--while making sure they're doing it for someone other than themselves.

Here's how to organize it:

Divide your team into four groups. Try to make the numbers in each group even, though it doesn't have to be. Groups can have as few as one or two players in it or as many as there needs to be. Try to group up players at similar positions for better competition.

At the whistle, the first group runs a 40-yard dash. When the last player of that group crosses the finish line, the whistle blows again and the second group goes.

Once the last finisher in the second group is done, the whistle blows and the third group goes. After that, the fourth group sprints.

When the last runner in the fourth group finishes his 40-yard dash, the whistle blows and the first group goes again, back the other way. Then the second, then the third, then the fourth. The rest period in this drill comes while the other three groups are running.

At one big-name university, for example, each group does six 40s in the drill. In one instance, all four groups had to finish their six sprints in 2:40. Putting a strict time limit on the drill, coupled with the structure of the drill, serves important purposes:

  • It encourages players to not be the last in their group, because the next group can't go until the last player finishes. A player is less likely to mail it in if he knows it would let down his teammates. Plus, the first finisher in a group gets an extra second or so of rest.
  • It not only works on sprinting (the time limit, whatever you choose for your group of players, should require them to run at a fast pace) but also endurance. For example, an athlete in good shape will run the 40 in around seven seconds and have only 21 seconds of rest. Pretty soon, any athlete will be exhausted.

A time limit of 2:40 for four groups sprinting six times averages out to around 6.6 seconds per 40, which is a daunting task considering inevitable fatigue. The 2:40 limit is done by elite athletes who already are in tremendous physical shape, so it's likely you will have to adjust for your group. You can extend the time limit to, say, three minutes. Or you can shorten the length of the exercise--for example, have your four groups do four 40's each and set a time limit of two minutes.

By setting a time limit, you can fluctuate all other factors accordingly. If you feel your team needs more rest between sprints, you can divide them into five groups.

There are a lot of adjustable variables in this drill, so you can tailor it to fit your team's conditioning needs. This much is certain: Done right, the drill will get your players in great shape. It will also remind them that the football team comes first.

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