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  • Josh Gray

Physical Demands of High School Football

Since the NFL and college football are in full swing, and high school football predicted to start in a couple months (at least in Washington State), I figured I would discuss the physical demands of a high school football game. Through discussion with coaches and observations of practice, it appears that most coaches don’t know what physical qualities are required to be successful and/or don’t know how to train them. Either way, a lack of knowledge is detrimental to a football program and creates an environment where only the genetically gifted thrive, instead of an environment where all players get the chance to improve. Hopefully after reading this article, you will at least have a better understanding of the physical demands of football.

The average playing time for a one way starter is 5 minutes, and 10 minutes for a two way starter. The average high school play last 5.6 seconds, with 30.8 seconds between each play (conditioning should mimic this 1:6 work: rest ratio, but I digress). There is an average of 12 offensive series each game with an average of 4.6 plays per series. There are approximately 246 accelerations by each player in a game.

Wide receivers and defensive backs cover the most distance, which can be up to 4,000 meters depending on the offense. Receivers and DBs are exposed to faster running velocities, and a higher number of accelerations and decelerations than any other player, and also cover the most distance between plays (running back to the huddle). Receivers and DBs weekly sprint volumes in practice should be between 800-1000 yards total in order to prevent injury from fatigue/overtraining. This will require extra planning by the coaches but if attention to detail will improve a player’s performance, won’t it do the same for a coach?

Running backs and defensive tackles experience the most severe impacts (not necessarily the highest number of impacts) during the game, which is probably one of the reasons their careers are so short lived on average. If impacts are not monitored in practice, their bodies will wear down faster than other players. The number of live contacts and severe impacts should be limited for running backs and defensive tackles to enhance recovery and improve game day performance.

As I have previously stated, hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the physical demands of football and will assist you in planning your practice or will lead you to do more research on preparation for high performance (hopefully both if you aspiring to be great).

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