As you gear up for the upcoming flag football season, it’s important to practice fundamental skills ahead of time. Practicing helps new players build confidence, while refining experienced players' prowess.
One of the most important skills a flag football player can have is agility, or the ability to move quickly and easily around the field. Agility helps players navigate sharp routes with ease while on offense, in addition to becoming a more efficient and effective defenseman.
Here’s a list of five football agility drills that are designed for fast footwork and overall player speed—perfect for any skill level.
A set of bright cones (recommended)
While a set of bright cones is recommended to outline positions and lengths of the football agility drills, they aren’t required. Use any visible marker, such as tennis balls, flags, or shoes.
Objective: The 4-corner drill is a perfect beginners football speed and agility drill, strengthening a player’s ability to change direction at a moment’s notice—an incredibly important skill, especially on defense.
Setup: To set up this football cone drill, place four cones in a square, five yards apart. The length between each cone can be adjusted, if needed, but aim to keep each cone equidistant apart.
Directions: Upon the start of the drill, backpedal from the first cone to the second cone, pumping your arms and not looking backward. Once you backpedal past the second cone and can see it in front of you, cut at a 90-degree angle and shuffle toward the third cone. Once you pass the third cone, sprint forward to the fourth cone. After passing the fourth cone, cut 90 degrees again and shuffle back toward the start to complete the square.
Tips: While running this football agility drill, remember to bend your knees and stay low to the ground. This will help you make smoother transitions between directions, without tripping over yourself. Additionally, make sure you aren’t crossing your feet when shuffling between cones. Doing so makes it very difficult to adjust your direction mid-play as needed.
Objective: The zig zag drill helps refine a player’s ability to quickly change direction when running a route. This youth football agility drill is most common for wide receivers, but can be adapted to other positions. It’s one of our favorite football footwork drills.
Setup: To set up this drill, create a row of three cones, each 10 yards apart. Next, create another row of three cones, and place them three yards away from the original row, staggering them five yards. This will create the needed zig zag shape for the drill.
Directions: To start this football agility drill, run quickly from the first cone to the staggered first of the second line. After reaching the cone, quickly cut and run to the next cone of the first line. Do this same pattern for the following three cones, completing the zig zag.
Tips: You should run this drill at a controlled, fast pace, rather than an all-out sprint. This will help you stay in control of your footwork while successfully maneuvering around the cones. When cutting, make sure your feet aren’t crossing to avoid any tripping. To help with this, plant and pivot off the outside foot of the cone when you cut. It’s extremely common to quickly change routes during an offensive play in youth flag football, so this football speed and agility drill will help you build footwork skills.
Objective: The foot fire drill is a more simple speed and agility drill for football, aiming to boost players’ cardio and endurance, while preparing them for quick footwork in offensive and defensive plays.
Setup: For each player completing the drill, place two cones, or markers, on the outsides of the player’s feet. These cones should be slightly wider than the player’s shoulders, giving them enough room to shuffle their feet, while making sure their movements are centered and controlled.
Directions: To start this football agility drill, begin by moving your legs and feet back and forth, in a tight, cutting fashion. Make sure you are also pumping your arms to complete the full motion of the drill. Ankles should not be kicked back as if you were running in place, but rather shuffled back and forth upon the ground. As you build confidence and agility, steadily increase the speed of your feet and arms.
Tips: This football cone drill is a great start to a practice, as it increases players’ heart rates and gets their blood pumping, while not being overly complex. Cardio and stamina are key traits of all successful flag football players. You’ll thank us in the last five minutes of the game when the other team is burnt out and you’re running circles around them.
Objective: The objective of the lateral box drill is similar to the foot fire drill, as it’s a great way to practice fast footwork and increase cardio. This football agility drill also helps players improve their sideways shuffling, a key move on defense.
Setup: To set up this drill, place four cones, or markers, in an equidistant square. It is recommended to have the cones one yard apart, but they can be adjusted based on player skills.
Directions: Start just left of the square, facing forward toward the side you have designated as the finish. Begin the drill by shuffling left quickly into the center of the square, making sure that both feet quickly step in. Immediately after, shuffle right back to the starting point. Once back at the starting point, shuffle through the center of the square and to the other side. Without stopping, shuffle back to the center of the square. Once in the direct center, sprint forward through the front of the square, completing the drill. When changing directions throughout the drill, you shouldn’t be stopping at any time, but rather quickly shifting directions.
Tips: During this youth football agility drill, it’s important to bend your knees and stay low. It will keep your center of gravity stabilized, allowing you to more quickly shift directions. Additionally, remember to pump your arms throughout the drill to reach max acceleration.
Objective: The objective of this drill is to improve acceleration, sprinting, and ability to quickly change direction. This football agility drill is focused on sprinting, rather than shuffling, so this practice is applicable to both offensive and defensive play.
Setup: To prepare for the “T” drill, place three cones in a line, each five yards apart. Lastly, place a fourth cone lined up with the middle cone, five yards away. This solo cone will serve as the starting position.
Directions: Start at the solo cone and sprint to the middle cone in front of you. Then, pivot at a 90-degree angle to the right and sprint to the next cone, doing a slight squat to tap it. After touching that cone, sprint to the furthest cone in the line and touch it as well. To complete the drill, sprint past the middle cone, which is the designated finish line.
Tips: Make sure you’re creating tight pivots when changing directions, as opposed to rounding out any turns. This exercise will help improve your ability to change direction in the middle of a play, a necessary skill in flag football.
Speed and agility are both essential traits for successful football players—both on offensive and defense. Having speed and agility helps players quickly change directions at a moments notice, and adapt to plays as they unfold.
The five football speed and agility drills we have walked through are a great way to start preparing for an upcoming season, but they shouldn’t be the only drills that you and your team are doing. We strongly recommend building cardio routines into your practices to build up the stamina. Running laps, sprinting exercises, and even scrimmage football games are fantastic ways to include cardio work into practices. By building stamina and endurance, you are more quick and nimble for the full duration of the game—even in the last 30 seconds when you need to score a touchdown to make it to the championship.
Now that you’re equipped with some new football agility drills and tips, you’re one step closer to success. Go buy some cones and hit the field!