Tony DeMeo

PRE-SEASON PRACTICE

As we approach pre-season planning is one of the most important factors in your team’s success. The details of planning are essential to maximize your time. The best advice I can pass on is always install less. Have only one good answer play rather than 5 mediocre ones. Prepare each practice with the same attention that you would plan a game.

Offensively, your whole offense should be installed in your first 3 days and from then on, it should be about mastery. Make sure you get as many quality reps as possible. To get quality reps your players must be totally engaged in practice. Keep practice tempo high and use your off the field time to review practice and make corrections.

Get as many people video-taping as possible and study your practice tape carefully.

Football is a physical game but don’t leave your game in camp by over-hitting. Make sure you get 2nd and 3rd stringers reps. You’ll always find a surprise, you’ll keep morale high and you’ll keep your team healthy.

Make sure you give the players plenty of water breaks and keep 4 or 5 kiddie pools around the practice field. A kiddie pool is a great investment.

The following are some ideas we used in our pre-season practice approach under the new NCAA rules:


  1. CONDITIONING – most important (can’t rely on practice)

    1. Physical – aerobic – must get running in 18 minutes per day 7 more on single days (vert-a-max, pool, etc.)

      1. Weight training on single days

    2. Mental – daily meeting covering every aspect of the program.

      1. Stress synergy & attitude “We not me” TEAM.- memorize “The Law of the Jungle”
      2. Poise & control – get over it & get on with it.
      3. Winning Attitude & Optimism
      4. Campus behavior & respect for women.

    3. Toughness – condition to be RELENTLESS. Chase the ball.

      1. 4th Quarter is Ours mentality.
      2. Discipline established by consequences – reward the behavior you want.
      3. Build Team Esteem & Morale –“Morale is the strength of the army.” Napoleon

    4. Football Smarts – Learn the Game – use video tape. chalk & walk.

      1. Explain field position & the philosophy of each area.
      2. Clock Management – teach the rules of clock control & controlling the pace of each game. Clutch & victory offense
      3. Down & Distance – move the chains.
      4. Overcoming adversity (penalties, bad breaks & come from behind)
      5. Inspire players to be students of the game.


  1. INSTALLATION OF SYSTEMS – offense, defense & special teams.

  1. Whole – part – whole
  2. Less field time means you must minimize the number of techniques you teach & maximize their use.
  3. Simplicity is very important – K.I.S.S.
  4. Practice all special team situations (Tight Punt, Take a Safety, Little Rascals K.O.R., Fake kicks, onside situations etc) Unique situations.
  5. Prepare 2nd team to execute a simple game plan. (school 2nd team Q.B.)

    1. get key back up personnel ready – have emergency plan ready.


  1. Always have best players on the field.
  2. All plays installed must compliment each other
  3. Package plays in pre-season to minimize teaching & maximize their value. Be simple yet balanced & diverse.
  4. Plot your additions to the offense weekly – you can’t get it all ready for game #1. Early in the season rely on your core & your star.
  5. Run a few plays but in many ways – protect your core.
  6. Come out of camp with a simple & balance offense that your team can execute & has a foundation you can add to. Vary formations & motions not the techniques. Only add plays that require no new techniques

  1. SINGLE PRACTICE DAYS – Must make use time, Detailed Preparation is key

  1. Must have a longer on field practice include a 15 minute half time
  2. Practice divided into 2 one hour & 15 minute halves
  3. No conditioning drills during practice.
  4. Start each half with the Kicking game.
  5. Condition – weight train & run at a time in the AM. – use pool, vert-a-max, indoor running etc – get aerobic & strength training during the AM.
  6. WALK THROUGHS – evening walk-through is critical – must be scripted in detail & cover the next day’s installation as well as any corrections of the previous practice. Must include Blitz pick & protections review, reads, packs & checks, formations, shifts & motions. Punt Protection a must. Defensive Blitzes & Dogs – formation recognition & adjustments.
  7. Meetings
    1. Team Meeting – cover one aspect per day.
    2. Review practice tape – evaluate & correct

    3. Special Teams meeting every day
    4. Unit Meetings for installation
    5. Use Technology – make video playbook & audio reminders.


  1. TWO PRACTICE DAYS –


    1. No PM conditioning but must use 18 minutes to condition during practice.
    2. Practice in AM & Evening if too hot (Walk – Thru in PM)
    3. Each practice is 2 hours – including conditioning.
    4. Plan for individual emphasis in the AM & team emphasis in the PM.
    5. Every Special Team will be covered within the 2 practices.
    6. Evaluate each practice prior to the next practice & make corrections
    7. Meet t for 30 minutes prior to each practice & 15 minute walk thru before
      each practice.
    8. 2nd practice may be in uppers depending on the heat.
    9. Make sure plenty of hydration before, during & after practice

Have a great pre-season, keep your squad healthy and you’ve taken a big step to a successful season. One last note – make sure you give your team enough time to get their legs back. Give them a couple of extra days off from conditioning prior to your first game. Another note, I always believed in practicing (not conditioning) in the heat to acclimatize them to the temperature they will be playing in. If you practice when it’s nice and cool , they’ll not be ready for the 1:00PM heat.

These are some ideas that worked for me over the years, good luck this season.