Shadowman simulates live tackling for safer football training |

USA Football Training

The trend of specialization in specific sports is evident at the high school level. Additionally, more youth athletes are increasingly specializing at younger ages.

The belief underlying specialization is often the result of what the athlete has been told by those he trusts. More specifically, they are led to believe that specialization will afford them their best chance at securing a scholarship and/or it will maximize their performance on the field.

However, does it actually play out that way?

More specifically, if a youth athlete quits other sports to concentrate on football, does that actually improve football prowess? Further, if this is not the case, then the next logical question is, participation in which sports will augment football performance?

Perhaps these players have a better athletic foundation, and are better football players because they played multiple sports in high school. Whether this is true or not, doesn’t really matter too much. After all, most football coaches like their players to participate in other sports during the offseason.

Further, top flight college coaches, such as Ohio State's Urban Meyer, are known for their attraction to multi-sport high school athletes.

Here are some of the physical attributes you will develop by participating in sports outside of football.


Quickness, acceleration, footwork, agility, kinesthetic awareness (knowing one's body position while moving athletically), cardiovascular fitness, vertical jump, hand-eye coordination, and explosiveness. Basketball is also excellent for teaching athletes how to use their body to block others from the ball. This is especially important for defensive backs, wide receivers and tight ends. Just looking at the large number of successful tight ends in NFL who played little college football, instead focusing on basketball, should be all it takes to see the value here.

Track and Field

Top end speed, explosiveness, acceleration, cardiovascular fitness, and overall power (field events). No matter the sport, and especially in football, an athlete can never have too much speed or acceleration. Hurdlers, jumpers, and sprinters all receive excellent training that will ultimately aid their football game.

An effective track coach will refine a runner's biomechanics. Improved biomechanics often leads to higher top-end speed, better acceleration, and greater mechanical efficiency. The majority of youth athletes can stand to refine their biomechanics and learn to run and accelerate faster. I have come across few youth athletes who utilize perfect technique.


Hand-eye coordination, acceleration, tracking balls in flight.


Strength, power, leverage, overall conditioning/endurance, and hand technique (especially important for linemen, wide receivers, and defensive backs). The sport teaches an athlete how to remain explosive and athletic while maintaining a low center of gravity.


Agility, footwork, overall quickness, straight line speed, stamina, cardiovascular fitness, and recovery.


Quickness, hand-eye coordination, and endurance.

I am often asked, "which sport is the best option to increase my football skills?"

Keep in mind, every sport usually has something benefit to offer. Although there are many that would disagree, I believe that baseball offers the least benefit to football skills.

For the skill position athletes in football, I recommend basketball, soccer, and track. For defensive players, I recommend wrestling. Ultimately, playing any sport in the offseason can deliver some benefit.

What About Offseason, Football Specific Training?

The training landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. The growth of high quality, football-specific training centers has been rapid.

In the past, players received football training from team coaches during the football season. They played other sports, and/or lifted weights, in the offseason. However, that has changed as an increasing number of young athletes turn toward sports specific training.

Athletes eyeing potential scholarship offers, or those hoping to earn a starting spot next season, can surely benefit from football specific training. However, the benefits of participating in other sports are too great to ignore. In most cases, I try to recommend an athlete does both, which maximizes their return on investment.