How Much Live Contact in Practice?

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California has passed a few new rules:  No school equipment can be issued in the summer.  First week of August is “acclimation” period where we go 2 days in helmets only and 3 days in pads but can only hit bags.  After this acclimation period (which I always did this on my own anyways for safety), we are allowed 90minutes of live contact per week.  The limitation that makes NO sense is we are only allowed 2 days of “live” contact per week, including August.

Now there is some debate as to the difference between what “live” contact is.  If a winner and loser is determined BEFORE contact is made and the RB is not taken to the ground, then this is not considered “live” contact.  So in other words, while teaching tackling the player carrying the ball is not attempting to run over the tackler, but instead absorbs the impact and allows the tackler to “win”.  This is allowed.

During the season this new rule is challenging, but doable.  I would imagine that most teams will limit all live contact to Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Weeks two and three during August presents quite a challenge, however, since everyone is practicing 5 days and many of us practice six days.  While the intention of the rule is safety and concussion limitation, a sound argument can be made that only allowing players to simulate game physicality can actually lead to MORE injuries since players will not have enough time to get used to hitting someone who is also coming at them at full speed.  In CA most teams have an intra-squad scrimmage at the end of week 3, so this will not only use up one of the contact days, but also burn up all of the 90minutes.  We scrimmage another team at end of week 4, so a player (especially a freshman or sophomore brand new to football) will only have 8 days and 360 minutes of live, game simulated contact before that scrimmage.  27 years of coaching experience tells me that this is not enough time.

Since so many of my readers are from out of state, I will list what I used to do and what I am going to do.


Week One:  (2 days helmet only, 3 days shoulder pads)

  • 15 minutes every day on tackling.  This is “form tackling” focused on technique.  No bags. Players partnered up and working on “fit”, “clamp”, head placement, break down on open field tackles, “knife thru butter” profile tackle.  I am still going to do this.
  • 15 minutes at end of every defensive practice (M-Fri) with live, 11on11 but do not take RB to the ground.  Fit on RB and hold him up.  RB cooperates by stopping on contact.
  • Offensive practice will go against a scout defense using bags & shields in our “odd-even” drill.
  • Saturday used to be a scripted 2 hour, 11-on-11 team period.  We started practice with form tackling and all offensive positions work on blocking.
  • This scripted practice was 30min of run (15min of 1st O vs scout D, 15min of 1st D vs scout O), 30min of pass, and 30min of mixed run-pass.
  • We did this on a lined field with markers to keep track of first downs.

I will still have this Saturday scrimmage, at THUD tempo since none of my Mon-Fri practices count against the new “live” contact rule.

Week Two:
  • We used to repeat Week 1 except we started getting pretty physical during tackling period.  We replaced partner tackling with a 4-station tackling circuit and used to “get after it”.
    • I will still do the tackling station, however, we will meet the definition by telling the RB to absorb contact and let the defender “win”.
    • Email me for my 6-page diagram of the 12 drills we use in our tackling circuit:
  • Defense will have 15min live period versus scout offense on THURSDAY.    M-T-W-Fri will be Thud tempo, same as week one.
  • Offense will have 15in live period, (odd-even drill) on THURSDAY.    M-T-W-Fri will be Thud tempo, same as week one.
  • Under the old rules, we would do live 15min scrimmages at end of both offense and defensive sessions Mon-Thur.

Our Saturday scrimmage format will have a controlled tackling & blocking period, followed by 60min “live” scrimmage.

20min of run (10min of 1st O vs scout D, 10min of 1st D vs scout O), 20min of pass, and 20min of mixed run-pass.

Week Three:
  • We used to introduce “FUNNEL DRILL” at end of this week.  It is a version of the old “Oklahoma” or “McKay” drill but includes WR stalk blocking DBs.
  • We would have very physical 15min tackling circuits on Monday and Tuesday, progressing into Funnel Drill on Wednesday and Thursdays.
    • Email me for a diagram of Funnel Drill:
  • We will now only do a 15min funnel drill on Thursday.  M, T, W, and Fri we will do THUD tempo tackling circuits.
  • Defense will have 15min live period versus scout offense on THURSDAY.    M-T-W-Fri will be Thud tempo, same as week one.
  • Offense will have 15in live period, (odd-even drill) on THURSDAY.    M-T-W-Fri will be Thud tempo, same as week one.

Our Saturday scrimmage is our intra-squad ORANGE vs GREEN scrimmage.

This is not controlled, we use the first down markers, and there are winners & losers.  This used to be 90 minutes but will now be 55 minutes.

This scrimmage is also our “media event” day, booster bar-b-que, and our “hell week graduation camping trip”….

This is all listed in my WORST TO FIRST Blueprint for a Championship Program DVD and book available at

Week Four:
  • We will treat this week similar to our In-Season schedule since we will be scrimmaging another team that Friday night.
  • Monday will be full pads.  Everything will be versus bags or done at THUD tempo.  We will partner up on tackling and go through our techniques
    • It should be noted that Mondays is our lower body day in the weight room so the players legs should be dead at practice.  We still lift very heavy during the season.
  • Tuesday is “911” day and is our very physical day.  We will do Funnel Drill for 10minutes. Defense session will end with a 15minute live period.
    • Offensive practice on Tuesdays is Belly-Down day, so we do a very physical 15minute half line drill.  This is very competitive and very physical.
    • The end of offensive practice will go versus a scout defense holding hand shields.
    • We do not lift on Tuesdays.  We watch film during weight period.
  • Wednesday defensive practice opens with 10min tackling circuit.  It will end with a 10minute live scrimmage.
    • Offensive practice will end with a live 10minute live scrimmage using our 0dd-even drill.  There will also be a live 10min pass protection period.
    • We end every Wednesday with best on best goal line and 2minute offense drills.  This takes up another 10minutes.
    • Wednesdays is upper body lift in weight room.  We also practice at night under the lights.  There is study hall afterschool for all players with Ds or Fs on their grade checks.



  • Team meets in classroom right after school to watch 10-15 plays of our offense and then 10-15 plays of our defense from previous Friday night.
    • I also prep them about that weeks schedule.  This is a total of 45minutes, then they have 15min to get to field house and get helmets & shoulder pads.
  • There is no live contact on Mondays.  We still do everything full speed and no coaches are on the field giving long dissertations.
    • I used to have a DC who would line up in the other teams formations, walk from position to position explaining alignments for every formation!!!  UUUUUGGGGHHHH.
    • This has to be accomplished with “shotgun alignment” and all position coaches coaching on the fly.
  • We do Partner Tackling for 2-3 more Mondays and then tackling on Mondays is eliminated.
  • Defense will end with a Thud Tempo 15 minute period.   We will also do 7on7 on Mondays.
  • Offense is “odd-even” drill with defense having hand shields.


  • Tuesday is very physical day.  10min Funnel Drill, 15min defensive scrimmage, and 15min half line session on offense will be live contact.
    • Offensive plays ran versus a scout defense that is holding hand shields.


  • Tackling Circuit for 10min.  Defense will end with live 11on11 for 10min.  Offense goes live against a scout defense that is NOT holding any bags.
  • We end Wednesdays with a very emotional 10min goal period.  First offense gets 5min, then first defense gets 5min.  Pushups if scout O gets a yard and if first O doesn’t score.
  • We also do a 2minute offense drill with the scoreboard on and offense is behind.  Then put first D on the field, we are losing, and other team is trying to kill the clock.  This is live.


I hope this helps.  Most of it is in my books and DVDs that are on my website.  Feel free to email me back with any questions.

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About Me

Coach Stewart has coached football for 27 years, winning championships with 6th graders, 8th graders, high school freshman, and high school varsity. He coached 9 years at the youth and freshman level, always serving as head coach. After completing his college at age of 28 he has coached 21 years at the varsity level, 13 as the varsity head coach.

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