By: Chad Wilson – Owner – All Eyes DB Camp
Sure you love football and I’m glad you do but history shows that some of the best defensive backs that have played and are playing the game were pretty damn good at one or more other sports. Here are three sports, through my experience, that can turn you into a 5 star defensive back.
1 – Track and Field
This should come as a surprise to no one since speed is one of the quality factors you need as a football player and especially at defensive back. I’m on record as saying that speed is not everything at DB but life sure is easier if you have it. Nothing enhances your speed more than running track. Sure you can take the youngster to a trainer but the competitive nature of track is what really gets the speed developed. A trainer is not really going to be able to duplicate the competition element that track provides. There’s just something about wanting to beat the other seven competitors on the track in your given event each week that brings out the best in the athlete during training. Outside of the physical elements that track develops, the mental aspect is also a very overlooked part as well. The individual pressure of track can do wonders for developing mental toughness. When you are on that track, unless it’s in a relay, there is no relying on teammates. Your success and / or failure is all on you. Developing that mental part of the athlete is tremendous when they are now inserted into the team aspect of football.
Just as track develops the speed, few things develop your overall athleticism like basketball. The quick bursts, constant jumping and agility needed to guard players on the court feeds the elements that are crucial when playing defensive back. Again, you can go to a trainer the entire offseason to develop your jumping ability but having your teammates relying on you to guard your man or get to the basket in a game tends to bring out the best in you. Although basketball is a team sport, there are quite a few one on one aspects to the game that can develop the DB mentality. Often times in basketball you have to go one on one vs. a player on the opposing team whether playing offense or defense. Going through those situations in another sport like basketball gives you something to call upon when you are lining up in front of a WR in practice or gameday. You either learn from the failures or draw strength from the success you had on the basketball court when you now take your talents to the secondary on the gridiron.
3 – Baseball
Perhaps you weren’t thinking about this one but it’s true. Baseball is a very challenging sport that develops a lot of critical elements you can use when you are playing defensive back. For starters, failing at the plate as a batter over 60% of the time teaches you how to handle failure and still perform. Also, hitting a baseball involves mastery of a lot of minute details. Not wanting to strike out every time you come to the plate, will teach you to pay attention to detail so that you can be a success. Baseball also requires a great deal of amount of consistency both in training and competition. Pitching a ball where you want or hitting a baseball requires hours of practicing the same movements over and over. Developing these habits do wonders for you when it’s time to master the techniques of defensive back. One other big plus from baseball is developing ball skills. Not only do you develop hand-eye coordination hitting a baseball but catching high fly balls will do wonders for your ability to track a football on the gridiron. Hours of judging balls off of a bat and tracking them down will make locating a football thrown by a quarterback all the more simple when the time comes.
Honorable mention goes to soccer. When I was coaching youth football, I had the most success with soccer players when they finally decided to play football. The two biggest reasons were a) they were in shape and b) they had great footwork. The constant drills involving controlling a soccer ball around cones and players develops footwork that is on point when you bring it to the gridiron. Soccer is also a sport that involves constantly moving to excel in it. The players typically must be in top physical condition to do well.
I am a big advocate of defensive backs playing multiple sports and here you can see some of the major reasons why. Playing the other sports develop skills that transfer to football but they also construct the mentality that is needed to handle the pressure of playing in the secondary. I know in this era we love the individual attention that comes with working with a trainer and that has it’s place but competition brings out the best in us all. The best place to find that competition still remains in team sports.