How a running back breaks his stance is a key fundamental of the running back position. The best running backs understand that the game of football is a game of speed. The ability to break stance and make a quick start in any direction is crucial because often a mere two seconds can mean the difference between a hole opening and closing. It is therefore important that a running back learn to break his stance with explosiveness, balance, and full awareness of the play ahead of him. Here are some suggestions:
Line up with a proper stance before the play begins. Many beginning running backs line up with an inefficient stance that causes them to shift their weight or take a hesitant step before they attack the defense.
- For a two-point stance, you should begin with your feet placed shoulder width apart. Keep your feet near parallel, with toes pointed ever-so-slightly inward, for a quick burst in any direction. Bend your knees slightly with your hands resting lightly on your lower part of your thighs. Keep your head up and your eyes looking ahead, and never lean towards the direction of the play, something that drives running back coaches crazy. You never want to tip off where you're going with your eyes or body. The opposing defense does not need your help.
- Make a good first step. After lining up in a good stance, a correct first step is the most important element of breaking stance as a running back. The back should use a first step that allows him to take advantage of the hole when it first opens up.
There are two types of first steps, a lead step and a crossover step. Many coaches will advise a crossover step when a running back is asked to move laterally to the line of scrimmage. For a crossover step, at the snap of the ball, the running back steps first with the foot opposite the direction of the play. If the play moves to the left, the back crosses over with his right foot and explodes off the back foot as he breaks out of the stance. Obviously if the play goes to the right, then the back crosses over with his left foot and pushes off with the back foot.
- The other type of first step, a lead step, is often advised for plays that ask a running back to move directly toward the line of scrimmage, a straight-ahead running play. If the hole is to the right, then the running will take a lead step with the right foot. If the hole is to the left, he leads with his left foot. In both situations, it is important that the running back push off with the back foot for power and explosiveness.
Explode forward with balance. The most important aspect of breaking stance effectively is that you should always explode forward with good control. This means that you should keep low and keep good balance as you explode forward to the hole.
- Many running backs make the mistake of exploding up, breaking out of their stance too high off the ground. This wastes precious time and causes the running back to begin the play with an awkwardly high center of gravity. But if you explode forward, keeping low and balanced, you will be able to take the handoff from the QB and find the hole with speed and power.
Breaking stance effectively is second nature to the most successful running backs in the pros and in college. Watch them closely, and you will see that they always keep low and make a controlled, explosive move toward the hole. Of course they achieve this ability only through practice, practice, and more practice. This is actually a football fundamental can be practiced alone in the back yard. If you drill yourself in the steps listed above, you will be able to always break your stance in the most effective and explosive way.
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