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New England Patriots Conduct Practice Using Only Flags in a Signal of How Important Mastering the Fundamentals is To Success at Every Level of Football

By Hard Count Athletics, 01/18/19, 8:45AM PST


In a sign of the importance of the basic skills that are emphasized in flag football, even at the highest level of professional football, an recent article from ESPN detailed how the New England Patriots, who just made it to back to the AFC Championship game this past weekend after a dominating performance in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs against the San Diego Chargers, use flag football techniques during practice to work on proper tackling skills. Although the Patriots do not hold regularly scheduled flag practices at specific intervals, Coach Bill Belichick will occasionally have his players utilize flags when he wants to emphasize the very fundamentals that have made the Patriots defense one of the strongest defensive units in the NFL year in and year out for the entire length of Belichick’s long tenure with the Patriots. The fact that a coach that many consider to be the greatest coach of all time is willing to use flag techniques is a testament to how important the skills that are emphasized in flag football are. This is why we at Hard Count Athletics (HCA) work with young athletes at both our skills camps as well as in our tournaments to emphasize the importance of mastering the fundamentals, because no matter how strong or fast a player is, he or she will be at a disadvantage if he or she has not mastered the fundamentals that are essential to success at any level of organized football.     

The Patriots’ Philosophy in Emphasizing the Skills Utilized in Flag Football at Practice and What Their Players Say About It

Some Patriots practices for the team’s defensive units are now devoted solely to utilizing drills more commonly associated with flag football. According to starting Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, practicing flag football techniques “helps you focusing staying on the hip and correct angles in tackling.”  The Patriots’ other starting cornerback, Jason McCourty, told ESPN that working with flags during practice helped the Patriots defense to work on leverage, keeping their balance and accentuating how important it was to look at a ball carrier’s hips in order to bring down the ball carrier. The drills further assist the players in being in the right position to make a tackle by concentrating on the fundamentals that go into a successful tackle before even worrying about making the tackle. What the players highlighted as important is that, by practicing and mastering the very fundamentals, only can then can they move on to proper tackling techniques and the higher-level concepts that make defenses shine in the NFL. If a team does not work on balance, leverage, focusing on the ball carrier’s hips and the other fundamentals that go into a successful defense, no matter whether you are in a professional tackle football game or a youth flag football tournament, then the team will not succeed.   

Why Are Even Professional Football Teams Using Flag Football to Prepare Their Players?

Flag football is excellent preparation not only for those individuals who may compete at the highest levels of professional football, but also for children who compete at every level of the sport. As highlighted by the Patriots players interviewed by ESPN, balance, footwork, using the correct angles and focusing on the ball carrier’s hips to determine whether he or she is about to cut or run straight ahead helps a player at any level to either grab the ball carrier’s flag or tackle the player, whichever the case may be.

At HCA, our tournaments offer the opportunity to hone players’ individual and team skills against the best competition around, but also offer the opportunity to work on the balance, footwork  and the other fundamentals that make up the very building blocks for success in football at both the team and individual level, regardless of whether the player is competing in the NFL or at an HCA tournament. The highest level of talent that we often see at our tournaments and skills camps often is not the speediest and the most talented players, but instead the players who have mastered the basics better than anyone else, who may be the most difficult to bring down. Often it is not the team comprised of the strongest or the fastest players that advances to the championship games of our tournaments, but instead the teams that have clearly spent the most time learning and practicing the fundamentals like the New England Patriots.

More about Hard Count Athletics

Tournaments organized by Hard Count Athletics permit youth sports teams to hone their skills against some of the finest competition from around the country in a format that encourages safety, player participation and skills development. Competing in tournaments like the six regional tournaments in the 2019 HCA Tournament Circuit leading up to the June 2019 national youth flag football championships in San Diego gives players and coaches the opportunity to focus on the fundamentals and use the hours of practice and time spent honing the basics to test their young athletes and give them both the motivation to improve their fundamentals and to compete against the best talent from around the country.

In addition to regional and national youth flag football tournaments, HCA also offers youth flag football skills camps at a variety of sites across the country annually. These skills camps offer participants the opportunity to hone some of the very same skills that the New England Patriots work to continually improve even at football’s highest level. If your child is interested in competing against other young athletes to be his or her very best or developing his or her skills in an intensive yet fun skills camp environment, all the while doing so in an engaging format that emphasizes character development just as much as skill work, contact Hard Count Athletics today at