Back to the Basics: Using the Whistle Properly
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jun 8, 2017


By FirstDown PlayBook Guest Coach Anthony Stone

I created this blog series last year as way to help coaches build a player’s confidence at every level of football, and all sports in general.  In the previous 8 blogs, I have addressed certain skills and techniques to help improve a player’s performance, but now it is time to bring it back to the basics for coaches.

What is the one most important thing that most coaches have at practice?  The all-powerful whistle!  It is used in so many ways but is it always the most effective way?  The whistle is an extension of how we communicate with our players so it is important to be clear on what we are trying to communicate.  As a physical education teacher and coach for over 15 years, I have found that blowing a whistle for many different reasons can be confusing: starting, stopping, running a play again, go here, go there, etc.  I have come up with a way to help athletes react better on the field. As a coach, I know it is easy to do things the way we were taught because who has time to reinvent the wheel, but it is important to evaluate our coaching methods and accept change; even with something as little as how we use a whistle.

Question: When you blow a whistle what does it mean while playing football?

Answer: The play stops!

So why do teachers and coaches use a whistle to start a stretch or drill? It should only be use to get their attention or to stop a drill or play.

The whistle has been a “go-to” for drills and skill sessions and has meant more than stop.  Those who have modeled their coaching strategies after this concept need to understand that the whistle is intended for one thing and that is: STOP.  So coaches, instead of using a whistle to start a drill or dynamic stretch try using a cadence for offensive and defensive movements with the ball.  Implementing these teaching cues will help your team in aspects that are game related skills.  Using the whistle to simulate a game-like situation will help the players focus and help you be a better, more effective coach.

Example: A different way to start a drill or stretch is to use your team cadence.  For my son’s flag team we start on: “Ready, Set, Go!”

Please share different ways you start your team without using a whistle by using #B2BWhistle.

In January, I started my Back to the Basics Football Camp that can be customized for any football team or youth organization in the world.  The purpose of the camp is to develop coaches into great coaches and teach skills and techniques to improve player confidence through basic drills while having fun!  Contact me to bring my camp to your team or organization.

Anthony Stone is a Physical Education teacher at Gregory Elementary School and Quarterbacks Coach at Boylan High School in Rockford, Ill.  He is also the Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach for the Women’s Australian National Outback 2017 Team & writes blogs for Firstdown Playbook. 

In July 2016, he was named to the Hudl 100 list. He has presented at IAPHERD, the top physical education convention in Illinois, on how to get students moving with his Games Galore presentations. He has also presented at the Chicago Glazier Clinics on quarterbacks & special teams. He was the Defensive Coordinator for the 2010 U.S. Women’s National Tackle Football Team, winners of the IFAF Women’s World Championship in which Team USA did not allow a point in three games with an overall score of 201-0. Stone has coached in the CIFL and the IWFL Leagues as well as Beloit College (Linebackers/Special Teams Coordinator) and Rockford University (Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers). 

Stone has coached football at the youth, middle school and high school level. He will be putting on fundamental youth football camps around the world in 2017.  Please contact him at the following to bring his “Back to the Basics Football Camp” to a city near you:

Twitter: @Coach_Stone_MT


Coming soon:

His website will be launching this summer:

His first book will be published this summer: The BIG 4