QB Teacher and Coach, Tony Ballard Shares The Secret Sauce To Training Quarterbacks
Over the past 20 years, Coach Tony has helped develop hundreds of Quarterbacks; from refining their technique in the position to teaching them the value of being a leader on the field and in the classroom. Coach Tony’s attention to detail, knowledge of the game, and the ability to translate complex techniques into an easily recognizable language separates him from the rest!
- How did you get started as a QB Trainer?
- I started doing back in Florida, played around with it, then moved to Georgia nearly 16 years ago and I ended up coaching at Roswell High School and some other places in Georgia. But, I jumped off after speaking with Robert Edwards (brother of Terrance Edwards) and he asked me to work his QB’s at his camp. Good camp. And at the time, he was working with FBU. Robert called Erik Richards and put in a word for me. So I got a shot from Erik with FBU and the rest is really history. I’ve been working with FBU from the beginning it feels like – back when Top Gun in was in Virginia.
- So that was starting point for you?
- Yea. It really was. FBU kind of gave me the platform to see some of the top players in the country. Guys like Davis Mills (Stanford), Tommy DeVito (Syracuse), Harrison Bailey (Tennessee). The list goes on and on.
- At this stage in your career, you likely have a lot of young QB’s that want to work with you. So what do you look for when you consider training a young student-athlete?
- Well I consider myself a teacher. Not a guru. Nothing like that. A teacher. Someone who goes to develop young men. I look for how dedicated he is. What can he manage mentally? How quickly can he retain information? When I get a kid the first time, I truly want to see how much he can handle on the mental side. If he shows those mental signs, shows that he can retain information and has the true hunger to get better, then I’ll move forward.
- At what age do you prefer to start working with a student-athlete?
- I like to get them at a young age (middle-school). Mainly because they haven’t developed bad habits yet. If a kid has a natural throwing motion, then I’m good with that. I’m not trying to change that. I just want kids who want to learn and can retain instruction. And then try to enhance whatever his natural physical motion/ability is. Look at Phillip Rivers. That’s not “good motion” but he’s a hall of famer. I see too many guys trying to change kids motion and it just throws them off. It’s like they forget how to throw. That’s why it’s important to get them early. If I get them later, then their motion is their motion. Once a kid hits 13, that’s it. They are going with that throwing motion regardless.
- What are some of the best drills that you run for QB?
- Let’s talk about footwork. I’m an under-center guy. I’m huge on proper footwork. Big on separation on the first step. Getting small when you need to throw on time. I used to be big on working the ladder, but now I’m doing resistance bands around the legs to keep the base wide. It’s important to have wide base. It eliminates the all-arm throw. The more narrow you are, the more emphasis you have on the rotator cuff and making a strong, accurate throw. So I’d focus on implementing some resistance bands work into your drill set when you’re working on your base as a QB.
- What are your thoughts on 7v7 circuit?
- Well obviously, I enjoy it. Six years ago I started Hustle, and I mainly implemented it for QB training. It’s just another opportunity to keep working in a competitive environment in the offseason and expand who they are working with. The QB’s get the chance to throw to elite talent that they may not have at their high school and vice versa for the WR’s. The whole point is to put the kids in a position to succeed. That’s it.
- How do you ensure that QB’s aren’t picking up bad habits from 7v7?
- How do I know? Well I know because it’s it’s my team haha. I’m coaching the QB’s like I’m training them. 7v7 gets a bad rap sometimes with QB’s. They say QB’s don’t move their feet, etc. But, when I’m coaching QB’s in 7v7, then I’m pushing them. We’re not out there to be lazy and win some 7v7 trophies. I’m making sure that we are implementing game like feels and scenarios. It has to transition to Friday Night. We don’t run any gimmick plays or anything like that. We’re looking for proper drops, proper route combinations, proper reads, zone concept vs. man concept. At the end of the day, if the right guy is running the team and he cares about development, or if the offensive coordinator is a QB guy, then the QB is probably doing the right thing.
- You’ve trained & coached your fair share of elite prospects…do you know right away? Is there something special?
- Well I’ve trained a lot of guys. Theirs probably 2-3 guys I knew right away that they’d be good in high school and then have a shot in college to be good. When you’re around these young guys as much as I am, you know early on if a kid is special based on the questions he’s asking and if they have the tools. Davis Mills was that kid. He was a kid that Erik (Richards) introduced me to and I met him at an FBU Camp when he was 6th grader. And I thought he was a sponge. And when he finally got shot on the field, he never looked back. People we’re saying “he’s playing 2A football, he can’t do this, he can’t do that.” Well they were wrong. Or at least Stanford thought so. Another one was Harrison Bailey. Phenomenal family. Phenomenal kid. He just wanted to play football. First day I worked him out, his dad asked Harrison in the car about Coach Tony. Harrison said he hated me. Dad said good, that means he’ll push you. And I pushed him. He’s going to do great things college. The last one was Jarrett (Guarantano). Met him going into 8th grade. And he was at FBU New Jersey. His size just jumped out right away. Then, there was just this bond we developed during the FBU camp where it felt like we’d known each other for years. He has all the tools. I still believe in him and think he might surprise some people in the fall.
- How do you work with High School coaches who have fear of outside training? Do you incorporate their strategies or input?
- First of all, I’m a huge believer in building relationships with the High School Coaches. You have to be on the same page as the coach. If what I’m doing doesn’t translate to Friday night, then I’m doing the kid a disservice. I like to work on the schematics of what the school is implementing. It’s not about me. It’s not about the coach. It’s about the kids. Luckily, I’ve had good relationships with the coaches who’s kids I train. I’ve got an open door policy, and, luckily, I’ve had good relationships with the coaches who’s kids I train. I’m there to enhance what the kid can do. If I can add a tool to the kids toolbelt that he maybe hasn’t learned yet? Then why wouldn’t I do that? As long as the focus is on the kids, then that’s what matters.