Study your opponent
You always want to go into the game with a plan. During the week I break down a lot of film to learn what the receiver likes to do. If it’s a running play, I know at the line of scrimmage he’s not going to adjust his gloves. Once they adjust their gloves I know he’s getting ready to catch the ball because he’ll want to make sure everything feels right. There are a lot of these tells, you just have to learn to read them. If you can read body language or familiarise yourself with the habits of the player you’re covering in soccer, it will help you track their runs. In American Football we study the different formations and plays a team can run – in soccer you could study the different routines a team runs at set-pieces. This can help you anticipate what’s going to happen and potentially intercept a pass. If you go into the game blind, not knowing what they’re going to run, then they’re going to make a fool of you.
Make the first 5 yards count
In American Football the first 5 yards is free game. As soon as that ball is snapped, I can jam the receiver up, but once they get beyond that 5 yards I’m not allowed to touch them. As a defender we like to call that press coverage, or press marking. If I can stop the receiver getting the ball then or I can slow him down, that’s perfect. If you get caught holding or anything like that after 5 yards it’s a penalty – similar to how you would be penalised in soccer. I know we can be a lot more physical, but if you can find a legal way to effect your opponent over those first 5 yards it could stop them reaching a cross.
Communication is the key
Communication is one of the most important skills in football. I’m a safety, which is basically the quarter-back of the defence. I’m also the captain of the secondary, which means the two safeties and the two corners – the guys that are cover men – I control all of them. If I don’t tell my team-mates where they need to be or who they need to cover, our defence will be all out of whack and we’ll probably concede a touchdown. Sometimes it’s loud out on the field so we can’t hear each other. To counter this we have hand signals. I use them to tell my team-mates their coverages. Make sure you all known your jobs, who you are marking and communicate early and clearly so that you’re set up to defend and cover the runners.
Barry Church was speaking at Nike's 'Football meets Football' training event at Wembley as part of the 'Suit up for Sunday' campaign and ahead of the final 2014 NFL International Series game. This Sunday the Dallas Cowboys will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. For more information go to www.nike.com/suitupforsunday, www.nfluk.com or visit NikeTown London
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