The time of year for football dreams.
From the NFL preseason, college and high school training camps, to peewee football, all eyes focus on the grid iron.
At every level players share similar dreams.
Offensive linemen dream of springing a running back with a perfect block.
Running backs dream of leaving a defender on the ground after their shake and bake.
Receivers dream of the fingernail catch in the end zone.
All defensive players dream of dropping everyone with the ball.
But there’s one dream no one shares.
New rules due to concussions change the game, but other parts have also changed. Baby boomer-aged men played in an era where drinking water during practice was a sign of weakness.
That was a good change.
Their coaches seemed more intent on breaking players instead of building them up. What does a 180 pound sophomore learn from a drill where he’s matched against a 240 pound senior blocking for an equally large lineman posing as a running back?
They learn how to fall down and get trampled at first. Then they either accept getting crushed, or quit. It’s a battle of attrition.
If they survive, they play.
Those were the days of the cross-body block where you launched your body sideways into an opponent on the open field. After enough ribs got kicked in the technique changed.
Change in football goes one of two ways. It either improves the game, or ruins it. No one argues with the medical evidence on long time players and their mental health. They get headlines and fans seem to understand the consequences of The NFL’s Greatest Hits.
Prohibiting head to head shots, or drilling a helpless receiver, is a good change, but one that will drain the pool of video for future greatest hits.
Keeping enthusiasm high for football doesn’t seem a problem. The NFL is the most popular sport. College teams like the Oregon Ducks show their staying power season after season near the top.
It’s the quiet football leagues that are making giant strides toward improving the game. When friends and family are the only spectators, why bother changing the way the game is played? Because no one dreams of their kid dying after practice, or getting paralyzed.
A group of men at USA Football joined together in an effort called Heads Up Football.
With more than half a million players and 80,000-plus coaches, they’re changing football from the ground up. This has to happen. If not, then football goes the way of boxing.
Why aren’t we interested in a sport ruled at the heavyweight level by two giant Russian brothers who promised their mother they’d never fight each other? You tell me.
Heads Up Football strives to teach the game right, not the way some JV scrub who never made varsity grows up and coaches. The clothes line tackle and forearm to the crotch block aren’t part of the new curriculum.
Instead of a youth coach seeking revenge on a sport that rejected him, Heads Up Football breaks the game down to teaching fundamentals.
Since tackling is one of the most violent acts in all sport, it gets the attention it deserves. All the protective gear ever invented won’t save a kid if he plays like a big bird flapping his arms around and sticking his head straight into other player’s midsections.
Is Heads Up Football on the right track? From usafootball.com:
- “Only allow your child to play when you know that USA Football certification is there for the coach and you know that your child is being taught the proper fundamentals of the game and that real intelligence has gone into the preparation of practices.” Tom Coughlin, Head Coach, New York Giants.
- “This overall approach and the specific techniques within the program are exactly the next steps we need to take to improve head safety in tackle football. The effort to teach effective, yet safer tackling and blocking techniques at the earliest youth levels can only have positive downstream benefits for our players at the high school, college and professional levels.” Dr. Gerard A. Gioia, Pediatric Neuropsychologist.
- “The culture of youth football is changing in a positive direction – as it must. There is greater awareness of the risks of brain injuries and greater attention to reducing those risks by teaching safer and smarter play. I applaud Commissioner Goodell, the NFL and USA Football for accelerating this effort, and I commend the coaches involved in teaching Heads Up Football to players across the country.” Inez Tenenbaum, Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
When you hear about positive changes from a 2-time Super Bowl winning coach, a child doctor, and the consumer product safety chairman, you’ve got to be onboard. The crusty coach, the medic, and the mommy can’t all be wrong.
Enjoy the season, but watch for proper technique. Be ready to stand up for football.
(posted on oregonsportsnews.com)