The old way of teaching how to tackle…coaches would tell their players to “bite the ball” which would entail the player putting his head and face across his opponent’s body.
“So all the impact is going right there on my head. Or, what they used to say, put the screws on the helmet directly into the chest. So these are old ways we were taught,” says Master Trainer Ricky Upton.
Which is as painful—and harmful—as it sounds. But, coaches thought that’s how you got the job done.
“If you hit him just right, just hard enough, enough times, well he’s going to draw back or he’s going to remember that the next time he gets the ball. And what it did was, it wore the kids out,” says Coach Thomas Archie.
So, a new, safer way of tackling and blocking was discovered which the organization USA Football started teaching fairly recently…
“When the NFL started getting sued!” says Upton.
This new technique has players using their hips and upper body more than their head. Instead of a head-on collision, they’re instructed to move their head to the side, saving it from impact.
“Instead of wrapping, we’re ripping up to make sure we’re insuring an upward movement. And so not only are we taking the concussion out of it, trying to take the concussion out of it but it’s also the strain on the neck and shoulders,” says Upton.
It’s a technique, he says, players can practice at home and without their pads. Just going through the motions until it’s muscle memory.
We also talked about another hot topic…the heat and how to keep players from dehydration.
“We use an acclimatization chart. The first three days, helmets only. And you’re doing all your activities through that. Days four and five, helmets and shoulder pads, so they’re getting used to the heat, their body surface. And then the rest of the days we go full pads,” says Upton.
Paired with scheduled water breaks as well. Those attending today coach kids ages four to 11, giving dads and moms a little more peace of mind when their child steps out onto the field.
You can visit their website here: http://usafootball.com/headsup.