It is estimated that there are approximately 1,500,000 participants in high school, junior high school and youth football leagues in the United States. Although statistics reveal that fatalities have decreased markedly since 1976, there is concern that there were nine brain injuries which resulted in incomplete recovery and three fatalities directly related to football in 2009.
It is necessary to remind all who are involved with football programs on the local level to continue to be vigilant in the pursuit of a risk-free environment for students. In those efforts, coaches should be aware of the following:
1. During off-season conditioning, it is more important to stress weight training than passing leagues. The most important weight training is that which focuses not on bulk and bench presses but on strengthening of shoulder, back and neck muscles.
2. During preseason practices, it is imperative to teach proper blocking and tackling techniques, and to prohibit butt blocking, face tackling, spearing and any other activity that makes the head the principal point of contact in blocking and tackling.
3. During games, don’t stop teaching. Demand proper techniques of blocking and tackling even during emotionally charged games. Don’t send the message that wild, reckless, kamikaze play is especially praiseworthy.
4. At all times, assign player positions sensibly. Don’t put younger, slighter, less mature players in positions where they will be more likely to make open-field tackles: at defensive back, or on punt and kickoff coverage teams.
I played this game, even in college. My father and I both coached this game. I love this game. And I want it to be as good to kids today as it was to me.