Always Question the Test?
Today in the heat of August, with full equipment I hear the snap of chin straps, the crack of pads, and the shouts of Coaches, "Way to hit big guy!" The internet's social media is full of videos with long runs, great catches, head on head tackles; but wait - didn't we go through this last year and the year before that. AYF has even gone to the extra effort of offering a free Seahawks Tackling video to prevent bad coaching techniques. Yet here it is again, coaches doing the "Hamburger Drill" (a RESTRICTED AREA where ball carrier and tackler collide). What's wrong here is that by restricting the area; misinformed coaches are actually encouraging head to head hits. A well intended football organization came out several years ago restricting the amount of time for full contact in practice and the distance of players to three yards apart for coaches to run a tackling drill.
In my discussions with AYF Risk Management Director and MMA Expert, John Sadler, I opposed implementing these two directives. John asked me to explain why.
AYF Coaches are teachers thus they do drills, not just practice game scrimmages. The type of contact in practice should consist of controlled drills. Throwing the ball out and simply holding live contact games in practice is not teaching. A limit on contact time I felt, would instead encourage more contact. Coaches would feel they should catch up and fill the void of what is perceived as the normal average for minimum time spent at contact.
Three yards apart tackling does not take into account for the width of the area in the drill. A football field is an area of over 60,000 sq feet. It is unrelated to the game of football to restrict a drill to three yards apart which includes a restriction of the width by setting up cones or a lines of players. "Football is a game of angles" said Vince Lombardi. Tackling at an angle occurs most often. The football field is 120 Yards by 53 1/3 yards wide. Good tackling should not be taught only in a restricted zone. Good coaches teach situations according to field position. Angles in running, passing, catching, blocking, and tackling are crucial to fundamental execution.
In the field of education much debate is taking place over the success of students who score well on tests. Educators place a value on what is called a "growth mindset". The theory is that "true grit" of persistence by a student will result in better test scores. OK then if a player is tough and keeps hitting head to head he will learn to tackle right?
Wait - let's look at the tests. What are we asking kids to learn on these education tests? If a child is raised in the city for example he may have a problem answering a question like; What is a group of Quails called?
The test results are only as good as the test. Coaches likewise should question the tests or drills they ask of their players.
Your player may be the toughest head to head tackler from a distance of three yards apart but there is a COVEY OF QUAILS all over the field to defend.