ANNANDALE, VA —Instead of being on the golf course or in the backyard on a sunny Saturday, about 25 coaches gathered inside a high school lecture hall with a very simple goal — making the game safer.
“We’re trying to make sure that our coach in the field, a volunteer father, is equipped with the fundamentals to teach proper tackling, proper blocking, practice guidelines, how to deal with heat and hydration, how to identify concussions and how to return to play,” says Dick Adams, master trainer, USA Football and a former 20-year head coach at Annandale High School.
Youth football season is just around the corner, and local player safety coaches are getting ready for it. “It’s a safety initiative program to really establish proper techniques in terms of how to play the game, ” Adams says.
Player injuries, including the risk of concussion, have put football under the microscope recently. “Football is under a lot of stress right now,” says Mark Travis, head coach of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Travis was among the coaches to be trained in USA Football’s best practices to boost player safety. USA Football is the governing body of youth football clubs nationwide.
“This program is a huge improvement in helping make the game as safe as possible,” Travis says.
Travis and other coaches were quick to point out that fundamental techniques to improve player safety have changed dramatically. “It’s much better than when I was kid,” Adams says.
The coaches were trained in the “head-up” blocking and tackling technique, which USA Football says can reduce the risk of concussion.
“USA Football works to teach and instruct youth club coaches on safer, sound, fundamental tackling techniques, which involve really keeping the head up and out of the tackle and out of the block. It’s not softer, but it’s smarter,” Adams says.