Youth Football Coaches Must Make Changes to Practice

“That sounded like pillows crashing!  Do it again!”

That was a common refrain from one of my youth football coaches during one-on-one tackling drills.  Although the drills varied by name (Oklahoma, Bull in the Ring, etc.) and by details, the basic rules were the same - the ball carrier ran straight ahead into the defender, who would attempt to make the tackle.  The ball carrier was discouraged from trying to avoid contact and was usually instructed to run straight into the defender.  If the collision wasn’t hard enough, or didn’t sound right (of course the best sounds came from helmet-to-helmet contact), you had to line up and do it again.

These commonly used drills were used to practice tackling, but also to build toughness and team morale.  In the wake of Pop Warner’s rule changes limiting contact in practice, coaches are going to have to find new ways to handle practice.  The rules change require as follows:

…coaches must limit contact to no more than one-third of their practice time. It is also banning full-speed, head-on blocking or tackling drills in which players line up more than 3 yards apart. The organization says coaches can have full-speed drills where players approach each other at an angle but “not straight ahead into each other.” It also says there should be no head-to-head contact.

Accordingly, youth football coaches will need to adjust their practice methods.  Here are few suggestions:

1.  Refrain from drills that artificially limit a player’s ability to evade contact (such as requiring a ball carrier to run straight into a defender).

2.  Find new ways to motivate the players and instill toughness that do not involve head-to-head contact. 

3.  Keep a written log of the drills performed at practice, especially those involving contact.

If you are a football coach at any level, rules limiting contact are likely to be implemented in the near future, if such rules have not already been implemented.  The time to adjust pratice methods is now.


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  1. […] Policy and the Law, a new website launched by Holt Hackney, cited my recent post entitled Youth Football Coaches Must Make Changes to Practice, which discussed how coaches must change football practices to avoid concussions and adhere to new […]

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