School was out of session Wednesday, and the roles were reversed for many high school football coaches.
USA Football held a Heads Up Football player safety coaching clinic for the second consecutive year in Wake County at Cary High, and more than 50 high school, middle school and youth club coaches were led through drills on proper techniques in tackling and blocking.
Coaches received an 88-page manual and were also reminded about possible player safety situations, such as a sudden cardiac emergencies and concussions.
“We have to make sure parents feel comfortable with their kids playing (football),” said Dick Adams, a master trainer for USA Football and the leader of the clinic. “The number of youths playing football is dropping. They are playing just about anything else, whether it be baseball, basketball, or even lacrosse.
“We want to be able to teach coaches these things so that hopefully the coaches will relay these to not only the players but to parents. What we’re teaching is just solid football.”
Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker was recertified after going through the clinic last year. He said the biggest impact that the lessons had on his coaching staff and players is the simplified terms used to teach proper tackling and blocking techniques.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a coach or a coaching staff that doesn’t teach those fundamentals,” Crocker said. “But when you take all those different pieces and bits and package them all together, it brings value.”
Wake County Public School Systems athletics director Deran Coe first contacted USA Football last year about holding a yearly clinic.
At the end of Wednesday’s clinic, he stressed to the coaches the importance of giving parents the ability to see the safety techniques and to use simplified terminology.
“In similar situations, we’ve had high schools and school districts go through these teaching sessions with parents when you have them all together,” Coe said. “The parents night is the most important part of this. It puts them at ease when they see it.”
The blocking portion of the seminar was added this year to supplement the tackling lesson. The blocking technique is five simple words – set, slide, half-shot, down, hit – and Adams, a retired high school coach and teacher from Virginia, barked out words of encouragement and technical advice during the session.
Adams has been a master trainer for three years and travels across the Eastern United States to teach coaching clinics. His next stop is this weekend in New Jersey.
Though high school coaches make up a majority of attendees at his clinics, Adams said teaching youths and youth coaches will formulate long-term muscle memory.
“It’s early, and we don’t expect wholesale changes right away,” Adams said. “But we want to make sure that a child gets (taught) the proper technique early on. It’s being taught as a youth, and they learn how to do it in middle school, ‘Step, slide’ ...and in high school, by then, it should be a habit.”