Let me preface this by saying I love football.
I loved playing football.
I love coaching football.
I love practicing football… did as a player… do as a coach.
But…. I am truly worried about the future of our sport… for a number of reasons. As I wrote about last year (History Lesson) our game is under siege… and the battle has not lessened over the past year.
- Decreasing numbers of participants…
- Bad behavior (leading to bad press) by student/ professional athletes…
Here are some things to think about.
I can’t believe I am saying this… and it may be considered blasphemous, but I will just go ahead and get this out first. The 25 summer contact days allowed in our state (Missouri) is too much. By judiciously using the days, combining them with summer strength and conditioning days (which don’t count for your 25) a coach can effectively add three months to football “season”.
We are talking about a season… with pads… and practice… and scrimmages… and contact… that now lasts nearly seven months!
I think it is too much for the players, too much for parents, and too much for the coaches …who often don’t get paid any additional stipend for their summer work.
When you multiply that summer commitment required by students and their families for players who are multi sport athletes, it becomes an even crazier schedule… especially in those schools where each sport uses all of their 25 contact days.
We tell our athletes that we want them to be multi-sport athletes, but this model makes it nearly impossible.
On the same subject (25 summer contact days) let me just say that the MSHSAA required acclimatization period (first three days of practice helmets only) is obsolete. Our kids can practice nearly all summer with pads, but then when practice “officially” starts they have to go back to helmets only… it makes no sense.
The emphasis on concussions and head injuries increases daily. It is a hot-button issue at all levels. It is changing the nature of our sport, and we as coaches will need to adapt our coaching and teaching styles.
I am not sure what the best solutions are for this problem, but here are some thoughts…
First, I think that we, as coaches, need to be more proactive regarding these issues….
We need to effectively communicate to parents, administrators, community, and media:
- The value of our sport, football, and how we teach life lessons, character, healthy lifestyle, and leadership to our student-athletes. We teach more than X’s and O’s. If you have not seen them, here are a couple of excellent pieces by John Harbaugh of the Ravens and Chris Creighton, head coach at Eastern Michigan.
- We care about the safety of our athletes. We teach how to play the game safely. We are trained to recognize the symptoms of concussion and head injuries, and we will not put your child at risk.
- We have the best equipment. We recondition and recertify our equipment each year and replace when needed.
I think the tough, challenging, part of this situation is how to strike a balance between teaching what needs to be taught before you line up and play Friday night, and how to keep your athletes as safe as possible
Football is a physical game… that is part of what makes it a great sport. Your players have to know how to tackle, block, hit, and be hit, in order to play safely and play well. It may take some out-of-the-box thinking and ideas to teach them these skills and give them enough reps and time to be successful on Friday night. I wrote about some ideas in these posts, Adaptation, and The Highest Quality Mental Reps.
I don’t have the answers, but I know collectively as a group… we as coaches will find the answers in order to keep our sport healthy and strong.
Thanks to PrepsKC.com for featuring this post (and my posts weekly during the season) on their site. If you get a chance, check them out for great content regarding football in the Metro KC area!
Good luck to everyone this season, I am looking forward to watching your teams compete!
You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you… Don’t Believe It!
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org