JAKE TABOR Corvallis Gazette-Times
Concussions are a major concern.
The South Albany High football program is doing its part to lead the charge in preventing injuries and long-standing physical and mental consequences with what the Rebels call “Rebel tackling.”
“I was a middle linebacker and a fullback at South and every single play I was running with my head down trying to knock people down. To this day, I still have times when there’s some cloudiness in my brain because of that,” South Albany defensive coordinator Jeff Louber said.
After researching the techniques Pete Carroll teaches with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, Louber decided that was the method he wanted to use to teach his players how to tackle.
One of the principles they use is the “eyes through thighs” method. In seeing the method rugby players attack the ball carrier, Louber states that a defender should keep his head up and drive the ball carrier back at the waist, rather than attacking high toward the shoulder and head area.
“Rugby players don’t have helmets and they don’t use their heads as weapons and they’re always in proper position,” Louber said, “Instead of trying to control the chin, we’re not leading with the head. It’s all shoulder tackles, keeping the head out of everything.”
In 2013, helmet to helmet contact was changed to a 15 yard penalty and a potential ejection where once before it was seen as a proper method for punishing a ball carrier.
“Short term it’s a penalty that hurts our team but long term we talk a lot about concussion syndrome and how you may not feel it now but the effects down the road,” Louber said.
The roughneck days of Ronnie Lott and Jack Tatum are in the past and the ways the played the game are now outlawed. The adjustments are not just felt on the field but on the sidelines as well.
“When I was a kid growing up, we were taught that the helmet was a weapon. We have learned so much about concussions I knew I had to change the way I was teaching tackling to keep kids safe on both sides,” Louber said.
At the 4A level, both Philomath and Sweet Home have been changing their techniques. Their changes come not only from a focus on player safety, but due to a decrease in roster size.
“In our practice we don’t do a lot of live tackling because you can’t afford to lose a kid. The more reps and more hits you take the greater the chance that hit will be the one and we won’t see you for a few weeks,” Philomath coach Troy Muir said.
The Warriors only have 18 players on the roster and simply can’t afford to lose a player to any injury but particularly concussions which could sideline a player indefinitely.
While not all teams preach the same tactics as Rebel tackling, there is a focus on player safety. As Sweet Home coach Dustin Nichol explains, they don’t teach their defenders to go straight at a ball carrier.
“I teach my guys angles. We don’t want any head-to-head collisions. We try to teach them to come in at an angle. We have gone to a lot of light pads and have minimal full-contact practices,” Nichol said.
Philomath is not alone in dealing with dwindling numbers. Sweet Home has fewer players than it used to have, and that is believed to have something to do with the need for safer tackling tactics.
“It was almost a necessity for the way we do things. We don’t have the numbers we used to and when you have guys playing in all three phases of the game we can’t afford to have the same amount of contact,” Nichol said.
As “the big hit” gets phased out, more players are being taught proper techniques at an early age as coaches try to make helmet to helmet contact a thing of the past.
“It’s been a work in progress. I’ve been working with Pop Warner and they do a lot of education for coaches in ways to teach tackling,” Muir said.
Having fewer players has caused a need for players to play on both sides of the ball, increasing reps both in the games and practice. With more reps come more collisions and Muir knows that with increased reps, he had to change the way practice is run.
“Back in the day, you used to get after each other for half an hour and you just can’t do that any more,” Muir said.
Football is becoming an increasingly safe game. Much of that is thanks to coaches and their new techniques. Invariably, collisions and concussions are going to happen but with an emphasis on reducing them, players are less likely to feel the long-term effects.
READ THE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.gazettetimes.com/sports/high-school/prep-football-tackling-the-concussion-issue/article_bef46af3-8d65-5b8f-8fc7-f6672040c732.html