Coach Proper Fundamentals, “Heads Up” and Emphasize Safety

Proper techniques reduce the risk of injuries

At all practices coaches should teach proper football fundamentals particularly concerning tackling and blocking per “Heads Up’ instructions. An essential coaching point is that players must not lead with their heads as a primary contact point and at all times keep their heads & eyes up. The Heads Up tackling techniques as prescribed by USA Football and terminology should be the only ones taught at NYO. Please refer to the USA Football website for the details on the five steps associated with Heads Up tackling.   An overview of the Heads Up tacking techniques is summarized below and is available at: 

1) Break down position – Head up & eyes up, feet are slightly wider that shoulder width, knees are bent and hands are in a ready position.

2) Buzz Steps – As the tackler nears the ball carrier in a break down position short choppy steps are taken.

3) Hit Position – Immediately before impact a final downhill step is taken in preparation for impact. The helmet slides to the side of the ball carrier.

4) Shoot – This refers to the explosive upward action of the tackler’s legs and hips.

5) Rip – With head & eyes remaining up the tackler should use an upper cut motion with both arms to lock up and lift the ball carrier slightly. The point of impact on the tackler’s body is the front section of the shoulder pads, not the head. The lift serves several purposes: it keeps the tackler on his feet, prevents dives and misses; it breaks the runner’s balance and makes the next point easier.

Eliminate Unsafe Drills and Emphasize Safe Actions

We are dealing with young players many of whom have never played before. Safety has to be a top priority. Only appropriate well organized drills should be used. If you have any question about a drill contact the Football Committee. Particularly early in the season it is also imperative that before each drill you provide very clear instructions about what is expected with an emphasis on safety.

1. Coaches need to verify helmets are properly fit and that mouth pieces are being used.

2. Explain to players the symptoms of concussions and that they are to communicate with coaches if symptoms are experienced.

3. NO full contact drills should begin with players more than three yards apart unless most of their motion is on an angle such as on a sideline drill.

4.Particularly early in the season it is also imperative that before each drill you provide very clear instructions about what is expected with an emphasis on safety.

5. Remind players that heads & eyes should remain up at all times

6. Remind players to never lead with their heads

7. Walk through new drills which will reduce confusion by players; confused players are more likely to be injured.

8. Coaches should pair players of similar size and ability for contact drills

9. Particularly early in the season the distance between players in hitting drills should be kept to a maximum of two yards.

10. Certain drills such as “bull in the ring” are old school and serve little benefit toward enhancing players’ skills; eliminate these.

11. Most tackling in game conditions occurs on angles. Minimize drills that requires repeated head on tackling

12. Either avoid or minimize live coverage of kicks or punts during practices.

13. Players within Oklahoma drills should never begin further than 5 yards apart.

14. Quick whistles – Players must learn to play until the whistle so coaches must be diligent about stopping each play during practices with a whistle. During practice err on the side of stopping play with a whistle blown too quickly.

15. Never run drills where any player is defenseless or flat footed.