By Ryne Dennis, FNF Coaches Correspondent
State athletic associations are setting laws limiting the amount of contact teams can have per week. During the season in Kansas, teams are allowed just 90 minutes of contact per week. Coaches like Basehor-Linwood’s Rod Stallbaumer has tips for making the most of limited contact.
PREP KIDS FOR CONTACT EARLY IN THE SEASON. Stallbaumer likes to use the first contact day of the season to get his kids prepared. “We’ll do Oklahoma drills and that sort of stuff and try to get them into it and used to contact,” Stallbaumer said. “I think there’s just as much getting in shape and dealing with contact more than anything else.”
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CLINICS. Stallbaumer flew to Orlando, Fla. over the summer to learn some of the finer points of safe tackling from USA Football. The clinic preaches Heads Up Football, a program that focuses on players tackling in a safe manner. “There’s nothing specific we teach really about the neck, but that’s something we always preach is keeping your head up and eyes up and see what you hit,” Stallbaumer said.
TEACH THE TECHNIQUES. Even without contact, players can learn the proper way to tackle an opponent simply by practicing correct fundamentals. Through USA Football, Stallbaumer has become an advocate of teaching its way of shoulder tackling instead of leading with the head. “We’ve really bought into the shoulder tackling stuff,” Stallbaumer said. “We sat down as a staff this spring and went through videos and came up with five different full-team circuits we now use to practice tackling.”
FOOTWORK IS KEY. The entire Basehor-Linwood coaching staff constantly relays the footwork message to their players. Often times kids will get lazy and not move their feet, which only leads to more injuries, according to Stallbaumer. “I think that’s where a lot of kids get neck injuries is because they’re dropping their heads while lunging and diving,” Stallbaumer said. “If you get the footwork taught, I think that’s going to help with keeping the head up.”
VIEW NON-CONTACT AS AN ADVANTAGE. Stallbaumer likes his kids to believe that contact only wears them down for Friday nights. He doesn’t mind his team not going full out every day of the week. “We’ve been a thud team for a long time,” Stallbaumer said. “We don’t go full contact a lot in our scrimmage periods. In the state of Kansas, we get summer contact camps that you can go to, so our kids are used to that “thud” contact at this point.”
THINK HEALTHY OVER HURTING. There’s a balance to be found when it comes to contact. There’s also a different opinion about limited contact from nearly every coach you speak to. Some believe you have to hit every day of the week leading up to Friday to become a strong and physical team. Others believe less contact equals more repetitions a team can get in during practice. Either way, the best scenario for any coach is to have a healthy team on Friday night. Stallbaumer believes to do that, you must keep your kids healthy during the week. “I think a lot of that is balancing that injury factor,” Stallbaumer said. “We might not be as good a tackling team as some, but we have a lot of healthy guys out there playing.”
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