7 Tips to Reducing Concussions Through Practice Strategies

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

Bobby Vernon, a coach at Miami Palmetto High (Fla.), authored the best-selling book titled Tackling Dummies: Playing Amateur Football Smarter. He also produces a series of football tackling drills, Tackling Dummies, which promotes “Heads Out” tackling.

Focus on leverage. “One of the things I’ve found historically is we focus on the point of contact – how the body is placed on another player’s body. If your head is up but you don’t have leverage, you won’t make the tackle.”

Work on tracking. “In rugby, the field is 50 percent wider. The tracking is tremendous because they’re always thinking about ways to work with teammates to get the ball-carrier between two guys.”

Take the helmets off. “When you put helmets on kids at an early age, they tend to feel invincible. They’re using their head as a weapon. Take the helmet off, and they tend to protect the head more.”

Run pursuit drills. “In pursuit drills, if you’re a middle linebacker tracking a running back, your shoulders need to be square to the line of scrimmage. We never line up two guys next to each other and say, ‘Wrap him up.’ That’s a waste. You’re coming from a leverage position in pursuit drills.”

Stress eye position. “If they’re playing inside-out, tell them to keep their eyes lasered to the near hip, and do not let the ball come back across their face. If you’re outside, it’s the same thing from the other side.”

Track dummies and players as rabbits. “We’ll have the players track the dummies. We’ll also use players as rabbits and make sure the tacklers stay behind so the rabbit doesn’t come across their faces. We use Shadowman dummies. The remote control is typically outside the price points for high school football, so we use blow-up dummies.”

Do not require that players take the dummies to the ground. “If I had to guess, we probably finish tackles only 30 percent of the time. It’s about the pursuit more than the point-of-contact.”

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