FNF Coaches Talk — Limiting Full-Contact Practices, Effects of Poor Nutrition, Learning What NOT to Do From the Pros

Welcome back, Coaches. We’ve got three news stories for you. Enjoy.

1. Is this football’s future? How a North Carolina high school protects players’ heads. (News Observer)

We’re all decreasing the amount of contact we allow at practice, but here’s an example of a North Carolina team removing ALL full-contact practices and riding that new philosophy to its best season in years.

At Apex Friendship, the Patriots are going against conventional wisdom this fall and saving all the contact for Friday nights.

As research continues to link concussions to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease that can cause dementia later in life, participation in high school football across North Carolina has declined 25 percent since 2010. But what Coach Sanders is doing at Apex Friendship may be the future of football and a way to save the sport for future generations.

He spent three days at Dartmouth in May as a guest of coach Buddy Teevens and his staff observing the Big Green practice without hitting each other, without even tackling each other. That’s how Dartmouth has done it for a decade. That’s how the whole Ivy League does it now.
Sanders came back to Apex with pages of notes and a determination to see if it could work in high school — without the resources of a major research university, like robotic tackling dummies and virtual reality, or the collective knowledge of the engineering and medical schools.

After a win at Athens Drive in late September ended a two-game losing streak, resistance peaked. A week earlier, the Patriots struggled to tackle elusive Wakefield quarterback Trexler Ivey in a disappointing loss, and then they started slowly against Athens Drive.

The ensuing Monday, a few players posted in the team’s group text that they needed to hit in practice, that they weren’t ready for games. Sanders is on the text, but waited to see how his seniors would handle it.

“That’s part of being a 17-year-old kid,” Sanders said. “If things are not going well, you want to kind of take out the aggression, you want to go hit somebody. But that’s not how we get better.”
A few of the older players snuffed out the rebellion. For Sanders, it was a sign that his players had bought in, that they understood what he was trying to do.

In what ways are you limiting contact at practice to keep your players healthy?

2. Poor nutrition: The heartbreaking consequences for many high school athletes (Chicago Tribune)

Here’s an article about nutrition worth considering. We sometimes take for granted the fact that our players can eat the right foods — if only they make the effort. However, some players don’t have access to the foods that will help them recover and perform.

New York-based nonprofit Hunger Free America reported that between 2015 and 2017 more than 176,000 children in the metropolitan Philadelphia area, including surrounding suburbs, lived in food-insecure homes. High school athletes in those households still competed for athletic scholarships that many believed would help transcend poverty and despair, escape violence, further education and build a better future.

Charles Fryson, now 23, played high school football at Strath Haven. After his mother and grandmother died when he was in junior high school, Fryson often skipped meals at school and saved his lunch money so both he and his grandfather could eat dinner at home.

“That was just stuff I had to deal with every day,” Fryson says. “Then I would have to figure out, ‘All right, how am I gonna survive throughout the week without having lunch at school?’

How do you make sure all of your players have access to healthy food options?

3. Local high school football coaches using NFL brawl as teaching moment (ABC 33)

We, as high school coaches, are used to stealing plays and schemes from NFL film, but here’s an example of a high school coach using NFL film as an example of something NOT to do.

Last Thursday night’s brawl between the Browns and Steelers was an ugly moment in the history of the NFL. But what about high school coaches and players who saw that fight? They look up to those guys. Some Pittsburgh-area coaches see it as another teaching moment.

“We have a team call, and you stop in your tracks and you take a knee,” Warren Hardman coach Steve Arnold said.

That can keep things from escalating. High school coaches want their athletes to look up to the pros, but they’re constantly teaching them life lessons to be the best person they can be.

During the season, Harding has a program called Keep It Real Monday to reach the kids.

“Basically, we talk about life experiences, and I bring speakers in and we talk about things that have happened to them in life and it’s a teachable lesson,” Arnold said.

How do you use current events to teach your players life lessons?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk