Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

How Much Contact During Practice?

Posted by admin August - 19 - 2014 - Tuesday

We have had an unusual pre-season this year. August in the Tidewater region of Virginia is usually in the mid 90’s with humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife. It has been amazingly “cool” this year! One day in the 90’s and the rest in the lower to mid 80’s…. God is goooooood!

The other aspect of this pre-season that has been unusual is how quickly it has gone by. We started on Friday, August 1st. We had our first scrimmage on Monday, August 11th. Then our second scrimmage in the same week on Friday. (I’ll never do that again!!!) Now, this week is “game week!” We open on Friday with a tough opponent. Thus, my dilemma.

With 5-6 less days of practice (we are not allowed to start practice before August 1st), we had only a couple of days of full contact before we had to scrimmage another team. The players’ bodies were simply not conditioned to deal with all of the hitting that went on in a 2 hour live scrimmage. Three of our best (and toughest) players sat out our second scrimmage because of minor injuries that occurred in the first scrimmage. My conclusion is this: although we hardly ever go full live contact to the ground tackling in practice, our players needed more time to acclimate their bodies to the contact they have to absorb when full pads—live hitting occurs in pre-season practices.

I understand the concern about coaches who go waaaaaaay overboard and hit every day in practice and never relent. But, maybe the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. If little or no contact is allowed by state agencies I think we may be setting up our players for problems when they line up for real on Friday nights. I know some states have advocated a limit on how many minutes a day or a week that a team can hit. Sounds good but… who’s going to monitor it?

As I stated earlier, we rarely tackle live to the ground in practice. I learned this a loooooong time ago from my outstanding high school coach whom I played for. His philosophy was: “If they’re going to get hurt, let it be on Friday during the game— not during practice.” This philosophy has served my teams well over the years. We hit, we wrap but nobody goes to the ground. It teaches players the Pete Carroll mantra of “drive for five.” We blow the whistle and everyone lets off.

It’s a contact sport. Kids need to get accustomed to that contact during the week. Being judicious about the amount of contact your players have is the best way to go. Don’t get ’em too banged up on Tuesday and Wednesday so they can’t perform on Friday night!

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