Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Injured Reserves???

Posted by admin August - 3 - 2017 - Thursday

What to do with those players who are injured yet still attend practice??? This situation came up this morning and I felt the need to address it since many of you are starting full contact practices. Players are going to get banged up and for whatever reason, they are going to sit out a practice or two. I believe that how you deal with them “sends a message” to the rest of your players. Kids today are so media-conscious; in that, they “see” things when we, as adults, don’t!

A coach contacted me about what to do with those players who can’t practice. I shared how I used to just let them stand on the sideline (here’s the KEY) in street clothes and observe. What I didn’t realize was that… there was more observing of what the injured players were doing (or not doing!) than vice versa. They stood over there and laughed. They stood in the shade. They walked to the water horse anytime they wanted. What the players who were practicing were observing was: these guys are reallllllllly taking it easy! Maybe, I need to get a little “banged up” so I can stand in the shade and watch practice for a couple of these hot days!!!

Then I visited Va. Tech during a spring practice one year. I noticed that every player was dressed out! However, players had different colored jerseys on. I recognized offense and defense but there were also yellow jerseys (for the QB’s… non contact) and red jerseys. These guys were over on the sidelines… not participating in drills. I asked the Head Trainer what was going on?? He shared with me that, “those are the players who are injured and are not allowed to participate in any drills.” Yet, I saw that they were fully dressed in gear and that they were doing a series of exercises (push ups; sit ups; stretching) while practice was going on. The Trainer explained further, “Nobody gets a ‘day off.’ There’s work to be done to help them either rehab their injury or simply to stay in shape. They need to be working too.” A new team policy took shape in my head.

When practice started the next year, it was now one of our policies that everyone dresses out for practice if they are in attendance. If a player has a shoulder injury that precludes him from wearing shoulder pads, he can still wear his girdles, pants and helmet— with his jersey on with no shoulder pads. Our trainer gave them a series of exercises to do while practice was going on. Some could even do sprints or jog around the field. The key was: they were going to work! It was not a vacation. In addition, if they were physically able, they became “managers for a day.” They helped set up and then put away equipment in the shed. They pulled the water horse around. It was their job to keep the field cleaned up. Again, not the most fun day they’re ever spent “watching” practice.

I found that kids were not as inclined to just want to “take a day off”— when they had to dress out, exercise constantly and… help with managerial duties!

Let me close on a verrrrrrrrrrrrry serious note: we were always cognizant of a player’s physical status. We had a Trainer on the field every day and we always told the players that if they had a concern… to see the trainer before they left school! Big or small— get it checked out. We also talked a lot about the difference between being “hurt” and being injured. The player should know his body and pain threshold well enough to know the difference. Football is a “collision sport” and your body is going to have aches and pains. If the player had ANY question, see the trainer.

My policy with our trainer and Team Doctor was always this: YOU do the injury evaluations and I will do the coaching. If a trainer or doctor told me that a kid was done… he was done! I’m not going to question their decision. Likewise, they don’t come down and tell me to “go for it” instead of punting either!!! SAFETY FIRST!! We were very fortunate to have a great deal of support from our school and community to get the very best medical care for our players. Find a local Sports Medicine doctor who is willing to volunteer his/her time to check out your players and be on the sideline during games. Then…. let them do their job!

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