It’s an interesting time in the world of youth football. I played football at UNC Chapel Hill and professionally for the Atlanta Falcons. But the game has changed a lot since I’ve played, and coaching and proper tackling techniques need to change to reflect these changes. I also have had three sons that have now played the sport; two to go on and play in college, my youngest son is playing football in college now for Georgia Tech. I travel around the Southeast teaching USA Football’s Heads Up youth football techniques. We do camps and clinics for kids to teach them football fundamentals, including the Heads Up tackling technique. I also teach parents about correct helmet and shoulder pad fitting, as well as concussion recognition and reporting. We help parents understand how we’re coaching kids to keep their head out of the game.
From a coaching and teaching standpoint, when the head receives a hit, or an impact, that’s when brain injuries and concussions can develop. Heads Up football training is working to take player’s heads out of the game and minimize head contact. Helmets and face masks are very important, for protection, but if you can minimize head collisions then you can hopefully reduce the injuries. Completely eliminating concussions may not be achievable at this time, but our goal is to reduce and minimize impacts.
We want to teach kids to hit with the front part of their body versus the top of their head and shoulders. We want to train the correct techniques, and that works best with repetition and practice. We start with progressive, fundamental movements of the body so it starts with 45 degree angle stance instead of 90 degree. We teach them to monitor their bodies. If kids bend their knees and rotate the hips forward slightly, when you raise up to make a hit then your chest moves up to a 45 degree angle and your eyes go to the sky. Your head is up so the front part of your chest or the front part of your shoulder is making contact.
It’s our conviction that the earlier you teach this, the more repetitions and practice kids will get with these techniques. When you get repetition, then you get to build muscle memory. We want to teach and develop muscle memory of hitting with the front part of their shoulder.
Parents need to familiarize themselves with ways to make sports a positive experience for kids.
I would caution parents that helmets don’t prevent concussions. Just because it’s the newest or the most expensive helmet, doesn’t mean it’s the best protection. Check your resources and make good decisions based on facts. Make sure helmets are fitted correctly and snug on both the head and the chin strap. Helmets also need to be in compliance for reconditioning and inspection each year. You can visit USAFootball.org to get safety checklists, youth practice guidelines, concussion information and equipment instructions.
At the end of each of our football clinics our former NFL players share their life stories and we underline the importance of our five principles:
It’s our goal to share our values and techniques to make sports safer for the next generation to enjoy. Learn more at KidsandPros.com.
– Buddy Curry, USA Football Heads Up trainer and NFL Ambassador
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