General Articles,Coaches

Coaching Schools focus on blocking and tackling

By Joe Frollo Fri, 04/13/2012 - 3:09pm

USA Football Coaching Schoolsare going back to the basics in 2012.

Beginning Saturday at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio, youth coaches across the United States have the opportunity to work with top instructors in their area to make themselves better prepared for the 2012 season.

Alongside the high-quality instruction that participants have come to expect, the one-day clinics coaches learn how to teach blocking and tackling with techniques for players of specific age groups.

Click here for a list of 2012 USA Football Coaching Schools.

A point of emphasis for the 2012 Coaching School curriculum is the implementation of the Tackle Progression Model and the basic principles of blocking, said Nick Inzerello, USA Football director of football development. The focus on football’s most basic fundamentals will assist coaches in becoming better teachers. In turn, players improve and reduce the risk of injury.

“Knowing how to teach proper blocking and tackling is a skill every football coach needs to understand,” Inzerello said.

The Coaching Schools follow USA Football’s Player Progression Development Modelthat helps coaches teach the sport at their team’s particular age level. Coaches are grouped as part of Under-8, Under-10, Under-12 or Under-14 for sessions specific to the ages they coach.

Participants learn the proper ways to teach football fundamentals, improve organization and incorporate new offensive and defensive schemes through both onfield and classroom instruction.

All schools focus on the “how,” said U-14 clinician Jim Farrell of suburban Chicago. Giving coaches the “why” during classroom settings is what brings it together.

“It’s a great opportunity for coaches to step back and sharpen up on best practices,” said Farrell, an assistant coach at Wheeling (Ill.) High School. “Any time you think you know it all, that’s when the game passes you by.”

Farrell said USA Football Coaching Schools are not about winning games. They are about teaching fundamentals and skills and how to do it right.

At the U-14 level, it’s also about teaching coaches how to manage a team. Players getting ready to enter high school are vastly different than 8-year-olds just starting out. By separating participants along individual age paths, coaches can focus on specific needs for their teams.

“When you are the last stop before high school, at some point your training has to include practice planning and time-efficient ways to teach schemes that are getting more complicated,” Farrell said.

This includes USA Football’s tackle progression model that teaches a five-step approach to one of football’s most important skills.

“Players, no matter their age, need to learn the right techniques from the beginning of practices,” Farrell said. “It’s a natural thing for a young player to stick his head in the contact zone. You have to teach them how to take their heads out and properly bring down an opponent.”

That seems like common sense, said Bartlett (Ill.) Hawks coach Josh Crea, but it’s easy for coaches to let bad habits slip by if the results are positive. That’s why Crea attends a Coaching School each spring or summer – to refresh his approach.

“Like a lot of coaches, I’ve followed my son up through the ranks, so I’m always looking to learn something new,” said Crea, who coaches 9- and 10-year-olds. “A lot of places I’ve looked talk about ‘coaching youth football,’ but they focused on junior high level and complex spread offenses that are too much for the kids I coach. I like taking the instruction down to their level.”

Crea said the Player Progression Development Model tailors to a team’s needs by measuring mental and physical abilities. By staying within a player’s capabilities, they retain more and can put it into practice on the field.

“It is so much more relevant to me than other things I looked at,” Crea said. “As my son continues on, I can continue to come back and learn new skills and drills that the kids are now ready for.”