The first job for a head coach is to make sure your program is safe. If you run an unsafe program by neglect, incompetence, or maliciousness (hope that is rare but after Friday Night Tykes…) you aren’t long for this business.
What are the steps to insuring a safe program?
1. It starts with culture. The culture you promote is very important. From proper tackling (mentioned later) being taught and executed to a locker room atmosphere of anti-discrimination, anti-hazing, and positive teamwork. For instance, we use signs on the board in the locker room that promote how to be a good teammate, how to be a good citizen, and why we should love our teammates. It sounds cheesy but it works because you can always reference them in time of need.
2. After culture, you have to have your paperwork in order. Our state requires an annual sports physical as well as documentation showing they’ve read and signed a heat related illness paper, a cardiac arrest paper, proof of insurance, and a parental consent form. Make sure you have those forms properly completed and submitted, and that you’ve updated in the state system (C2C for us in Florida). I would even have an assistant athletic director or some third party review your papers as well.
3. Check your equipment. The question I ask myself is “Would I let my child wear this?” if the answer is no, it gets thrown away or sold. We check our equipment by racking the shoulder pads and checking the buckles, straps, pad, and tie to make sure we give good equipment to our players. With our helmets, we make sure they’re reconditioned by Riddell annually, I check the Virginia Tech research before purchasing new equipment, and we put the best gear we can afford on our players (Riddell Revolution Speed).
4. Always have an athletic trainer on site for practice and games. Even if they aren’t a great athletic trainer, they can sense things like heat related illnesses and other injuries you may not be able to address. It’s also CYA which is important for all coaches!
5. Teaching tackling is necessary, and it’s necessary to do every defense day for split practices and every day for 2-platoon teams. #5 and #6 are big time on the coach and in my opinion if you don’t execute either you’re not doing your job. You must not only teach tackling, but teach Hawk Tackling. Below I have linked my tackling drills video. It includes heads-up and hawk. At the end of this post is a link to the Seahawks 2016 video.
SCREENSHOT TO GET THEM TO CLICK TO PATREON
Click the image above or here to see our Patreon Exclusive IMFB Hawk Tackle Video
6. Reviewing film of tackling is almost as important as teaching it in the first place. If you just teach it and let them go they will get sloppy habits and eventually injuries. Instead, review the film and post a few clips to Hudl of GREAT tackles, and of POOR tackles. Not just one of the other. Show them both and explain at practice why one is great and another poor.