Sudbury football coach says full-contact practices are valuable for young players
The CFL recently announced a ban on full-contact regular season practices
Sudbury football coach Mike Derks says banning full-contact practices wouldn't be practical for young players who are only just starting to learn the game.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Football League announced a ban on full-contact practices during the regular season, prompting many people to ask if junior leagues should follow the CFL's decision to put player safety first.
But Derks — a former CFL player and the coach of Lasalle Secondary School's football team — says players need to learn the game at full-speed.
"The athletes themselves need to learn how to get hit," Derks says.
"You have to learn how to get hit and pop-up. You have to learn how to hit and keep a guy down. And you don't get that unless you're actually doing it."
Young athletes need to be mentally and physically conditioned for the game, Derks says, and not practicing tackles and blocks before game day can actually be more dangerous.
"That's not the time of the season to find out your kid can't take a hit - when he's on his way to the hospital."
Coaches required to take Safe Contact training
While Derks doesn't think that every practice needs to be done with the pads on, he says it's important for coaches to teach their players the safe way to play a full-contact game.
Football Canada requires that all amateur football coaches participate in Safe Contact training, which includes an online module called "Making Headway in Football" and an eight-hour Safe Contact clinic. The training emphasizes safe blocking and tackling techniques, such as using the upper chest instead of the head.
Derks says that professional athletes come into the league already knowing how to take a hit safely, and that means they can spend more time practicing in other ways.
"They have the luxury of being first-class athletes and being able to make these adjustments, and young kids don't. They need to work on it."