As the month of August begins, high school football coaches are preparing their teams for success for the upcoming season and teams are trying to incorporate new techniques with old drills to improve upon the season they had last year.

Pinelands Regional High School is taking that very seriously. They had USA Football teach the team and coaching staff heads up tackling drills, the new tackling technique taught by USA Football to reduce the number of concussions.

Don Lindberger, the USA Football trainer responsible for teaching the heads up tackling, gave the coaching staff a set of drills that applied the principles of heads up tackling like the buzz drill and the shoot drill.

Head Coach Brian Wilkinson knows the importance of safety when it comes to tackling and wanted to make sure his team is being as safe as possible.

“This off season we were looking for the safest, most effective way to tackle. We researched it and Heads Up Football seemed to fit. Tackling and ball security are the two most important parts of the game. It was time well spent.”

Lindberger stressed the importance of squeezing your shoulders, because when players squeeze their shoulders, they reduce the risk of getting seriously injured.

“I really stress, and I really make the coaches stress, squeezing the shoulders,” Lindberger said. “That’s the real big difference, we’re squeezing our shoulders back. When we squeeze our shoulders, it keeps our spine aligned.”

The break down position was the first step of the heads up tackling program, where the players learned the proper stance to get into when performing a tackle. The position keeps the player’s feet within their shoulders and their hands aligned close to the body.

The buzz drill incorporates the break down position, but adds the player chopping his feet over a foam dummy and ending up in the proper hit position. The players were fully able to take advantage of the new technique when they were tackling the Shadow man and Rhino dummy, allowing the players to hit a moving target without risk of injuring themselves.

Football catches a lot of flak due to the amount of head injuries, however Wilkinson knows it’s important that coaches place an emphasis on safety.  “I believe football to be the greatest team sport in the world. With all the attention football gets due to head injuries, it’s important we as coaches emphasize the right way to tackle in order to protect the game.”

The drills the coaches learned with Lindberger were used on the field by the players, where they started picking up the concept quickly. Lindberger said the team would fully understand the techniques on Friday, because he was teaching the players a whole different style than what they had learned growing up.

Lindberger said that the new technique has improved the quality of tackling in the youth and high school levels.

“From my experience coaching, the teams that I see using heads up tackling are getting better because they are more confident,” said Lindberger. “Before there was a confidence issue.”

Wilkinson said of the practice, “It was a real good day. We believe in fundamentals and player safety so to spend an hour and a half on just tackling was great.”

The Pinelands coaching staff were pleased with the progress the team had made and knew the players would improve their technique with another day of practice. The heads up tackling could be the factor that helps Pinelands make some serious noise in Shore Conference B South when football season comes along in the coming weeks.

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