The first time a young man puts on full football gear, he realizes a few things. He quickly grasps the team concept. He looks around and sees his teammates are also struggling to get the pads in right, a task that never gets easier no matter how many years you play. Another thing that enters his mind is the coaches are more intense then they were the day before. About the time he notices how heavy his helmet is, he realizes it’s for real.
The Bullpups of Altus Junior high got some of that “real” out on the dry practice field in triple digit heat Friday. The Bullpups dawned the full pads and were reminded of the reality of football.
They remember when you look past the bands, parades and the victory lines, football is a violent game. One team desperately wants to get past the other team desperately trying to keep that from happening. Collisions are bound to happen. In fact, the players who cause the most collision will play most of the minutes. That’s when the young man realizes he better start listening to the coaching staff. If he doesn’t start trusting the coaches as they teach the proper techniques of hitting, he risks injury and/or loss of playing time.
Coaches by trade are targets for criticism in many forms. They are criticized for offenses not scoring enough and criticized for offenses scoring too much. The list of reasons why the critics mouth off is long.
However, rare are the stories of parents thanking the coaching staff for taking every measure they can to teach the proper technique of colliding with another human while both wear modern gladiator shielding. Teaching upstart 7th and 8th graders is much different than teaching juniors and seniors. The upper-classmen are maturing. They’ve been eating everything in sight and clanking weights all summer. Usually they have been hitting for a several years and understand the intensity and effort needed to help his teammates succeed within the plan. On the other hand, the young Bullpups are awkward and their uniforms don’t feel right. For some, their hand-me-down gear puts the knee pads just above the arches. They are still trying to get a grasp on hitting and adjusting to their maturity.
A young man’s first day in pads is a rough one. Some crave the contact. Some don’t. Every football coach is looking for the ones who have that craving. The ones that seek out the collisions with controlled aggression are the ones on the field during games. That, along with speed, are the skills needed to play this game. Speed is mostly natural and genetic. You can work to get faster, however, there is a limit to it.
Loving to hit or craving the contact is within each of us. You can’t work harder for it. You can’t get it from the weight room or run sprints for it. However, you can learn the right way to do it. After young players start trusting what their coaches are teaching, they realize that hitting can be pretty fun. That’s when teammates began to trust each other and a brotherhood is formed. A brotherhood you will never forget, never deny and never be removed from.
Try to remember boys, when your out on that dry practice field and you can feel the sun through your shoulder pads and the coaches are yelling at you to hurry up and slam the kid you ate lunch with an hour ago on the ground, he is just welcoming you to the brotherhood. This brotherhood is eager for you to understand that when it comes to football contact, always keep your head up, keep your feet moving and low man wins.