CIAC spring football training could make season safer by improving players’ technique

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North Haven coach Tony Sagnella wants no credit for what he says is the best idea on how to successfully bring spring football back to Connecticut high schools.

“I remember Steve Filippone (former hand coach) mentioning it in a meeting that if they gave us 10 days between June 1st and June 30th to bring him in, that would fit especially the great lacrosse programs for states,” Sagnella said. “I think that would alleviate the problems, as long as you are done on June 30 – just like the schools.

“With the arguments being safety, I can’t think of a better way to improve the safety of the game than to have spring football. Absolutely, 100 per cent he should come back.

In the first of this two-part series, we looked at how school districts and parents who can’t afford to send their teams to college camps or their children to private lessons are at a disadvantage.

We will now examine how, contrary to some arguments, spring practices can make the season safer. Certainly, it can improve individual technique and leverage, chasing the angle, learning to block and tackle correctly. Date flexibility, as Sagnella says, might make it feasible for schools that have lacrosse, baseball, volleyball and track and field teams in state tournaments.

For several decades, Connecticut was one of the few to hold spring football training before the CIAC gradually allowed schools to choose spring or an extra week of training in August. After 101 schools opted for August and 39 for spring, the CIAC voted to eliminate spring practices starting in 2021. A poorly worded survey, on the decrease in concussions, contributed to this elimination.

“I would like another poll sent out,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “Simply: are you in favor of spring football. Yes? Or not? From there, no one is saying if there’s spring football, let’s do it.

“The fundamentals of blocking and tackling because of COVID and because of the removal of spring football have dropped in Connecticut. I don’t have the stats on that, but I think it would lead to injuries.

A number of coaches pointed out that spring is not as competitive as fall. This would allow for more individual instruction in the fundamental positional aspects of the game without worrying about game planning.

“If you’re going to open against New Canaan, Greenwich, Southington, you’re not so concerned about freshmen and sophomores,” Marinelli said. “You have to prepare for this big game. People judge you by this game. I think the younger ones get lost. The object of soccer is to knock the other guy down with the ball. If you are not taught the correct technique, it could be dangerous.

Hamden Sporting Director and Football Coach Tom Dyer is also a CHSCA representative on the ACIC Football Committee. He specifies that he speaks for himself and not for the CIAC.

“It would be a benefit for all sports to spend more time with a certified coach,” Dyer said. “Think about it: teaching tackle without pads (out of season) would be a violation of the rules.”

It’s crazy.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having time to work with your kids,” Dyer said. “We live in a state that’s under-recruited because we don’t spend enough time with our kids coaching. Are not authorized.

“Certainly, there are communities where children go to a bunch of camps, or some communities legally participate in a camp and practice games before they even enter their camp with their teams. But you get this very short window to teach kids so much. You have to put your pieces into play, and there are three phases in the game.”

Think about job-specific skills. Half the players on the pitch have little or nothing to do with touching the ball. It doesn’t matter how good it is to make a perfect tackle or block; some children present without rudimentary knowledge of a three-point position.

You have the intricacies of all skill positions. You have special teams. As Wilbur Cross coach John Acquavita said, “How many kids do you know who say, ‘Hey, mum, I’m going down the street to play football by myself’? Now, how many kids go out with a basketball in their hand to make a ton of shots? »

“You introduce a skill to a child in June, give them eight weeks to reinforce those moves,” Sagnella said. “We go into the weight room and do the explosive moves, the running that pretty much simulates what you do in football. When they come back to the exercises in August, they go back to it as if they had been doing it all their life.

“If you don’t develop muscle memory, these kids are kind of left behind in the fall. They are unable to compete right away and are sidelined. Let’s face it: you have three weeks to prepare your team for Game 1.”

Cromwell-Portland coach Randell Bennett, who guided his undefeated side to an S-Class title last year, is skeptical.

“At small schools like ours, we’re going to lose guys to track and field, baseball, lacrosse,” he said. “We should do it after spring sports are over. I’m not even sure that’s necessary. I feel like we found a way to do it without it.

“It was hard enough for us to go 13-0 last year, especially the back half games. Ten practices, over a month? I don’t know. I don’t think the high schooler takes enough care of his body. We have grass drills, not football, but agility to learn how to move the feet. Five days a week, three on the weights, two on the track. I don’t know if more football is necessarily the answer.

Sagnella’s counterpoint is that because it’s not competitive, workouts are at the coach’s discretion.

“The guidelines would be for the maximum number of contact days,” Sagnella said. “From there, a coach might say we only go out with helmets or we don’t play a game at the end. If a coach feels his players are burnt out, he has the option to just come out, do a little teaching and not be on offense.

Sagnella and AD Steve Blumenthal found a way to get CIAC approval for his traditional charity Spring Brawl in June. North Haven Youth Football took over the operation. Sagnela? He was knocking over burgers in concessions. Yet even when spring football was in place, he said he only used seven days of actual practice before the game.

Marinelli says the returning starters didn’t really need to be there if they’re committed to the spring playoffs. He said he’s mainly looking to improve his freshmen and sophomores and recruit kids from the halls to try out the game. This helps JV’s spring schedules essentially be over.

“We barely hit,” Marinelli said. “Teaching the fundamentals. Yes, we put a little attack and defense, but it’s discreet. When Drew Pyne and those guys were there, they hardly played in the spring. They were instructors.

Marinelli said he thought he had a perfect plan before Spring’s elimination. Three days with helmets, three days with helmets and pads, three days with full pads and a modified performance scrum.

“We didn’t even tackle,” he said. “We would have referees. We informed the townspeople. We had a barbecue afterwards.

Will kids get injuries, even concussions, in spring football? Sure. There are also injuries during weight training and running in the summer. It’s not about being totally injury-free. This is to avoid injuries in quantity and severity during the season.

“The argument, if I understand correctly, is that they eliminated it for security reasons,” Sagnella said. ” It does not mean anything. The teams go to the camps and that’s another conversation about what’s really going on in those camps in terms of following the rules. Are the children educated? Are they in good shape? Are they ready for some of the competitive scenarios they face in July in a side game? There are no restrictions. If we send our kids to Yale, do you want to get on the coaches, whether they coach or not? I think the camps walk a line of integrity. I will leave it there.

“If I want to take my team to five camps, I could. I would be stupid to do so. We don’t make any camps. I prefer to shape them and go from there.

There have been a few cracks in the coaching ban. This summer, implementing the Men’s Basketball Showcase for 50 teams, the CIAC provided six hours of practice prior to the event. And because many districts cannot afford to send athletes to camps, a 2021 summer series, sponsored by the CIAC, has been organized for football and wrestling education after the shutdown of the COVID. Fees have been charged.

“It was a lucrative proposition,” Sagnella said. “I felt like I was watching an episode of ‘The Sopranos’. They want you to host, provide the facilities, equipment and coach and they will pick up the cost. Wait a minute. Now all of a sudden , the camps are legal if you run them? That really pissed me off.

[email protected]; @jeffjacobs123

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