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Youth football coaching clinic looks to increase safety

By: Brent W. New sports@gazette.com
July 12, 2014 Updated: July 13, 2014 at 7:12 am
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LAKEWOOD - Nothing is ever too tough for Pine Creek coach Todd Miller, a football man through and through. Not four knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery and certainly not when his beloved sport is going through a crisis.

But, of course, even he realizes he must adapt.

Miller, with football participation deteriorating because of the same physical nature that had made it so revered, insisted on straying away from his smash-mouth football background to preserve the new and safer era of the game.

"I want my son to play this game," he siad. "I want him to learn and carry with him the same positives I took away from it," he said.

As part of USA Football's Heads Up initiative, Miller showed his commitment to safety Saturday by helping run an 8-hour clinic at Lakewood High School designed to spread awareness and teach youth and prep football coaches the importance and fundamentals.

It's all part of the emergence of USA Football, which was given a chunk of $45 million by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in March after dangers of concussions and the ensuing lawsuits all-out blitzed the league in 2009. Since that time, the NFL has become proactive in the research and funding of concussion dangers, which included funding USA Football's effort to expand certification for coaches who would be taught safer ways to tackle.

"Coaches and everyone at every level (of football) are finding ways to fix the issues," Miller said.

But it's come at a price. The problem, and paradox, is that the more football has highlighted concerns it has resulted in parents having reservations about getting involved.

Miller, for one, sees it each year at Pine Creek as the number of football participants continues to drop.

"There are more options out there too for kids and that's O.K.," said Miller, who became a certified USA Football master trainer in April. "The game (football) will do fine. It's better, in that it is in safer hands now - but injuries will still happen. We live in a fear-based society where we want everything to be comfortable over challenging. But football is challenging, and that's what makes it great."

About 50 youth and prep coaches were lectured throughout the day on such topics as concussion prevention and awareness, heat and hydration, helmet and pad fitting and safe tackling drills.

One of them, 25-year-old Craig Carle, an assistant coach at Coronado, also supported the game's call to safety, saying "the price of perceived toughness shouldn't compare to the price of safety."

Carle, a former lineman, at Coronado and Hastings College, said, "I still get fuzzy at times (from my playing days). "You don't want that with these kids. So, if we can learn to tackle the right way, hopefully we can limit that."

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