Right Field

John Madden: Young Kids Shouldn’t Play Tackle Football

And I think he’s spot-on here. Via NBC Sports:

Via the national TV network it owns and operates, the NFL has launched a “Heads Up Across America” tour, aimed at extolling the virtues of the Heads Up Football program and, in turn, calming the fears of parents who may choke off the supply of future NFL players.

From Texas to Pennsylvania to Arizona (which is actually only six percent of America, but apparently they rounded up), NFL Network has looked at what youth coaches are doing to keep kids safe via the Heads Up Football program.  It all went according to plan. Until the effort landed in Canton, for a roundtable discussion including Hall of Fame coach John Madden and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

With the likes of moderator Melissa Stark, Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, and Chris Golic (wife of Mike Golic) praising the Heads Up Football coaching certification process, Madden did what Madden made his career as a broadcaster doing — he blurted out something that he believes in, genuinely and often strongly.

“[T]hey can’t learn them in a short time,” Madden said of the techniques taught to coaches in the Heads Up Football program.  “I was a coach, and I put a lot of education and experience into coaching. . . .  How long does it take to get a certificate?”

“An hour and a half,” Goodell said.

“And all due respect to the program, I don’t believe in it,” Madden replied.  “I respect coaches, I respect what good coaches do.  I know that you don’t learn to be a coach in an hour and a half.”

Goodell, who in that moment may have preferred being grilled again about Ray Rice, tried to address Madden’s concerns.

“It’s not saying you’re going to make someone a great coach,” Goodell explained.  “It’s certifying them in certain techniques and giving them some understanding of some of the medical issues.  Not to make them a doctor, but to know when to make sure they get medically evaluated if they’ve had an injury.”

While the actual value of the certification process, as Drew Magary of Deadspin illustrated earlier this year, is subject to debate, Madden had a broader point to make.  And when Madden has a point to make, he makes it.

“I’m a firm believer that there’s no way that a six-year-old should have a helmet on and learn a tackling drill,” Madden said.  “There’s no way.  Or a seven-year-old or an eight-year-old.  They’re not ready for it.  Take the helmets off kids. . . .  Start at six years old, seven years old, eight years old, nine years old.  They don’t need a helmet.  They can play flag football.  And with flag football you can get all the techniques.  Why do we have to start with a six-year-old who was just potty trained a year ago and put a helmet on him and tackle? . . .  We’ll eventually get to tackling.”

The rest here.

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