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Making youth football more structured and safer

Gavin Seckora is shown the proper grip for passing a football by varsity offensive coordinator Jason Eckert as varsity player Isaac Karpenske looks on during last week’s Tiger Youth Football Camp. 1 / 3
Former Wautoma head coach Dennis Moon is a new member of the Tiger football coaching staff. Here, Moon shows some of the young campers the basics of proper blocking form. 2 / 3
Brady Sager makes the catch during one of the drills designed to teach proper form when catching the football during last week's Tiger Youth Football Camp.3 / 3

Building toward long-term success as a program and for more comprehensive safety of the players was the subject as more than 25 coaches from all levels of the New Richmond football program met on July 27 at the high school large forum room.

It has been decided to have the New Richmond Youth Football Association become part of USA Football’s Heads Up program, which is designed to create a safer experience for football players at all levels. Teaching the structure of the Heads Up program was one of the reasons for the meeting.

Tiger varsity football coach Keith Badger said gathering the coaches from all levels of the program together was done for several reasons. The varsity staff is seeking more interaction with the youth coaches, so the meeting was offered so coaches from all the levels could get acquainted.

The varsity coaches developed a youth football handbook over the summer. This handbook will assure that the same terminology and drills are used at each level of the program. Badger said the goal is to create a continuity, so the players don’t have to learn everything anew each season. That time can then be devoted to working on player skills and knowledge of plays. This way, if any of the youth coaches have questions on anything in the handbook, they can contact a high school coach for more information.

Badger said there is a great deal of football knowledge and experience among the coaches at the younger levels of the program. He said discussion between coaches from the different levels will help the program to continue progressing.

A major change throughout the football program will be the style of tackling being taught by the coaches. USA Football promotes a tackling style similar to what had been taught previously in New Richmond, but with some alterations.

The tackling was taught the night before the Tiger Youth Football Camp began. This gave the coaches the immediate opportunity to teach the tackling basics that they’d learned during the football meeting. The football camp was again well attended, with more than 120 kids competing. The camp was held in two sessions, for grades 1-4 and 5-8.

USA Football has an instructional website to teach each of the elements of the proper tackling form. That website can be found at:

There are significant changes within the youth football program this fall. New Richmond will be offering football for first and second graders for the first time with a new flag football program for those grade levels.

In the past, the third and fourth graders played flag football. This has been changed to tackle football this season. Badger said there are several reasons for making this change.

“There’s more structure for the third and fourth graders. They’ll have coaches and six weeks of a real football season,” Badger said.

The level of interest is strong among students at the elementary level. There are more than 220 kids signed up in grades 1-6 to play football this fall.

Player Safety Coach

Brian Lease, who works as a physical therapist at Westfields Hospital, has been named as the Player Safety Coach for the New Richmond Youth Football Association.

In July, Lease went the the Minnesota Vikings training facility at Winter Park to attend a USA Football Heads Up Football Program conference. USA Football is the youth development partner of the NFL.

Each program under the USA Football system must designate a Player Safety Coach. This position oversees the injury and health status of players on all of the youth teams, working closely with each of the youth coaches.

Lease said the training at Winter Park covered concussions, heat illnesses, tackling safety and equipment fitting. Each coach in the youth program must complete training on all of these subjects before they can begin coaching.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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