The student news website of Omaha Central High School

Central football fights trend with new, methods, equipment

November 10, 2017

This year, Central’s football team has bucked the trend of declining participation rates, seeing a significant resurgence, likely due to new techniques and equipment. According to Luke Dillon, since he began working as the athletic director in 2013, the participation rate had been trending steadily downward.

“Ever since the concussion talk started to come out it was generally around, since I’ve been here, slightly under 100, maybe around 90 students involved in football,” Dillon said.      “Currently we have 118 out that are still actively involved.”

In a July study, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 21 percent of the donated brains of high school football players. The rate among college players was 91 percent, and 99 percent among NFL players. Dillon believes that the new, more advanced helmets, along with new safety policies have given many parents restored confidence in the safety of their children.

“Our trainer mentioned that when the concussion talk started to come around, he had an increased volume in parents calling in and asking him what he thought about concussions and so on, about the safety of football,” Dillon said.

Another possible factor in resurgence of football participation may be head coach Lance Griffin’s recruitment efforts, including an email he sent to all male students regarding football. He has also attempted to communicate to students and parents the new safety precautions taken by the team.

“We did a good job, our assistant coaches did a great job of recruiting the building, and the kids did a great job of reaching out to their friends.”

One step Griffin is taking to reduce head injuries is teaching rugby tackling, or “eagle tackling” as he sometimes refers to it, in the place of traditional football tackling.

“Back when I used to teach tackling, you’d do spearing and everything else, but rugby tackling is more of a wrestling move,” Dillon said. “It’s a lot safer. You’re looking for a grab as opposed to a collision.”

Griffin said that there are four phases in a rugby tackle: Tracking; drive for five; wrap and squeeze; wrap, squeeze and roll.

“Every time we’re doing those steps… it’s always with the head on the outside,” Griffin said.

According to Griffin, athletes were at first hesitant to embrace the new technique, but as they gained experience with the technique, Griffin says that it was very well received.

“We show them videos of the Seattle Seahawks, and how they teach it, and how they do it in game. When kids see it visually, and see other people do it, especially at the highest level, that’s really helped out and gotten quicker buy-in”

According to Dillon, there are several other schools that use the rugby tackling technique, including Burke. Dillon insisted that rugby tackling would not reduce the level of play, as Burke is “one of the best, if not the best team,” and they have been using the technique for three years.

“I’ve seen a lot of things that those schools have done, from a safety standpoint, that I’d like to see continued here,” Dillon said.

Dillon believes that as concussion research continues, football may disappear in the schools that cannot afford concussion preventive technology such as central’s new helmets.

“I think that’ll also either funnel more kids to schools that do have resources, or football will eventually just go away in a lot of schools,” Dillon said, adding, “I think that’s probably the right thing to do.”







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