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Football Team Balances Safety Restrictions with Effective Practice

September 27, 2018

As coach and teacher Jay Landstrom begins his first year as head football coach, he hopes to improve the team while maintaining the safety of players during practices. Landstrom has been at Central for twelve years, teaching social studies and working as assistant basketball and football coach.  

“Our priorities are reestablishing our work ethic, building up our team numbers, getting players out, putting in our offensive and defensive systems, and just maximizing our effort every day, whether it’s at practice or at game,” he said. 

Landstrom also said that the football team this year has grown substantially with around thirty more athletes on the team than the previous year. He attributed this growth to the atmosphere that surrounds the game, saying, “I hope it’s a positive and energetic atmosphere that people want to be around.” He is especially excited about the number of freshman players on the team. 

“I think we have some good freshman, some good younger talent,” Landstrom said. “We need to keep them out for football and keep developing so they become better players.” 

Through the years that Landstrom has been involved in the football program, safety concerns have drastically changed the way practices work. Following reports of CTE caused by repeated collisions in football, the NSAA has enacted restrictions on the physicality permitted in practice. The reports describe increased rates of depression and cognitive impairment in former football players, including those who only played in high school. Researchers have warned that CTE can result from repeated collision even if no concussion is sustained. 

“There are certain days you can’t be in full pads, and you can’t go live all the time,” Landstrom said, “The physicality of the game is not what it used to be.” 

The 2018 NSAA football manual describes limitations on the amount of force that can be used in practice. The first two days of practice, no contact is allowed, with players running drills unopposed or with bags. Days three and four, athletes are allowed to practice controlled contact, in which one player is predetermined to be the “winner” of the drill. From day five to fifteen, they are allowed full contact, but for no more than thirty minutes a day, and not for two consecutive days. 

“It’s not the end of the world, we do our best to work around it,” Landstrom said. “Mr. Dillon has gotten us a tackle wheel that helps us practice our tackle techniques, we’ve found some other ways to tackle bags.” 

While last year the coaching staff focused on teaching rugby tackling, Landstrom is leaving the choice of tackle techniques up to the individual coaches. He hopes that by letting each coach teach what they know best, safety will be improved. “I think for you to be an effective coach, you have to coach what you know, and not everybody knows rugby tackling.” 

“I kind of let each coach teach what they know, but we always teach good and safe tackling technique, you know, getting your eyes up, seeing what you’re hitting, not leading with the crown of your helmet, running your feet through contact and wrapping up,” Landstrom said. 

Landstrom has said that he personally prefers rugby tackling.

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