“Basically, we do a lot of half-line (drills). We work it out to have our starters going against starters. It’s Single-A.” (Single-A is the smallest classification in Pennsylvania football, signifying 185 or fewer boys attend the school). “That’s tough. I wish we had more numbers, we could do a lot more one-on-one tackling. But we can’t afford the injuries with the numbers we have. So it’s a lot of form tackling. My first year here, the boosters helped buy a pop-up tackling dummy. Every defensive session, that’s what we hit. That was the first thing I wanted. And the boosters bought it for us. And you’ve got to get with your Ridell (helmet manufacturer) rep, making sure you have the right parts in the helmet, have the newest helmets every year. Every year on the budget, you have to put it on there.
“The game has changed a lot. The pound-and-group, the power I’s; that’s changed to speed, speed speed. ... The game has changed so much, you have to change the technique of how you hit. You have to coach technique. It’s not just ‘Let’s go hit and win a football game.’ You have to know technique and how to coach it.”
— Nathan Liberty, Cochranton
“We always put a heavy, heavy emphasis on keeping our heads up, leading with the hands when we tackle. We make sure that we’re teaching the kids not to lead with their head. You don’t want to have them putting their heads down. It’s heads up, lead with your hands, slip your head to the side when you tackle.
“I think there is some confusion. You have some symptoms of a headache at the beginning of the season because of the helmet and it’s not necessarily a concussion. That’s why we like to have our kids in helmets during the summer, that way they can get used to the helmet without the hitting. So we don’t see it much here, because they’re used to the helmet by the time we start hitting. That headache from the helmet should have worn off before we even started to hit.
“The protocol is pretty cut and dry now. At Crawford Central (School District), every coach has to take a concussion certification test. It’s a 20-minute video that we have to watch and then there are questions afterwards that make us aware of all the concussion-like symptoms. It’s in the hands of the trainer after that. If we see any of the symptoms, we always err on the side of caution. If somebody has symptoms, we’re going to sit them out until they are cleared by a trained professional that can get them back in. If they don’t go back in and they’re not cleared during the game, there’s a protocol that happens during the week. We use the ImPACT test (Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). The players have to pass the ImPACT test before they can get back into action.”
— Mike Feleppa, Meadville