Written by James Ryan
“You build a defence with a foundation of ends and tackles. You add the linebackers, and you top it off with cornerbacks and safeties. If the foundation cracks, the whole thing comes down, because the line is where it all starts.”
As I calmly made my way onto the practice field this week, I stopped to greet one of the parents who had been standing along the side-lines of the indoor practice facility. As I shook his hand, he simply smiled and said, “Now we’re gonna find out who can hit!”
“You got that right,” I replied enthusiastically.
What can I say, folks?
I love defence.
The first two weeks of try-outs had proven to be a tremendous success for all three levels of the Niagara Spears’ players—Pee-Wee, Junior Varsity, and Varsity.
The thing is, however, that up until week three, the try-outs had predominantly been conducted without any sort of equipment.
From an offensive stand-point, that works well enough for being able to assess which of your players can catch, throw, and run. It can also help a coach to better gauge the overall athletic abilities of his players by watching them perform in certain drills.
What it can’t teach a coach however, is just how good a player is at the defensive part of the game.
“Tackling is more natural than blocking. If a man is running down the street with everything you own, you won’t let him get away. That’s tackling.”—Vince Lombardi
Week three had finally provided the defensive-minded players with the exact opportunity that they had been patiently waiting for, to showcase their tackling and hitting capabilities.
During one of the try-out sessions, I was even fortunate enough to be able to assist the coaches with a few of the tackling drills, which really gave me a unique opportunity to watch the Pee-Wee boys first hand.
What did I learn?
Nothing that I hadn’t already suspected after a few years of coaching many of these boys in the minors. For the most part, these players knew how to tackle!
The short bursts of speed and aggression combined with a totally unrelenting desire to win every single physical battle told me much of what I needed to know about this group of young men.
If there is going to be one thing that will most definitely not be lacking on this team—it is the heart within these players.
Word of the Week: Courage
The ability to make tackles with precision and consistency is the key fundamental to success on defence. All it would take is one missed tackle and the game’s momentum could suddenly swing in a completely unforgiving way against any given team, on any given day.
The ability to play tough throughout four full quarters of football is essential (and let’s not forget about the overtime).
The ability to cope with the physical pain and to have the mental strength to never give up on themselves or on their teammates is irreplaceable.
Using raw instinct to “read” the players on the opposing team’s offence and anticipate their every move before the Center can even snap the ball to the Quarterback is nothing short of amazing.
If you are a young athlete who enjoys the physical play of contact sports (or perhaps you don’t know first-hand, but somehow believe whole-heartedly that you would love to try), then my recommendation to you would be to play football for the Niagara Spears.
Football is an excellent tool for learning the necessary life-skills required to be successful in this ultra-competitive world.
Football can teach you about teamwork.
It can teach you the meaning of sacrifice and loyalty.
Football represents everything positive that can be gained by simply trying your personal best.
And did I mention that you get to tackle and hit people all day long?
More than anything—football is fun!
[Warning: those without a strong work ethic and a winning attitude need not apply]
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See you at the game, football fans!
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