Heads-Up Program to be used locally

NEW ULM — It is called the “U.S.A. Heads-Up Football Program” and it is designed to make the sport of football safer by teaching tackling techniques used by Rugby players who play a sport similar to football but without a helmet.

And all three high school football coaches in New Ulm have implemented that program into their coaching and practicing to lessen the threat of a concussion.

Minnesota Valley Lutheran head football coach Jim Buboltz said that the Heads-Up football program has been around for a couple of years.

“The goal is to make the game of football safer,” he said. “Coaches can earn the certification by taking a group of classes that focus on proper technique with new forms of tacking. And this is going to change the game and make it so much safer because of it. We love it at MVL — we are in the second year of it.”

Buboltz said that the “Heads-Up” system is made to get the tackling players’ head out of the tackle.

“It teaches rugby tackling that has been made famous by Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. All of the drills and tackling can be done without any pads on at all,” Buboltz said. “It teaches you how to tackle correctly and how to land on the ground. You think about the game of rugby and how physical that game is, but you do not have any concussions because you do not have anyone leading with their heads in any way. Rugby players wear no helmets.”

Buboltz added that high school football coaches in Texas — where football is a religion — all now have to be “Heads-Up” certified.

“And I do not think that it will not be too long before other states follow,” he said.

Buboltz said that the number of concussions and injuries in football have been going down considerably the last three years, especially in the state of Minnesota.

“There is always going to be a level of physicality in the game of football. If every coach is committed to teaching tackling the right way, this game will be around for a long time.”

New Ulm Cathedral head football coach Denny Lux said that his coaching staff is doing everything that they can to teach proper “Heads-Up” technique to their players.

Lux said that for years the practice was to come across the front of the player.

“Now in the last three or four years, we are tackling from behind,” he said. “Seattle’s Pete Carroll had visited with rugby coaches and how they play. They are playing without helmets and are tackling as hard as we do in our football games. But they do not have the head injuries.”

Lux said that the technique is called the “Hawk Tackling” and it is the same procedure.

“You come in from behind and you roll with the guy — you let some of that impact disperse by rolling,” Lux said. “That takes away some of the pressure of the impact.”

Lux said that starting the “Heads-Up” technique enables younger and smaller players to tackle someone who is 25 to 50 pounds heavier from behind.

“It is probably the way they played when they were little kids on the playground,” Lux said. “By changing this technique, I think that it makes it easier and better for the smaller players to achieve success as a defensive player.

Lux added that the game is getting safer because people at higher levels are looking for ways to make it that way.

Corey Kneeshaw, the head football coach for New Ulm High School, said that in the Big South Conference, there is a big initiative in regards to the “Heads-Up” program.

“We got together last month in Windom with all of the coaches and met with the staff from “Heads-Up Football” for around four hours and talked over blocking and tackling.

“We are taking the steps to make football safer,” Kneeshaw said. “Football is a contact sport, but it can be taught the right way and become a safer sport.”

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