Written by: Nam (Nathan) Hoang
Football is a changing sport and it shows throughout all levels of the game from Pop Warner to the NFL. Finding success in a sport that is rapidly changing is not an easy task, but it can be done.
Coaching at all levels now include instructing players to play the game differently to adapt to changes the sport is going through due to the trickle-down effect of the NFL. As the NFL makes significant changes to how the game is played at the highest level, all levels of football must follow suit to instruct players differently to make sure what they are being taught will translate to NFL success. Simply, a player cannot be successful in the highest level of the sport if making the jump from college to the NFL means playing almost a completely different game. One of the most significant and controversial changes made is the NFL’s always changing guidelines for tackling. Players at all levels are now instructed to tackle a completely different way, which makes it extremely difficult for players who have been tackling a different way for many. A quick example would be that before recent years, defensive players were able to tackle the quarterback in almost any way they could, but now there is a “strike zone” where the players are allowed to make a legal hit. Rule changes will constantly change the game and they are out of the control of all players, but players can still excel under these circumstances by perfecting and refining what they can control
Obviously, being in the best physical shape possible is ultimately controlled by the player. This may seem obvious, but the length of the offseason is not under the player’s control. Because of this, it is essential that players are opportunistic and efficient in using the offseason to their advantage. Sure, players will still be working out once the season starts, but the workouts will almost always focus on building overall strength and not specifically correcting and refining muscles that need work. In my experience, I found workouts to be very homogeneous across all players when I was playing high school football. During the season, workouts were posted the whiteboard in the weight room each day and all players were required to do it, regardless of what the player specifically needed to improve. My coach was a football guru who won two sectional championships in four years, but he did not have the time and resources to be able work individually with players to correct weaknesses and create balance. Because of this, he had no choice but to implement that style of training. This is why it is so essential for players to improve themselves in the offseason by finding and correcting specific weaknesses. Find muscle groups that need work and devise a plan to approach it. It may seem dumbfoudingly obvious, but many would be surprised to know how many athletes spoil the opportunity to improve themselves in the offseason by believing all weaknesses will be corrected when the in-season training begins. So once again: control what is able to be controlled