RIVER HILLS -- One of the goals of coaches and administrators for youth and high school football is to make the sport safer, and there's now a product that literally makes that goal a target.
Those who are involved in football at any level understand the attention being paid to safety within the game. Four years ago, Brian Somers, who is the head coach at University School and one of his assistants, James Becker came up with an idea for tacklers they hope will help address the safety issue.
"It really is to get the shoulder into the hip and get the head out of the game, so that we can reduce hit count. That's one of the big things that we focus on here. How many times does a kid get literally involved in some kind of contact, and we want to reduce that as much as possible," Somers said.
"Our biggest goal is that the game of football stays safe and perpetuates itself. There are so many negative aspects to it right now that you hear. In the media, there are so many things out there now about concussions and hit counts and we found a very unique way to help in reducing concussions and hit counts," Becker said.
It's called "On the Dot," and tacklers are taught to aim for the dot on the Wildcats' practice uniforms.
"Initially, you just have to learn the new tackling style. I kind of learned a different way to tackle in middle school, but my freshman year, I learned this way, and I find it's much more productive and much more useful. When you get tired in games, normally people start fatiguing and start tackling worse, but you can focus on your technique and go back to what you've learned," Will Kennedy, Wildcats senior captain said.
The On the Dot system is a grassroots endeavor for Somers and Becker. They say U-School has been very supportive of the effort and they hope that other schools will sign on for what is a rather small investment in safety.
"We are way safer than we were 10 years ago in high school football for sure, and our coaches association does an excellent job. We're probably one of the top states that pushes the safety measure and we thought this was just another inexpensive tool to teach players where to put their shoulders, how to tackle, instead of just saying 'here, here, here.' Now they can see it," Somers said.
Players like Kennedy said they're very appreciative of their coaches trying to help them win games, but also keeping safety as a top priority.