Pros and Experts Agree: Non-Contact Football Camps are
Better for Development, Fitness & Fun
Until recently, youth football parents mistakenly believed their child’s football camp choice must feature full equipment and live tackle action. After all, to improve tackling and blocking, you need the crash-boom-bam of live action and full equipment, right? Wrong.
More than ever, high school, college and NFL professionals now strongly encourage a non-contact approach to summer football camp activities. Obviously, this applies to newcomers and flag players, but even the most experienced tackle players are better off training in a non-contact format during the summer.
“During the summer, it’s about improving skills and technique,” says Billy Taylor, a former New York Giants running back. “The environment is safer and more fun, so players have the opportunity to really focus on improving the foundations of their game.”
It starts with identifying priorities and recognizing that August try-outs immediately follow your summer football camp. With that in mind, coaches suggest three goals for summer football training.
Goal #1: Improve skills and technique. When practicing specifically for technique, players focus on perfect execution–every time. This establishes muscle memory and improves skills. Perfect practice makes a perfect player.
Goal #2: Be in top physical condition. Building speed, strength and endurance without the risk of injury markedly improves a player’s chances to go into football tryouts at 100%, ready to perform. Injured players do not make the team.
Goal #3: Make it fun. Even when practice is pushing players to their limits, if they are having fun they are less likely to burn out before the season starts.
WHY FULL-EQUIPMENT, LIVE-TACKLE DOES NOT WORK
To understand the detriment of full-equipment summer camps, consider June and July, the standard football summer camp seasons–they are hot.
Hot weather accelerates fatigue. Further, live action drills in full equipment during hot weather only serve to exacerbate that fatigue. And when fatigue sets in players lose focus.
“When athletes get fatigued, they are no longer aggressive,” says Tom Finks, President of Pro Sports Experience. “They go into survival mode and throw form and technique out the window.”
Survival mode then leads to shortcuts and cheating on technique, which completely nullifies the effectiveness of the drills. “When fatigued, all athletes slow it down and lose reaction time, forget assignments and fail to execute proper technique during contact,” explains Finks. “Poor technique and fatigue is a recipe for injury–something nobody wants, especially just prior to the season.”
In addition, the combination of pride, heated environments, and heated tempers (a common problem with live tackle camps) make things even worse. Campers end up worrying about surviving drills, not performing with good technique. Fatigued, distracted campers may win some battles and make some tackles, but do so with poor technique. In the long run, they miss developmental opportunities. As temperatures rise and concentration slips, the risk of injury increases–and injured players don’t make the team.
ADVANTAGES OF NON-CONTACT FOOTBALL CAMPS
Scott Baum, Head Coach at Niles West High School, believes in the non-contact summer training model. “We don’t use equipment for most of the summer,” says Baum. “Professional players prefer the non-contact drills in the summer. Overall, I think you can teach all the techniques of blocking and tackling better without equipment.”
Greg Lauri, Football Coach at Nassau Community College, agrees. “The best way to teach fundamentals is in a non-contact environment,” he says. Lauri believes it does not matter what level you are talking about, “every championship team starts with non-contact instruction and learns the proper technique first.”
As opposed to live tackle camps, the non-contact football camps operate in a controlled environment. The drills are essentially choreographed, with a focus on technique, skill training, and fun.
Campers dress in t-shirts and shorts, not full equipment and this allows for more full recovery between drills. A relatively rested athlete is far more likely to repeat perfect technique, and by repeating perfect technique, the camper will build muscle memory and improve skill more easily.
Similarly, during non-contact camp drills, campers compete against stopwatches, cones, blocking dummies, shields, the coaches assessment of their technique, and most importantly–themselves. They are participating in high intensity training, but in an environment where they have the freedom to make mistakes, without ruining a play, and without risk of negative feedback from their peers. The idea is to create a culture of learning and technique training, so it doesn’t matter if campers may make a technique mistake, drop a ball, or feel awkward doing something new.
Pro Sports Experience–NFL Partner Camps are exclusively non-contact programs that train experienced players and introduce newcomers to the game based on these fundamentals. The camps feature coaches trained and certified to teach the USA Football Heads Up Blocking and Tackling curriculum, visits from NFL Alumni heroes, and a host of crafty drills to keep players of all sports and skill level challenged and on their toes.
“With our non-contact camps, we can introduce many newcomers to the game properly,” says Tom Finks. “Additionally though, our curriculum benefits every one. Heads-Up is designed to develop better, safer football players, but our camps are also focused on developing better athletes in general.”
For blocking or tackling instruction, non-contact camps use USA Football’s Heads Up Football instruction so they apply the proper posture, footwork, head and hand position in a controlled manner–like a safe martial arts practice. And they have the chance to execute to perfection–every time.
With perfection, the skills become second nature–and players have more fun.
FIND A CAMP NEAR YOU
For more information about non-contact football camp options, contact the Pro Sports Experience–NFL Partner Youth Football Camps at www.ProSportsExperience.com