By KEITH SPARKS
Last week, close to 120 future Panther football players laced up their cleats and threw on the pads for Liberty Hill Youth Football and Cheer’s annual summer football camp, which took place from July 24-28.
More than 100 kindergarteners through sixth-graders took to LHYFC field at City Park to learn the basics of Panther football. One of the biggest focuses during this year’s camp was the introduction of a new tackling technique to help reduce the likelihood of head injuries.
LHYFC President Gerald Lorance and the rest of the coaching staff employed the use of a new tool called the Tackle Wheel, which is used to teach proper tackling technique by acting as a moving target, rather than a stand-still tackling dummy.
“You can roll it and pursue it, or you can hit it straight on, and it’s a whole lot safer means of tackling,” Lorance said of the Tackle Wheel. “It lessens person-to-person contact, so you can save that for game time. They picked it up pretty fast, too, and they had fun with it. As coaches, we can do a whole lot of things with it. We’re not just holding up a practice dummy. We can roll three of them at a ball carrier and have them dodge, weave in and out, so it helps the running backs, linemen…it helps the entire team on both sides of the ball.”
Lorance explained that teaching a new tackling technique to the younger players is much easier than waiting until they get to the high school level, as the eager-to-learn, elementary-age Panthers are still open to changing their techniques.
One of the biggest differences with the new tackling technique, as opposed to what has been taught in the past, is that they are now being taught to wrap up the opponent’s legs, instead of the torso. According to Lorance, the kids at camp picked up the new technique quickly.
“They knew it was something different,” he said. “We told them it’s new, that you want to go for the legs, and it’s heads-up tackling, and they had fun with it. I think they’re picking it up a lot quicker than we would as adults. If it was introduced at the high school, it’d probably be a little bit different. It’s different than everything we were taught as kids, but they’re picking it up pretty quick.”
Prior to camp, Liberty Hill’s new Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jeff Walker invited Lorance and the rest of the LHYFC coaching staff to a meeting where they went over Liberty Hill’s new offensive schemes, in order to get even the youngest of Panther football players on board with the new Panther style.
“Coach Walker brought us in and explained the offense and laid out his expectations for the junior high,” Lorance said. “We’re a junior high feeder program, and obviously the junior high feeds into the high school. Since we’re a junior high feeder program, we wanted to make sure that we understood what the expectations were at the junior high. He laid out the offensive expectations and went over the playbook with us and taught us some new things.”
After a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Walker about the offense, Walker’s brother and new Defensive Coordinator, Kent Walker, had his own two-and-a-half-hour meeting with the LHYFC coaches regarding their defensive schemes.
“Defensively, his brother Kent came in and did the same thing the next day,” Lorance said. “He gave the defensive playbook to our defensive coaches and went over the defensive expectations, the schemes, the assignments, and the blitzes. Both coaches did extremely well talking to our youth coaches about the expectations at the Junior High.”
Although LHYFC’s summer football camp was more focused on individual skills than in-game strategy, the LHYFC coaches will be able to use those meetings to their advantage in practices and in-game scenarios during football season, which officially began for LHYFC on July 31.