Taking The 'Spear' It Out Of The Game

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While watching a youth football league game from the visitor sidelines Saturday, I overheard a disturbing piece of advice given out by one of the coaches.

Seems the coach was displeased with the tenacity of one of his young running backs and was instructing the boy to lower his head while running the ball. My take on the one-way conversation was that he wanted the young player to use his helmet as a type of battering ram.

Of course, that is the worst piece of advice a football coach can give to a player.

Not only is the strategy illegal it's called spearing it's also extremely dangerous.

When first contact is made with the helmet, a serious head or neck injury can result. Often those injuries prematurely end a young player's career, and on occasion, have resulted in stingers, paralysis or death.

There are a handful of professional players who have built reputations as head-hunters by using their helmets as a weapon. But those tactics should never be encouraged by a coach on any level of the game.

During the off season, high school coaches participate in sports medicine clinics in which the dangers of spearing are spelled out in great detail.

Longtime sports official Tim Fruth, a former high school football coach, said referees are alert to keep a sharp eye out for violations of the no-spearing rule.

Many years ago, coaches could tell defensive players to "put your face mask in their numbers."

But today, coaches are much more cognizant of safety factors and normally do everything humanly possible to ensure their athletes play within the rules of the game.

My fondest memory of a coach making a point to a player about not spearing occurred in the early 1980s at Show Low High School.

The late coach Joe Girardi interrupted a drill in which he observed a player lower his head and plow into would-be tacklers.

Girardi approached the offending player and calmly said, "Son, I really like you and I don't want to be visiting you in a hospital tomorrow and see you lying in a bed paralyzed from the neck down. Your mom and dad, your girlfriend and your teammates don't want to make that visit either."

The teenager listened intently, turned a tad pale, then returned to the drill never to lower his head on a tackle again.

Most certainly, football is a game of controlled violence but by following safety guidelines serious injuries, especially to the head and neck, can be avoided.

It's here

Today is the deadline to submit spring hunt applications to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Game officials are urging all who submit applications to be sure the forms are filled out correctly.

Last year, more than 2,500 applications were rejected due to four reasons: They were missing or outdated hunting license numbers; not enough money with the application; missing or using wrong hunt numbers; and signatures were missing on the applications.

For help in filling out forms, hunters can go to the Game and Fish Department headquarters in Phoenix or any of the six regional offices in the state. More information is available online at www.azgfd.com.

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