Rams draw on American expertise
By Tom White
The Yorkshire Rams had first-hand experience this week of attempts to “go international” with American football, as coaches including former NFL player George Teague visited Leeds Beckett University.
USA Football, the game’s amateur governing body in the States, rolled out the first British camp for their “Heads Up Football” programme to tie in with the annual coaching convention held by the British American Football Coaches’ Association (BAFCA).
Rams head coach David Pawson and offensive co-ordinator Nathan Deeley, along with several of their colleagues, attended the coaching convention and a player safety clinic while on the playing side, linebacker Lysander Code and wide receivers Tom White and JP Walton benefited from the expertise of coaches Chad Hester, Anthony Stone, Jimmy Wallace and of course Coach Teague.
Coach Hester explained the aim of the course and praised the efforts of a group of around 80 attendees aged nine and up.
“We’re training not only the current generation but also the future generations, starting with the very young all the way up to professional, on proper techniques – how to tackle someone, how to block someone. It’s about not only growing the game, but making the game better and safer.
“We want to teach the coaches how to teach players to make it better and safer. Part of that is proper practice planning, proper drills.
“The days of smashing heads and just hitting each other for no reason really has no place in American football any more. Also getting away from some of that bad terminology – ‘knock him dead’, ‘earhole him’, ‘take his head off’ – those are things that we’re just eliminating from the sport.”
Coach Teague was a first-round draft pick out of Alabama college for the Green Bay Packers in 1993, going on to represent the Miami Dolphins and most famously the Dallas Cowboys.
Charlotte Anderson, the daughter of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, recruited him for USA Football several years ago and he made the trip to Yorkshire as a late replacement for Heads Up Football manager Michael Haynes.
“To expand outside of the USA and be able to go internationally with the focus for the programme is really good,” said the former safety, now 45. “It’s cool to see the enthusiasm we’ve seen here in the UK for American football.
“You could tell there are some great coaches here, the group that we had were very well coached, the skill level, there was a lot of aggression, I saw some want-to, some toughness, so hopefully this can be a good building step.”
Continuing that building process is central to the vision of the British governing bodies, as BAFCA president Jon Wyse explained.
“It’s really creating a structure where we’re tapping into the resources USA Football have developed and then delivering it ourselves,” he said.
“Though we’ve had the four coaches delivering content at the Coaches’ Convention, the real value is British coaches accessing them one-on-one. We want everybody to benefit from their interaction.
“We’re delivering player safety clinics to about 20 or 25 coaches, and a training event with our coach developers to enable them to go forward and deliver the fundamentals of Heads Up Football.
“All the coaches are total quality. We’re just tapping the top of the iceberg of their knowledge, there’s so much more that they are willing to share with us. This is hopefully a relationship that will be a long-lasting one.”
The UK leg of the programme continued with sessions in Derby and Bristol later in the week. For more information on Heads Up Football, visit usafootball.com/headsup.