Gamebreaker & TYFA Form Historic Partnership for Future of Football
by Eric Moreno
Football has always been a game that has been on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest that technology has to offer. As the world has evolved, so has the game. New technology, new understanding, new attitudes – all have impacted football to make it better for everyone.
All three of these elements came together on March 10, 2018, at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) when the Texas Youth Football Association (TYFA) announced its plans to address the future of football. As part of its planning, TYFA brought in Gamebreaker to help develop a multi-year plan to reduce contact across the league and make it more appealing for parents and players to participate in the sport.
“One thing that everybody needs to understand is that [football] is under attack, not from competing leagues around the state of Texas or outside the state of Texas,” said TYFA Co-Founder Brian Morgan in a session at UTSA to attending TYFA members. “We’re under attack from groups that want to ban football.”
In an effort to stay ahead of the evolving attitudes toward football and to make the game safer, Morgan outlined a road map that the organization will embark upon and deemed it TYFA’s Safer Football Initiative. Gamebreaker has committed to provide TYFA with practice plans, drills, resources, and headgear to support TYFA’s coaches and directors with the transition.
“Everyone is here because they love kids and they love football, and together we need to make changes for the future of the sport.” said Mike Juels, CEO of Gamebreaker.
Safety – A Look at the Future of the Game
TYFA is the largest youth football organization in the state of Texas and one of the largest in the nation. During the meeting, Morgan explained the importance that all member organizations embrace this initiative as it would only be through a unified effort that TYFA can change the sport for the better.
“We have to be proactive, partner with the right entities, and take steps to preserve the game,” Morgan said. “Over the next three years, TYFA is going to implement new initiatives, adopt new rules, and educate coaches, parents, and athletes on making the game safer and creating a better way to prepare our athletes and limit injuries in our league.”
TYFA outlined their multi-year plan and general principles supporting it that will begin in 2018:
- 2018: TYFA is mandating Gamebreaker soft-shell headgear for all TYFA flag divisions. TYFA’s goal is to condition athletes to the use of headgear while in flag and promote the continued use of headgear as they progress to tackle where they will use the headgear for non-contact practices.
- 2019: Limit the number of padded/full-contact practices to two per week for all member organizations across all age levels.
- 2020: It will become mandatory for the older age groups (juniors and seniors) to limit member organizations to one padded practice per week.
- General Principals of the initiative include
- Increasing the education around conducting effective and productive non-contact practices
- Providing better equipment and instituting proper equipment recertification protocols for helmets, shoulder pads, and other pertinent equipment
- Renewed emphasis on proper tackling techniques and education to help reduce injuries
When explaining the philosophy behind limiting full-contact in TYFA practices, Mike Juels shared this perspective, “In the NFL, they get one padded practice per week, thus when we explored this practice philosophy with NFL coaches, they instantly supported it. NFL and NCAA coaches are very supportive of the practice strategy, however, at the youth and high school levels, the responses are more varied. This is why we felt it was critical to not just work with TYFA on the plan but to also provide them with resources so their coaches can easily see examples as to how other programs execute non-contact practices.”
Preaching Practice Like Pros
Gamebreaker arranged for Terry O’Neil, founder of Practice Like Pros to speak about the history of non-contact practices and present his findings at the TYFA annual meetings.
“The non-contact practice philosophy was created decades ago by Bill Walsh when he was with the 49ers,” said O’Neil. “After the end of the 2017-18 season, there were 281 concussions in the NFL … 11 of those happened on the practice field. That translates to 4% of the concussions in the NFL taking place in practice. In youth football, that number is 46% according to the latest scientific research.”
O’Neil a longtime television producer and former front office executive of the New Orleans Saints highlighted the practical benefits of non-contact practices. “Reducing injuries and practicing fundamentals is the future of the sport and it’s going to be the best way to keep everyone safer on the football field…this works.”
Gamebreaker, TYFA & University of Texas at San Antonio
Gamebreaker is the industry’s most-recognized developer and technology leader in soft-shell headgear. The company’s D3O technology provides superior protection that outperforms all other soft-shelled headgear on the market. Gamebreaker equipment is utilized by numerous NCAA teams across the country and is also being utilized by a number of NFL team’s community football departments when supporting camps, 7on7 and flag programs.
“Gamebreaker is steps ahead of the other headgear products on the market,” said Ray Aikens of the San Antonio Jr. Brahmas. “We already made the switch to these helmets and our parents are the ones who actually have felt that their kids are safer when wearing Gamebreaker.”
During their first week of spring practice, the UTSA coaching staff recorded video drills and examples of how UTSA effectively practices without pads which they shared with TYFA members in attendance. Everette Sands, UTSA running backs coach, attended the TYFA meeting and highlighted UTSA’s usage of non-contact drills and explained why unpadded practices using Gamebreaker headgear was critical to UTSA’s approach to safety.
“When I grew up and when I was playing, everything was live, but it wasn’t necessary,” said Sands. “At the time, we thought it was necessary, but now [as we learned] it’s not. As coaches, we’ve learned you can structure and run practice without contact and still effectively teach skills and schemes.”
Open to All Youth Leagues Who Want Help
Gamebreaker is making its services open to all youth football organizations who would like to explore reducing contact in practice. Gamebreaker will provide practice plans, drills videos and resources that make it easier for youth leagues to implement non-contact practices. To request more information, visit www.smarter-practice.com.