Arizona State coach Herm Edwards, along with former longtime NFL coach Marvin Lewis, made big impressions during Saturday’s annual Arizona Interscholastic Association football coaches meeting at Phoenix Camelback’s auditorium.
They started out pointing out the need to encourage more participation in a game that has been losing numbers mainly because of head injuries.
Edwards gave the Arizona high school coaches an open-ended invitation to attend his coaches meetings during the season, saying to just give new running backs coach Shaun Aguano a call to set it up.
Edwards spoke about how important it is for high school coaches to engage with the youth coaches in the neighborhood and help build them up, give knowledge, and inspire them with coaching.
Edwards talked candidly about entitlement and how quickly players are ready to transfer if “their brand” isn’t being embraced by the program.
Here were some of the biggest takeaways:
On the participation decline
David Hines, executive director of the AIA, said that numbers have stabilized in Arizona, for the most part, with not a significant decline. But Edwards read off stats in the Mountain West and Northwest that suggest a decline in football participation.
Edwards said that during Pac-12 meetings, there were conversations how do they get soccer moms, or moms worried about the safety of their sons, to convince them that football is safer now than when he broke into the NFL as a defensive back in 1977.
“We have to make it better,” Edwards said. “The way we go about teaching fundamentals of football, and making it more athletic, we know that the head has never been a part of the tackling process in football.
“In my era, the helmet was used as a weapon. I don’t think any coaches ever taught that. But it became a part of the game. … I had concussions in my lifetime. But I definitely don’t blame the football for my health. I chose to be a football player. I played for a long time. I’m not going to say that’s why I’ve got a screw missing. I had a screw missing before I started playing.
“We look at the NFL as the crown jewel. In the NFL, when the season starts, you can only have 14 padded practices.”
Lewis, now helping Edwards at ASU, who was on the NFL competition committee for 14: “We were taught to play football with our head and our eyes up.”
Lewis blamed television, highlighting the big hits, to influencing players to let the head become a part of the game, such as spearing.
“We have to go back and retrace our steps and get hold of it,” Lewis said. “Quite frankly, from the highest level, we lost our opportunity to really make an influence. We do have to influence parents. We have to do double time and do what we can to convince parents, moms, dads, etc., that football is the greatest sport going, because it teaches camaraderie, it teaches teamwork, it teaches intelligence, it teaches conditioning. How to work together. The relationships that are meaningful for the rest of your lives comes from playing this sport, because you invest something in it. You take something back out of it.”
Having an influence on youth coaches
Lewis mentioned the importance the high school coaches have on youth coaches: “If you can have an influence on the youth organizations underneath you to help train their people, their coaches, because that’s the first impression young people are getting, from those coaches. That will help us change t his game, teaching the proper techniques, and inclusion. Include everybody. Put them five across and have five working at the same time and flip it. Those are things you want to do to give them a positive experience.”
Open invitation to coaches
Edwards said everything he learned was from someone else: “I don’t think we ever quit learning,” he said. “These things are vital. Sometimes coaches in their world and don’t want to share.”
He invited the Arizona high school football coaches to come to his practices, sit in on meetings, just to give them a heads up first.
“Maybe you think you’re smarter than us, then great, give us some knowledge,” Edwards said. “I’m not kidding. There’s a reason I hired Marvin Lewis. We go back 30 years. We say we’re this pro model. He’s been in it as long as I’ve been in it, from the coaches side of it. There’s more knowledge coming into t he building. It helps me too. It’s coaching young coaches. You have to coach your coaches. Whether it’s the Pop Warner coaches, the Peewee coaches, they have to be coached to. We all learned this coaching thing from someone else. We can’t lose sight of that. We’ve got to make the game better for the next generation of coaches and for the players. Besides winning games, besides winning championships. That’s great. But we want t o make the game better and we have an obligation as coaches.”
When is a kid old enough to play football?
Lewis: “I don’t think there’s a particular age, like that’s the number. I think it’s when they’re ready.”
Edwards: “Flag is starting to find its way back into football. When I grew up, there was no Pop Warner. You did it with your buddies at the park. The first time we played tackle football was in the 10th grade. It didn’t affect me. I’ve got a son, 37 years old, when he was growing up, he didn’t play tackle football until he was in high school. It didn’t involve him not getting a scholarship.”