From Player To Coach
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From Player To Coach

Former teammates changing their view of the game from in it, to coaching it.

From Player To Coach

When I think back to my days in high school, the one thing I wish I could travel back in time for is football. Just one more opportunity to strap on some shoulder pads and fly down the field in pursuit of the pigskin is heavy on my mind when the cold, crisp fall air rolls in.

For most high school players, after four years are up and that diploma is in hand, all that remains of football is the opportunity to become a spectator. However, not everyone has to exchange their diploma for the playing field. Two of my friends and former teammates were recently were asked to be assistant coaches for the Martha's Vineyard junior high football team. Kyle Stobie, Aaron Lowe, and I played together for the entirety of our high school careers at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. Kyle was a tackling machine at linebacker, and Aaron regularly left quarterbacks with big chunks of dirt stuck in their facemask. Both were first introduced to tackle football on the same junior high team they're coaching today. I had the chance to speak with Coaches Lowe & Stobie about what they've used from their old coaches, what they've taken from their first-time coaching experience, and what it's like to trade helmets for headsets.

Football is so much more than just X's & O's. It's called the ultimate team sport for a reason, as no other game will push you to your physical breaking point and still ask for more. Without the support of teammates and coaches, there's no way players can produce the level of effort demanded to be successful. How to generate that degree of toughness and desire in their young players has been the biggest coaching challenge for Aaron and Kyle.

"I try to coach the way I was coached in junior high; I had some hard-ass coaches. These kids? You can't yell at them, and they don't listen," said Kyle when asked about the difference between coaching his players now and his experience in junior high. "In high school, you can be harder on them, [but] in middle school they're soft."

My former teammates find they are also working against attention spans. Aaron reports, "When we were in junior high coaches could talk to us as a unit, and we would listen. I've had to pick kids out of a group and speak to only them to get them to listen to what you are trying to say ... They don't learn easily and they lack discipline".

Although toughening the kids up is important, Aaron and Kyle both acknowledge how crucial it is to teach the fundamentals at this level. "You have to get the technique down before they can develop their talents," said Aaron, who has been primarily coaching his specialty - offensive and defensive line. "Parents are afraid of their kids getting hurt," reported Aaron - which explains why so much time is devoted to learning how to tackle properly to avoid injury at the junior high level.

Both Aaron and Kyle had to be 'Heads Up' certified by USA Football to be able to coach this season. Both coaches stress how important it is never to lead with the top of your head when tackling. They know football is a fast, physical sport. If kids are taught not to be reckless with their bodies, the game can be played safely.

The repercussions of the lackadaisical attitude toward concussions in the NFL are evident in my friends' young team. The national backlash from improperly treated concussions in the NFL is apparent in the number of kids now playing football nationwide. The number of youth football participants age 6-14 has dropped from 3 million to 2.169 million in just five years, according to a USA football Study.

When we graduated in 2014, there were 18 seniors on the football team. Aaron and Kyle's junior high squad has only 18 players all together. "Every single starter on offense, except the quarterback, also starts on defense," Kyle said. In football, when you play both offense and defense you're considered an 'Ironman.'

Both Kyle and Aaron were Ironmen during their high school football careers. Now, they continue a legacy that began long before they put a helmet on their heads. In spite of the changes from player to coach, one thing always remains the same: Vineyard Pride.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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