It’s all about safety

LIHUE — Three-time National Football League Pro Bowler Doug Cosbie came to Kauai to spread some knowledge in hopes to make the game he loves safer.

To do that, he’s starting at the youth level.

As a master trainer of USA Football, the national governing body of amateur football including youth and high school, Cosbie lead the Heads Up Football Players Safety Clinic on Saturday.

“All the coaches over here came with a really good base knowledge already,” Cosbie said. “There wasn’t a lot of new material for them, but there are definitely some things that USA Football is preaching that definitely can help them, help make the game safer for the kids playing.”

Eight coaches from the five associations of the Kauai Pop Warner Football League attended the clinic. The on-field tackling drills section was a new edition to the clinic compared to past ones, said Kauai Pop Warner Football League commissioner Teddy Arroyo. 

“There’s nothing wrong with being more educated,” Arroyo said, who is also an assistant coach for the football team at Waimea High School. “We always say we want to teach them the proper way to tackle. That’s going to help them develop for when they move on to high school.

“Any sports you play, someone is bound to get hurt. We don’t want to see that happen, but if we can slow it down or prevent that, then that’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.

Cosbie said he has learned from some of the best football minds and hopes to pass some of that to the coaches on the island.

“I was lucky playing for Tom Landry and was fortunate enough to coach with Bill Walsh for a couple of years,” said the former tight end for the Dallas Cowboys from 1979 to 1988. “To them, the game was about skill and fundamentals, developing skill and execution. 

“It’s a much simpler and easier process to teach somebody at the beginning how to do something correctly rather than to fix years of doing it a different way … you got to start with the basic fundamentals, the foundation of young kids playing. It’s a tough, violent game but it can be made safer and there’s a lot of work going on to make the game safer. That’s the reason why I got involved,” he added. 

Cosbie is currently the head football coach at Kamehameha Schools on Oahu. 

With Cosbie leading the clinic, Arroyo said the lessons are easier to take in because has has experience at the highest level.

“Listening to him talk about his past, as an NFL player and a college player, for us is exciting. We get to hear somebody that was actually (there) in real life,” he said. “What he brings to the table for us, on this small island of Kauai, I think is awesome.”

Arroyo added Cosbie emphasized educating parents, not only coaches and players, about concussions, dehydration and tackling techniques.

“That’s something I may take up this year with the Pop Warner parents. If we can educate the parents … it makes the kids a lot safer,” he said. “I think the biggest problem with the parents, and I’m probably guilty of it too, is looking for that ESPN hit. That highlight, the big hit. But that big hit, if you really look at it, it comes from helmet-to-helmet … We just got to take a step back and say, ‘The only big hit we’re looking for is the safety of the kids. Tackling the proper way with their heads up. 

“What we teach now … we want to make sure that they teach the same way (when) they become coaches. Kauai is small, but we love sports. Sports is our background on the island,” he added. 

Cosbie said having these kinds of programs in place now should improve gameplay at all levels in the years to come, specifically phasing out using one’s head to tackle. 

“The medical community and sports community are going, ‘Hey, these are things we need to address and figure out ways to make the game safer,’” he said. “It’s already being played smarter and I think it will continue to be. I think some the rule changes are really good. The helmet-to-helmet contact is not a good thing.

“The more we can take the head out of any sport or activity as a weapon … as rules change and fundamental skills change to take it out as being used as a weapon, it’s just going to help the game.”

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